Beginning at the top of the remote on the left side is a tiny [Set] button with adjacent red LED, a small [TV/Video] (otherwise known as "input") button in the center, and a wide green [Power] key on the right edge. Immediately below are eight component selection buttons in two rows labeled [TV], [DVD], [SAT], [CBL], [VCR], [CD], [TAPE] and [AMP]. These keys are surrounded by a glossy brushed aluminum insert that was likely incorporated to add a touch of visual interest. Each translucent component key flashes red whenever that device is selected or a command is transmitting.
The first large cluster of in-device buttons is the numeric keypad, complete with [Enter] and an HDTV-specific [Dot] (or "dash") key. Printed on the case above the ten numerals are A/V receiver input names. Next down are a pair of round, extra large and easy-to-use [Volume] and [Channel] toggles copied directly from the RM-VL710, with matching [Muting] and [Recall] keys underneath. Between these are four miscellaneous buttons: [Digital/Analog] (which showed up as the ambiguous [Main/Sub] on the previous remote), [Twin View] (better known outside the Sony circle as "PIP"), [Sleep] and [Info].
The next key cluster is the all-important 5-way menu cursor control, flanked on the outer corners by [Guide], [Menu], [Tools] and [Exit]. This is followed by a standard 6-key transport control (with safety [Record] key), while finally at the bottom of the remote are four "System Control" macro buttons marked [A] through [D]. Tactile nubs are present on the , [Channel Up] and [Play] keys; in total there are 52 buttons to play with.
Despite a good layout and generally better button shapes, tactile response has not fared nearly as well. Overall key travel on the matte-finished rubber buttons is reduced significantly over former models, with little of the satisfying "snap" feedback that I've come to expect. The residual small round keys are soft and mushy, the numeric keypad has a habit of only the top or bottom half of the highly domed buttons depressing if not used squarely, the device keys can be pressed beneath the surrounding metal bling, while the four squat System Control buttons are a measure too firm and tend to wobble while being used.
Stylistically the VM-VL600 has been simplified over the RM-VL710, which featured a large clear plastic insert on the front, 6 colors of rubber and a complex back panel that harkened to Sony's more expensive LCD remotes. The new case isn't as fancy, but is lightweight for its size and comfortable to hold - although it does feel bulkier due to the boxier, more rectangular contours.
I've always said that you could tell the price of a Sony remote by how many screws were used to hold the case together. In order of price, the RM-VL900 uses 8, the RM-VL700 has 2, the RM-VL710 has 5, and the RM-V402 sports 1. With a single screw to hold everything together, the RM-VL600 falls squarely into Sony's lowest category, a sharp downturn from the RM-VL710's seemingly overgenerous quota of 5. The result is evidenced in the overall solidity of the case, which is now less resistant to lateral twisting.
Although it's no great surprise that Sony's least expensive model in a series would require some sort of assembly compromises, it's nevertheless disappointing that such a small MSRP reduction could feel so significant.