5 Best Universal Remote Controllers To Buy In 2021

An easier and user-friendly life is something everyone craves these days. Life has gotten much easier and more exciting due to constant improvements in life brought to us by technology. There was a time you would need a separate controller for every device or product you own, such as one for your TV and another for your Speakers/ Theatre system.

Today we look at a solution for such old age problems, in the form of universal remotes. Essentially what these controls do is that they can manage the controls of more than one device with the use of just one remote. Hence the name, universal remote is not hard to understand what its use is and how it can benefit almost anyone. We have made life easier for interested people as we have toned down the list of the best universal remotes to some of the very best the market has to offer. Most of the remotes come with different specialties but their main purpose will remain the same.

1. Logitech Harmony Companion

Best Smart Home Solution

Pros

  • High customizability
  • RF rather IR technology
  • Best device for smart homes
  • Works with smartphones as well

Cons

  • Customization process is painstaking

Dimensions: 18.4 cm x 0.5 cm x 2 cm | Weight: 119 g | Devices Support: Up to 8 | Smart Home features: Yes | App: Harmony App | Alexa: Yes | Favorite channels: Yes

Logitech is one of the biggest companies when it comes to technology and gadgets. They are perhaps best known for making some of the best computer-related products. Hence, they make products for computers such as keyboards, mice or headsets, speakers and even streaming gear and accessories for gaming and computer enthusiasts. There is however much more to this company. Logitech is also well known for making a variety of different quality of life and home solutions or accessories such as remotes, mobile phone related items, chargers, and even security cameras. It is safe to say Logitech has a foot in almost all the different fields that are related to technological equipment.

The Harmony Companion has one of the widest ranges and variety of customization in the universal remote category. The Logitech Harmony Companion consists of a remote and the Harmony Hub as its main contents. Setting up the Harmony Companion home solution is done via the Harmony Hub and the Harmony app. The initial setup will mostly need to be done via the app and the Hub so you have set up commands and procedures which you can later program to the remote’s buttons for easy and one-click access. For example, you can create one-touch actions to cycle between your gaming setups such as the XBOX or the PlayStation, then switch to Netflix or the Apple TV all through one button on the remote.

You can setup up to 8 different devices to be controlled via your Harmony Companion remote. These devices can be controlled individually as long as they all have an internet connection. You can also set up an unhindered number of smart home devices to be controlled via the Harmony Companion’s remote. By an unhindered number of smart home devices, we mean you can literally control a limitless number of smart home devices via the Logitech Harmony Companion system. The remote and the Hub operate via RF technology rather than IR. IR technology requires a direct line of sight to function via the RF technology can be used without a line of sight as well.

Another plus point of having the Harmony Companion is that it can work just as effortlessly via your smartphone as well. Both Androids and iPhone devices can operate the Logitech Harmony app. The only real issue with this device is its installation or setup process. That can be quite complicated. You need to set up the different controls and shortcuts via your Harmony Hub and the Harmony app and that can prove to be a challenge for a lot of people. Other than the setting up process of the Harmony Companion, Logitech has not really made any other shortcomings in this smart home solution. It is a little on the expensive side for sure, but the amount of ease and control it gives you all in one remote makes up for the price quite effectively.

2. Logitech Harmony Elite

For Extreme Versatility and Connectivity

Pros

  • Touch screen remote
  • RF as well as IR blasters
  • Controls up to 15 devices
  • Changes can be synced wirelessly

Cons

  • Expensive

Dimensions: 19 cm x 5.3 cm x 3 cm | Weight: 164 g | Devices Support: Up to 15 | Smart Home features: Yes | App: Harmony App | Alexa: Yes | Favorite channels: Yes

Here, we have another product featuring the Logitech brand. In the world of universal remotes, Logitech is the biggest name. No other company really comes close to the level that Logitech has reached in both customizability and versatility. If you did not expect these two qualities to be combined in a single product, Logitech will surprise you. The Logitech Harmony Elite is the perfect and most extreme combination of versatility and customizability. Add to that the rather exorbitant connectivity that the Harmony Elite offers and you get the most versatile universal remote the market has to offer at this time.

