Yes the newer C10/U1 SD cards are pretty fast, close to eMMC speed. I’m using an eMMC, but that’s more preference than speed advantage, would rather have the SD slot available for future use.
I’m not sure on out of the box remote support, but I think setting up the remote manually is a requirement. You’ll want to manually add your IR remote codes to CE anyway. Not terribly hard to do and it’s nice because you can get remote buttons working exactly how you want. Plus it gives you the option to use any IR remote you like.
In my case I’m using a universal IR remote that handles my whole entertainment system, hate having to use more than one. A keyboard remote can be handy, but I find a basic remote fits the bill for me. If needed you can pop in a USB Mouse and/or keyboard and they’ll work without rebooting. Have to do that on setup anyway to enable SSH and get the remote working.