The best universal remotes are perfect for anyone with incredibly busy entertainment centers. Your go-to entertainment rig likely comprises a smart TV, a sound system, a streaming box, and maybe even a couple of gaming consoles thrown in for good measure. And would you believe it, they all have their own remote controls. This can get out of hand really quickly and can turn your living room coffee table into a cluttered mess. Luckily, there’s a way to sync up countless devices to a single controller. Here’s our selection of the best universal remotes on the market right now.
— Best Overall: SofaBaton U1 With Smart App and OLED Display
— Best With Keyboard: Fosmon Mini Bluetooth Keyboard
— Best Backlit: GE 6 Device Backlit Universal Remote
— Best Premium: Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control and Smart Hub
— Best Budget: Philips Universal Remote Control
How We Picked the Best Universal Remotes
If you ever want a laugh, look up what universal remotes used to look like. These monstrosities were clunky, cumbersome, and in many cases, just plain didn’t work. We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean some devices don’t suffer some of the flaws from the past. Here are some of the things we looked for when picking out the best universal remotes.
Build Quality: Would it surprise you to know most universal remotes are made of plastic? It doesn’t always make sense to go for broke with materials for something that’s just a collection of buttons. However, that doesn’t stop many models from packing a surprising amount of sleekness. Premium build quality is always good, so long as it doesn’t cost too much.
Connectivity: Most universal remotes work using either infrared (IR) or Bluetooth to send information from the remote to the device you’re trying to control. Both connectivity styles work great, but only when they actually work. Pushing a button on the remote should read immediately. If there is a lag time between a button press and an input, it should be as low as possible. This includes switching between controlling different devices, from TV to Blu-Ray player, to sound bar, and back.
Versatility: How good is a universal remote if it’s only compatible with a few different devices? To be truly universal, it should work with just about any remote-friendly device. Responsiveness should also be universal, in case you have a Samsung TV with a Bose soundbar and an NVIDIA streaming device.
Best Universal Remotes: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: SofaBaton U1 With Smart App and OLED Display
Why it Made The Cut: A futuristic-looking universal remote with seamless app integration.
— Dimensions: 7.7 inches L x 1.9 inches W x 1.2 inches H
— Weight: 10 ounces
— Connection Type: IR and Bluetooth
— OLED screen for scrolling through devices
— Compatible with tons of devices and brands
— Constant updates with great app
— Less than perfect IR connectivity
SofaBaton U1 With Smart App and OLED Display may be overkill for many, but several of its features will be hard to live without once you experience them.
The concept of a full-fledged screen on a remote control may seem odd, but think of what the screen did to the cellular phone. The screen displays one of up to 15 devices, so you know exactly what you’re controlling. Just under the screen is a small scrolling button that lets you quickly access the devices this universal remote is connected to. As far as compatibility goes, SofaBaton U1 works with half a million different devices across 5,000 brands including Samsung, Hitachi, and Google. It uses both IR and Bluetooth connectivity, so it’s great for both new and legacy devices alike. The companion app allows you to keep your control up to date, easily pair new devices, and even customize controls. One button can perform up to 10 different commands. Occasionally, the IR connectivity isn’t as reliable as you’d like, but it’s not a persistent issue. This universal remote also runs a little more expensive than typical remotes run but is still well within reach of most budgets.
Best With Keyboard: Fosmon Mini Bluetooth Keyboard
Why it Made The Cut: Typing makes searching through channels and menus easy on any Bluetooth-powered device.
— Dimensions: 3.9 inches L x 6.9 inches W x 1 inch H
— Weight: 2.64 ounces
— Connection Type: Bluetooth
— Incredibly thin and lightweight
— Backlit keyboard
— Wide device compatibility
— Difficult for larger hands and digits
— Only compatible with Bluetooth devices
Channel surfing is far more different than it used to be, and in the age of Netflix and YouTube it can be annoying typing out “Stranger Things” or “Funny Vine Compilation” using a regular remote, unless you’re using the Fosmon Mini Bluetooth Keyboard.
Connecting a full QWERTY keyboard to a television or streaming device can be done super easily, so long as your device has Bluetooth connectivity. Legacy devices won’t connect quite as easily, but just about every television made in the last few years allows you to connect a myriad of Bluetooth devices. The keyboard is backlit so you can type away, even in low-light situations, including nighttime. Being able to type quickly on streaming channels will ruin you for other remotes, and you’ll wonder how you lived without it. However, larger hands may struggle to punch keys considering just how small this universal remote is. It’s lightweight and tucks away into any cabinet when it’s not in use, but is cool enough to want to display on a coffee table. Plus, when you’re done using it to flip through channels, you can also use it on a myriad of other devices like a PC or Mac. It charges via USB, so you won’t have to waste any batteries using it either.
Best Backlit: GE 6 Device Backlit Universal Remote
Why it Made The Cut: For the late-night binge-watcher, the General Electric universal remote provides an extra glow for surfing.
— Dimensions: 9.17 inches L x 2.4 inches W x 1.73 inches H
— Weight: 5 ounces
— Connection Type: IR
— Compatible with many major brands
— Easy setup
— Backlit buttons with attractive finish
— Doesn’t work with Roku or Amazon Fire devices
Stumbling for your remote in the dark is never fun, and operating a universal remote in low-light settings can get confusing fast. The General Electric Universal Remote has backlit buttons, to keep this annoyance at bay.
