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The more the merrier!
The RM-VL710’s button layout, as well as being completely different than the RM-VL700 or RM-VL900, also features several additional keys over those models. Starting at the top of the remote is a [Set] button on the left with accompanying LED, used to enter the setup mode. In the middle is a small [TV/Video] button for changing inputs and to the right a wide [Power] button. Below these are five small component selection buttons in a horizontal row – [TV], [VCR], [Cable], [DVD] and [Amp] – made of transparent plastic with LEDs beneath that flash to indicate which device is in operation, and also aid during setup. Next is a large white 10-digit numeric keypad, complete with [Enter] and [.] (HDTV “dot” or “dash”) buttons. Audio/video input labels are printed above most of these keys, giving them a different purpose for the [Amp] device.
The middle of the remote is occupied by two sizeable sets of [Volume] and [Channel] buttons, with accompanying [Muting] and [Recall] keys. Between these toggles are four other small buttons – [PIP], [Sleep], [Main/Sub] and [Guide]. Next down is a well designed 5-way menu cursor with centered [OK] button, flanked by a further four buttons on the outer corners – [Display], [Menu], [Tools] and [Return]. Six standard transport keys are next (complete with a dual-key [Record] safety feature), while finishing up at the very bottom of the remote are four System Control buttons labelled [A] through [D] for use with macros.
In total there are 49 buttons, 39 usable for commands under each device, compared to 35 per device on the RM-VL700 or RM-VL900. The new keys are [.], [Main/Sub], [Return] and [Tools].
The look and feel.
All of the RM-VL710’s buttons are made of a plastic that’s smoother and somewhat less tacky feeling than the more flexible rubber used on previous Sony models. The firmer material does help give the many small round buttons more substance. A total of six button colors are used: white, blue, green, light grey, dark grey and clear. Button labels are silkscreened in white, black and red. On past Sony models the silkscreening has shown a tendency to wear off on frequently used keys, so it will be interesting to see if the new keypad plastic improves durability.
Button tactile feedback is soft but solid and remarkably consistent considering the wide range of key sizes. I was particularly pleased to see that compared to other recent Sony remotes the RM-VL710’s buttons stick up far enough above the case that they don’t depress into the remote when pressed. The overall button layout is logical and well planned, echoing many aspects of the completely retooled RM-V402 series. It’s easy to find any button cluster by feel, and tactile nubs on the , [Main/Sub] and [Play] buttons aid towards that end.
Still, there are a few minor things amenable to future reconsideration.
First, the [Muting] and [Recall] keys are crowded on top of the menu cursor cluster. There’s plenty of room between the keypad and volume keys to have spaced these out a little more.
Second, reversing the positions of the [Guide] and [Display] keys would be good, since [Display] seems unrelated to its current location.