Does your entertainment room look like the lost and found box at a RadioShack? Do you have more controllers and remotes than actual TVs or devices? Have the drawers in your TV stand become a labyrinth of remotes and controllers for your DVD/Blu-Ray player, TV, Apple TV, AV receiver and sound bar? If so, a universal remote is a must-have item for you to regain your sanity and simply your viewing experience.
Universal remotes can be programmed to control every aspect of your home entertainment system and consolidate your system down to one remote. That’s right – you can control your Apple TV hub, Samsung TV, and Denon AV receiver with only one remote. And as technology has advanced, some universal remotes even control components in your smart home, such as smart lighting, and locks. Integrations with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls can really make your universal remote the central command center of your home.
Before you get started with our product suggestions, you’ll likely see three common types of remotes: IR (which stands for Infrared), hub-based and hybrid remotes. IR need line-of-sight to work properly, so if you aren’t directly pointing at the receiver, it won’t work. This can be difficult if your receiver is tucked away in a shelf or cabinet. Hub-based remotes use a secondary piece of hardware to communicate with all the components in your home entertainment center. And hybrid remotes use a combination of WiFi, Bluetooth, or IR to send signals. Hub-based and hybrid remotes are more reliable, but will be a bit more expensive.
Here is a list of the best universal remotes we found:
1. Logitech Harmony Companion
The Harmony Companion from Logitech can connect up to eight devices, and is compatible with Amazon Alexa. With this handy remote, you can control your entire entertainment system, and also your smart home components like your thermostat and the lights in your home. There are three main components: the hub, the remote and a smartphone app. For the installation, you’ll need an internet connection and some time to go through the process – which takes about 25 minutes. The remote is lightweight and comfortable to hold and doesn’t need line-of-sight to work properly, which is a small, but convenient detail. The remote isn’t backlit, but is one of the few universal remotes that does have the capabilities to control your smart home, which is convenient for those looking to upgrade more than their entertainment system.
2. Logitech Harmony Elite
There isn’t much to knock when it comes to the Harmony Elite universal remote. It controls up to 15 devices and has a touchscreen that is fully customizable. By comparison, the Harmony Companion doesn’t have a touchscreen on the remote and the Harmony 650’s screen isn’t a touchscreen – but we feel it’s a bit on the pricier side for a remote control. The Elite remote is backlit, so it’s easier to see in the dark than the Harmony Companion. Likewise, the installation routine is essentially the same as the companion, as well as the Amazon Alexa compatibility.
3. Logitech Harmony 665 Universal Remote
The 665 is the identical twin to the 650 remote, albeit a little newer. It is compatible with over 5,000 brands, and can be synced with up to 10 devices, whereas the 650 only syncs up to five devices. Setting up the remote is a bit of a lengthy, and technical process. You’ll need an internet connection and your computer for the setup, and the step-by-step tutorial will take some time to complete. During the setup, you can program a button to turn on all of your devices at once, or one button for every device in your entertainment system. The display can be used to program your favorite channels to be accessed with a push of a button, or help you troubleshoot the remote if it’s not working properly.
4. Logitech Harmony Express
What makes this universal remote so smart is its simplicity. The remote is half the size of the Harmony 650, but it doesn’t need the extra real-estate. It relies heavily on its compatibility with Amazon Alexa to do all of the heavy lifting. It is a two-component unit – comprised of the hub and the remote. The hub makes it so you don’t need line-of-sight, which is a very convenient feature. It works well with often used commands such as “open the Netflix app,” but its lack of buttons creates programming issues, especially when it comes to controlling an AV receiver’s feature set. For more complicated home entertainment systems, we think you should go with the Elite or Companion, but for simple systems, this is a fantastic choice.
5. Inset 4-in-1 Universal Remote
This universal remote isn’t as flashy or feature driven as any of the Logitech options we’ve mentioned, but if you want a remote that doesn’t require a Master’s degree to install, this Inset remote is a solid bet. Using a laptop or smartphone, and the Inset website, simply select your devices in a drop down menu and pair them with the remote. The Inset universal remote only connects to four devices, which is less than all of the Logitech devices, but it does have macro buttons, which can control a handful of functions with one push of a button. And the real kicker – it’s inexpensive.
6. Caavo Universal Remote and Smart Hub
Even though universal remotes like the Logitech Elite and Companion have hubs, they aren’t quite the same thing as the Caavo. The Caavo hub uses HDMI ports to connect all of your devices, literally turning it into the Grand Central Station for your home entertainment center. You can connect up to four devices to the hub, and it includes one output. It features an onscreen interface that you’ll use to navigate your apps, and use voice commands to prompt your system. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s a solid setup, but the drawbacks are you won’t be able to control any device that doesn’t connect via HDMI – i.e. that old audio receiver you’ve had for ages – and you have to subscribe to the Caavo service to use the interface.
7. Logitech Harmony 650 All in One Remote Control
MOST COMFORTABLE TO HOLD
This is seemingly the identical twin to the 665 remote. Both the 650 and 665 don’t feel as though they are made with light, flimsy plastic. They can withstand a drop. The curvature of the remote is comfortable to hold. It is ergonomic, the buttons have nice spacing, and it feels balanced in the hand. The nice thing about this universal remote is you can program one button to turn on one device, or one button to turn on several devices at once. These are called macro buttons, and they can be programmed to control a number of devices with the press of single button. The screen is also helpful to program your favorite channels, or to help walk you through troubleshooting. If you have less than five devices you’d like to control, this is a good choice; any more, and you’ll want to upgrade to the 665.
8. Coolux Universal Remote
SAMSUNG REPLACEMENT REMOTE
It’s a little hard to call this a true universal remote, because its main purpose is to replace remotes for Samsung LCD, LED, and HDTVs. However, this remote will work with any Samsung TVs, regardless of make or model, which makes it a convenient option for those in the Samsung universe. You won’t need to pair this device, or go through any lengthy installation with this remote, though. It looks and feels, and controls your Samsung TV exactly like the stock Samsung remote would, so there won’t be any sort of learning curve when you are using this remote. You won’t be getting much in terms of smart capabilities; this remote can’t control your smart home devices, or use voice commands of any kind – but it should work seamlessly with your older Samsung TV. Simply put, it’s an inexpensive replacement remote, if that’s all you need.