Pick a label, any label!
Compounding the dense button layout is the remote's complicated label arrangement. Labels on the remote are silkscreened in four different colors, which correspond to four different device types. Black labels are generally for all devices, while blue labels correspond to DVD-specific commands, red to audio commands and green to DVR commands. Someone obviously thought it a good idea to arrange every possible command label they could think of on the remote's surface, resulting in something that looks more like a complex flowchart than an easy-to-use product.
It's nice to know exactly what a button will do rather than have to guess from some other unrelated caption, but the end result is you never really know which of the numerous labels is appropriate. For the 45 in-device keys I counted a total of 100 labels - many keys with 3 to pick from, above, on and below. The text is not easy to read, printed using a small, thin font on a heavily textured surface. Some of the labels didn't seem to get enough ink and tend to drop out, especially those in green. Ironically, the photo on the box (which turns out to be of the non-backlit and less expensive PMDVR8 version) uses a thicker and easier to see font.
Finally, nearly one-third of the remote's buttons, including the device keys, have no label printed directly on the rubber surface... making their purpose a complete mystery when illuminated solely by the backlight in a dark room.
What's in the WAF?
With so many keys and labels in so little space, the remote begins to feel somewhat cramped, especially near the bottom. This impression was confirmed by our Button Density Quotient (BDQ) calculation, which rates the PHDVR8L overall as 5.3 keys per square inch, higher than most universal remotes.
With the growing popularity of home theater remote controls it's understandable that companies will try to differentiate their products over others and appeal to a certain audience... and taking the PHDVR8L's main characteristics into consideration, it's obvious that this is a "guy's" remote and will likely not meet the rigorous "ease of use" standards set by certain others!
The Philips PHDVR8L, like any remote that truly deserves the "universal" moniker, supports both infrared code learning and a built-in preprogrammed database. This makes it ideal for both replacing lost remotes and providing extended functionality for devices for which you still have the original remotes.
All programming on the remote is accomplished by first pressing the [Code Search] button, which has been strangely placed amongst regular device keys. Hold it for about three seconds and the lone red LED at the top of the remote will light up. If you're entering a code number, next hit the device button to change, followed by the three-digit code as found in the separate code sheet foldout. Available types of devices include cable boxes, CD players, digital video recorders, DVD players, DVD recorders, HDTV receivers, home automation devices, laserdisc players, receivers, satellite receivers, televisions (including a separate category for plasma, LCD and flat panel sets), VCRs, plus a whole section dedicated to multifunction devices such as TV/DVD combos or "home theater in a box" units.