This is quite similar to the Harmony Companion in the sense that this also works with a Harmony Hub and a remote. The initial setup process is rather similar as well. You do almost all the setup via the Hub or the app on your smartphone, or by connecting your Hub to your Windows. Setup the different commands and procedures you want, connect and sync the remote with the different devices you want. Now we get to the point where the Harmony Elite surpasses its brethren. The Harmony Elite can be connected and synced with up to 15 devices at one time. You can literally control every single device in your home with a single remote.

The remote is also more of a treat to use since it offers a touch screen. Having a touch screen instantly raises the aesthetic and user-friendly value of any device. The Elite’s remote is also equipped with infrared or IR blasters on top of having the RF blasters as well. This helps if your placement of the Hub is at a weird spot or angle which reduces the RF blasters’ potency. You can then use your remote to control the device you want by directly aiming at it instead of having to rely on the Hub’s RF tech. This is also an improvement over the Harmony Companion which does not have such IR technology.

Another useful and important upgrade in the Harmony Elite as compared to the Harmony Companion is the wireless syncing capability. You can make and sync changes to the setting of the Elite’s remote on the remote control itself. The other Harmony devices require you to have to make the change on the Harmony Hub itself or via the windows interface via a wired connection. With all of these new and upgraded features, there was bound to be a price increase. Although, the unworldly price of the Harmony Elite is rather unexpected. The price is pretty much the only reason it is not at the number one spot on this list.

3. Caavo Control Center

Best for Theater Setup

Pros

  • Excellent TV controls
  • Seamlessly operates between the various devices and apps connected
  • Remote finding button on the box

Cons

  • Limited connectivity
  • No smart home features

Dimensions: 17.4 cm x 4 cm x 2.2 cm | Weight of Remote: 100 g| Devices Support: Up to 4 devices with wired connection | Smart Home features: No | App: Caavo App | Alexa: Yes | Favorite channels: Not specified

If you have not heard of the name Caavo, do not fret as this is a rather new company. As such, they have yet to make as big a name for themselves as a company like Logitech has. Caavo was founded in 2015 and it seems most of their products have been directed towards the universal remote setup or providing solutions for home theaters. The Caavo Control Center was the first product in a long time to give the Logitech’s Harmony series any real competition. Granted, the Caavo is much more limited in usage as we will explain, it still provides more competition than any other universal remote technology at least as far as the TV setup is concerned.

The Caavo Control Center has two parts. The first part is the box and the second is the remote. The setup process includes connecting all the various devices you have connected to your television or screen to the Caavo Control Center box. There is a limitation in this as the Caavo Control Center can only accommodate a maximum of 4 devices. These 4 devices are connected via HDMI slots on the back of the Control Center box. Once you have connected the devices that you wish, Caavo will then be able to operate between them. There are some very intuitive controls added to the remote. For example, if you keep a button pressed to be able to choose a more detailed function than the basic functions you get on the screen, a small tab opens on the screen to show you the different functions available which you can choose from.

There are some very excellent and ease giving features employed in the functioning of the Caavo Control Center. When you turn on your TV, you get a list of all the different options you can play on the screen, for example, Xbox or PlayStation, Roku, etc. The voice commands also work very well on the Caavo. For example, if you give a command to watch a certain show which is available on Netflix, Caavo will be able to put on that show on Netflix on the screen. Even if you have not selected the Netflix app, Caavo switches to the app and puts on the show you requested. Caavo has an excellent user interface of the apps you have installed and operates between them seamlessly to put on what you want on the screen.

Overall, Caavo Control Center just has some very ingenious features. Some of those we have mentioned above. Another such feature is the remote finding feature. There is a button on the box which you can press to get a beep out of the remote to locate the remote if you can’t find it. It also has some excellent curated watching options for movies and series that are available on Caavo. Other than that, there are also some limitations to what the Caavo Control Center can accomplish. There are no smart home features and you can only access the devices that have been connected to the Control Center. The Caavo app is also something you can use for easier controls. However, it is only available for iOS devices.

