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The Best Universal Remotes to Buy in 2018 — Take Control of Your Digital Life

By Vaidyanathan Subramaniam / October 27, 2018

With the multitude of home entertainment and smart devices, we have in our homes these days, managing them can get quite tedious over time. Every device comes with a remote control of its own, which makes keeping track a painful and cumbersome process. This is where universal remotes come in.

Universal remotes, as the name suggests, can control multiple devices at once. You can program universal remotes to control your TV set, satellite set-top box, home theater system, and more. The very same remote can be used to control your home automation and lighting systems, security systems, smart thermostats etc.— a very convenient proposition to take the hassle out of managing multiple devices. Also, most universal remotes come with accompanying mobile apps that can turn your smartphone also into a remote. This is useful for the times when the remote is down or when it is charging.

While most universal remotes come with an IR blaster, some of the more advanced ones feature Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity as well. Others offer the option of adding a hub, which then allows for connecting Bluetooth devices. Generally, universal remotes are already made to function across thousands of devices but in the event, a new device hits the market, the OEM allows for programming the remote by using device codes or via a software interface. This ensures that the universal remote actually lasts for a long time.

There are many good universal remotes available in the market but Logitech is a major player in this area so it is not surprising that the brand dominates this list. Thus, we present the 9 best universal remotes that are worthy of your consideration.

1. Logitech Harmony Elite

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the most powerful universal remote in the market today. This touchscreen universal remote is probably an overkill for most but if you're looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, this is it. The Elite works in conjunction with the Harmony Hub base station that interfaces with the various smart devices in your home. With support for Amazon Alexa voice control, you can control up to 15 devices simultaneously and the remote itself is compatible with more than 270,000 devices covering most popular smart device brands. Unlike a conventional remote, the intuitive touchscreen helps in easy control and navigation. The Harmony app works on Android and iOS devices and can double-up as a second universal remote in case you are charging the main remote.

While the Elite works well with most devices, it is not without some quirks. The software setup is very easy but those used to conventional remotes might feel that the interface lacks a few buttons. Amazon integration works well but the skill sets are limited. Some features require using the desktop Harmony app as they cannot be configured with the onboard software. Overall, the Harmony Elite is a fully loaded universal remote that is recommended if you have many devices to control.

2. Logitech Harmony Smart Control

If you are looking at something more simpler, check out the Logitech Harmony Smart Control. You get most features of the Harmony Elite and can control up to 8 devices simultaneously including devices from over 6,000 brands such as cable set-top boxes, Roku, Apple TV, Philips Hue, Sonos etc. There is also a Harmony app that allows for voice recognition and up to 50 favorite channels. You can use the voice recognition to do things such as turn the lights on and off, browse through TV listings, launch games on a PlayStation 4, and more. The Harmony Smart Control features IR, Wi-Fi, RF, and Bluetooth connectivity so it is easy to control most devices via the Harmony Hub.

The Harmony Smart Control offers very good value for a universal remote. There might be some issues in connecting with devices such as the Amazon Fire Stick but overall, this remote should work with most smart devices out there.

3. Caavo Universal Remote

Caavo is a popular universal remote for Sonos and DirecTV devices such as soundbars and set-top boxes. It is a combination of a control center and a universal remote for controlling all your entertainment devices easily. The control center can interface with up to 4 devices such as satellite TV, media players; Blu-Ray players, or game consoles plus a soundbar or a sound system. Navigating is easy with the voice-activated universal remote. For the Caavo control center and universal remote to work, there need to be at least 2 devices connected. It has limitations in interfacing with devices such as smart TVs (with the exception of LG smart TVs), projectors, Air TV, and OTA Antenna but support for these devices is coming very soon. Caavo has built-in privacy features for those who are concerned about their watch history.

For those looking at an all-in-one solution for controlling media devices, the Caavo fits the bill perfectly. The only limitation is that it can connect only up to 4 devices but as long as your needs fit in this, this is one of the best universal remotes for the job.

4. Inteset INT-422

The Inteset INT-422 is a universal IR remote control that is designed to work with most popular streaming services including Apple TV, Xbox One, Media Center, and Roku (excluding Roku Stick). In fact, the first 4 buttons are dedicated to these services. The specialty of this device lies in the ability to program it. The rest of the buttons can be customized as per the connected devices. The buttons are backlit and the labels can be interchanged as per need. Macro functions can be assigned for up to 32 frequently used commands. Those who wish to control Amazon FireTV and NVIDIA Shield (2nd gen) can use the optional Inteset IReTV IR receiver.

