By Lincoln Spector
November 22, 2011
If you're looking for a bargain-priced Blu-ray player, the Vizio VBR122 makes an excellent choice. For $110 (as of November 3, 2011), you get very good image quality and a large selection of streaming Internet services. You also get a nifty remote control that becomes a QWERTY keyboard when you flip it over.
As television accessories become more Internet-oriented, users are finding themselves having to enter text--usually passwords and search terms--into them. A conventional remote control gives you only number and arrow buttons for handling this job, making it an annoying chore. Remote-control phone apps offer an option, but they're not a cure-all.
I vastly prefer the VBR122's solution: a two-sided remote. On one side, it's a conventional remote control. Turn it over, though, and you have a QWERTY keyboard. This simple, clean approach works in situations where remote-control apps on a smartphone can't do the job (such as for Wi-Fi passwords and Netflix searches). Vizio doesn't provide iOS or Android remote-control apps--but with this keyboard, you don't need them.
The conventional remote-control side is functional but not optimal. It's crowded--presumably to make the keyboard small enough for comfortable thumb-typing. Some bad layout decisions make the tiny size worse, too. For instance, the big button that takes you to the home screen sits in the middle of a lot of wasted space, while Pause is up high where it's hard to press (and located where you're likely to press Stop by mistake). The remote is neither programmable nor backlit, two niceties you may miss.
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