Each button on the universal remote glows with soft blue light, which lets you see what you’re doing without damaging your eyes or keeping you up. Yes, it’s compatible with popular brands, but it also comes pre-programmed right out of the box. Smart TVs, Sony Blu-Ray players, and countless other popular, remote-friendly devices won’t need any extra programming to use, which may be worth the price of the GE Universal Remote alone. This remote lets you program up to six devices into it and even has a dedicated button to open and close DVD and Blu-Ray players. For a controller at this price point, one of the most surprising things about it is how attractive the finish on the body is. Switching between inputs is done simply and easily, which is a must-have feature in any universal remote. Sadly, it doesn’t work with either Amazon Fire or Roku streaming devices. This may be a deal-breaker for many streaming setups, but it’s inexpensive enough to have an extra around just in case.
Best Premium: Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control and Smart Hub
Why it Made The Cut: Logitech Harmony Elite is aptly named, with a built-in screen that makes this one of the smartest devices for entertainment centers.
— Dimensions: 6 inches L x 2 inches W x 0.6 inches H
— Weight: 12 ounces
— Connection Type: IR and Bluetooth
— Works with up to 15 devices at once
— Seamless LCD screen
— Harmony Hub amplifies and adds more control
— Incredibly pricey
Logitech didn’t have to go so hard, but somehow, they did, making one of the most beautiful universal remotes ever conceived with the Logitech Harmony Elite.
Elite isn’t an empty buzzword here, it truly is top of the line. The shiny metal finish is paired with an LCD screen that displays full-fledged menus to control a myriad of devices. Its full-color menu lets you switch through channels, adjust volume, and even connect to your smart home so you can do everything from adjusting the thermostat to turning lights on and off. It’s fully compatible with Alexa devices, which amounts to plenty of possibilities. The Harmony Hub powers up the remote control to give it even more of an edge when using the IR connectivity. You can even pair it to the Harmony app (available on App Store and Google Play) and control devices using your smartphone. The charging dock keeps your device perpetually powered up and well within reach. Of course, all of these premium features come with a premium price tag, but if you’re building the smart home of your dreams, it may make sense to make the investment.
Best Budget: Philips Universal Remote Control
Why it Made The Cut: Sometimes, the most simple answer is enough, and the Phillips remote is available for a fraction of the cost of many universal remotes.
— Dimensions: 8 inches L x 2.45 inches W x 1.6 inches H
— Weight: 3.84 ounces
— Connection Type: IR
— Available in four colors
— Compatible with Samsung, TCL, and plenty other popular brands
— Master volume control
— Connectivity is a gamble
What was the last piece of tech you bought that cost less than $10 that actually worked? Philips Universal Remote Control is stupid cheap, but may just be all you need.
For one, you can sync one remote onto up to six devices. This includes the usual TV, DVD, and Blu-Ray players, as well as soundbars and streaming media players like Roku. Well, as long as they aren’t streaming sticks – those won’t sync up well. But devices among many of the most popular devices including Samsung, TCL, Toshiba, Panasonic, Insignia, and of course, Phillips, shouldn’t have a problem syncing up to the machine. Most of the time. Some users reported occasional trouble connecting the universal remote to random devices. That said, when the device works, it works fantastically. It even has a Master Volume setting to turn audio up or down no matter what device you’re on. Unlike other devices, this one also offers a little in way of personalization, and is available in black, blue, gold, graphite, and rose colors.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Universal Remote
Alternatives to a Universal Remote
This may come as a surprise, but you may already own a universal remote. In fact, you could be reading this article on a device that could easily serve as one. If your home is covered in smart devices, there’s a good chance you can control them right from your phone. Samsung’s SmartThings app (available on App Store and Google Play) lets you sync everything from televisions to refrigerators, and customize settings far easier than a single remote control ever could. Roku, one of the leading names in streaming, also makes a handy app that turns your smart device into a makeshift controller for its streaming sticks, boxes, and televisions. Using it, you can type titles in a search bar, adjust volume, and even flip through countless TV shows, movies, and streaming channels. Face it, you’re probably already looking at your phone while you stream anyway. These are just two examples of popular tech brands that allow you to turn your smartphone or tablet into a universal remote of sorts.
That doesn’t mean that these apps can do everything a universal remote can do. Sometimes, you just want to be able to turn off the television, or quickly adjust the volume. Doing that on an app usually takes a few extra steps, and depending on how old your phone or tablet is, a few extra minutes. Still, if you already have a smart device and a little patience, your phone may be the only universal remote you need. But considering how inexpensive many offerings in this best universal remote compilation are, it may still be worth keeping at least one or two around if you need them.
Q: How much do universal remotes cost?
The prices of universal remotes run anywhere from a low of $10 all the way to several hundred. While our premium pick, the Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control and Smart Hub, leans towards the latter, our best overall pick, SofaBaton U1 With Smart App and OLED Display usually runs less than $50.
Q: Do universal remotes work on all brands?
Universal remotes work with many brands, including many of the popular ones on the market right now like Samsung and LG. Typically, pricier remotes come with a fair amount more compatibility in the device department, especially with legacy tech.
Q: How do I sync a universal remote control?
To sync a device to a universal remote control, you point the remote at the device in question and push a couple of buttons at the same time. However, connectivity ranges from universal remote to universal remote, so always consult your user guide.
Q: How do I find the 4 digit code for my TV?
Typically, you can find your television’s 4-digit code in the settings, in the “About” section. A quick Google search also works in a clutch.
Final Thoughts on Universal Remotes
The power to control every single one of your devices at once is in your hand with one of the best universal remotes. For the best overall universal remote, the SofaBaton U1 With Smart App and OLED Display packs a small screen to easily flip through all connected devices. The Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control and Smart Hub packs an even bigger screen and more features, so long as you don’t mind making the big investment. In most cases, our budget pick, the Philips Universal Remote Control may be more than enough.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.