The Inteset INT-422 can also be made to recognize devices originally not compatible with inputting device codes from the online device code database. Simply select the make and model of the device on Inteset's website to get a device code and use it to make the remote instantly compatible with the new device.

5. Logitech Harmony 350

The Logitech Harmony 350 eliminates the need to use multiple remotes and aims to be a one-stop solution for all entertainment devices. It can support up to 8 devices and offers programmable features for up to 5 channels. The Harmony 350 is built for ease of use and has dedicated buttons for accessing guides, menus, volume control, and more. Logitech maintains an online database for popular devices and the universal remote can be programmed with specific device codes by simply connecting it to a PC. There is also a 'watch TV' button pressing which will start the TV and set-top box at once.

The Harmony 350 is an IR remote and therefore, cannot control Bluetooth devices such as Fire TV or PlayStation. There are also some limitations reported in setting up multiple Harmony units via the website. That said, for the price on offer, the Logitech Harmony 350 is a very good companion to your home entertainment setup.

6. Logitech Harmony 700

The Logitech Harmony 700 offers an upgrade over the Harmony 350 for those desiring a bit more from their universal remote. The Harmony 700 can control up to eight devices and has one-click activity buttons for watching DVD, radio, TV, and more. This universal remote works with most devices out of the box and Logitech also offers support for other brands via its website. Navigation of remote function is easy via the color screen and you can program your favorite functions very easily.

The performance of the remote is very good and it basically works with any IR device. It, however, will not work with Fire TV because it lacks Bluetooth support. It also does not warn you when the battery is running out so you need to keep topping it often. But the battery life itself is long enough. There is also no asterisk key on the numeric key pad so those apps which use it such as Amazon Prime might feel a bit cumbersome to navigate.

7. Logitech Harmony Companion

The Logitech Harmony Companion works as a universal remote that can control up to 8 entertainment devices such as home theatre setups, AV receivers, TVs etc. It can also work with multiple smart devices such as Philips Hue lighting systems, Nest thermostats, and more. Unlike some of the other Harmony universal remotes in this series, the Harmony Companion lacks touchscreens or LED backlit buttons. But you get all the essentials such as voice recognition, Alexa support, and a capable smartphone app. The included Harmony Hub can interpret commands from the remote and send them as IR, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth signals depending on the device so all your smart devices can be controlled with just one remote.

While the Logitech Harmony Companion is a great universal remote, there are still some additional functionality that can be added. For example, the ability to individually configure buttons is lacking and the functions of the home button cannot be changed. The extent to which a smart lamp can be dimmed is pre-determined and is not flexible. Nevertheless, the Harmony Companion is a great option for those looking at an easy to use home universal remote solution.

8. Philips SRP5018/27

The Philips SRP5018/27 is a universal remote for all your home entertainment needs. It can work with Apple TV, Roku, and a host of soundbars from various OEMs. You can hook up to 8 devices at once including satellite TV, set-top boxes, audio systems, soundbars, and home theatres. There are also quick access buttons for Netflix and Vudu.

Additional devices that support IR connectivity such as an Xbox 360 might require additional configuration. Even though you can use device codes, you might have to get the remote to 'learn' the target device before this remote can work well.

9. Logitech Harmony Ultimate One

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate One universal remote can control 15 infrared devices at once and is compatible with over 225,000 devices from across 5,000 brands. While the remote offers most conventional functions, its touchscreen helps in easy navigation and programming up to 50 favorites. The Ultimate One offers IR capability and those wishing to add Bluetooth can purchase the optional Harmony Hub. The Harmony app allows you to use your smartphone as a remote while the actual device itself is being charged in the included charging station. The keys are also backlit aiding in easy navigation.

The Harmony Ultimate One is a good universal remote but it does fall short in a few aspects. It is not the most ergonomic remote there is and the desktop software needs some work. Battery life lasts up to 72 hours of continuous use but it is easy to overcome the 15 device limit.

Final Thoughts

Dear readers, that was our list of the best universal remotes you can buy in 2018. As with any purchase, we recommend that you first assess your needs and decide on a remote accordingly. Not all remotes work with all devices due to the various connectivity standards so it helps to be aware beforehand. We would suggest that you go for a universal remote that offers easy extensibility whenever newer devices hit the market. This could be via device codes or firmware updates. We have addressed these in this article and hope that it will help you in making a sound purchase decision. That said, if you have any additional questions, post them in the comments below and we will get back to you at the earliest.

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