Best Universal Remotes

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
189 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for the best universal remotes

With all the media devices you can now connect to your TV and monitor, it seems like you might need a dozen remote controls just to manage them all. Luckily, that’s not the case. Ongoing improvements in universal remote technology help alleviate the problem.

A universal remote is not just a TV remote. Rather, it is a singular device that uses the same connectivity types as your other devices, including Bluetooth, voice commands, and infrared. With a universal remote, you can streamline control of everything into one unit. This makes navigating your home media easier. A number of devices, including your Blu-ray player, DVD player, Sonos soundbar, Philips Hue lights, Roku, Xbox, Sony Playstation, and other gaming consoles may be compatible. Figuring out which universal remote is right for you could be tricky, so you'll want to consider the type of remote you need and the features that will work best for you.

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With a universal remote, you can turn on your TV and browse your favorite channels, program a show to record later that night, and then switch over to your gaming console with the push of a button.

Why buy a universal remote?

The purpose of a universal remote is to make your home theater easier to manipulate and enjoy.

When you buy a television, it comes with a TV remote. When you buy a satellite or cable or box, it comes with a remote. DVD, Blu-ray, DVR, streaming media players, and even video game systems with added media components also come with some kind of remote. That’s a lot of remotes!

After a while, switching from device to device with a different remote each time grows tedious. A universal remote brings all of that functionality into one handheld item.

Consider the benefits of a universal remote:

  • You don’t have to memorize button controls for multiple remotes.
  • You don’t have to buy multiple replacement batteries to keep your remotes going.
  • You don’t have to remember where you put each remote every time you need it.
  • You can program the remote and operate each device the same way you would with the controller that originally came with it.
  • These remotes offer excellent compatibility with today’s popular entertainment devices.
  • They often work with smart home devices. You can use them with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and similar voice control systems.

“Logitech Harmony Hub” is a name to know in the world of these fantastic devices. The Harmony Hub is priced in the mid-range (around $100) and works with Amazon Alexa to control multiple home entertainment devices. The Harmony remote turns your iPhone or Android smartphone into a personalized remote.

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Types of universal remotes

Several types of universal remotes populate the market; the two primary types are “pre-programmable” and “learning” remotes.

  • A pre-programmable remote includes a guide to help you select which home entertainment systems and devices you want to connect to.
  • A learning remote “learns” what to do based on the signal from the remotes that already exist. To “teach” this remote, you perform an action with the first remote that came with your device. For example, you adjust the volume. You then set up the buttons you want to do that same action on the universal remote.
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Expert Tip
If you purchase a universal remote, don't get rid of the originals. You may need them to find what each button does to the corresponding controller. Plus, it’s always nice to have a backup.
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How to program a universal remote

Programming a universal remote is quite simple.

Most remotes come with either a built-in list or pamphlet of devices. This list covers a wide range of major brands, competitors, third-party manufacturers, and specific models.

Underneath those brands are a list of the most common devices they produce, such as televisions or Blu-ray players. Next to each device name, you’ll find a set of codes.

Using the directions provided by the universal remote manufacturer, find the code for the device you wish to program on this list. Input the code and confirm your choice.

At that point, the universal remote calibrates itself to that device’s functions and assigns the proper controls to your remote.

For most remotes, this is where the programming process ends.

However, if you have a smart remote that is able to connect to Wifi or receive updates, new codes can be added as new devices come onto the market.

Some universal remotes use a WiFi connection to enhance connectivity. However, their ability depends on the strength of the WiFi signal. If you’re looking to connect everything in your home through the internet, this type of universal remote could be a good option.

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Features

Control

Not every remote is designed simply for the basics. Some units include cool features that give you much more control than you may have anticipated.

For example, you might choose a remote that includes automatic controls for Apple TV, Xbox One, the Windows Media Center, and a Roku, all of which can be accessed without programming.

Connectivity

Some remotes boast a WiFi connection that allows you to use the device on other electronics that employ the same principles.

For example, if you have a thermostat that can be controlled by computer access or security cameras with a remote interface, it’s possible to program the remote to operate those devices.

Child protection

Parents who want an extra level of control over what their kids watch can select a remote with lockout controls.

With a remote like this, it’s possible for parents to deny a child access to specific channels without restricting all of their favorite channels.

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Did you know?
A universal remote can program a lot of devices, but it cannot program everything that’s ever been created. If you have technology older than seven years, your new remote may not be able to operate it.
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Pricing

Inexpensive: For $25 or less, you can get a basic universal remote control, or “clicker,” with a basic look that includes buttons but no digital display or touchscreen. Many of these cost around $10.

Mid-range: Between $25 and $125, a great range of options exist. If you want something that can control more than just your TV and cable box, look here.

High-end: Between $125 and $300, you will find top technology. These remotes offer highly impressive functionality, controlling everything from a mobile app to your smart TV, streaming devices, appliances, and more. Often, you can control up to 15 devices with one little handheld device. Backlit keys, a user-friendly touchscreen, and voice control are frequently seen here as well.

Are you looking for a universal remote control that will make surfing Netflix a breeze? Most universal remotes today can be used to peruse Netflix.

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Tips

The best universal remotes are intuitive devices that kids and adults can easily understand and operate.

The right remote can be used with voice control to operate your smart home devices.

Stock up on batteries for your universal remote so you are never caught without enough juice for your controller.

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Not all universal remotes on the market can perform extraordinary tasks like controlling a smart thermostat. Check your chosen product’s specs to make sure it has this capability, if this is what you want.

FAQ

Q. What can I control with a universal remote?

A. Besides the obvious products (TVs and media players), you can program some universal remotes to control CD changers, laserdisc players, stereo systems, amplifiers, cassette tape decks, game consoles, satellite/cable boxes, and even computer light controls.

Q. Are all universal remotes compatible with everything?

A. No. Some technology is so outdated that it will never connect to a modern universal remote. Betamax is a good example, as the remotes for those systems are so out of date, they don’t conform to any standard system.

However, some new tech devices also won’t connect. Why? Some manufacturers have made their products so highly secure that no remote — other than the one you would purchase from that company — will connect to it.

Q. How many devices can I control at once?

A. The answer to this question depends on your remote. Some can only control three or four devices at a time. Others can handle up to 12 devices at once. The packaging on the remote should tell you how many devices you can successfully integrate.

Q. Will my new universal remote ever become out of date?

A. While the remote that came with your streaming stick or set-top box will always work with its intended device, a modern remote purchased today will eventually become obsolete with future electronics. Technology progresses, but people’s buying habits don’t always move quite as fast. If you like the tech you have and don’t want to buy anything new, we recommend that you stick with it until the day arrives that it must be replaced.

However, if you’re a consumer who tends to quickly buy the next best thing, there’s a good chance your universal remote won’t “keep up” for quite as long.

 

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