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The VL700 is outfitted with two infrared emitters, just like the VL900, shielded by a red plastic bubble. But since the VL700 operates on half the voltage of the VL900, would its signal be as powerful? To test, we turned to our internationally ignored Menacing Thick Fluffy Blanket (MTFB) infrared strength test. Using a specific command for a particular component, transmitted from a set distance, we punctiliously, with persistent proficiency, test a remote's ability to punch signals through a blanket of calibrated thickness and fluffitude.
"Level 1" turned out to be child's play for the VL700. "Level 2" also saw no reduction whatsoever in signal reliability - but surprisingly, both the VL700 and VL900 were unable to get anything through at "Level 3". So, the final MTFB tally for both remotes? A somewhat humble 2.0 - though acceptable for this price range.
With each new remote, Sony's manuals get a little better. The VL700's 40-page stapled booklet is clear and detailed, covering all possible configuration options. Each feature description is supplemented with tips and tricks to help the programmer, plus warnings about things to watch for and why something might not be working. As seems to be Sony's standard procedure, device code numbers are included on a large, folded easy-to-lose sheet of near-tissue-thin paper, separate from the manual. I can understand why they might wish to keep this independent from the manual for easy update purposes, but would have preferred the codes physically attached to the rest of the documentation.
Several thoughtful touches are included on the VL700, such as full-featured television PIP commands (though they are unlabeled on the actual remote), discrete Sony input commands for televisions and VCRs, a dual-key [RECORD] safety requirement, memory protection when changing batteries, plus illumination of the current device whenever a button is hit. In terms of operational speed, the VL700 is noticeably slower than its bigger sibling - it's unable to respond to extremely quick button taps and its reset procedure takes more than double that of the VL900... even though it has less devices.
The VL700's 5-device limitation may seem restrictive to power-users, but it's not meant to compete with Sony's more deluxe models. Taken as a basic control for modest home theaters or secondary systems, the VL700 gets the job done well, all at a wallet-friendly price. The remote's compact design and "micro macro" capability might well be saving graces for many shoppers, but if we compare it with the more expensive VL900 feature-for-feature, dollar-for-dollar, the VL900 still comes up the clear winner with its more durable physical design, 3 additional devices and 11 useful macros. But if $40 is your upper price limit, then the RM-VL700 is a worthy choice that is surprisingly capable.
Note: photos of the silver RM-VL700S can be found in our RM-VL710 review.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)