If you’re looking for the best universal remote that can operate more than TVs and sound systems, then perhaps the Logitech Harmony Elite is right up your alley. Just to keep things balanced, I’ve also added a comprehensive guide and a few more best in class universal remotes for those of you with lower expectations or stricter budgets.
I find the Harmony Elite by Logitech to be the best universal remote overall due to the massive amount of features that it comes with. It can control a lot more than just a few multimedia devices and the combination of IR (infrared) and RF (radio frequency) signals saves you from a lot of hassle with organizing your devices around the house.
Top 5 Remote Controls
|Logitech Harmony Elite||IR + RF + Wi-Fi||15||Check Price|
|GE 33709||IR||4 / 6||Check Price|
|Sideclick Remotes SC2-FT16K||IR||3||Check Price|
|Inteset Universal Remote||IR||4||Check Price|
|Flipper Big Button Universal Remote Control||IR||2||Check Price|
1. Best Universal Remote Overall
Logitech Harmony Elite
Talk about a powerful remote control. The Harmony Elite is a best seller for good reason. It emits one of the strongest RF signals so it’s one of the best choices for closed cabinet multimedia setups.
It also has Wi-Fi connectivity so you can use it to power up and operate even more devices around the house. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa which is why it sees a lot of use in most smart homes.
With all this technology packed into a small unit you would think that it’s easy to get lost in the buttons. The Harmony Elite has very few buttons and makes good use of the larger LCD touchscreen for most programmable actions.
The screen is also full color which makes it very easy to use in the dark. This universal remote is capable of handling up to 15 devices for home entertainment and more at the same time.
To access the RF feature, you need to use the included Harmony Hub. As an added bonus you can access the hub even if you’re not home. Using the Harmony app you can interact with the hub via smartphone or tablet while you’re heading home.
You have a limit of 50 favorite channels that you can program with the remote and access with a simple tap. The versatility of this remote is not the only thing that puts it in a class of its own. The responsiveness is far beyond its competition and that’s just as important.
Pros and Cons
- Supports both RF and IR
- Smart remote with Wi-Fi
- Up to 15 connected devices at the same time
- Strong signals
- Great responsiveness
- Increased battery life
- A high-end product with a premium price
- Relies on touchscreen for most important commands
- Takes a while to program
2. Best Budget Universal Remote
As you’ll better understand after you read the buyer’s guide section, universal remotes don’t always need the ability to control the entire house. There’s a reason why the Harmony Elite is lightyears ahead in pricing compared to the GE 33709.
This remote has a top limit of 4 devices. This means it’s just enough to handle a basic home theater setup. You can use it to work your TV, Blu-Ray, receiver, and audio system. If that’s all you care about then this just might do it and save you some money.
The GE 33709 works on two AAA batteries which you’ll have to buy separately. The buttons aren’t too many to speak of. You get the classic on/off features, menu, info, navigational buttons, and a couple more. It is important to mention that there are also Advanced DVR and Digital Dot buttons for quick access to sub-channels.
The code library is pretty vast considering that this is a budget-friendly option. The remote should work with devices from all major manufacturers, including most recent products.
Interestingly enough, you can also opt for either of the two 6-device versions of this remote for only a little more. They’re also some of the cheapest on the market for what they do and one of the models also has a full backlight.
The brushed nickel finish is also quite interesting. It should make the remote look right at home in a modern or art deco décor.
Pros and Cons
- Support for multiple devices
- Compatibility with all major brands
- Intuitive controls
- Only 4 devices
- No RF signal
3. Best Clip-on Universal Remote
Sideclick Remotes SC2-FT16K
You may be wondering – why clip-on? Well, sometimes it’s nice to hold a slim ultralight remote that can control your entire home theater and sound system. The gadget weighs just under 4 ounces and it’s only 1.5 inches thick.
This remote is also well known as a sure-thing if you’re looking for an attachment for your Amazon Fire TV. The codes are pre-programmed and the remote is highly responsive. Everything on your Amazon Fire TV remote will work as usual with this remote attachment, including voice search.
The gadget makes use of IR signals to control your multimedia devices. Don’t worry that it doesn’t support RF because most remote-capable devices use IR signals only (RF remotes come with an RF/IR converter that has to be placed in the line of sight of your devices).
This is also a learning universal remote. If you’re looking to replace gadget remote that you don’t have the preset code for, you can just learn it. Just be patient as you’ll have to do it one button at a time.
The design is quite basic in terms of button placement and color. The remote is all black to match the Fire TV remote. Another aspect worth mentioning is the high responsiveness of the dial. If you’re not used to operating one it might take a while to get the hang of it.
