Buttons are certainly a matter of taste. A big touch-screen remote is good for impressing your friends, but it can't be used without taking your eyes off of the TV screen, and smudges of popcorn butter from greasy fingers are more noticeable. The sole purpose of the SL-9000's five-character LCD is to identify which component you're controlling. The LCD is on the small side, but it does the job admirably.
The well-placed buttons make the remote immediately intuitive to use. The SL-9000's buttons and LCD are all backlit, making it easy to command your home theater in dim light. However, in order to make the remote small enough to fit comfortably in one hand, some of the buttons are rather diminutive.
Making It Work
Programming the SL-9000 is reasonably straightforward, and the 57-page manual is quite comprehensive. Just keep in mind that to really take full advantage of the SL-9000's plentiful features, you'll need to spend some time working with it. It comes preprogrammed with codes for the most popular AV equipment brands and models; a very handy autosearch function scans for the correct code, rather than the trial-and-error method of other remotes. It can also be programmed to emulate nearly any infrared remote by pointing the two remotes at each other and pressing the corresponding buttons. Five of the SL-9000's buttons can also store macros of up to 15 commands, which will let you turn on your entire system, tune to your favorite jazz station, and set the exact volume and surround settings you want with the push of a button.
The SL-9000 also has a "punch through" feature for changing the volume and the channel and for operating controls such as play, fast-forward, and rewind. This is handy when you start up a movie and realize the volume is too high; you won't need to push a separate button to switch over to amplifier mode to lower the volume.
The Home Theater Master SL-9000 lists for $129, about $50 less than Sony's fancy touch-screen RM-AV2000. If you think you'll collect more than eight components, have a look at the Sony unit, but those who favor the tactile feel of buttons will find the SL-9000 more to their liking.