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To backlight, or not...
The RM-AV series has always been famous for its brilliant blue LCD backlighting: you just can't find bigger or brighter. This remote continues this trend with a light that seems ever-so-slightly brighter - but also a little bit more green. One aspect that's caused needless user concern in the past is the noise, or "whine", generated by the backlight. This is perfectly normal and is standard for electroluminescent panels (that's the kind that gives a smoothly lit screen and is popular on watches and PDAs). The RM-AV3000 is markedly quieter in this regard than its predecessor - which in turn was noticeably quieter than the previous model. Sony has worked the hum down to a very acceptable level and tone.
As before, there are two brightness levels to pick from ("dim" could be useful for anyone who spends a lot of time in the dark), and the backlight timeout can be adjusted in one second increments from 1 second all the way up to 60 seconds. One feature that many RM-AV2100 owners requested was for the backlight to automatically activate whenever the screen was tapped. As it was, users always needed to press the [Light] button. Some owners detested that so much that they actually worked out schematics on how to rewire the backlight to activate automatically! Put your soldering irons down folks, because Sony has resolved the issue: the backlight can be configured to activate at all times, or only when the [Light] button is pressed. [Light] can also be used to turn the backlight off at any time if you're worried about gobbling batteries.
The LCD screen has a separate timeout, which can be configured to turn off in one minute increments after 1 through 30 minutes of inactivity - yes, that really says minutes, not seconds. A new feature fine-tunes the LCD's contrast level in 16 steps, ranging in intensity from "slightly light" to "too dark". Most contrast controls allow adjustment into unusable extremes, but not here. Note that the remote defaults to the minimum setting, so it may need to be changed out of the box for best results.
In analytical side-by-side comparisons of the new remote to its predecessor, it appears that the LCD manufacturing process has changed. Not only is the backing behind the screen different (more yellowish green), but so is the color of the LCD liquid (much bluer). Overall, the RM-AV3000 appears to give the illusion of greater contrast levels, though that could partly be because text is slightly thicker (and consequently easier to read). I do, however, find the older LCD screen sharper - and when a bright light is shone overhead, the old LCD did not exhibit a strong shadow behind on-screen elements, while the new one does.
Also new to the remote's "after dark" capabilities is a glow-in-the-dark material embedded in the component buttons. These will continue to glow for some time after room lighting is extinguished, but I would have preferred to see every button on the remote properly backlit. In a peculiar oversight, the all-important [Light] button mysteriously lacks any glow-in-the-dark properties. Whoops!
More of everything!
As mentioned earlier, the RM-AV3000 can now control up to 18 devices - that's 50% more than the RM-AV2100. Furthermore, the remote now supports up to 15 system macros, 18 device macros and 12 timer macros - that's 200% more - with 32 commands on each - twice as many as before. Finally, each device can now have up to 53 commands - 15 more than previous. This all represents a substantial upgrade in capabilities.
Indeed, this marks Sony's RM-AV3000 as one of the most powerful remotes available, never mind the cost. Chances are that few users will have the need for all this potential, but it's far easier to ignore too much of something than try and work with too little.