Despite the growing popularity of products like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which give you a lot of control simply by giving a spoken command, many devices still rely on a good old remote control. In a house with several TVs, a Blu-Ray or DVD player, a surround sound audio system… you get where this is going, right? The more devices you own, the more remote controls end up cluttering your coffee table, and the probability of you losing or misplacing one of them seems to grow exponentially. Throw in the need to remember all the different functions of all the different remotes, and now, we’re getting close to the reason why separate remotes should be a thing of the past.
Of course, we would have to tolerate all the troubles with multiple remote controls if we didn’t have a viable alternative. Fortunately, there is such an alternative: get a universal remote controller and finally enjoy the simplicity and of being able to control your whole entertainment system with a single device. However, while using a good universal remote is a breeze, choosing one may not be that easy, which is why we have created this guide to help you choose a universal remote that is a perfect match for your needs and budget.
Because there are so many options to choose from, we have put together this review of the 10 best universal remotes in different price ranges to help you make up your mind.
Starting off on the budget side of things, we think that this remote would be an ideal option for people who need a simple, yet reliable universal remote. The device only features six buttons for the most essential control options:
- on and off
- switch channels
- increase/decrease the volume
This simplicity makes the Continuus remote a great option for people who are not very good with tech. And because the buttons themselves are quite large, backlit, and have labels in a large, easily readable font, this universal remote is well-suited for seniors and people with severely impaired vision. You can also use it as an affordable (and possibly, temporary) replacement for your lost TV remote.
The Continuus universal remote has a built-in library of TV codes and a scanner for fast and seamless TV recognition. What’s more, it can also “learn” some custom commands, so you can add some additional functionality to the existing basic options. Overall, this is a great remote for the money, even if it’s not going to be the one that controls your whole media center.
This remote could be just what you need if the basic functionality of our previous entry isn’t enough for you, but you only have a little bit more to spend. Logitech is known for producing high-quality periphery accessories for computers and smart devices, so you can be sure that you’re buying a great device that will deliver on the manufacturer’s promises.
The Logitech Harmony 650 All In One is one of the company’s entry-level models, but it does have a lot of features that are going to be enough for many users. The remote can control up to eight devices, so you’ll be able to declutter your living room coffee table from all the original remotes and still have a couple of control options to spare. A small but bright screen helps with command navigation and displays your current channel.
The remote has a constantly updated database with over 5,000 devices it can control, so it is very likely that it will be a suitable replacement for just about any remote in your home. Bear in mind that you’ll need to install a special program on your computer to fully customize the remote, but the software is fairly intuitive and easy to use, even if you’re not very tech-savvy.
The Logitech Harmony 650 Smart Control is a great all-rounder, but admittedly, it’s been on the market for a while now, and it is definitely not the most modern one. The Harmony Smart Control model has all the advantages of being a Logitech product, and it also comes in a modern, sleek design with some cool new features, such as a smartphone companion app. You don’t need to bother installing software on your computer to configure this remote. All you have to do is head to the App Store or Google Play and install the dedicated app.
The remote itself doesn’t have a screen, but with the app making good use of your phone’s likely huge screen, there’s no need for one on the remote. The device comes with Harmony Hub, a special adapter that allows you to control devices hidden from the remote by a wall or furniture item. This universal remote from Logitech is capable of controlling almost 300,000 different devices, including smart TVs, cable boxes, game consoles, and much more. What’s more, you can use the Swipe and Tap features in the app to control your home entertainment system with just one touch. The remote is equipped with Wi-Fi, which allows it to be used with the phone app and control a multitude of devices.
If you don’t have a lot to spend on your new remote, but still want to get some of the most advanced features, we suggest you take a closer look at this universal remote from Philips. It comes in two different models, with the basic one being able to work with up to four devices simultaneously. Throw in another six dollars, and you’ll get an improved model that supports two additional devices. We find it’s a good idea to get the more advanced model, but if you’re sure you’re not going to be getting any new home entertainment devices any time soon, you might as well go for the basic version and save some money.
Despite its very attractive price tag, the Philips universal remote can work with thousands of devices from a regularly updated database. This remote can control your TVs, Blu-Ray players, DVD players, cable boxes, and even satellite receivers. You really get a lot of bang for your buck with this model, and it’s also very user-friendly, providing simple controls and large buttons. The only issue you could possibly have with this remote is that it doesn’t support the streaming sticks from Amazon and Roku, but that’s something we’re willing to overlook given the remote’s overall performance and price tag.
GE is a company known for producing high-quality TV remotes, and this model seems to be an answer to our previous entry from Philips. The remote from GE is also available in two versions, with the less expensive one offering virtually the same functionality as its Philips competitor. The more expensive six-device model also comes with backlit buttons, which is definitely going to be an advantage for people who prefer to watch TV in a dark or dimly lit room.
The Auto Scan technology enables the remote to find your TV or other devices to control automatically, without needing any manual input. Similarly to the Philips remote, this one won’t work with Roku and Amazon streaming sticks, which is once again not a big deal considering the price. The GE remote comes pre-programmed for Samsung TVs, but of course, it can also be re-programmed to work with just about any other TV.
All in all, this remote is remarkably similar to the one from Philips, so unless you’re tempted by the backlit buttons in the GE model, your best bet is to choose the design you like better because both remotes work great and provide almost identical functionality.
If you find that the remotes that came with your TV or DVD player are too bulky and complicated, you should try this universal remote from RCA. It is the most affordable item on our list, so you can buy it simply as an experiment, even if you’re not very enthusiastic about universal remotes. Believe us; after you’ve used this little device for a couple of days, you will be very reluctant to go back to your old remotes that seem to have enough buttons and functions to control an aircraft.
