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Logitech recently discontinued all of our Harmony picks for this guide, so we went back to the drawing board. Our new top pick is the SofaBaton U1, and our budget pick is the One For All URC7880.
May 24, 2021
Fewer people need a universal remote control these days, which explains why the category is dying and great options are hard to find. But if your home-entertainment system is more complex than the basic media player–TV–soundbar combo, and you’re looking for one remote to control all your gear, the SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control is the best option we’ve found. It has some notable flaws, but this model can control a wider variety of home-entertainment devices, and it has a better physical design than its competitors.
The SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control is a well-designed universal remote that offers a lot more features than you might expect for less than $50. It can control up to 15 devices, including both infrared- and Bluetooth-based AV devices. So it’s more flexible than many of the lower-priced remotes on the market. It has an intuitive button layout that includes most of the control options you’ll need, and the OLED screen makes it easy to switch between the different AV devices you want to control. You can program the U1 using a convenient setup app for iOS and Android, and the app provides a lot of customization options to reassign what the remote’s buttons can do. But the U1 has some drawbacks. It lacks backlighting and a Help function to fix any messed-up commands. And there are no dedicated activity buttons for grouping different devices together to perform tasks like “Watch TV” or “Watch a Movie.” You can still create activities and assign them to whatever buttons you choose, but you have to figure out all the programming yourself—and we fear the app’s learning curve may be high for someone who has never programmed a universal remote. But despite these issues, the U1 is the best option we’ve found for people who have a mix of IR and Bluetooth devices.
The One For All URC7880 Smart Control 8 is a simple, affordable remote for people who can control all their gear via infrared (IR). It can’t control Bluetooth-based devices like the Google Chromecast or Nvidia Shield TV, but it will work fine with the majority of AV products, including most cable and satellite boxes, Blu-ray players, soundbars, gaming consoles, and AV receivers. (If you’re not sure how your device is controlled, try this: Point the remote at the ground in the opposite direction from the device it’s supposed to control, and then press a button. If the remote still executes the command, then it’s using Bluetooth or radio frequency, not IR.) The URC7880 can control eight devices and has all the important buttons you’ll need—including five activity controls that let you group devices together to watch a movie, play video games, and so forth. But, like the Sofabaton U1, it lacks backlighting and a Help function. One For All says you can set up this remote using an app, but the app just lets you add devices. The majority of the programming takes place the old-fashioned way—by manually putting the remote in programming mode and punching a lot of buttons. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done—and it means anyone can program this thing, even if they don’t own a mobile device.
For our latest update, we also tested a couple of simple, large-button remotes designed for people with vision, memory, or confusion issues, and we recommend the Flipper, which is an IR-only remote that can control a TV and set-top box. You can read more about it here.
Why you should trust us
Adrienne Maxwell is the supervising editor of Wirecutter’s AV coverage, and she has worked as a writer and editor in the consumer electronics industry for 20 years. During that time, she has reviewed numerous audio and video products, including virtually every major DIY universal-remote platform. She also reviews budget projectors, portable projectors, and other AV accessories for Wirecutter.
Who this is for
Today’s home entertainment equipment delivers more functionality in fewer boxes. The average living-room entertainment system may include a single-source device—say, a streaming media player, cable/satellite set-top box, or gaming console—plus a smart TV and a soundbar. For a setup like this, a universal remote probably isn’t necessary because basic control of these devices (such as browsing content, changing channels, and adjusting volume) is built into—or can be easily added to—the remote that came with your media player or TV.
If, on the other hand, your home-entertainment system is built around an AV receiver and multiple source components, and sitting down to watch a movie or play a video game requires shuffling among several remotes to switch inputs and control multiple components simultaneously, a universal remote is exactly what you need.
