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The Best Universal TV Remotes

A universal remote is the go-to solution if you want to control everything in your entertainment center without juggling pieces of plastic. Here are the best options on the market at the moment.

Logitech is the clear leader in this field thanks to years of work on its Harmony brand. But before we get to our recommendations, we’d like to point out that one of Logitech’s major marketing features isn’t actually a good selling point. While Harmony remotes are unmatched for basic TV and entertainment control, their much-touted integration with smarthome devices and systems still leaves a lot to be desired. Due to poor implementation we still recommend a standard smarthome hub, a smart speaker featuring Amazon Alexa or Google Voice Assistant, or a smartphone and accompanying apps over trying to control multiple smarthome functions with a single Logitech remote.

With that being said, they’re still the best on the market for conventional TV and gadget control. We’ve selected the best options for most users, those who want advanced programming functions, those on a budget or who only use set-top boxes like Roku, and those who want all that control integrated with their smartphone.

Best Overall Universal Remote: Logitech Harmony 650 ($40)

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Logitech’s Harmony system can be intimidating at first, but this basic design is more akin to the learning remotes of past generations than the totally tricked-out premium models in the linup. At forty bucks it’s a bargain, but it still manages to include a color screen for easier programming of new remote functions and combination actions across multiple pieces of equipment.

While not as sleek or pretty as later Harmony remotes, the 650 can control up to eight devices simultaneously and doesn’t need any kind of base station in order to function. The quick shortcut buttons on top are of particular note: they’re excellent for multi-devices actions like turning on a TV and receiver at the same time. Programming can be done on the remote itself or via a Windows or macOS computer.

Best Premium Universal Remote: Logitech Harmony Ultimate One ($125)

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If you’re ready to step up to something more capable, the Ultimate One should be your choice. The upgraded model is smaller and sleeker with a full 2.4-inch touchscreen for programming commands and switching interfaces, and the package includes a dock for the rechargeable remote. A smart layout combines easy-to-feel buttons for smart TV and Blu-ray or DVD functions without the need for a number pad, thanks to programmable channel recall buttons on the touchscreen.

The system can be expanded with a Harmony Hub if your AV components are inside a cabinet or you want to add extra, cheaper remotes for multiple users. We’re recommending the Ultimate One over the more expensive Harmony 950 (or the combined “Elite” package) since most users won’t need its motion-activated backlight once they’re accustomed to the button layout.

Best Budget Universal Remote: GE 4-Device Universal Remote Control ($10)

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Many users won’t need a remote for more than three devices: a TV, a DVD or Blu-ray player, and maybe a sound bar or audio receiver on top of that. For that particular combination, this $10 remote has all the bases covered. It can’t learn commands via infrared, but its included list of manufacturer codes covers thousands of devices, and its faux brushed aluminum finish doesn’t look half bad.

There’s not much about this GE design that really counts as “premium,” but the sound control mode (which lets you automatically control volume and mute buttons for a round bar or receiver without having to manually switch devices) is remarkably handy for something so simple. At this price point, it can’t be beat.

Best Minimal Universal Remote: Sideclick Remote ($27)

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Some modern setups include nothing more than a streaming box like a Roku and the TV itself. For that niche, the Sideclick add-on device functions wonderfully. Choose the one that clips onto your set-top box’s mini-remote, program it with the correct code for your television, and you’re good to go.

The company offers models compatible with the most popular mini remotes for Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV gadgets, and the included power and volume buttons are pretty much all you’ll need on top of the box’s basic functions. It’s a surprisingly efficient and slick way to control an entire AV setup with just a “single” remote.

Best Smartphone Universal Remote: Logitech Harmony Hub ($80)

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If you’d like to control everything on your TV with your phone, the Harmony Hub is the best way to go about it. An integrated IR blaster plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections allow the Logitech Harmony hub app on your phone or tablet to do anything the physical remotes can, plus a programmable layout and integration with smarthome services.

You can use the Hub, your phone, and add-on physical remotes in conjunction. The phone app has some definite issues—a lot of users aren’t thrilled with lag when using it in Wi-Fi mode—but it’s the best solution on the market that doesn’t require switching between multiple apps to control different devices.

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »