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Thus, the only programmable hard buttons available are the 10-digit keypad, [Enter], [Volume Up/Down], [Mute], [Channel Up/Down], [Previous Channel] and [Power]. The remaining 17 buttons are used solely for the interactive guide and remote-specific functions.
The medium-sized LCD screen measures 2.0" by 1.1" (5.1cm by 2.8cm) with a 2.3" diagonal (5.9cm) dimension. The screen is of the dot-matrix variety, which means it can display graphics and different fonts. The resolution is 128 by 64 pixels with support for two colors, black and white. The used portion of the LCD is slightly smaller at 1.9" wide by 0.95" high (4.8cm by 2.4cm), resulting in a PPI (pixels per inch, also commonly referred to as "DPI") value of 67 by 67. The LCD's contrast level is excellent with clean, readable text, even in dim conditions. The screen did exhibit a higher than standard degree of "streaking" in solid shaded areas, something that can plague passive matrix displays, but this was only noticeable if looked for. I found screen fonts, even in the smallest sizes, to be extremely readable.
Surrounding the screen on the left, right and bottom edges are 11 hard buttons. Arranged on the left side are [Macro], [Advanced] (extra functions) and [Power] buttons, on the right are [Mode] (changes the current device), [Menu] (remote control setup) and [Light] buttons. Along the bottom are five "interactive" buttons that will only operate when the programming guide is active.
See what's on, but not how to change it...
Although none of the keypad buttons are backlit (the [Light] button is at least glow-in-the-dark), the LCD screen is illuminated by an electroluminescent (EL) panel. The smooth backlight is in the traditional aqua green color, however it's not exceptionally bright. The panel is only activated when the [Light] button is pressed and has a factory preset timeout of 20 seconds of inactivity. Pressing [Light] a second time will also toggle the backlight off to conserve battery power. The LCD screen always remains active and never shuts off, flipping through numerous "promo" screens (which we'll talk about later) like a screensaver.
Overall I liked the Guide Remote's ergonomic button layout, from the well sized directional buttons and rocker-style volume and channel buttons, to the colorful key design that incorporates grey, blue, red, green and "clear" plastics to liven up the monochromatic exterior. Although the buttons are small and tightly packed, the layout is such that no buttons encroach upon another's usable space.
I found tactile response acceptable on the rockers and any of the blue-colored buttons, but felt that the small round buttons that form the numeric keypad are too firm with not enough "click" sensation. Additionally, the buttons on the left and right edges of the LCD screen make the now-commonplace faux pas of being half in and half out of a raised bezel, making them awkward to fully depress. And, since they are tall and narrow while also being soft, they have the tendency to "lean over" when used.