Same size, more filling.
The RM-VL610 is a traditional stick-style hard buttoned remote, measuring 8.25” long, 2.13” wide and 1.04” thick (20.1cm by 5.4cm by 2.6cm). This is slightly shorter and a little bit wider than the RM-VL600, and unlike all prior RM-VL designs it lacks any sort of wedge shape and is the same thickness from top to bottom and side to side. It measures a relatively lightweight 6.3 ounces (178 grams) with two AA batteries (not included), or 4.6 ounces (129 grams) without.
As popular home theater components change and new functions are required, Sony has traditionally tweaked command labels and bumped up the usable button count on their remotes. As mentioned the RM-VL610 is the first remote from Sony aimed squarely at DVR and PVR users, and it pushes the in-device button count from 39 on the RM-VL600 to a remarkable 50: the second highest of any remote we’ve tested. In total there are 63 buttons to push, poke and prod... impressive enough for something at this price, but the bigger feat is that all of the command labels are actually useful!
Starting at the top of the remote are two buttons, a small [Set] key on the left with an adjacent LED for programming feedback, and a [Power] key on the right. Next are the 8 main “component select” buttons arranged in two rows of four: [TV], [DVD], [Sat] and [Cbl], plus [VCR], [CD], [Tape] and [Amp]. With cassette decks and VCRs now all but obsolete, these labels could have used a little updating. The keys are translucent, each with a corresponding LED beneath that illuminates whenever a command is sent for that device.
Immediately following the device keys are four buttons for [Input], [PIP], [Sleep] and [Info] functions, followed by a standard 10-digit numeric keypad with matching [Enter] and HDTV [Dot/Dash] keys. Next are the [Volume] and [Channel] rockers, and for once they’re in a true “rocker” design and abandon Sony’s trademark shapes for those functions. The pair is flanked by tiny square [Muting] and [Recall] (better known as “Jump” or “Previous Channel”) keys on either side.
Two rows of new DVR-related function are next, beginning with a series of four generic buttons marked [A] through [D], with [List], [Fav], [Page Up] and [Page Down] on the second row. Next are the menu cursor controls, made up of a large circular 5-way directional pad with small [Guide], [Menu], [Tools] and [Exit] keys placed on the outer corners. This flows into the expanded transport cluster that adds a new row with [Next Chapter], [Previous Chapter], [Skip] and [Replay] functions to the standard mix of [Play], [Pause], [Stop], [Record], [Rewind] and [Fast Forward]. Finally, at the very bottom are 4 general purpose [System Control] buttons, used to store system-wide macros or functions.
The right keys...
The extensive range of buttons on the RM-VL610 is nearly perfect, with special attention paid to keys that will be useful on a daily basis for DVR and even Blu-ray owners. I especially liked that there are not only dedicated chapter skip and channel buttons (with the latter usually doubling for the former), but also that it manages to pack in skip/replay and page up/down. The four letter keys will also be especially welcome to Scientific Atlanta cable box owners, who require [A] through [C] for even the most basic of operations. In a missed opportunity Sony hasn’t given these buttons secondary labels for [Red] [Green] [Blue] and [Yellow] functions, which are highly common in Europe and seeing growing usage on North American devices such as Blu-ray players and set top boxes.