A good universal remote not only eliminates coffee-table clutter and the remote shuffle but also reduces button pushes by combining multiple actions into one button press. For instance, instead of having to push separate buttons to turn on your TV, switch HDMI inputs, power on your AV receiver, change inputs there, turn on your Blu-ray player, and—finally—get your movie started, a good universal remote can reduce all of that to one command (Play Movie), which you can access at the touch of a single button. The technical name for this bundling of commands is macros, but remote-control manufacturers usually call them activities or scenes. This functionality used to be reserved for high-end, professionally programmed systems. But these days relatively inexpensive remotes can do the same complex job.
Although a few DIY universal remotes incorporate a bit of smart-home control to adjust your lighting, temperature, or security system, there aren’t many options that can intuitively perform complex home-automation tasks. If you’re looking for advanced whole-house control, with lots of complex lighting scenes and independent control of different sources in different rooms, you’re better off turning to a local specialty AV retailer that can create a more-personalized control system from a company like Crestron or Control4. It’s a more expensive solution, but if done properly, it will result in a much more satisfying experience.
How we picked and tested
In years past, if you wanted an advanced universal remote that you could program yourself (as opposed to models that are sold exclusively through dealers, like Crestron and Control4, that program them for you), you had many choices—from brands like Harmony, Sony, Pronto, URC, and UEI. But today’s sad truth is that fewer people are buying DIY universal remotes, and this category is nearly dead. When Logitech recently discontinued Harmony universal remotes, it killed the last of the big-name brands—as well as all of our former picks in this guide—and left us pondering how to proceed.
Sure, you can still find a ton of low-end replacement remotes—models whose primary purpose is to replace the one the dog chewed up and do little else. But those remotes aren’t designed to provide a really intuitive, streamlined, activity-based experience. They’re just designed to hold a lot of buttons to control your different devices (usually a total of four to six devices).
By contrast, a good universal remote should offer the following features:
- A universal remote control has to be, well, universal. A remote that can juggle at least eight devices at once should cover the average audio/video enthusiast’s system. This system may include a TV (or projector), a DVD/Blu-ray player, a cable/satellite DVR, a surround-sound receiver, and probably a media streamer (such as a Roku or Apple TV). A game console or two might also be included.
- The remote should have a well-organized layout that includes all the necessary buttons to perform essential tasks (and, yes, we think physical buttons are essential, versus a touchscreen that requires you to look away from the TV to find the right button). The most important buttons (such as volume, pause, and play) should be easily accessible. The inclusion of Activity buttons, like “Watch TV” or “Play video games” (as described above), is strongly preferred. A customizable display is also a nice perk, since it lets you add functions (like receiver inputs or sound modes) that don’t belong to generic buttons. But this feature is hard to find in anything below $100.
- The more a remote costs, the more flexibility it should have to control different kinds of devices. Most AV devices still rely on IR (infrared) control, where you must point the remote’s IR transmitter directly at the device’s IR receiver. It’s common for lower-priced universal remotes to work only with IR devices. But a growing number of devices, especially game consoles (like the Sony PlayStation 4) and streaming media devices (like some Nvidia Shield TV and Chromecast products), are controlled via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so you’ll need a universal remote that supports those technologies. Some Wi-Fi–friendly remotes can also control smart-home devices, and some can be linked to an Alexa or Google Home device to add voice control. It’s rare to find a universal remote that has built-in voice control.
- The remote should be generally easy to program. Many cheap “universal” remotes require that you press a certain combination of buttons and then input manufacturer codes for each AV device until you find one that works. This is hardly intuitive. We prefer brands that offer setup software, via either computer or app, and keep a database of manufacturer codes. There’s always going to be a bit of a learning curve with any desktop or app-based software, but if you need a certificate in C++ to program your remote, that’s too difficult.
Although the pickings are slim in today’s market, we continue to call in new remotes that meet as much of the above criteria as possible.
To test the remotes, I set up each one to control two different AV systems in my home: One is a more-basic living-room setup with a Samsung TV, Polk soundbar, and Apple TV 4K media player. The second is a more-complex home-theater system with an LG TV, Onkyo AV receiver, Sony Ultra HD Blu-ray player, Chromecast with Google TV, and Xbox One X. The equipment consists of a mix of traditional IR devices, Bluetooth devices, and some Wi-Fi smart-home lighting and temperature items from Lutron and Honeywell. My family lives with each remote for a while to see how intuitive and reliable each is to use on a daily basis.
