Philips has added other thoughtful touches to the PHDVR8L, such as supporting devices that only have separate power on and off buttons by placing the "power on" command on the device button (normally nothing can be placed there), and requiring a double safety press of [Record] before the command is sent.
Previously entered codes can be identified in a mode where you press the number keys until one flashes the LED - repeat two more times for all three digits. Learned codes can be deleted on a device-by-device basis or the entire remote at once, and volume punchthroughs and macros can be easily reset. However, there is no way to completely restore the remote and preprogrammed codes to the original factory default settings.
The 96-page manual that ships with the PHDVR8L looks long and daunting until you browse past page 33, wonder why it's talking about códigos, and then realize that it's switched without fanfare to another language - specifically Spanish, followed by French. The English portion appears at the outset to be well written as there's no glaring typos or obvious computer-translated sentence structure, however something just isn't quite right. The words and the order they're in is correct, but for some reason sentences flow awkwardly and could be difficult to comprehend without repeated readings.
Illuminating infrared analysis.
Of course, no review would be complete without our famous Menacing Thick Fluffy Blanket (MTFB) - the industry's only easy-to-comprehend infrared strength test! Here, we hide a remote behind ever-greater layers of Standardized Polyester Light Absorbing Material (SPLAM) while attempting to control a particular device... in this case a Sony receiver's "mute" command.
Starting off at level one - enough blanket for a brisk summer evening - the PHDVR8L performed adequately, although its single emitter seemed to have difficultly providing adequate off-angle performance through the obstruction. Moving up to level two - winter in California - the remote faltered. Although some commands did make it through, reliability was poor even with the control aimed exactly at the IR receiver. So, the unexpectedly early final tally is a generous 1.75 - probably on par with many of your original equipment's remote controls, but no better.
Buttons, buttons, buttons - it's the PHDVR8L's single most valuable feature. But is merely having lots of something enough to turn it into "a good thing"?
As a kid, if given a choice I would want whatever had the most buttons, knobs or dials, since I figured that typically meant it had the most "stuff". In those terms this many-keyed universal remote certainly looks like it should clobber the competition, but without the right supporting features to balance that strength it just ends up lopsided. In particular, the weak learning capabilities and anemic macro support prevent it from offering the kind of system operation that those who would desire a complex-looking remote would ultimately want.
There's no denying that the Philips PHDVR8L includes a great code database, supports more devices than normal for the price and has an unusually high number of in-device buttons. If that's what you want in a universal remote control, that's exactly what you will get. However, other remotes available in the same price bracket ultimately offer a better value through more practical and refined capabilities.
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)