Sony's release of the RM-VL900 remote control in 2000 earned them the desirable honor of marketing the most economical full-featured learning remote in North America. Many other cheaper remotes claim to support learning capabilities, but by the time hours have been spent programming, the manual's fine print becomes all too clear - most can only hold a dozen or two codes. The RM-VL900 was the first marketed model with a retail price beneath $100 that incorporated more than enough memory to learn an infrared signal onto every possible button. Following that same "no reason for limitations" trend, Sony has released a new model that, while firmly situated below the VL900 in terms of price and capabilities, doesn't skimp on raw learning potential.
As the most recent addition to Sony's sizeable remote control lineup, the 5-device RM-VL700 is offered at a retail price of $39.99 USD. That's one-third less than the $59.99 RM-VL900, making it the new heir to the title of "most inexpensive fully-learning remote". Since the RM-VL900 already sports a minimum number of user keys (read: just enough), the question that springs to mind is: what exactly has Sony done in order to bring the price down? And, even with the price decrease, is the new model still worth consideration over the more capable yet not-that-much-more-expensive RM-VL900? Read on!
Redesigning a classic.
The most obvious difference between the RM-VL700 and the RM-VL900 is in case design. The economized VL700 substitutes the VL900's metallic silver coating with basic black plastic. Although this finish isn't as flashy, it's just as appealing to anyone whose home theater hasn't migrated to the "gray/silver/platinum" theme that is currently sweeping the home theater industry.
The VL700's new case is sensibly ergonomic. Instead of a straight tapered wedge shape, the VL700 refines the VL900's chunky physique into a much smaller and more curvaceous design, a welcome departure from most of Sony's end-user remotes for the past few years. Though approximately the same width as the VL900 at the top, measuring 2.6" (6.6cm), the VL900 tapers to only 1.7" (4.3cm) wide at the bottom over its 7.6" (19.4cm) length. Thickness is also reduced overall, measuring 0.8" (2cm) at the top and 1.4" (3.6cm) at the bottom. The narrow yet nearly cylindrical shape at the bottom is especially comfortable to hold, yet doesn't feel at all bulky thanks to a prominent finger indent nearly halfway up the back.