Our pick: SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control
For an attractively low price, the SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control combines the essential elements of a universal remote—a good physical design with the necessary buttons, the ability to control many (and a variety of) devices, and the option to create shortcuts to launch activities (such as “Watch a Movie”) with a single button press. It can control up to 15 AV devices, including both IR- and Bluetooth-based devices, which covers most of today’s AV equipment. You can program this remote using a convenient mobile app that makes adding, removing, and changing devices easy. And you can reassign buttons to perform different tasks, as well as learn IR codes from your existing remotes. On the downside, the remote lacks backlighting and dedicated, clearly labeled activity buttons (such as “Watch TV”) that make it easier for everyone to use. And the setup app requires you to figure out a lot of the advanced programming yourself, which may prove to be too challenging or frustrating for some people.
The U1 has a clean, simple design, with almost all of the buttons you’d need organized in an intuitive way that’s actually quite similar to that of our former top pick, the now-discontinued (and more expensive) Harmony Companion. Our only complaint about the button layout is that fast-forward/reverse and chapter skip share the same buttons by default, but you can reassign those functions to other buttons if you want. The remote itself is a manageable size that’s not too wide, long, or heavy; even with my small hands, I could reach all the controls with my thumb without having to shift the remote around in my hand. The bottom half of the chassis is a bit thicker and heavier than the top, which keeps the remote feeling balanced. The U1 is powered by two AA batteries, which are included in the package.
At the top of the remote there’s a simple OLED screen that shows the model names of the devices you’ve added, with a scroll wheel to quickly select the device you want to control. The screen automatically lights up when you pick up the remote. Being able to see the actual model names is more intuitive than generic device buttons labeled TV, STB, or AUD. And since the U1 is not locked in to a set of pre-labeled device buttons, it can control multiple models of the same type—say, two media players, two TVs, and two audio systems. Add in its ability to control a total of 15 devices, and the U1 certainly can be set up to control multiple systems around the house.
As we mentioned, the U1 can control IR and Bluetooth devices, which should cover most any AV device you want to add to your system, including Bluetooth devices like the Chromecast with Google TV, Nvidia Shield TV, and some gaming consoles and older Fire TV players. But it can’t control Wi-Fi–based devices, so you can’t integrate smart-home lighting or temperature controls. That’s not a surprising omission for something in this price range. The Harmony Companion was one of the more affordable remotes to support Wi-Fi, and it cost $150 or more.
To program the U1, you need to use the free SofaBaton app for iOS and Android. There’s no option to use computer software or to program the remote manually, so if you don’t own an iOS or Android mobile device, this is not the remote for you (consider our budget pick instead). The remote communicates with the app via Bluetooth, so the first step in the setup process is to pair the two. And then you can start adding your devices; this is a straightforward process in which you can choose from a list of preloaded devices (including Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Nvidia, DirecTV, and Xfinity) or enter the manufacturer and device name. SofaBaton claims its code database includes 350,000-plus devices and 6,000 brands. The software automatically (and wirelessly) updates the remote with the proper control codes after each new device is added. I loaded all of my gear from both of my AV systems into the remote in just a few minutes, since all of my devices were in the SofaBaton database.
Once a device is loaded into the app, you’re given the option to customize the buttons. With most devices, you can reassign any button on the U1 to perform any task from any device that you’ve loaded into your system configuration. You can also quickly learn IR codes from your existing remote, and you can choose what you want each device to be named on the OLED screen. But you can’t add any actual control functions to the screen, as you could with our former budget pick, the now-discontinued Harmony 665.
Overall, we found the basic setup process to be straightforward but not necessarily quick. Your time investment will depend on how precisely you want to tweak your controls. SofaBaton makes you customize every little thing yourself (unlike the Harmony setup software, which figured out a lot of stuff for you). For instance, if you want to control your AV receiver’s volume and mute functions while watching your Apple TV (without having to jump back and forth between devices), you have to manually reassign the volume buttons. It’s easy to do in the app, but if you have lots of very specific desires for how things ought to work (like I do!), be prepared to spend time making it happen. (More on this below.)
