One would be forgiven for thinking that Sony put a lot more time into designing the PC application that comes with the AX1400 remote than it did into designing the remote iteslef, but that doesn't mean the unit isn't fully-featured. In fact, there are buttons for just about everything you could possibly think of. Where it seems slightly shortchanged is in the display -- a couple lines of electroluminescent characters against a black background is are just not enough to simplify the process of changing devices or choosing macros (sequences of operations called "XPRESS" with the Sony). That's not to say the functionality is not there, it just takes a little longer than it should at times to reach the desired setting.
The software, on the other hand, is a bit more dazzling. After installing it on the PC, the program puts up an image of the remote, and you simply have to click on the button you want to program. With the AX1400, you can also program XPRESS sequences of events.
The AX1400 is capable of controlling up to eight devices -- not as many as some of the other top-end remotes, but if that's enough for your entertainment centre, the system gives you comprehensive control over those eight. The display, as mentioned before, leaves a little to be desired, but as far as control buttons go, the unit covers all the bases (and the buttons have a nice backlighting too).
Unlike some of the other universal remotes we looked at, the AX1400 doesn't come with a cradle -- something that may be a blessing or a curse depending on how organised you like to be (though we've found that having a cradle doesn't necessarily mean the remote will be there when you go looking for it). With the built-in flash memory, all settings are maintained should the batteries die (and, in any case, the setting can be resynched from the PC).Performance
The Sony AX1400 uses a kind of hybrid device-code/learning process to program functions. With each new device, it asks you to push a single button on the device's orginal remote while pointing it at the Sony and it is able to figure out what the rest of the codes were. If not, the system asks for a few more buttons to be "learned". In most cases, the program figured out what the code set was after a few buttons (the remote must be connected to the PC via the USB cable during this process). In the one instance where it couldn't come up with the rest of the signals, we simply had to go through the process of having the AX1400 learn all of the controls we wanted.
Oddly, for such a "configurable" system, the remote's four XPRESS buttons are pre-labelled -- and not with the best labels either. Only TV, MOVIE, MUSIC and RADIO are available.
An interesting feature of the software is the "emulator" (photo of the remote with clickable buttons), which pops up to let you test the functions you've just programmed. Unfortunately, with our test setup (and in most home setups, we suspect) the computer was in a different room from our home entertainment centre, so we couldn't make use of the emulator.
All in all, we found the AX1400 able to handle all the devices in our test grouping, and the programming process was not only intuitive, it was almost fun. Only the design of the remote could have been improved slightly, with our main beef being with the display.