Harmony 688


posted 12/16/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
A problem with the radial buttons, and it extends to the others, is that it’s hard to distinguish them by touch. Usually, there are some physical differences in buttons so you can operate it without having to look at the remote. It took me a while to get used to but I think there should’ve been more physical differences to separate some of the functions through touch.

Below the radial buttons are the VCR controls. Here you can record, fast forward, rewind, pause, stop, or play. Chapter skip buttons sit at the bottom part of the radial button area. As with the radial buttons, there’s no physical distinction to separate them. Finally, the number pad sits below the VCR buttons. Like most remotes, its four rows of three buttons with two programmable buttons on either side of the 0 button.

The Harmony 688 is one of the easiest programming remote out there. All of the programming is done via a web interface and by setting up an account on the Harmony website. Once done, you are taken through a wizard by selecting your components and what components do for each activity. The database at Harmony is pretty extensive and it even found the setup for my Hauppauge remote control for my PVR-250. So after answering a few questions and such, you plug the remote into your computer via a USB cable and a minute later, the remote is updated with all the codes and activities you have setup. I was pleasantly surprised to find everything worked on the first try. Without any programming, the remote controlled every device in my entertainment center. Talk about ease of use and a very high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

If you do have to program the remote, the bottom of the remote features an IR reader. You point the remote you want to record there and setup the name of the command through the web interface. The eye to record IR commands sits on the bottom of the remote, opposite of the IR transmitter. Now what makes the Harmony 688 really cool is that you can assign any command to any key easily through the web utility. Each button has a dropdown box next to it with a list of commands and you can assign it to. Using a web interface to setup the remote makes it a whole lot easier than trying to do it with the remote itself.

Running into any problems is easily overcome with the Help button. Following the simple steps in the LCD window will usually take care of anything you run into. During my programming, the watch TV button wouldn’t turn on the TV. Pressing the Help button and answering a few questions, the problem was fixed. This should help a lot of users who feel a little overwhelmed by the remote with its friendly help system.

I used this remote with both Snapstream’s Beyond TV and Microsoft’s XP Media Center Edition. The Harmony 688 worked great with both programs and Harmony’s database had commands for both. Well, the database mimicked the silver Hauppauge remote for the PVR-250 that Beyond TV supports natively. As for the rest of components I have, the remote worked flawlessly.

The Harmony 688 is one remote that was easily usable by all members of my family. Even the ones that are afraid of technology were able to easily use the remote and control my entertainment system. Any remote that makes complex entertainment systems easier to use is a great one in my book. It’s very comfortable to hold and the glow really helps seeing what you are pressing at night. The only problems I had with it were the lack of button uniqueness in feel and that it can be more expensive than your receiver. Other than that, any home entertainment user will be happy with the Harmony 688, especially those that need an easy remote for their significant others to use.

Expensive but very nice to use, the Harmony 688's is one great addition to your home entertainment setup. It'll control anything and everything.

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