The good news is that all of the programming and customization has to happen only once (unless you tend to upgrade your AV gear a lot). And any little tweak you make can be uploaded to the remote instantly, as long as it’s connected to the app, so there’s no need to search for a cable, connect the remote to your computer, and load an all-new configuration. I didn’t encounter any connection issues between the remote and the app, and when all was said and done, the U1 successfully controlled both of my systems the way I wanted it to.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although there’s a lot we like about the SofaBaton U1, it has a few significant drawbacks—some are expected for a remote in this price range, and some are just unfortunate design choices. The hard truth is, with the death of the Harmony remote line, consumers have been left with a smattering of universal-remote options that all have notable flaws. We think the U1’s low price makes some of its flaws easier to overlook than those of its competitors, but you may feel differently.
The U1 lacks backlighting, which, combined with this remote’s black-buttons-on-a-black-shell design, makes using it in a dark room somewhat more challenging. But the U1’s intuitive button layout and the fact that the main navigation, volume, and channel buttons are clearly distinguished by size and shape will help alleviate those challenges.
This remote requires line-of-sight to control any IR-based equipment, and you need to be deliberate in pointing the U1 at your gear rack—and keeping it pointed there until any command sequences are done. My family is accustomed to using a Wi-Fi–based system, where you can point the remote anywhere in the room and the commands will still work, so the U1 took some getting used to. (If you want to hide your gear away in a cabinet, you’ll need to pick up an IR repeater kit like this one.) And if the U1 fails to execute a command, there’s no Help button to work out the problem. You have to select the device in question and resend the command.
Perhaps most importantly, there are no dedicated activity buttons labeled “Watch TV,” “Watch a Movie,” and the like. You can create your own activity button that does what a “Watch TV” button would do—like turn on all the necessary devices, switch to the correct inputs on your TV and receiver, and perhaps launch a menu. But you have to figure out the macro (or sequence of steps) and assign it to a random button. That may work fine for you since you’ll know what button you picked, but it won’t be as clear for others trying to use the remote. For my family, the most logical option was to program a Watch TV macro onto the power button for the Apple TV or the Google Chromecast—likewise with the Xbox for gaming. But it’s a shame that SofaBaton omitted such a simple and important feature.
Speaking of macros, the process of creating them, though logistically simple in the app, will be more mentally taxing than some people will tolerate. If you’ve never programmed a universal remote before, or you’re used to the Harmony setup software that figures out the main steps for you, the learning curve for a more complex AV system will be high. And don’t expect much help from the SofaBaton literature; the setup guide is poorly written and says nothing about macros. There are some very low-budget instructional videos available through the app—with no dialogue, just video of someone’s hand using the app.
Finally, the U1 remote can pair with only one Bluetooth device at a time. So when you’re trying to add a Bluetooth-based source, you have to unpair the remote from the setup app to test the device control, and then re-pair to the app to keep going with setup. It’s kind of annoying. SofaBaton is reportedly working on a new remote that will support more than one Bluetooth device, but we don’t have any further details yet.
Budget pick: One For All URC7880 Smart Control 8
If all of your devices can be controlled by infrared (IR), the One For All URC7880 Smart Control 8 is a simple, affordable remote that has all the important buttons, including activity control to group components together. With support for eight AV devices, the URC7880 can accommodate a pretty extensive home-theater system. And, though archaic, the ability to program the remote manually may actually be welcomed by people who don’t own a mobile device and therefore can’t program their remote using an app. The drawbacks are that this remote doesn’t work with Bluetooth devices, the programming options aren’t as flexible as those of the SofaBaton U1, and we didn’t find the button layout and shape to be as intuitive.
