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Sony poured almost every feature and design element it could think of into the RM-AV3000 Integrated Remote Commander--with mixed results. This universal remote control is widely available from online retailers for half of its $200 list price.
The silver, uncluttered RM-AV3000 has a luxurious look. Dominating the face is a large 4-by-2-inch touch-screen LCD. Below it are 7 keys providing direct access to the devices of your choice, such as a TV, a DVD player, and a receiver. On the unit's lower half are 15 familiar controls common to every standard remote. They include a five-way menu navigator, as well as buttons for adjusting and muting the volume, selecting and recalling a channel, and turning on the Commander.
While a tapered base lets you hold the Commander in one palm, you'll need your other hand to push any of the buttons. But the remote's biggest flaw is its monochrome LCD. It smudges easily and is simply unreadable when the aqua backlight is off. Locating a specific onscreen key is difficult; each is half the size of a postage stamp, and the typeface is tiny. Worse, the LCD is the only way to access the numeric keypad, which you need to enter a channel number, for instance.
The Commander is possibly the most feature-rich universal remote available. It can control 18 devices, and you can program it with your own commands or its embedded codes, which Sony lists in one of the user manuals. Once the remote has found its target device, the appropriate buttons, which are also customizable, appear on the LCD.
Four blank keys sit along the bottom of the screen; you can program and label them for specialty items. You can create a total of 45 macros, and the Commander's internal clock lets you schedule the execution of up to 12 of them. Each macro can contain 32 steps. The remote's flashier features are copiously explained and illustrated in the 104-page instruction manual.
Once we had programmed the device, it worked flawlessly. Screens dedicated to specific devices helped us locate keys. The RM-AV3000 also has the best IR dispersal we've ever seen; commands registered even when we pointed away from our equipment rack.
Most of the Commander's performance problems are ergonomic. We'd love to see a follow-up that offers one-handed operation and a more legible LCD. The programming could be simpler, too. Until a new version comes along, the RM-AV3000 is best suited to users who need to control a lot of devices and aren't intimidated by advanced programming methods.