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Our at-home remote controls haven’t quite delivered the life-changing functions seen in Adam Sandler’s 2006 film, Click, just yet, but when it comes to streamlining your audio and video equipment, a universal remote control can’t be beat.
Most commonly used for home theater and home audio setups, a universal remote control effectively replaces all the individual controllers that each of your devices came with, transferring their functionality into one single, handheld unit. You no longer have to worry about keeping track of multiple controllers, or struggle to remember which remote goes with what.
A universal remote looks a lot like a classic remote control, only slightly longer in length, to accommodate extra buttons for your multiple devices. Buttons are grouped by their functions (typically with easy-to-follow icons), shaped for easy navigation, and backlit so you always know where you are. Just like a traditional remote control, you’ll find buttons to power your devices on and off, skip tracks/channels, pause viewing, control volume and more. With a universal remote, you can quickly switch from one component to the next, without having to reach for a separate menu pad. Want to turn off the TV for dinner but have some music playing in the background while you eat? Use your remote to toggle between your cable box and sound system.
You already use a remote control for your TV, but the best universal controls also let you manage everything from your music player to a receiver, Blu-ray player, gaming console and even a soundbar. These days, the latest universal remote controls also let you run your streaming media devices (I.e. Apple TV).
When purchasing a new universal remote, consider how many components you’ll be pairing it with. We’ve rounded up remotes that support anywhere from four to eight devices in one unit. You’ll also want to look at the brand and type of component you’re trying to pair. While most of the remote controls on our list are compatible with thousands of brands and devices, some remotes don’t work with Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV and other RF (radio frequency) streamers; it’s helpful to read the fine print to make sure your device is on the compatibility list.
Whether you’re putting together your dream home theater or just want an easy way to manage your electronics (while eliminating clutter), you’ll want to pick up one of these affordable and accessible remote controls. Think of them as your home theater’s all-in-one hub, letting you control your entertainment from the palm of your hand.
1. Logitech Harmony 650 Infrared All-in-One Remote Control
One of the most popular devices in this category, Logitech says its Harmony Remote Control is compatible with more than 5000 different brands and more than 200,000 different devices. The all-in-one remote supports actions for up to eight devices, meaning it effectively replaces up to eight remotes in your house.
What we like: the Logitech stands out from other remote controls thanks to its full-color screen, which lets you see exactly what you’re controlling or navigating to.
Connect the remote to your computer via the included USB cable and Logitech’s online software walks you through the setup process. Find the model numbers for each of the devices you want to use with the remote and the software will automatically search for that device in its database to finish pairing.
This remote runs on two AA batteries (not included).
PROS: You can pair up to eight devices with this remote — the largest capacity on our list.
CONS: Setup takes a little while to figure out.
2. Caavo Universal Remote
Caavo’s Universal TV Remote and Control Center Home Theater Hub is an all-in-one control hub for your TV, home video, sound systems, gaming consoles and streaming devices.
Connect up to four home theater devices (I.e. cable TV, Blu-ray player, Amazon Fire TV, and an Xbox) plus a soundbar, AVR or sound system.
Voice controls let you use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to tell the Control Center what you want to watch. With Control Center’s “True Universal Search” feature, you can say the name of any actor, movie, TV show, or video and Control Center will automatically display relevant options on your screen.
PROS: Built-in privacy features let you control how your watch history is stored.
CONS: Some users say the plastic device feels cheap.
3. GE Universal Remote Control
One of the best-known brands in home electronics, GE’s universal remote control is a no-brainer to pick up, thanks to its ease of use and compatibility.
The multi-device remote lets you operate up to four different audio or video components at once, from basic cable and satellite receivers, to streaming media players.
GE says its universal remote works with all major brands and supports thousands of devices, including Smart TVs. It’s pre-programmed for Samsung TVs and Samsung users love how intuitive the experience is. Note: the remote doesn’t with Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Five different colors available. Runs on on two AAA Batteries (not included).
PROS: Purchase of the remote includes free technical support from GE if you have any problems.
CONS: Remote doesn’t work with Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick. Some users say the buttons are too small and hard to press if you have large fingers.
4. Philips Universal Remote Control
We like this Philips universal remote, which is super easy to set up so you can get started right away. The remote lets you control up to four different audio and video components, including TVs, Blu-ray/DVD players, soundbars, Roku boxes and other streaming media players.
The universal remote features primary audio control, which lets you adjust the volume regardless of which device you’re operating. A one-touch “hot key” button, meantime, gets you you straight to the streaming media platforms on your devices.
The keys are easy to press and the icons easy to figure out. Three-device and six-device remotes also available.
PROS: Ergonomically-designed unit fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
CONS: Remote doesn’t work with Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick. Some say signal strength isn’t as strong as other units on our list and you have to be within five feet of your device for remote to work.