Although there are obvious strong family ties between the MX-950 and MX-900, this new remote offers a more compact and graceful format. The MX-950’s sharp corners and uniformly shaped back have softened down to a smoother, more refined profile with a semi-circular top and bottom. The familiar thick silver “lip” running around the top edge gives way to a sculpted back panel, whose sides taper both inwards and upwards – wider at the bottom around the battery compartment and thinner beneath the screen. Just behind the LCD you’ll find a section with sharp tactile bumps, a trademark on all of URC’s new models. A wide pillar at the front of the remote keeps it from angling downwards while sitting on a tabletop, and would also have made a good place to stick two small non-slip rubber feet – but what looks like rubber pads is actually molded out of hard plastic. A small plastic window on the front conceals two closely spaced infrared emitters, while a standard mini-USB port for computer communications is positioned on the lower left side.
The MX-900 is exceptionally sturdy in its construction, with absolutely no lateral twisting possible. It sports a good weight for the physical size, feeling substantial without straying to excessive. Overall build quality is top-notch and befitting of a $450 remote, with no sharp molding lines or other visible imperfections. The only nuances observed were a tiny rattle in the [Light] switch that started during testing, and a tendency for the battery compartment door to bow outwards and creak when pressed (it requires a stiffening rib).
Keys to please.
The MX-900’s layout is split visually into two primary control areas: a black section with black keys centered around the LCD for screen-based functions and general remote navigation, plus a dark grey section with silver keys for static in-device commands. All keys are translucent rubber, which is fully painted and then laser-etched with a label.
Beginning at the top, the entire left side of the narrow LCD screen is occupied by two large, vertically oriented [On] and [Off] buttons. With their prominent placement these are obviously intended for master system powering functions. On the right side of the screen are six small unlabelled keys, each of which corresponds to a line of text on the LCD. These are the multi-purpose buttons, and will change function depending on whatever is shown on the screen. Although these six keys take up about the same amount of vertical space as the five similar keys on the MX-950, they don’t feel cramped and are, in fact, spaced identically to the ones on the MX-500 through 850 models. However, unlike those remotes where the multi-purpose keys are doubled up on either side of the screen, the MX-900 is outfitted with a single column.
In addition to those six key labels, the LCD is also used to indicate the active device or mode at the top, plus the current page number at the bottom. Directly below the screen are a pair of wide [Page] buttons, used to scroll forwards and backwards through the remote’s potentially numerous screens. And, just beneath that, are [Listen] and [Watch] buttons used to jump to the MX-900’s two main menus for activities and/or devices.
Continuing downwards into the dark grey section are a pair of diamond-shaped [Volume] and [Channel] toggles, with [Mute] and [Previous Channel] keys between. Below that are [Menu], [Guide], [Info] and [Exit] keys, followed by the uniquely-shaped 5-way menu cursor cluster. Like the MX-850 and MX-950, the 4 directions are controlled via a single plastic ring with a separate [Select] (or “OK”) button in the middle. After the seemingly dozens of different cursor key assemblies used by URC since the MX-500, it would appear that they may have finally come up with perfection: this one is both reliable and easy-to-use. Beneath the cursor controls is a standard 5-key transport cluster, with a welcome bonus of [Skip -] and [Skip +] keys for DVR users. Finally, the remote concludes with a 10-digit numeric keypad, complete with [Enter] and [+10] keys.