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Level three, the plateau at which the RM-VL700 faltered but the newer Sony RM-AV2500 (read our review) succeeded. Could the RM-VL710 at less than one-quarter the price hope to match? Yes! Although off-angle performance was now severely limited, the plucky remote still operated consistently as long as it was aimed at what was being controlled. Level 4.0, however, saw nary a functional command make its way through the one-and-a-half inch thick wall of blanket.
So the final tally is a respectable 3.0, although I should add that the RM-VL710 was just a hair away from rating 3.5, as at two feet closer to the receiver its commands began to make their way through.
Straightforward remotes almost never have the performance issues and delays that can sometimes plague more advanced controls, so it was no surprise that the RM-VL710 passed all of our operational tests with flying colors. There is no perceptible button lag, and the command repeat rate is also good.
The RM-VL710 is proof that appearances can be deceiving. While it may not look as ergonomic or as advanced as certain other remotes, it proved both comfortable to hold and a veritable workhorse. I am particularly fond of thin remotes, and the RM-VL710 is one of the slimmest universals from Sony in years. I also appreciated the new key layout, with its central [Volume] and [Channel] toggles that fall naturally under my thumb and menu controls a quick reach below. Although thereís no hard button backlighting Ė something thatís not completely unexpected at this price level Ė the remoteís distinctive button shapes and logical grouping make such a feature practically unneeded.
The extra buttons offered by the RM-VL710 over its predecessors are most welcome, especially since one of my biggest wants for those models was a few more keys. Still, digital video recorder and advanced cable box owners may be disappointed to hear that certain oft-needed keys are absent, such as Page Up/Down or dedicated Chapter Skip functions.
From a specification comparison standpoint the 5 device capacity may sound restrictive, but think about the typical components found in a modest home theater or bedroom system and youíll quickly realize that itís exactly the right number for a remote of this caliber. Hopefully, Sony will eventually come out with a more comprehensive hard buttoned remote to replace the now-discontinued RM-VL900.
Sonyís RM-VL710 is a well rounded product that offers everything essential to a superior starter universal remote: preprogrammed codes, plenty of learning memory, macros, high quality construction Ė even better itís also easy to use. And at that very wallet-friendly price of $34.99 the RM-VL700 offers some serious bang-for-the-buck. You just wonít find a more practical remote that costs less!
- Daniel Tonks (Remote Central)