Is there a downside to a backlit remote?

Is there a downside to being able to find your remote in the dark? Not really.

Why aren’t all remotes backlit?

Personally I don’t understand why all remotes aren’t backlit. It doesn’t cost that much more and they’re so much more helpful. Millions of users have chosen DIRECTV’s Genie Remote, but here’s the secret: it’s better in a backlit version. The entire button surface lights up and makes it easy to know what you’re doing in the dark. In fact the backlighting is bright enough that you could use it to help find your way, at least a little bit.

The backlit Genie Remote has buttons that light up any time you press a button, but there’s also a side button that lights up the remote with a double-press. That’s helpful when you don’t want to accidentally push the wrong button.

The conventional wisdom

The traditional complaint about backlit remotes is that the button surfaces wear out faster than the non-backlit versions. Because they are backlit, buttons that are black are actually painted black instead of being black plastic. So, the paint will eventually wear off.

I have personally not found this to be a problem with the Genie Remote. All remote buttons will eventually wear to the point where you can’t read what’s on them. That’s a normal consequence of wear-and-tear. If you look at the Genie Remote in backlit and non-backlit versions you’ll realize that there is actually more printed surface on the backlit one so if some of that screen printing is going to wear off, you’ll still have some left as opposed to a non-backlit remote.

The other thing people say about the backlit remote is that the buttons are harder to see in regular light. Again if you look at this image, totally unretouched other than some light cleanup of the background, you can see that the buttons are plenty easy to read and understand with the backlight off. There’s also, as I said, a button on the side which turns the backlight on so you can see the buttons before you press them if you’re in a low light situation (which is really the whole reason for a backlit remote anyway.)

Battery life is not a problem

I’m sure it’s true that the backlit remote has worse battery life than a non-backlit one. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Your typical Genie remote will last well over a year on a pair of alkaline batteries. The backlit one will too, in my testing. In fact I’ve yet to wear out the batteries in my backlit Genie remote, and I’ve completely forgotten when I put them in.

OK, so a little more expensive.

Oh, yeah, it’s worth saying that the backlit remote is a touch more expensive than a regular remote. That’s true, but we’re talking about a small number here, about what you would spend on a coffee at your favorite place for a few days. Suck it up, drink the work coffee instead of the expensive stuff, and get the remote you really want. You’ll thank yourself for years and years to come. In fact, you’ll find all the best satellite accessories as well as everything else you’ll need to live your best digital like when you shop at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.