A universal remote automate several tasks—such as turning on your TV and soundbar and changing to the correct settings—all with a single button press, so you don’t have to pick up three or four remotes just to Netflix and chill.
Some universal remotes even have smart home controls and voice search, so you can look for shows, movies, and more across multiple streaming services more efficiently.
Having a streaming stick (or two), a cable box, a soundbar, a TV, and maybe even a stereo receiver helps to have one of the best universal remotes to control everything from one device.
Best Universal Remote
Caavo Control Center
|Accurate voice search|
Works with a variety of devices
Aggregates content from all your devices into one interface
|Can only connect four devices at once|
While the Caavo Control Center can only control four devices at once, it separates itself from Harmony’s remotes in that it offers a unified interface, through which you can search through content on any connected device, as well as several streaming services. It even works with Sonos, meaning that you can see what’s playing, pause, skip and view your Sonos playlists right from your TV. You can also connect streaming services directly to the Caavo, obviating the need for separate streaming devices. Here’s a list of all the streaming apps Cavvo supports. In addition, the Caavo remote has built-in voice search and a unique section of lists of shows and movies curated by others—That’s something Harmony doesn’t have. To get all this, though, you’ll need to sign up for a Caavo subscription, but you can contact the Contro Center and a lifetime subscription for $160. Caavo also has a Watch With Friends app, which lets you sync Netflix on Roku, Apple TV and Chrome browsers, so you and your friends can watch shows simultaneously—and you don’t need a Caavo Control Center to use this feature.
|Inexpensive, Controls smart home devices||Lacks touchscreen|
Similar to the Harmony Elite, the Harmony Companion can also control smart-home devices in addition to your entertainment center. The most significant difference between the Harmony Companion and the Elite is that the Companion lacks a screen of any kind, so you’ll have to designate physical buttons to enable Watch TV mode, for instance. However, the Harmony Companion comes with the Harmony Hub, so you can hide all your AV components and let you use Alexa and Google Assistant to control your TV and more. We also like that it has a physical number pad—something the Harmony Elite lacks—so it’s easier to jump to specific channels on your cable box.
Logitech Harmony Elite
|Easy setup, Intuitive interface|
Dedicated smart home buttons
Works with a vast number of devices
|Heavier than the previous version|
Logitech’s top-end remote, the aptly named Harmony Elite, can control up to 15 devices at once. In addition to physical buttons, it has a colour touch screen to select a favourite channel quickly. You can also create custom buttons, such as Watch a Movie, to automatically turn all your devices to the correct settings. The Harmony Elite works in conjunction with the Harmony Hub (included), enabling you to hide electronics in a cabinet. It also works with several smart-home devices, including Philips Hue lights and the Ecobee smart thermostat. In addition, it can be connected with Amazon Alexa so that you can issue Harmony Elite commands using nothing but your voice. It’s one of the best Google Home compatible devices, too.
Controls up to 10 devices
|Somewhat involved setup|
The best universal remote for those on a budget, the Logitech Harmony 665 has a small display (which is not a touchscreen) with buttons arrayed around it, letting you quickly access activities, favourite channels and more. On-screen help makes it relatively easy to troubleshoot any issues. The Harmony 665 can be paired with up to 10 devices. You can program up to 23 of your favourite channels on the remote, too. However, the Harmony 665 works via infrared (IR) only, so you can’t hide any of your entertainment center’s components, and the remote can’t be used to control smart-home devices. But those may not be important if all you’re looking for is an inexpensive universal remote that feels great to use.
Easy to use
|No Siri button|
Buttons not backlit
It prizes form over functionality, which with its minimalist design, is a real pain. The Function101 remote may not look as sleek as the Apple TV remote, but it’s a heckuva lot easier to use. And, its larger size makes it more comfortable to hold. However, the Function101 remote does not have a Siri button, so you can’t use Apple’s voice assistant to look up shows or enter passwords. But, at $39, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff — until Apple designs something better.
Alexa’s cable box controls are great
Excellent 4K HDR picture quality
|Compatible with Alexa-only|
The Amazon Fire TV Cube packs one of the best streaming devices and Alexa into a single package. You can use Amazon’s assistant not only to look up shows and programs you want to watch but also to control your TV, cable box, switch HDMI inputs, and more. It offers an excellent 4K HDR image, fast response times, and more as a streaming device. The Fire TV interface could use some improvement. It gives you access to just about every streaming service you could want. It also comes with a physical remote, but you can’t use it to replicate everything you can do with your voice.