4. Logitech Harmony 665

Fantastic Budget King

Pros

  • Excellent TV controls
  • Seamlessly operates between the various devices and apps connected
  • Remote finding button on the box

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • Size can be uneasy to use

Dimensions: 22.4 cm x 6 cm x 3 cm | Weight of Remote: 138 g | Devices Support: Up to 10 | Smart Home features: Yes | App: MyHarmony software | Alexa: Yes | Favorite channels: Yes

Logitech has dominated the universal remote category of technology for some time now. This is mainly due to Logitech’s Harmony series. The Harmony series has the best universal remote options from the top of the line premium options such as the Harmony Elite to an overall excellent choice in the Harmony Companion and rounded off by the Logitech Harmony 665. This Harmony 665 remote is the budget-friendly option in the Harmony product line.

The Harmony 665 does not have a Harmony Hub like the previous Harmony models we have mentioned. The Logitech Harmony 665 consists of the remote control as its only tool. First of all, Harmony 665 does not have a mobile app. The setup is via the MyHarmony app which is available on computers. Any changes which you need to make to the buttons of the remote control or save a favorite channel, you will have to do via this app. Also, you will have to connect the Harmony 665 to your computer via a USB cable when you want to change the controls. So, the setup and changing controls can be quite an irritating task due to the lack of a mobile app.

A very helpful feature of the Harmony 665 is the screen on the remote. This is not a touch screen. This screen shows what controls you have saved to the programmable buttons on the remote which are on the sides of the screen. Each quarter of the screen shows a command for the button on that side. You can connect the Harmony 665 to up to 10 devices and use it as a remote for those 10 devices. This saves you the trouble of having 10 separate remotes. It is also nearly impossible to remember the specific controls for each button for the different devices. That is why this little screen that gives you the information on the controls is so valuable.

All the buttons of the Harmony 665 are backlit. This is always a welcome feature as it adds to the aesthetics and also helps invisibility of the buttons. For example, if you have the light off and are watching a movie, the backlit buttons make it easy to know what button is to be used to change the volume levels. The size of the Harmony 665 can be an issue as it is rather large. Due to its larger size as compared to the other remotes, the 665 can become awkward or uneasy to use. These downsides, however, are easy to overlook. Especially when you look at the overwhelming positives which include affordable and inexpensive price point.

5. GE BackLit Universal Remote

Great Budget Alternative

Pros

  • No need for any app or software
  • Compatible with most popular brands
  • Extremely affordable

Cons

  • No RF technology
  • Batteries are not rechargeable

Dimensions: 17.8 cm x 5.7 cm x 2.5 cm | Weight of Remote: 90 g | Devices Support: Up to 4 | Smart Home features: No | App: No | Alexa: No | Favorite channels: No

The GE Backlit Universal Remote has been in the market for a decent amount of time. Even now, it is still a respectable product despite lacking a lot of modern features. This universal remote features the classic remote design and shape. Feature-wise, this is not the most mind-blowing product on here.  You might have guessed that since it is at the last spot on the list. Although, it has enough qualities to put it above many other universal remotes.

The GE Universal Remote works in a very different function to the previous remotes we have mentioned. The lack of any app makes this perhaps the easiest to setup remote in the list. There is no need for you to go through the hassle of setting different controls via an app or software. The GE Backlit universal remote can support up to 4 devices such as a television, a DVD or a Blu-Ray player or soundbars, etc. As the name suggests, this is a backlit remote which is a good feature to have in any remote.

This universal remote is also compatible with most of the popular brands in the digital and electronics world. This gives it the ability to be compatible with most TVs. There is however the lack of RF technology due to which the GE universal remote is compatible with some devices. This includes things like an Amazon fire stick or a Roku stick or any other RF requiring setup. The remote requires AA batteries to run and the AA batteries are not rechargeable. You will have to replace the batteries when they run out.

The biggest plus point of the GE backlit remote has to be its extreme inexpensiveness. This is by far the most affordable universal remote in the market. Granted, it does not have nearly as many features as any other universal remote setup in this list. With that said, this remote is perfect for people who don’t need any bells and whistles. It’s also quite good for regular TV that doesn’t have a device like a fire stuck plugged in.

Alyssa Arford
Alyssa Arford is an aspiring Electrical & Electronics Engineer with a vested interest in the innovation and design of computer hardware. Her passion for understanding the nitty gritty of how hardware components come together and playing around with the potential of silicon devices puts her in a position to confidently discuss emerging technologies and their implications in advanced computing.