The budget universal remote control market is a large one with many diverse options, ranging from models with only a handful of buttons to novelty clickers that might be confused with a 1950's sci-fi movie prop. If you've been searching for that ideal remote, one that won't limit your programming options but doesn't cost an arm and a leg, then there's really only one company to look at: Sony.
Their selection of remotes may not look that remarkable at first glance, but Sony has long held a tradition of offering one of the most feature-filled remotes available at a given price. This legacy first began with the $60 RM-VL900 (read our review), a mid-sized 8-device hard buttoned model that offered 11 macros and impressive code learning capabilities - and this at a time when remotes with comparable features were selling for at least twice as much.
Sure, you may be thinking that you've seen cheaper remotes out there that advertise "learning", but the RM-VL900 and its more recent successors are special in that they provide true learning capabilities. This means that not only can they learn nearly any infrared command required for any brand of equipment, but that they also have enough memory to store one of those captured signals on all of the remote's buttons. Most competing products were starved for memory and topped out at 20 or 30 learned codes before they inconveniently ran out of space - often not enough to cover even a single device.
Sony's capable-yet-cost-effective trend continued with the introduction of the 5-device RM-VL700 (read our review), an even better value priced at just $40. The RM-VL700 managed to distinguish itself from similar products by offering the same ultra-powerful IR learning as its big brother, but at the sacrifice of any macro abilities. Also dropped was the RM-VL900's imposing mien, with the RM-VL700 shedding 40% of the bulk.
Fast forward several years - these models stayed on the market for a remarkably long time - to when both remotes were replaced with a single lower priced product that combined the best aspects from each. The $35 5-device RM-VL710 (read our review) was an especially well-rounded remote with powerful capabilities and surprisingly high quality construction. And yet despite these positive aspects it was on the market for less than a year before being replaced. This quick turnaround was perplexing not only because Sony traditionally kept their models active for much longer, but because I knew that the RM-VL710 was a top-notch remote. Nevertheless, changes usually happen for a reason, and once I learned the details of the new model it became clear that Sony knew exactly what they were doing: replacing a good product with a presumably great product.
The new and improved RM-VL600, subject of this review, may initially sound like a feature downgrade of its predecessor due to the name, but rest assured that the only specification that's been downgraded is the price tag. That's right; Sony is entering a brave new world by offering one of the most capable models in their "VL" series at a price of just $25 USD MSRP. Boldly go!
Still, "more" doesn't customarily cost "less", so have sacrifices been made to keep the price tag so attractive?