Either the paint used on the MX-900’s silver keys is thicker, or the laser etching is burning further into the rubber than it did on the MX-950. Regardless, the silver paint gives the keys a silky smooth feel to the touch, although I’m still somewhat concerned about potentially rubbing through the paint, after years of rough fingertips have had their way. The company’s old glossy GemStone key finish is less glamorous by today’s standards, but is also practically indestructible.
One key, two key, twenty-five key…
By comparing the MX-950 and MX-900 side-by-side there would appear to be little – if any – difference between the silvery buttons on either. But it’ll take just one push of the MX-900’s buttons to tell you that things are definitely not the same.
When I reviewed the MX-950 I described its buttons as offering “firm, definitive tactile feedback” and that they “remain[ed] comfortably above the surface when pressed”. The same cannot be said about the MX-900, whose keys have a generally mushy feel and can be pressed down flush with the remote’s surface. On the MX-950 it’s obvious when a command has started transmitting as the key has just “clicked” pleasantly into the down position. With the MX-900 there is no similar feedback – yes, commands are always sensed reliably and with little force needed, but there is almost no tactile response during the key’s travel to indicate this.
The arrangement of general command buttons on the MX-900 is logical and orderly, however precious little is unique about each key to help separate them by feel alone. Indeed, 25 out of 29 silver buttons are exactly the same size and shape. And at the bottom of the remote that means 7 rows of flat-topped rectangular keys, with only a small bump on the  key to help your thumb figure out where it is. Still, looking on the bright side, the black keys hold up much better than the similar ones on the MX-950, offering snappier tactile response and more ergonomic distinction.
The MX-900 is a comfortable remote to hold, with the curved bottom pressing securely into the base of my palm while my thumb is placed within reach of the menu and volume keys. The trademark pair of notches on each side of the remote are seem to be there more for style than ergonomics, and while my index finger would have liked the back of the remote to “thin out” about an inch further down than it currently does, I understand that this was not possible due to the battery compartment’s volume. Every button on the MX-900 can be used while the remote sits on a tabletop, unlike the MX-850 where attempting to use the keys around the screen will cause it to tip sideways.
The blue view.
So what’s even better for remote control backlight than traditional electroluminescent panels? Why LEDs, apparently. The MX-900 follows the MX-950 as being one of the first URC remotes to switch to efficient LED sources for key and screen illumination. And, in the case of the MX-900, they’ve done a wonderful job!
Activated solely by the [Light] button on the right side of the remote, the MX-900’s vibrant blue LEDs do an excellent job of making the screen and laser etched button labels a whole lot easier to see in the dark. In fact, the LEDs are so bright that they make everything glow bright blue even under moderate amounts of ambient lighting. Did I mention that the button labels are actually illuminated evenly from top to bottom? This is the way I would have liked the MX-950 to look!