The URC7880 has all the necessary buttons we like to see, and the core functions, like volume, mute, channel, home, menu, back, exit, and navigation, are grouped together near the center. There are even a few app-shortcut buttons (including a dedicated Netflix button) that you can program from the device of your choosing. Overall, though, we didn’t find the physical design to be as intuitive as the SofaBaton’s. Eight pre-labeled devices are listed at the top, with one device button to scroll through them all (a button for each device would be faster). All of the buttons are smallish and—beyond the navigation wheel in the center—not well distinguished by shape. Plus, the remote’s longer, slimmer form makes everything feel a bit cramped, and I had more trouble reaching all the buttons with my thumb without having to shift the remote around in my hand. Add in the lack of backlighting, and we think this one will be a bit more challenging to use in a dark room.
The remote requires four AAA batteries, and they are not included in the package—which is kind of obnoxious. Make sure you add a set to your shopping cart.
On the plus side, the URC7880 does have an activity button that can scroll through five activities (TV, movie, music, game, and custom). During setup, you can designate which devices should be grouped together for a certain activity, and the URC7880 will automatically assign key buttons (like volume, input, home, and navigation) to control the correct device. Plus, a press-and-hold of the red power button serves as an all-off for each activity. With the SofaBaton U1, you have to program all these things yourself, so the URC7880 is actually a little easier to set up in that respect. Plus, the inclusion of activity controls cuts down on how often you’ll need to switch between devices.
As we mentioned, the URC7880 can only control IR-based equipment, so it needs to have line-of-sight with all your gear. Its IR window was a bit wider and more robust than that of the SofaBaton, so I didn’t have to be quite as direct in my pointing. But it does not have a Help button to deal with commands that aren’t executed properly, and it could not control my Bluetooth-based Google Chromecast. Nor does it support Wi-Fi–based smart-home devices, which is not at all surprising for a remote in this price range. If you want to hide your gear away in a cabinet, you’ll need to pick up an IR repeater kit like this one.
One For All says you can set up this remote using an app, but that’s misleading. Yes, there is a free One For All setup app for iOS and Android, and yes, it pairs with the remote via Bluetooth and lets you add your devices by inputting the manufacturer name and model number or testing different codes. But that’s all the app offers by way of setup. If you want to change the behavior of buttons, fix codes that aren’t working, or build macros, you have to do it directly on the remote (you can add devices manually, too); this involves pressing the “Magic” button to put the remote in programming mode and then pressing a lot more buttons to accomplish a certain task. Thankfully, the printed instructions are thorough. This process is more labor-intensive than what SofaBaton offers through its setup app. And the fact that the remote’s programming mode times out after a few seconds means you must act quickly and deliberately. There was definitely some trial and error involved as I tried to build macros for “Watch TV” and “Play Video Games.” But eventually I got the remote programmed to do everything I wanted—except control my Chromecast, of course. (Yes, the remote communicates with the app over Bluetooth, but you can’t actually control anything via Bluetooth.)
The fact that you can program the remote manually is a plus for those who can’t or don’t want to use a mobile device to program a remote. It also means you can fix commands instantly, without even having to reach for your phone to launch an app.
Because the URC7880 is locked into eight device options—labeled TV, STB, BLU, AUX, DVD, GAME, MEDIA, and S.BAR—you’re more limited in how you can configure the remote. Unlike the SofaBaton, which can be set up to control different systems around your home, the URC7880 lets you assign only one TV device, one set-top box, one gaming console, and so forth. Sure, you could program a game console onto the DVD label and a second TV onto another unused category, but that’s not helpful for other people trying to use the remote. This one is really meant to control a single system, which is fair given its low asking price.
Finally, the One For All setup app does have one helpful feature: a remote finder. If you can’t locate the URC7880, you can press a button in the app to make the remote beep.
A simple remote we like for those with eyesight, memory, or confusion issues
The Flipper is a simple, large-button remote designed for people with vision, memory, or confusion issues (or perhaps for young children who are prone to randomly pressing the remote’s buttons and throwing your whole AV system out of whack). It’s not really a universal remote because it can control just one or two devices: a TV and a set-top box. The Flipper is an IR-only remote intended for channel surfers who use traditional cable/satellite boxes or their TV’s internal tuner. It’s not designed for people who use streaming media devices and will not work with devices that are controlled via Bluetooth or radio frequency (RF). (If you’re not sure how your device is controlled, point the remote at the ground in the opposite direction from the device it’s supposed to control, and then press a button. If the remote still executes the command, then it’s using Bluetooth or RF signals.)
