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We live in a complicated age, and nowhere exemplifies this more than the average lounge. While media centres PCs promise the ability to cut down on the number of boxes under the TV, for most people there’s still a fair bit of kit living there, ranging from DVD players to set-top boxes and even dusty old VCRs. Controlling all of this is always a bit of a challenge and this is where something like Logitech’s Harmony Remote 895 comes in. Instead of having to sift though a sea of remotes you only have to pick up one. In my house there’s a cupboard in the lounge full of toys for the kids with a draw reserved for my various remotes – the wife refers to it ‘Daddy’s toys drawer’.
Logitech is soon to release its top-of-the-range Harmony 1000 unit, but while I wait to get my hands on one of those I thought I’d take a look at the next one down – the 895. What this offers over the 885 is RF – making it possible to use even without line of sight. A RF base extender is provided and IR connectors, so you can theoretically control up to eight devices from each extender.
While the 1000 is a larger oblong affair, the 895 essentially looks like a regular remote on steroids. In the past I’ve looked at the budget 525, but was put off by the fact that it didn’t feel comfortable to hold, the buttons were too rubbery and the mono screen was uninspiring.
All of these flaws are remedied by the 895. Its curves sit comfortably in the palm and the buttons are larger and firmer. There’s also a large colour screen at the top, which though it’s fairly grainy and dull compared to what you might get on say, a mobile phone, it’s far better than the mono 525. The remote also has a backlight that can be set to activate automatically when you pick up the device – a very neat feature that’s perfect for use in the dark.
The 895 charges via a stylish, curvy cradle complete with a pointless but inevitably de rigueur circle of blue light in the centre. Frustratingly though, my remote sample wouldn’t sit firmly inside the cradle with the pins connecting and disconnecting causing it to repeatedly beep. After careful positioning it did sit neatly and charge but it gets marked down in the build quality stakes for this.
What really makes Logitech’s Harmony range tick though is the included software. This provides access to a huge range of control codes for devices. You tell the software what equipment you have, which means getting down and dirty with the precise model numbers, and it then pulls the information from its extensive database. You then plug the remote in via USB and the data is transferred over to the remote. The good news is the database is very extensive and you’d be hard pressed to actually own something that isn’t on there – and of course grows over time. It certainly had no problems with any of my kit – the hardest trick is knowing which category to search in.