Home theater systems can be unwieldy, especially when it comes to the remotes you need for each device. That’s where a universal remote comes in handy, controlling every device from sound bars and receivers to video game consoles.
The best universal remote can unify all your clickers into a single, button-covered wand which can feel almost magical, especially because you never have to search for a different remote. Many remote controls
have companion apps for Android or iPhone which are used for setup or if you can’t find the physical remote. Some models can also work with smart devices and voice control systems such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
My family and I have used many of the smart remotes on this list as control devices for my main home-theater system for months or years at a time. At various points, multiple remotes on this list have been used to control my TVs, AV receivers and even a cable box
DVR. My family uses the system as much as I do and my main criteria in a smart universal remote (or universal remote app) is making it simple enough for a kid to operate, even with all those buttons.
Here are my choices for the best universal remote control currently available, in ascending order of price.
Update, October 2022: One of our previous recommendations, Caavo, is no longer available and has been removed from the list. In addition, Logitech has discontinued the Harmony remote line that includes the 665 below, but the company has pledged to continue with ongoing support. We will be updating this list with new recommendations as soon as possible.
Read more: Best Nest and Google Assistant Devices for 2022
Logitech Harmony wrote the book on the universal remote control devices and these are the most basic clickers I can recommend for a smart home. The main appeal over a cheaper, non-Harmony-based smart remote controller, or the device that comes with your set-top boxes, is the activity-based control. Press the “Watch TV” to use as a TV remote or “Listen to Music” buttons and the Logitech Harmony remote controller turns on all the relevant devices (such as your smart TV, blu-ray player, and AV receiver), switches to the right inputs and maps the keys to that activity: Volume to the receiver and Channel up-down to the box, for example.
Unlike the more expensive Logitech Harmony options, which used a universal remote control app on your phone for setup and control, you’ll have to use Harmony’s Mac- or PC-based software to program the remote (needless to say, a remote app is more convenient). The 650 and 665 also rely on IR (infrared) codes emitted from the front of the device.
As this is an end of life product it can sell for some pretty crazy prices, but you shouldn’t be spending any more than $100 for it.
Read our Logitech Harmony 650 review.
You’re receiving price alerts for Logitech Harmony 650/665
The wacky Cube is a mashup of universal remote controls, the Fire TV 4K streamer and Amazon Echo speaker, making it the king of your smart home devices. It comes with a device but its buttons are sparse and rudimentary: real device control happens via your voice. The Cube has an IR emitter to control your gear and a mic sensitive enough to hear your commands over the blare of music. On the downside, you’ll need to keep your old remotes (even ones that aren’t smart) around for many functions.
This controlling universal remote is often sold for as little as $80 or less, so definitely wait for a sale on this device — or Prime Day — before buying it.
Read our Fire TV Cube review.