Included with the remote is a compact 48-page page manual that’s surprisingly well written. It includes plenty of diagrams, tips, a troubleshooting section, table of buttons and more. Instead of incorporating the programmed code list into the booklet, it’s been bundled as a small yellow folded piece of paper – likely making it one of the first things that will be lost. A standard 90 day warranty is provided.
We now come to the section of the review that has most remotes quaking in their boots – yes that means it’s time for the MTFC – Menacing Thick Flannel Cloth! From a distance of approximately 7 feet, the MTFC test involves transmitting the [Mute] command to our reference Sony receiver through ever increasing layers of fabric obstruction. So far our bevy of tests has resulted in scores ranging between 2 and 11, with an average rating of 6.9 over the 10 remotes that have been benchmarked so far.
The RM-VL600 was the first remote to make use of the MTFC test, and with two powerful IR emitters it scored a respectable 8.0. Will the RM-VL610’s dual emitters keep up the same level of performance? We can only hope!
Jumping right into the thick of things at level 4, the RM-VL610 handled the four layers of baby-soft cotton especially well – essentially no reduction was seen in performance. Level 5 once again proved little of a challenge, so I moved on to level 6 where a remarkable amount of off-angle operation continued to be possible. Already the RM-VL610 is performing better than the RM-VL700 or RM-VL900! At level 7 I began to notice some restriction on how accurately I needed to aim the remote, but with no reliability concerns I forged onwards to level 8. It’s here where a marked and sudden reduction in off-angle performance occurred – unless the remote was aimed almost exactly at the receiver, no commands would get through. But there was still a little bit of leeway, so dare I try level 9... alas, no. At level 9 absolutely nothing got through. Moving about 1 foot closer restored operation, but at the reference distance there was no reception.
So the finally MTFC tally for the RM-VL610 is 8.0: above average for universal remotes.
More screws for more sturdiness!
One unusual metric that I’ve used on past VL-series remotes is to count how many screws hold the case together – which almost always ends up being directionally proportional to the remote’s feeling of quality. The original RM-VL900 – a hefty remote that even had a cool rubber edge – used 8. The thinner and more hollow feeling RM-VL700 dropped that number down to 2, while the exceptionally sturdy RM-VL710 moved back up to 5. The most recent RM-VL600 fell to a series low of just one screw (and frankly it showed)... but following that oscillating trend the RM-VL610 increases the number to the second highest yet, with 6 screws.
Behind the flat, matte textured front of the remote are two infrared emitters plus the infrared learning eye. With the rear panel removed, it becomes apparent that the IR shield is actually the same piece of plastic that makes up the rest of the back and bottom (and yes, that does mean that the entire back of the remote is transparent to infrared – try a nightvision camera on it sometime). This especially sturdy design, combined with the abundance of screws and the fully doubled layer of plastic on the back, gives the RM-VL610 the most solid feel and most resistance to lateral twisting of any model in the RM-VL series.
Considering how poorly the RM-VL600 fared in the same department at the same price, this is an especially welcome improvement and just goes to prove that cheap remotes don’t have to feel cheap. You even get two spare back panels to keep it looking brand new for longer!