We tested two popular large-button remotes: the Flipper and the EasyMote. Both have six primary buttons for power, mute, volume up/down, and channel up/down, but the Flipper adds a number pad so you can directly punch in a desired channel. We like that it hides the number pad behind a slide-down panel, to keep the main remote design as simple as possible. The Flipper isn’t backlit like the EasyMote, but it uses different colors for the power, mute, volume, and channel buttons, which may be more helpful for those with eyesight limitations.
I tested both remotes using the internal TV tuners in my Samsung and LG TVs. But (thanks to the mom of a Wirecutter colleague) I also was able to get them in the hands of a few residents at a senior living center who were in need of a new remote. We all preferred the Flipper over the EasyMote. Although our senior testers would’ve liked the volume and channel buttons to be vertically aligned (instead of horizontally), they did like the remote’s size and shape: The buttons were easy to read, and the remote was not too heavy, too big, or too small. They found it very easy to set up (it took about one minute), and they thought the instructions were easy to understand. And it controlled their two devices perfectly. I like that the Flipper gives you three ways to program the remote (versus only two for the EasyMote) to help ensure compatibility. And the number pad may prove essential for cable/satellite customers who have lots of channels to navigate.
Can I use my smartphone as a remote control?
If you don’t want another handheld device, you might consider an app-based control system, such as the (recently discontinued) Logitech Harmony Hub or MoesGo, which lets you use your mobile device as a remote control. We don’t recommend this approach, however, because using your mobile device’s touchscreen as a remote requires you to look away from the TV screen and down at your device—to search for the right part of the screen to touch—and this makes channel surfing and volume tweaking cumbersome. Plus, it’s a real pain to have to wake up your phone or tablet and wait for the app to reconnect with the system whenever you want to change the channel or the volume. Sure, you can disable sleep mode on your phone. But you’ll be draining your battery during the time you’re watching a movie or show.
Logitech’s Harmony Companion, Harmony 665, and Harmony Elite were our former picks in this guide, but parent company Logitech recently discontinued the entire line. You might still find these remotes in stock for a while, but no new models are being manufactured. Though each remote had its flaws, the Harmony line was still a step above the competition in how many features you got for the price and how much easier the remotes were to program for people with complicated home theater systems. If you’re thinking about getting one before they’re all gone, the company’s statement on the product discontinuation added the following: “We expect no impact to our customers by this announcement. We plan to support our Harmony community and new Harmony customers, which includes access to our software and apps to set up and manage your remotes. We also plan to continue to update the platform and add devices to our Harmony database. Customer and warranty support will continue to be offered.”
The Caavo Control Center + Universal Remote is more of a control platform than a universal remote, so it’s not ideal for everyone (and we’re not finding it available in many places, so it may be added to the deceased list soon). The system combines a handheld remote and an HDMI switch/control box (with four HDMI inputs and one output). The remote is a sleek, stripped-down design with important buttons like home, microphone, volume, back, menu, and more (but no backlighting). The control box supports 4K/HDR10 pass-through (but not Dolby Vision), and it adds an on-screen user interface to your system through which you can easily switch sources, voice-search content across platforms, unite your streaming apps from different devices, and set up favorites. Setup is easy, and the system reliably controlled our gear without having any major problems. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice control.
However, you can connect and control HDMI sources only through the control box (so no audio-only gear), and the remote’s limited button options can make performing more-advanced tasks challenging. Plus, adding an interface on top of your sources can slow down some processes (like voice search). But if you’re looking for a highly affordable way to add more 4K/HDR-friendly HDMI inputs to your system, and you like the idea of controlling your gear through an on-screen interface instead of activity buttons on a remote, the Caavo system is a simple, reliable option that works well.
