Minimum space, maximum buttons.
The Philips PHDVR8L is a compact remote, measuring 8.25" long, 2.21" wide and just 0.83" thick (21.0cm by 5.6cm by 2.1cm). The left and right sides of the remote are contoured inwards, narrowing from the broadest point at the top to just 1.8" wide near the center, before flaring out slightly at the bottom. The remote is also incredibly lightweight at just 3.9 ounces (111 grams) with batteries or a mere 3.1 ounces (88 grams) without.
Almost all of the remote's face is covered by a total of 56 buttons and, while they are generally placed in an orderly manner, there's so many of them it can be challenging to find the exact command needed. Starting at the top of the remote is a large [Power] button on the right plus a [Backlight] key on the left. Beneath these are 8 device buttons labeled TV, VCR, DVD, CBL, SAT, CD, AUDIO and DVR. Next is a 5-way circular key cluster - but this isn't for the menu cursor, rather these keys control [Volume], [Channel] and [Mute]. While I applaud the symmetry this particular arrangement creates with its smaller cursor counterpart further down, I've never been fond of volume and channel controls arranged circularly and much prefer the more traditional pair of up and down toggles. Flanking the corners of the volume and channel cluster are four buttons for [Code Search], [Macro], [Display] and [Previous Channel].
Beneath these buttons is a standard 10-digit numeric keypad, plus [Enter] and [TV/VCR]. Next is a small pair of [Thumbs Up/Down] keys, followed by the second 5-way circular cluster for menu cursor, with [Guide], [Menu], [Exit] and [Closed Captioning] buttons on the outer corners. Near the bottom of the remote is a standard 6-key transport arrangement, followed by 8 additional keys for secondary controls such as PIP and advanced DVR functions.
Of the 56 keys, 45 are usable for device functions. All buttons are made of a translucent clear rubber with a frosted finish that provides a soft but pleasant tactile response with an almost perfect amount of deflection.
Sleek and silver.
The remote's plastic housing is finished with a matte texture, black plastic on the bottom and a metallic silver paint on top. The vertical sides of the case curve smoothly around to the back, where a large horizontal index finger groove indents the rear of the case near the top. The finger groove has been placed to most benefit the volume and channel cluster, but overall it feels a little too high for comfort.
The battery compartment near the bottom of the remote must have the smallest opening we've ever seen on a universal remote - barely larger than a single AAA battery (the remote takes two of them). Still, the diminutive cover latches securely, although batteries do rattle slightly if the remote is shaken (a small piece of foam would help). The front of the remote is occupied by a single exposed infrared emitter.
Every key on the remote is backlit by a blue electroluminescent ("EL") panel. The light is activated by pressing the [Learn/Backlight] button on the top left of the remote, which is ever-so-slightly glow-in-the-dark. The backlight is amply bright and once activated will remain on for five seconds after the last button push. This timeout period cannot be adjusted, and there is no way to force the backlight automatically on during use. The inverter required by EL panel technology does make a soft high-pitched noise, however it's inaudible unless the remote is held to your ear.
Despite the price and feather-light weight, the PHDVR8L is well built with no sharp edges between the two case moldings. And although a moderate amount of lateral twisting is possible, the remote remains solid without any creaking and feels quite resilient. The balance point is almost directly in the center, by the  digit key.