The Harmony 895 is the successor to the hugely popular 885 and is essentially the same unit but with one major difference, the addition of RF technology. RF or radio frequency technology in a remote control means that you don't need line of sight with devices you wish to control.
While that may sound like a gimmick, and it would be if all your A/V kit was placed directly in front of you in open view, it does open a new set of possibilities for hiding equipment. For instance, if you want to keep your A/V gear in another room so your living room is free of wires then you'll need RF functionality in your remote. Even if you wanted to place your equipment behind you RF technology will save the need for turning around or arcing your arm behind your head every time you wanted to press the red button.
Within the Harmony there is a RF sender that emits commands in radio frequency to the base station (supplied) which then converts the RF commands into traditional infrared signals to be sent to your television or amplifier. So while the remote control doesn't need to have a clear line of sight with your equipment the RF base station does.
Don't be fooled into thinking that RF technology isn't reliable. Although I remember having a RF enabled mouse back in 1997 which wasn't much cop for gaming, thanks to the relative low bandwidth requirements of signals, you don't notice any real delay when channel hopping.
Logitech have invested a lot of effort in making the process of setting up your Harmony as easy as possible and it shows. Unlike my Philips Pronto, Logitech use a Web-based setup process where you can manage your setup through simply filling out a few forms. The 895 supports custom codes and the ability to learn commands so obscure pieces of hardware needn't be left out. Nevertheless, Logitech's database is extensive and even coped with my somewhat dated Musical Fidelity amplifier and Jamo DVD player. It doesn't always get it spot on however so be prepared for some tweaking to get your setup just so.
The 895 features a colour screen which displays 'activities' allowing users to set particular sequences of commands to represent a particular activity such as watching television or listening to a CD. The setup of these activities are done through the Web-based control panel and present a challenge slightly more complex than wiring a plug, unlike my Pronto. Once programmed in, the activities can be selected from the keys positioned on the left and right of the screen.
Although the screen isn't touch sensitive, it just doesn't seem to matter. It may seem odd but with a touch screen you have to spend time looking at the remote. Think about how long you look at your television remote when you want to alter the volume; you probably don't look at it at all because you have a mind-map of the keypad. Due to the lack of tactility in a touch screen, this mind-map is shot to pieces meaning you have to move your head away from the action while you want to turn the sound up. What you need is 'hard buttons', something the Harmony has in abundance. Infact, I would say there are too many in close proximity to each other. The number (0-9) buttons often used to select channels were too far down the remote control although the volume and channel increment/decrement toggles were perfect. The layout of the keypad needs to be adjusted so that fewer buttons are present allowing increased spacing between each other.
Logitech's design team have come up with a design that seems to straddle the sleek yet be curvacious, want to grab hold of line very well. Thanks to some ergonomic touches on the underside, the 895 fits like a glove on either your right or left hand.
The charging cradle is identical to the one found on the 885, however Logitech's engineers have fixed whatever it was that made the 885 slip off its very precarious charging position. This could cause bleeps to be emitted should it be exposed to anything more than a gentle whistle from a preist.
To top of this impressiving showing the Harmony costs much less than you might expect. Coming in at around £230 (including VAT) it sits between the cheaper All-4-One remotes and the more costly Philips Pronto and NevoSL units. I wouldn't bat an eyelid paying the premium over any All-4-One remote as the Harmony 895 feels like a better product from the get-go. Compared to the Philips Pronto I own, the 895 looks better, easier to hold, can be operated with one hand, is easier to setup and around £400 cheaper. Price wise, the Harmony 895 hits the spot like chilled beer on a summer's afternoon.
Logitech has done just what it needed to with the Harmony 895. They took the 885, still an excellant remote control, and added the feature it sorely needed, RF technology. The unit has a good ergonomic design coupled to a screen while not touch sensitive, is bright and vibrant. Setup remains as easy as ever and Logitech's online database of IR codes is growing all the time. When you consider the competition, the Harmony 895 is the one you should go for because of its balance of price, functionality and design.