Before the release of the RM-AV2000 (AV2000), Sony’s presence in the learning remote control market was non-existent. But after the AV2000’s success became apparent, Sony went back and honed it further into a lean, mean, home-theater controlling machine, the RM-AV2100 (AV2100), which we looked at a short time ago. Sony is now releasing a brand new learning remote control, the $59 USD RM-VL900 (VL900), which features much of the operational refinements of the AV2100 but in a simpler, lower cost package. The budget VL900 is capable of controlling 8 devices along with 11 macros with up to 16 steps each. Component buttons are labeled for TV, VCR, Cable/Satellite, DVD, CD, MD, Tape and Amp, but the built-in codes cover a wider array of devices.
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Design & Ergonomics
The VL900’s design features nothing but hard buttons – the kind that can be used in the dark or even without looking. A total of 35 user buttons along with 8 component select buttons, three system control macro buttons and one configuration button set the VL900 apart from its competitors. You’ll find system macro and power buttons at the top, followed by component selection, keypad, transport, menu and volume/channel controls at the bottom, all grouped in distinctive ergonomic layouts.
Although no keypad backlighting is provided, they will glow-in-the-dark for some time after the lights go down. Buttons have exactly the same shape, size, style and tactile feedback as all other original Sony remote controls – which is a very good thing. Button labels are color coded by their section, while receiver inputs are clearly labeled above their respective keys on the keypad. The keypad seems particularly well spaced, however I found the transport and menu controls placed very close together. I found it quite easy to accidentally press the UP menu arrow when I only meant to press stop, or vice versa. Considering that Sony has several "joystick" menu control designs under their belt, I’m surprised not to see one featured on the VL900 – something that would really have made it a unique product.
The VL900’s case is painted in Sony’s new silver-gray color, designed to integrate with the Wega line of televisions and certain other components. Something unique about the VL900 is the thick rubber grip around the outside, which provides both a solid feel and protection from sudden shock during drops. The wedge shape starts off 2 3/4" wide and 1" thin, while the top of the remote tapers over its 8" length to 2" wide and 1 1/2" thick at the bottom. This may present the exact opposite of the operational angle one would expect from a remote designed to work on a tabletop. However, when used hand-held the wedge shape of the VL900 is a distinct asset.