Pros and Cons
- Learning universal remote
- Ultraslim and ultralight design
- Clip-on for Amazon Fire TV
- Sometimes overly responsive dial
- Limited use
4. Best Universal Remote for Streaming
Inteset 4-in-1 Universal Remote
This Inteset universal remote is an interesting choice for all things streaming. It’s a budget-friendly option that has support for Apple TV, Xbox One, Kodi, and Roku. It doesn’t work with Roku stick but it has all the Roku codes you need.
Another cool feature is the presence of backlighting for all the buttons. It’s not something you often see on a budget remote.
The interface seems cluttered but due to the presence of labels it’s actually quite intuitive and simple to follow. The remote uses IR signal to communicate with your media devices. It can also use IR to learn specific functions and programs from your stock remotes.
There are dedicated buttons for Xbox, Apple TV, Roku, and Windows Media Center. These are pre-programmed. Surprisingly the NVidia Shield button is not present so you’ll have to program that one in yourself.
This remote can also make use of macro programming. You can program a sequence of commands to make several things happen on your devices.
It has pre-programmed functions, learning capability, and the aforementioned macro programming so you can pretty much customize it any way you like.
The code database is immense. You can browse the library via a search function and you can even use an ID Lock function to lock a code after you used it. This helps when you’re organizing multiple mods or channels.
Pros and Cons
- Works with multiple streaming services
- NVidia Shield support
- Full backlight Intuitive button labels
- Low battery life
- Nvidia Shield is not pre-programmed
5. Best Big Button Universal Remote
Flipper Big Button Universal Remote Control
Sometimes you need a bigger target in order to hit the right button. Some remotes are specifically designed for people with poor sight, big fingers, or those that simply prefer larger controls.
This Flipper universal remote has a basic interface. It does however have massive buttons for on/off, switching channels, and changing the volume. Not only are these buttons big but so are the labels and they’re color-coded so they’re hard to mistake for one another.
By sliding open the bottom panel you also get access to a regular number keypad. Keep it hidden if you don’t want to accidentally hit the small buttons. There are also four buttons for switching functions to control your various devices. There are also two buttons used to add or remove channels of which you can program up to 25.
A new and popular addition is Soundbar support. Previous Flipper models did not have this which is why this one is their number one seller.
The remote works off IR signals so line of sight is important. However, the signal is quite strong since there aren’t many other features to draw unnecessary power.
If you’re looking for something that’s useful for the elderly, this is a much better choice than any of the fancier remotes in this list. It certainly offers more use than the touchscreen on the Harmony Elite and it has no learning curve whatsoever.
Pros and Cons
- Big buttons for most frequently used commands
- Long battery life
- StrongIR signal
- Only three functions
- Limited compatibility with devices
Universal Remotes – How and Why?
There are many reasons why someone would want the best universal remote available in their home. Some think it’s cool to be lazy, others think it’s a cool toy, and yet others simply want to control everything around the house from one interface. I attribute the latter to the overuse of such interfaces in Sci-Fi movies and even some of our ‘current’ cop shows. Whether the need for such a remote is based on necessity or pure desire, there’s no denying that the more you can control the cooler the gadget feels like.
Without getting too technical about them, here’s what you should know about universal remotes. These gadgets work with multiple multimedia devices in your home. They have the ability to mimic the IR signals sent by your original remotes and can be used to control your devices with just a single interface.
Most universal remotes are a bit longer and come with more buttons. This is to allow you simple access to TV, DVD, Blu-ray, receiver, and whatever other devices you may need to control. Some are wider and may even contain a sliding console with additional buttons. So the top usage of a universal remote is to replace all your remotes.
People also get a universal remote as a replacement for the old one. They are usually much cheaper than getting an original replacement remote from the manufacturer, and if the device is discontinued it might even be impossible to find an original replacement.
Hence, people opt to get a universal remote. Of course there are more reasons why. For instance, you can just get a simple universal remote to replace your TV remote if you want. You can also get a fancy one if you like the design better than your clunky or overly small original remotes.
You won’t have to replace it when you change your TV either.
Believe it or not, phones were also used at one point as universal remotes. Of course, not all of them, only the ones that had a feature called an IR Blaster. This is what allowed the phones to transmit IR signals to TV’s.
These are very rare these days since the technology wasn’t nearly as efficient as one hoped. The signal wasn’t too powerful and the controls were usually a pain to customize.
Some smartphones can be used today to control certain devices around the house accurately. However, for this you also need a control hub.
