Are you sick of using a million different remotes to control your media room? Sounds like you should invest in a universal remote. Brands like Logitech have been making these A/V saviors for years, and there’s a reason they haven’t stopped. A solid universal remote consolidates all your home theater hardware controls into one easy-to-grab device, so you can finally shelve the five dog-chewed remotes sitting on your ottoman. Better yet, if you’re a double screener (scrolling through Instagram on your phone, with Netflix on in the background), there are even universal remote apps you can download to your mobile. Think of that. You may not even need to touch a remote.
Like many home theater products, universal remotes are made by numerous companies. Some cost hundreds of dollars, others less than $10. Where does one even begin, you ask? Not to fear. That’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up the best on the market, from models with bare-bones controls to the most advanced and interactive remotes money can buy. Theis our top choice because it is affordable and it is so easy to use.
The best universal remotes a glance
- The best universal remote overall: Logitech Harmony 665
- The best universal remote for the smart home: Logitech Harmony Companion
- The best affordable universal remote for multiple devices: SofaBaton U1
- The best bare-bones universal remote control: GE 33709
- The best universal remote for ultimate home theater control: Logitech Harmony Elite
Why you should buy this: It handles just about all of your home theater needs at an unbelievably low price.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking to control their home theater without spending a fortune.
Why we picked the Logitech Harmony 665:
Your days of fumbling with complicated tech and tons of remotes are about to be over. The Harmony 665 isn’t the most advanced remote on our list, but its rich set of features, ease of use, and low price make it an easy choice for our top pick. It replaces the Harmony 650 as our previous top pick, as the 665 improves over the older model in three important ways: It can control 10 devices instead of eight, all of the buttons are now backlit for easier use, and you can program up to 23 favorite TV channels for quick access from the color screen.
You’ll need an internet-connected PC to get theup and running, but once you do, intuitive buttons like “Watch TV” will execute multiple commands, powering up your television and cable/satellite box and switching the TV to the correct input in one fell swoop. Keep in mind: As an infrared-only remote, the Harmony 665 can control things like your TV, A/V receiver, and cable box, but Bluetooth-only devices like PlayStations and some streaming media boxes will still need their own dedicated remotes, or, one of the other two Logitech remotes on our list.
Why you should buy this: It’s a perfect blend of power and simplicity.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking to control their smart home from the comfort of their couch.
Why we picked the Logitech Harmony Companion:
The Harmony Companion is built for the 21st century. It lets you control up to eight devices at once, from Philips Hue lights and smart TVs to A/V components enclosed within cabinets, using either the included remote or the companion app for Android and Apple devices. The included Harmony Hub acts as the brain of the system, sending commands via infrared or Bluetooth depending on the devices you want to control. Unlike the Harmony 665, which is only infrared, you don’t need to maintain line-of-sight with your components or point the remote in a specific direction — its wireless signal even works through walls.
It features integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so if you have a smart speaker at home you can issue voice commands like “Hey Google, ask Harmony to turn on Sports.” The physical clicker also sports a variety of activity-based buttons for everyday tasks, with robust customization and a marathon battery to match. Our only complaint? The buttons aren’t backlit, making the difficult to see in a dark room.
Why you should buy this: It’s affordable, easy to program, works with Bluetooth and infrared, and supports up to 15 devices.
Who it’s for: Those who own a lot of devices and don’t want to spend a lot on a universal remote.
Why we picked the SofaBaton U1:
Harmony remotes are great, but they force you to choose between affordability and compatibility. The Harmony 665 is inexpensive, but you’re limited to 10 infrared devices. The Harmony Companion adds Bluetooth to the mix and app-based programming and control, but you’ll pay between $100 and $150 for it.
That opens up a gap for a remote that has some strengths of each of these products; that remote is the SofaBaton U1. What makes the U1 unique is that it can control both IR and Bluetooth devices — up to 15 of them — and it only costs $50. You program it wirelessly with the SofaBaton U1 companion app for iOS or Android, which is way more convenient than using a PC and a USB cable like the Harmony 665.
Like the Harmony system, you can search SofaBaton’s database for your specific device models, and if they’re listed, adding them takes just one tap. If they aren’t listed, you can use the U1’s learning function to teach it the needed commands with your factory remote.
Don’t like how the buttons work? You can assign (or re-assign) them from the full list of every available command — from any added device. If you’re controlling your Apple TV, for instance, you can assign the volume keys to control your soundbar or A/V receiver instead of using the Apple TV’s volume controls.
To choose which device you want to control, a handy scroll wheel lets you navigate an OLED display at the top of the remote. We really like how quickly you can make changes using the SofaBaton app — they happen instantly, no synchronization steps required.
Is the SofaBaton U1 perfect? No. The buttons aren’t backlit so they’re harder to see in a dark room. Unlike the Harmony remotes, there are no activity buttons for things like “Watch Apple TV” that use Logitech’s helpful wizard-based programming.
But there is a workaround: Thehas four color-coded macro buttons above the number pad, and these can be easily programmed using the app to execute any sequence of commands from any of your added devices. Better yet, you can set these four macro buttons for each device, giving you a maximum of 60 macros. There’s no way to label the buttons, so you’ll just have to remember what each one does.
Why you should buy this: It does just enough, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a universal remote to handle the basics and nothing more.
Why we picked the GE 33709:
The GE 33709 remote provides a straightforward way to control up to four devices using a host of pre-programmed codes while sporting a traditional design equipped with a basic D-pad and all of the most salient TV/media commands you could need.
If touch screens and programming via a PC or mobile app feel too convoluted for your needs, theis a perfect choice: It’s cheap — but not cheaply made — and it has everything you need to control your infrared devices.
Why you should buy this: If it can be controlled by a remote, this will let you control it.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking to control every single aspect of their home theater and smart home in one place.
Why we picked the Logitech Harmony Elite:
The most powerful remote on this list, it should come as no surprise that the Logitech Harmony Elite is also the most expensive. No, you probably don’t need this much remote, but if you want the ultimate all-in-one experience, this is where it’s at. Picking up where the Harmony Companion leaves off, the Elite adds a built-in, full-color touchscreen so you won’t need to turn to your phone for precise control nearly as often.
The full package includes the Elite remote, the Harmony Hub, two IR mini-blasters to control components out of line-of-sight, and a charging station to keep the remote ready to go at all times. It’s a lot more money for the sake of an extra IR-blaster and a color touchscreen, but given the‘s capabilities, you may never need to buy another remote ever again.
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