The remote works with up to three devices from a wide range of supported TVs, smart TVs, satellite receivers, cable boxes, and DVD/Blu-Ray players. The buttons are large and have decent spacing between them, so it’s easy to find the one you need, even if you’re not looking at the device. The remote itself is small, light, and has a surprisingly comfortable fit, particularly for smaller hands.
We do wish that the remote would support a wider catalog of older devices, and it may be quite challenging to set up initially, but it does its job remarkably well otherwise. And besides, you’re getting a universal remote with only the most essential functions and buttons for the price of a take-out meal, so what is there to complain about?
For users more interested in a “smart” universal remote, here’s our top pick: the Inteset 4-in-1. As the title suggests, it works with up to four devices simultaneously. One of the best features of this remote is that it can “learn” to control devices that are not in its official database. To achieve this, you can use the Learning Capability function, which relies on resources available online.
Some other interesting and unique functions include the ability to block channel and volume changes on one or multiple controlled devices. The remote from Inteset also comes with customizable buttons that can have the same functions on all devices or be programmed separately for each one. You’ll even find special stickers in the box to label these buttons if you feel the need to. The remote works with most modern streaming devices, excluding the Roku streaming stick. This, combined with the previously mentioned functions, makes the Inteset 4-In-1 an excellent choice for tech-savvy users who use their TVs for more than watching cable programming.
As the end of our list draws near, we’re leaving the realm of budget-friendly universal remotes to take a look at what premium products Logitech has to offer. The Ultimate One is a powerful universal remote that can work with up to 15 devices. It looks more like a phone than a TV remote, thanks to the built-in colorful 2.4-inch touch screen, which can be used to switch TV channels, control music playback, launch games, and much more.
The Ultimate One comes with a special base where you can put the remote after you’re done using it. This way, it stays charged, and you don’t have to go looking for it all over the place the next time you want to use it. If you want to expand the device’s range, you can purchase the Harmony Hub and make the remote even more powerful!
We did find that the Ultimate One remote has a relatively complicated setup procedure, but once you’re past that, the device is very convenient and easy to use.
The most expensive universal remote on our list, the 950 Touch model from Logitech aims to make interaction with your home entertainment system as seamless and convenient as possible. The device makes good use of the built-in touch screen, giving you access to many cool features, such as switching 50 of your favorite channels with a single tap, swiping to control playback speed and volume, and of course, the one-touch activities. These one-touch functions allow you to tap an activity, such as “Watch a movie,” on the remote’s screen, and it will automatically turn on and configure all necessary devices.
The remote can control up to 15 devices from an extensive database of over 250,000 products. The charging station makes sure you never need to replace batteries or look for your remote in the couch, underneath the coffee table, or someplace else around the room. The physical buttons have the backlight feature, which is only activated when the remote detects motion.
To sum up, this is a great universal remote that has enough functionality to be relevant for years to come. However, we do wish that it was a bit more affordable as its price tag really makes it stand out among the competitors. Does the remote offer enough cool features to make up for that? It’s up to you to decide.
The last entry on our list is going to be right up your alley if you’re into high-tech devices and already have several smart home components. The Harmony All In One remote really can control them all, from a brand new 3D TV to a set of Philips smart lights – you name it, and the remote will be able to control it!
Logitech didn’t add a touch screen to this remote, which is likely part of the reason behind the attractive price tag. This means that all the cool tapping and swiping functionality is going to be happening through the companion app on your phone. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it gives you a lot more screen real estate to work with and makes the remote more affordable but also makes you dependent on another device for a noticeable chunk of functionality.
To make up for that, the remote offers compatibility with Alexa and numerous smart home devices, so you’re able to do much more than simply switch TV channels and turn off the DVD player with the All In One Companion. Apart from drawing the blinds and dimming the lights with a single push of a button, you’ll also be able to use voice control for Alexa. Finally, the included Harmony Hub allows you to control devices that don’t have an IR sensor (Xbox One, PS3) as well as those that do have one but are blocked from the remote by a wall, a door, or a piece of furniture.
What to Consider when purchasing a Universal Remote Control
The world of universal remotes is not as simple to navigate as you may think. There are numerous devices available on the market, with different functionality, optics, and price tags. When choosing your first universal remote, you’ll need to consider your individual needs, influenced by the following factors:
- frequency of use
- the number of devices you need to control
- the types and functionality of devices you need to control
- your budget.
Depending on these factors, it may not make a lot of sense to go for a high-end universal remote that can do a lot of fancy things that you don’t need. For instance, if you lost your TV remote and need a replacement, a simple universal remote may be a good solution because it may still cost less than the original replacement and offer some additional functionality. However, the same universal remote is a bad choice for someone with three TVs, a cable system, an Xbox, and a stereo system to control. Thus, it is important to understand why you need a universal remote and have a good idea of how you’re going to be using it.
Universal Remote Options
If you’re on a tight budget or only need to control several TVs, your best bet is to get one of the simplest universal remotes, which aren’t programmable and only feature several sets of control patterns. These patterns are still enough to control the vast majority of TVs available on the market because the native remotes are largely similar to one another with only a few significant differences.
For those who have a little more to spend or who have numerous devices to control, there are some good mid-range universal remote controllers that are programmable for every separate device. These remotes can also do a lot more than simply control your TVs, so they are your starting point if you intend to use your new remote with a sound system, a game system, or a streaming device with many functions.
Finally, premium universal remotes offer the ultimate user experience, but they will cost you a pretty penny too. These remotes come with a touch screen and an almost overwhelming multitude of functions. However, they are a good investment because once you get one, it will likely serve you for years (maybe even decades) to come.