A bit more advanced than your average universal remote is the control hub, though there are universal remotes that come with a control hub such as our top choice. These systems connect via the home Wi-Fi network and allow you to control your home theater system or audio setup from a smartphone or tablet.
Another interesting feature of some control hubs is that they can be coupled to devices such as Amazon Alexa. This lets you go a step further and use voice commands to turn on the TV, change channels, play your favorite song, and even put on a pot of coffee.
Features to Keep in Mind
Not all remotes have backlighting. Believe it or not but some universal remotes have no lights. Trust me when I say, this makes them almost useless if you watch movies with your lights off.
You should aim for at least a partial backlight with your universal remote, unless you’re getting it for the big buttons or some other exceptions. It helps a lot if at least your most commonly used buttons are lit. The seeking buttons should also be lit if possible.
Advanced Programming or Macro Programming
The complexity of a universal remote is not given by the sheer number of buttons you can press. More often than not it’s determined by how many commands you can program into one button in order to avoid pressing combinations.
If remote shuffling is your biggest concern then having a universal remote that can power up your receiver, TV, and cable box with one button is the dream, right?
This is just one tiny example of what advanced programming features can help you with. The more clever the design, the more actions you can perform including pressing a single symbol or digit on your new remote.
Surely you’re familiar with IR or infrared remote control signal. It’s the most popular connectivity method used by most universal remotes. However, there are additional means of transmitting data.
These days Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features are also popular. They’re also slightly more expensive but they have a lot more to offer. With these two it is possible to control more than just a multimedia system in your house.
On occasion, RF universal remotes are also a good choice. Sending signals via radio frequency is a lot more powerful than using IR as it eliminates any issues with line of sight or distance. RF also gives you a lot more freedom to arrange your system any way you want including covering up certain devices for better aesthetics.
In any event, any remotes that use alternative signals will come with something that converts the signal to IR because most devices only support IR signals.
Simultaneously Supported Devices
One of the most important features for a lot of people is device support. Not in the sense of code compatibility but in terms of how many devices you can control at the same time.
Most mid-range universal remotes may control up to 8 devices. It’s easy to find something that can control more or less than that.
But it’s only when you start paying the big bucks that you can take control over more than a dozen devices in your house. A perfect example of this is the Logitech Harmony Elite, my best overall pick.
Yes or No to Touchscreens?
Although everyone uses touchscreen controls on a daily basis now, operating a universal remote’s touch LCD screen can be tricky.
Some prefer them because they have customizable menus. It’s easy to program in specific functions like how you would program numbers on speed dial. Touchscreen remotes can simplify the user interaction.
On the other hand, you can’t expect a big LCD screen unless it’s a very expensive remote. If you have big fingers, some of these remotes may make operations harder than they need to be. Not to mention you’ll end up paying extra for a feature that you can’t use.
There are however universal remotes that use a small LCD screen only to display extra information. This makes them easier to program and allows them to provide extra visibility in the dark.
It’s important to realize that not all universal remotes are designed for millennials or Silicon Valley billionaires. Some are designed to actually save people the hassle of swapping multiple remotes or having to remember multiple functions.
Such remotes are often made for the elderly or people with memory problems or visual impairment. These remotes usually come with very basic interfaces but with extra large buttons that are easy to locate and press.
Smart Home Control
We’ve been waiting for a long time to control everything around the house with a single remote. Sadly, unlike in Adam Sandler’s Click flick remotes still won’t stop time or mute a nagging spouse. Still, for a lot of other appliances some remotes perform admirably.
Complex models can allow you to operate your lights, thermostats, audio system, and maybe even fire up the oven. Granted, you’ll also need a smart home setup in order to control as many appliances as you can.
What makes this possible is the fact that a lot of these smart controllers use the home network for data exchange. This allows you to tap into the feed and dish out commands from a universal remote with a Wi-Fi feature.
Of course, some models are better than others and the Logitech Harmony Smart series is at the moment the most popular for this type of control.
Although I think that getting as many features as possible is not always necessary in a universal remote, I still have to give the Logitech Harmony Elite its props. It’s the best overall because it simply does everything you could ask of, including sending strong RF signals. It can even make you coffee if you have the compatible smart home appliances.
The Harmony Hub is also part of the deal which makes the Harmony Elite remote even better. It let you control devices in your house even when you’re away. And, although it doesn’t come with pre-programmed streaming functions, you can program it yourself to fit your needs thanks to the huge code database.
Compared to other mid-range and high-end remotes, it also supports the most devices at the same time. Usually universal remotes handle one, four, six, or maybe eight devices at the same time. There are very few that handle 15 like the Harmony Elite, not to mention doing so regardless of line of sight.