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One of the few troublesome design areas involves the transport and menu controls, which share the same physical buttons depending on the device youíre controlling. This may work fine when youíre in TV mode (when you donít need transport controls) or when youíre using a CD player (when you donít need menu controls), however if youíre using a VCR that requires menu controls or a DVD player which always requires cursor functionality youíll find that the SL-9000ís designers decided (rightly so) to give transport precedence over menu buttons.
To try and sidestep this sticky issue the SL-9000 repositions menu controls at the very bottom of the remote on buttons that are too small for extensive use. The problem is acerbated as these buttons arenít designed or labeled for cursor controls Ė commands are assigned in a somewhat illogical manner that may have your family members scratching their heads. Since DVD players are becoming so popular the SL-9000 would have benefited greatly by the inclusion of both dedicated transport and menu controls. My last design critique involves the number pad, which I find too cramped for large fingers. Also, the keys immediately to the right of the pad are of the exact same shape and size, causing potential confusion with pure tactile operation.
One of the things many touchscreen users will point out is that you canít re-label buttons on this type of remote Ė well, in this case theyíre only partially correct. The SL-9000 actually ships with over 420 tiny stickers with which you can rename certain buttons, including any device buttons you may have re-labeled on the LCD. While far from an elegant solution (stickers usually have the nasty habit of peeling off when in contact with skin oils) itís still a workable one.
Lighting the Way
One of the best physical features of the SL-9000 is great backlighting. Every single button Ė plus the LCD Ė lights up on the press of a single large button at the bottom of the remote. All buttons glow an even bright blue for 7 seconds at a time, while the LCD is side-lit with traditional yellow. Each press of a button extends the timer by 7 seconds. One thing sure to please listeners with sensitive ears is the completely silent backlight operation Ė thereís no annoying buzz or whine here!
One thing that initially threw me is that the LCD screen always displays the current device name Ė it never shuts off. This makes sense as LCDs require such minuscule amounts of power to operate. It becomes a handy feature where you instantly know at all times what mode itís in.
After a few weeks of use itís easy to see why so many users feel the SL-9000 is one of the best traditional remotes out there. While itís not as elaborate or customizable as newer touchscreen models, the SL-9000 packs enough wallop to sate anyone with a modest home theater system by including useful features, lots of buttons and excellent learning capabilities.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)