What would you rather have: a pile of remotes with completely different layouts or one universal remote that controls everything? The answer should be pretty simple. (If you chose the huge pile, you may need a different kind of help than this article can provide.)
When it comes to picking a universal remote, though, the questions get a little tougher. What brand of remote is best? Which features are important? Is a touchscreen worth it? There are lots of options out there, ranging from cheap, generic units to expensive smart home control hubs.
To help you answer those questions and find the best universal remote for you, we’ve done the hard work of sorting through all the options. After conducting our careful analysis, these are the best universal remotes money can buy.
#1. Logitech Harmony Elite
The Logitech Harmony Elite is a powerful (and expensive) universal remote with a number of high-end features. It has a touch screen, integration with Logitech’s Harmony Hub, works with Amazon Echo and Google Home, and comes with an app for smartphone control. It can also support up to fifteen devices at once, which is more than almost any other remote we’ve seen.
The Harmony Elite uses a built-in rechargeable battery that only lasts a few days. This means you’ll have to keep it on its charging cradle when not in use, which could get irritating. The other issue is the price. There are several other options from Logitech that offer almost the same features for half the price. This is a luxury buy, but if you can swing it, it’s definitely the best remote around.
#2. Logitech Harmony Companion
When it comes to value, we think Logitech’s Harmony Companion remote and Hub is the way to go. This remote combines a Harmony Hub with an included remote and Harmony smartphone app. The remote feels great to use, and it operates with radio frequencies (RF), so it can control devices without being pointed directly at them. Plus, the Hub can control other smart devices in your home, so you get a truly universal remote.
There aren’t many cons with this remote. Since it doesn’t have a screen, it’s pretty basic compared to the others on our list. And the system can only control eight devices, while the Harmony Elite can handle up to fifteen. That said, it’s also about half the price of the Harmony Elite. Deciding between the two really comes down to how much money you want to spend and if you think those extra luxury features are worth the price.
#3. Logitech Harmony 650
Best Budget Option
Our pick for the best inexpensive universal remote this year is the Harmony 650. The 650 has a small screen for contextual selections (it’s not a touch screen, though). The most useful thing the screen can show is favorite channels—it acts as a sort of bookmark function for your TV and can save a lot of time and button-clicking. The buttons themselves are backlit, which is awesome for late-night movies and Netflix binging.
This remote was originally released in 2010. Stacked up next to the others in this list, it definitely shows its age—the tiny, non-touch display, old-school shape, and general lack of smart features could be seen as major cons for some. If you just need a no-frills universal remote for cheap, though, the Harmony 650 gets the job done and then some.
#4. Logitech Harmony Home Hub
Best Smartphone App
If you want to ditch the remote entirely and just use your phone, you can buy a standalone Logitech Harmony Hub and download the accompanying Harmony Control app. The app has a nice, clean design and is easy to use. We also prefer its interface for controlling other smart home devices, like lightbulbs.
The problem with relying on your phone as a remote is that you likely have to unlock it and open the app every time you want to change the channel. It isn’t as convenient as having an actual remote. Plus, people who use their phones a lot for work may not want it around when they’re trying to relax.
#5. Logitech Harmony Ultimate One
If you want a great touch-screen remote that isn’t your phone, the Harmony Ultimate One is your best bet. This little guy is a powerhouse, able to control up to fifteen devices at once from its 2.4-inch screen. You can also pair it with a Harmony Hub for even more options, like control of other smart home devices and integration with Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The Ultimate One suffers from the same battery issue we had with the Harmony Elite—it uses a built-in rechargeable battery that requires it to be kept on the charging cradle between uses, which can be inconvenient. It’s also a little expensive, considering it doesn’t come with an included Harmony Hub. That said, if your entertainment setup calls for a remote this powerful, we think you’ll find it worth the price.
Other Questions to Consider Before You Buy
Do you trust Logitech?
If you don’t, you don’t really have any other options. Logitech dominates both our list of recommendations and the market at large. The company has really locked down the formula for a great universal remote. Last year, one non-Logitech device made the cut: the Ray Super Remote. Unfortunately, the product has been discontinued, and as a result, the secret to universal remote utopia is now squarely in Logitech’s hands.
Do you want voice control integration?
One of the biggest developments in remote-control tech this year is integration with digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. The setup is a little clunky—it works by telling the digital assistant to activate the Logitech Harmony Hub, which then controls your other devices. That said, it works fairly well, and Logitech has a page with detailed instructions. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, this is a very cool feature to keep in mind when picking a remote.
Do you want any other features?
Having an idea of which features you want your new remote to have can help narrow the field a little. Here are some features to consider in addition to voice control:
- Do you want a touchscreen? They can be convenient, but generally raise the price significantly.
- How many devices do you need to control with one remote? If it’s more than eight, your list of options will be much shorter. Remember, just a television, Blu-ray player, and DVR box is three. Devices can add up quick.
- Do you want to control other smart home devices? The Harmony remotes that come with Hubs (basically base stations for the remote-control system) make it a snap to add stuff like controlling your smart lighting to your remote.
These five remotes are the cream of the crop. No matter which one you choose, we think you’ll be happy with the simplicity and convenience it will bring to your entertainment. Pick a favorite and stop waiting to streamline your digital life—that pile of remotes ends today!