When you review TVs, you spend a lot of time in dark rooms. I try to recreate the experience of settling in on a sofa for movie night, gauging a given set’s performance based on perhaps the most stereotypic use for a TV. But the lack of light makes using (or finding) the TV remote a challenge, and it’s time for that to change.
At some point, the best TV and best streaming device manufacturers apparently decided their remotes don’t need backlight anymore. So when you’re watching in the dark, you’re guessing whether you’ll press the proper buttons, or feeling up your couch cushions when you’ve misplaced the controller.
By now, I’m intimate enough with my sectional to recognize the crevice my Samsung Q80T QLED TV’s svelte remote usually slips into. But why does that have to be the case? If the buttons had some kind of backlight, I could find the controller without the hassle.
It doesn’t help that remotes have gotten slimmer and smaller, looking more like the miniature Apple TV 4K remote than the best universal remotes littered with buttons. Native remotes also have less buttons thanks to better user intuition — most people know how volume and channel rockers work.
And then there are TVs with far-field microphones, eliminating the need for a remote altogether. You can just simply ask Alexa or Google Assistant to change the volume or switch between the best streaming services.
Yet disturbing an epic Marvel scene on Disney Plus by asking your voice assistant to lower the volume doesn’t sit right. Neither does straining to see what few buttons are on remotes these days. For example, several remotes replaced dedicated input buttons with dedicated streaming service launchers. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see whether I’m opening or Netflix or Vudu.
Backlit buttons would solve all remote woes. Visual assistance in dark environments would make it easier to select the intended buttons and better see where you last put the remote down. We could give a "sleep" mode that dims the remote light when you haven't pressed a button in a few minutes to anyone who argues backlighting distracts from what you're watching.
Remote designer gods, if you're listening, please roll out more models with backlit buttons. Again, this is coming from someone who spends way too much time in front of TVs. Until the day we can telepathically tell our televisions to change the channel, I'd like to see the buttons — and the remote itself — in the dark.