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Five ways from here to there!
Once we get under those buttons, things get really interesting with the MX-500's unique layout. As mentioned earlier, the MX-500 is one of a small minority of universal remote controls to include a fully-configurable 5-way thumbpad. Actually, this is the second such remote, the first being Universal Remote Control's own MX-1000. However, instead of the "nub"-shaped joystick on the MX-1000, the MX-500 includes a thumbpad directional control that will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played a console game system. The thumbpad rocker has, by and large, a light feel that nevertheless provides ample tactile feedback with a soft "clicking" sensation. Somewhat more force is required for the center "enter" command than for the four outer directions, but this is good as many similarly styled controls I've used made it altogether too easy to accidentally send unwanted signals... and there's nothing more embarrassing to a technophile than selecting the wrong menu item on a DVD movie.
Surrounding the thumbpad are 8 other 'regular' buttons that correspond to normal transport controls: there's [PLAY], [STOP], [PAUSE], [FAST FORWARD], [REWIND], [CHAPTER SKIP] forward and backward, plus [RECORD]. Printed in gold type are alternative button labels for "Guide", "Menu", "Exit" and "Info", in case your device doesn't require transport controls. Beneath all of this is a 12-button keypad (0 to 9 plus [ENTER] and [DISPLAY]), while at the very bottom are three system macro buttons.
The MX-500's buttons are made of the same translucent rubber as the SL-9000, but reflecting a remote intended for the 21st century they're more refined and daring in shape. There isn't a square button to be found, and all have nice curved edges and domed tops. Tactile response is similar to the SL-9000 - good - requiring a light but resolute touch.
About the only troublesome ergonomic nitpick is with the buttons that surround the thumbpad. The rocking thumbpad is encircled by a plastic bezel that angles down from the pad's elevated position, to the rest of the remote. The buttons that surround the thumbpad are partially embedded in the angled bezel, meaning that the top of one side of the button is nearly flush with the bezel itself. For six of the eight buttons this poses little problem - enough of the button is not in the bezel that they're easy to press. However, the [FAST FORWARD] and [REWIND] buttons are triangular and positioned so that the majority of the button is level with the bezel, with only a small point protruding. So, folks with larger fingers - such as myself - will most likely find those two buttons somewhat difficult to press comfortably. I find that the pad of my finger hits the bezel before the button has been sensed, giving one the sensation that they're pushing it into a hole.
Buy 43, get 10 free!
The Home Theater Master MX-500 is a 10-device remote control, placing it squarely between the lower cost 8-device SL-9000 and more expensive 12-device MX-1000. The default device labels are Audio, CD, DVD, Tape, Aux, TV, VCR 1, VCR 2, Sat and Cable, though any combination of devices can actually be used. Own 4 VCRs? Not a problem!