Choosing the right TV, audio gear, and media streamer solves most of your home theater system problems, but creates a big one: multiple remotes.
Turning each component on, and making sure it’s set up properly can eat into your movie, TV, or music enjoyment time, and fumbling around for the right remote in the dark is annoying. The quick fix is to get a universal remote.
A universal remote looks like a regular TV remote, and has all the same basic functions: volume control, channel select, input cycling, and DVR recording, but has one additional feature: it can be programmed to control all the difference pieces of your home theater system, and switch between them at the push of a button.
To sync your remote to a device, you’ll need to find the correct code (you can find this by searching for the type of TV you have with the term “universal remote code” after it); once entered, the remote will be paired with that device.
Before moving on to the next gadget, be sure to press one of the “component” buttons, which are sometimes labeled (TV, DVD, Aux, etc) and sometimes colored (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow). Pushing the different component buttons allows your universal remote to control that particular piece of equipment. Once you’ve synced your remote up to all of the components in your stereo system, you’re done.
We’ve found the best universal remote controls, and gathered them in this guide to save you time. If you’re tired of having a cluttered coffee table full of similar looking remote controls, we’ve got you covered.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Universal Remote
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right universal remote for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Compatibility: Universal remotes are designed to work with many types of devices, but no one remote is compatible with every electronic from every company. We’ve made sure the remotes in our guide work with as many as possible, but we recommend doing a quick search to make sure your specific gear will work.
Number Of Devices: All of the remotes in our guide can be used to control at least four different devices, but some can control many more.
Smart Features: Universal remotes have become advanced over the past few years, so we’ve recommended some that have cool extras, like an automatically updating database of devices, and touch screen. Keep in mind that adding extras to a remote also makes it more complicated to use.
1. SofaBaton U1
SofaBaton hits a sweet spot with its U1 Universal remote.
The company says it’s compatible with more than 500,000 devices from 6,000+ brands, and it can be paired with up to 15 devices at the same time. You can can connect to components over RF (Radio Frequency) or Bluetooth, but not WiFi. Instead of entering codes, you can connect the remote to your home theater components by searching for them in SofaBaton’s app (iOS and Android).
Once you’ve selected your component in the app, the U1 will register it, and give you control. You can switch between different components by scrolling through a list displayed on a screen at the top of the remote. SofaBaton says it updates its device database regularly, so you should be able to connect it to new gear as it’s released.
The U1 supports a feature called “macros,” which allow you to perform multiple actions by pushing one button. For example, you could set up a macro that turns your TV and stereo on, and sets the volume at a certain level. If you find yourself repeating the same tasks over and over again, setting up a macro once can save you time.
The only real downside to this remote is that some of its most powerful features, like setting up macros and using an app, may be a little difficult if you’re not very tech savvy. If you’re up for the task, though, you won’t find a better option.
Pros: An auto-updating list of compatible devices, support for time-saving macros.
Cons: A slightly steep technical learning curve.
2. GE Universal Remote Control
If you’re looking for a universal remote that’s not very complicated, this one from GE will get the job done.
The company doesn’t list exactly how many devices the remote is compatible with, but does say it has a robust code library, so it should work with your setup. GE has pre-programmed the remote to work with Roku and Samsung TVs out of the box, which can reduce the setup time depending on your equipment. Curiously, GE says this remote cannot be used to control independent Roku or Fire TV media streamers.
This remote is very plain, which is its greatest strength and weakness. You can control up to four devices by pushing the TV, CBL, DVD, and AUX buttons on the top of the remote. Controlling four devices with one remote is nice, but the other options we recommend can control even more. GE’s remote doesn’t have a screen, or support for macros, or other such time savers, either.
All that said, if you want a remote that looks like the one you’re already familiar with, but can do a lot more, GE’s Universal Remote is a good choice.
Pros: Pretty wide compatibility, easy to understand layout.
Cons: No support for media streamers, may be a little too basic for some people.
3. Logitech Harmony 950 Touch
Logitech set the standard for high-tech universal remotes with its Harmony line, and it’s still the best choice for the highly tech savvy.
It’s compatible with over 270,000 devices, and allows you to control up to 15 separate devices. To set it up, you’ll need to connect the remote to your computer (PC or Mac), and enter the name and model number of the gadgets you’d like to pair. The remote will then be configured to work with them.
The remote’s standout feature is its 2.4-inch touch screen, which displays a list of devices. Tap one, and you’ll get complete control over it. The screen can also display macros, or custom actions you can invoke with a single tap. You can swipe between different pages of activities and devices to find the ones you want.
One thing you won’t find on the Logitech 950 Touch is a set of traditional number buttons. Instead, you can program up to 50 favorite channels to be accessible via its touch screen. The lack of numbers may throw you off at first, but most of us only watch a dozen or so channels on a regular basis, so you likely won’t run into too many problems.
Because this universal remote is a smart gadget, it has a rechargeable battery that needs to be refilled regularly. The remote comes with a charging stand, which serves the dual purpose of keeping its battery full, and making sure you don’t lose it between the couch cushions.
The Logitech Harmony 950 Touch is the smartest, most technically universal remote we recommend, but with that comes at the cost of easy accessibility. If you want to replace all of your remotes with a high-tech gadget, it’ll do the job well, but know that’s what you’re getting yourself into.
Pros: It’s compatible with hundreds of thousands of devices, can control up to 15 at once, supports macros, and lets you navigate using a 2.4-inch touch screen.
Cons: Pretty complicated to use if you’re not used to gadgets.