The 9 Best Universal Remotes to Buy in 2018

See why this is the only remote control you'll ever need to fight over

Logitech Harmony Elite
Photo from Amazon

There comes a time in every tech lover’s life that you discover there’s just too many remote controls on your coffee table. When you’re trying to change the channel with your left hand, raise the volume with your right and changing the input on the TV with your nose, it’s time to discover a universal remote. Since a universal remote is capable of controlling multiple pieces of equipment, you’ll spend more time enjoying and less time managing. Here’s our vote for the best universal remotes (Logitech, you're crushing the competition) to help you clean up your coffee table.

Best Overall: Logitech Harmony Elite

For most people, the very best universal remote is the Logitech Harmony Elite and, while it may be the most expensive, it’s well worth the price. Essentially, the Harmony Elite connects to a base station that is connected to your entertainment console, which allows the use of the remote anywhere in your home (even without direct line of sight). Certified to work with Amazon’s Alexa devices, there’s full voice control for up to 15 home entertainment and connected home devices. The full-color touchscreen allows easy swipe and tap for control of volume, movies, 50 favorite channels and even smart home devices such as LED lighting for automatic dimming when a movie starts.

Options such as “one touch activity” allows for automatic power on and switching to the right devices with the right settings. Additionally, features such as closed cabinet control let the Harmony Hub assist in controlling devices that are stored behind closed doors in cabinets. The Harmony smartphone app (Android and iOS) doubles as a separate universal remote, which is convenient in case you are charging the Harmony Elite in its charging station. While the pricing might turn some potential buyers away, if you want the most feature-rich universal remote on the market, the Harmony Elite is the one to own.

Best Smartphone Control: Logitech Harmony

Featuring control of up to eight devices, the Logitech Harmony smart control works with over 270,000 devices from 6,000 brands, including cable TV boxes, Apple TV and Roku. The connectivity doesn’t stop there since the Harmony Smart offers a smartphone app for both Android and iOS that offers up to 50 favorite channel icons, volume control and media playback. Gone are the days of irritating on-TV keyboards. Instead, voice control is handled directly from your smartphone or tablet and speech recognition will help find your content faster. Beyond voice control, the Harmony excels at working with devices that are hidden in closed cabinets through its IR (infrared) and Bluetooth connectivity.

Best Streaming: Inteset INT-422 4-in-1

Pre-programmed right out of the box for Apple TV, Xbox One, Media Center and Roku, the Inteset INT-422 four-in-one universal remote is well worth a look. While streaming is the Inteset’s claim to fame, added features such as volume and channel lock allow an added layer of security from children, roommates or spouses who might want to change things around. When it comes to connecting directly to the television itself, the Inteset features a worldwide database of device codes for connecting to all the top television manufacturers by completely replacing their default remote controls. Furthermore, the Inteset takes its unique feature set up another level with macro programming that allows you to program up to 32 commands to a single button, so you can turn on/off all devices, switch inputs or change to a favorite channel.

Available in a multitude of colors, the GE 33709 four-device universal remote is so budget-friendly you might just want to purchase it as an extra remote around the house. It can control up to four different audio and video components, including TVs, Blu-ray and DVD players, as well as streaming media players and soundbars. The expansive code library works with all major television manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and Sharp. Powered by two AAA batteries, the GE can work for months on end before requiring battery replacement. Furthermore, the inclusion of features such as master volume control allows the GE to control the volume on every device that’s connected to the remote. One last highlight are the multicolored A, B, C and D buttons that let you easily access hardware favorites.  

Best Compatibility: Logitech Harmony 350

The all-in-one Logitech Harmony 350 is an ideal universal remote with broad compatibility, including support for over 225,000 devices and 5,000 brands (and new devices are added regularly). Connecting the remote is a snap. Easily sync it directly to your computer and download the commands for all available devices and you’re ready to go. The Harmony 350 can replace up to eight other remotes with TV, cable and satellite, DVR, as well as a Blu-ray player all in one handheld device. Personalizing the Harmony 350 is just as easy as the original setup, thanks to one-touch buttons that allow you to jump to one of five favorite channels. The included “watch TV” button also allows for a one-touch automatic start of both your TV and cable/satellite box.

Best Value: Logitech Harmony 700

With a comfortable ergonomic design, the Logitech Harmony 700 reduces the need for multiple remote controls while working with six different devices simultaneously. The 23 programmable channel icons for selecting your favorite stations makes it simple to rapidly find your favorite channels. Past programming, the backlit controls allow for easy nighttime remote navigation that’s powered by AA batteries for months of activity before requiring replacement. All totaled, the Harmony 700 works with more than 225,000 devices from 5,000 plus brands (and more are always being added). Updating with new brands and devices is easily done through a connection to both PC and Mac computers and, while it won’t connect to smart home appliances, the Harmony 700 is an easy to use remote that won’t break the bank.

Best Touchscreen: Logitech Harmony Ultimate

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate One remote control is a standout universal remote that can control up to 15 infrared devices. Compatible with more than 225,000 devices and 5,000 brands, the real highlight is the touchscreen that simplifies control over multiple devices. By touching a command prompt (for example, press "watch TV") on the 2.4-inch screen and the Harmony Ultimate does the rest by turning on the television. The upgradeable Harmony Hub, sold separately, can add both infrared and Bluetooth capabilities for advanced options such as controlling smart home devices. The downloadable smartphone app fully unlocks the Hub’s feature set and allows for control over the 50 favorite channels directly from the remote and its touchscreen.

Best Smart Home: Logitech Harmony Companion

Controlling a total of eight devices, the Logitech Harmony Companion universal remote is a top pick for buyers looking to add monitoring of smart devices, too. Although it lacks a touchscreen or backlit buttons, the Harmony Companion does include Amazon Alexa certification. Beyond Alexa, the Harmony Companion works fantastically with other smart home devices such as Philip’s Hue lighting or Nest’s learning thermostat. The included Harmony Hub allows for even more device control, including those gadgets hidden between cabinet doors or walls (read: video game consoles). After a simple setup on the computer, the Harmony Companion is ready to work with more than 270,000 devices, including Apple TV, Roku and Sonos audio players. 

Best Basic: Philips SRP5018/27 8-in-1

With quick access buttons to both Netflix and Vudu, the Philips SRP5018/27 eight-in-one universal remote control is a standout budget model. It's capable of supporting a slew of electronic devices, including cable and satellite boxes, DVRs, Blu-ray players, soundbars and streaming devices. The backlit device buttons are a nice touch for nighttime use and the remote has 12 months of battery life courtesy of two AA batteries. The Philips works with a full suite of television models through programmable function codes, including Samsung, Sony and Vizio (and they all require just a few minutes of setup). What it lacks in touchscreen and smart home function, the Philips lands right in the sweet spot of price and function.


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