A battle of usability versus usability.
One of the hardest parts of designing a good remote control is balancing the usability of the remote with products, and the usability of the remote with people. A universal remote that is unable to control half of the important functions on a complicated device such as a DVR or a Blu-ray Disc player wonít be practical for anyone who needs those devices Ė but conversely a remote with enough keys to make those devices workable is going to have a tough time remaining intuitive for a wide range of people.
Sony has obviously targeted the RM-VL610 to a very specific segment of the market: the technically savvy. This isnít the kind of remote that youíre going to want to give your grandmother, since the vast number of tiny buttons is going to make the remote both intimidating and confusing. But for anyone who knows exactly why you would want a remote with [Menu], [List] and [Guide] buttons... well, this could be nirvana!
So, if youíve come this far, relax. You can admit it to me. Youíve got buttonitis! Youíre tired of universal remotes that are friendly on your wallet but force you to make uncomfortable decisions on where functions should go or whether the button labels will match. Youíve had it with blister-pack controls that look 21st century on the outside but have limiting 20th century technology on the inside. All you want is a little relief... a little control over your domain. But youíre jaded, been stung in the past, decided to stick with that coffee table full of clutter. Donít do it Ė donít settle for a juggling act with multiple remotes. The first step to a cure is to realize that thereís a problem!
Obviously the perfect universal remote control doesnít exist, and despite all its strengths the Sony RM-VL610 isnít going to be the first. There really are a lot of tiny, identically shaped buttons, it lacks backlighting, has a small database, and has an unusual physical design that may leave some users scratching their heads on just how to put it down. But letís not forget everything that it does right: with 8 devices and 50 ideal buttons it can control even complex A/V systems, it has enough memory to allow for complete customization, there are plenty of macros, itís surprisingly well built... and did I mention that there are a whole lot of buttons to play with?
Best of all, with a price tag of just $29.99 and even less online, itís one of the best values around. Recommended.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)