The Sevenhugs Smart Remote U was a mixed bag for us. On the plus side, this remote can control IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi components (including some smart-home devices like Philips Hue, Wemo, TP-Link, and LIFX), and it doesn’t need a separate hub to do so. It can control up to 20 IR devices, has a rechargeable battery, and has Spotify and Sonos support built in. We found Sevenhugs’s app-based setup process to be the most intuitive platform we’ve tried; it was very easy to add devices, set up Scenes, create fully customized pages for the remote’s touchscreen, and fix problems on the fly. And it controlled all of our devices correctly.
Unfortunately, a couple of big issues hold this one back. The remote has no physical buttons, and both the touchscreen and the virtual buttons on it are very small. We had to look away from the TV often to make sure we carefully pressed the right button, and still we often launched the wrong command. If you don’t mind the all-touchscreen approach, this may not be an issue for you—but we think that adding a few key physical buttons for volume, mute, and navigation would make a huge difference. Perhaps most importantly, its $350 list price is significantly higher than that of the SofaBaton U1. If the remote itself had a better physical design to justify the price, we might recommend it as an upgrade pick.
The even-more-expensive Smart Remote X is essentially the same remote, but it adds a point mode, which automatically adjusts its interface based on what device you’re pointing it at. Unless you have devices scattered all around the room, we don’t think this extra perk will be that useful.
Like the Flipper, the EasyMote is a large-button remote designed for people with vision, memory, or confusion issues. Our senior testers generally liked the EasyMote, but they thought the Flipper’s slightly larger size made it more comfortable to hold. We appreciated the bright, green backlighting (which you can turn off) and the wrist rope. But I noted that the instructions had smaller print, so they might be harder to read. Plus, the EasyMote doesn’t have a number pad to directly tune in a certain channel; this may be fine for over-the-air or basic-cable users, but it will be a pain if you have a large channel lineup. Finally, the EasyMote offers only two ways to program in your devices (a quick code search or learning the IR from your device remotes). You can’t program in specific manufacturer codes like you can with the Flipper, which was something we thought was easier and more reliable than doing a generic code search.
About your guide
Adrienne Maxwell is the supervising editor of Wirecutter's audio/video team, covering everything from headphones to TVs. She has been a writer, editor, and reviewer in the consumer electronics industry for 20 years, and previously served as the executive editor of Home Theater Magazine and the managing editor of HomeTheaterReview.com.
Samsung Tv Remote Best Buy in October 2021
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Chances are, the remote to your Samsung TV has been dropped, sat on, and perhaps even spilled on while binge-watching. And one day, it’s suddenly not working.
You remember you have the remote for an older Samsung TV, and you wonder if it will work with your new TV.
Are Samsung TV remotes universal?
Here’s What You Need to Know about the Compatibility of Samsung TV Remote Controls.
The remote controls of Samsung TVs are not universal, and they aren’t interchangeable. However, you can get a replacement remote, a universal remote, or a remote control app on your smart device.
Can I Use Any Samsung Remote With My TV?
You can use most universal remote controls with your Samsung TV, but any Samsung remote won’t work with any Samsung TV.
In some cases, you may also download a remote control app for your smartphone, in case your Samsung remote control malfunctions.
Does Samsung Have A Remote That Works Universally?
Samsung does not have a universal remote control.
If you are looking for a remote control replacement, The Samsung Parts store is a good place to buy a remote control for your TV.
They have different models and you can find a replacement by entering the model number of your TV.
Do Samsung TVs Have a Remote Control App?
Samsung has a Smart Things remote control app that you can download on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
According to the support page of the brand, you can also use third-party apps with your Samsung TV. Peel and Sure two popular apps that work with Samsung and are available on Android and iOS.
Can You Replace a Samsung TV Remote?
You can buy a replacement remote control from the Samsung Parts store.
You may also use universal remote controls if you cannot find a direct replacement.
A quick replacement for the remote control is the Smart Things App on Android and iOS.
Do Samsung TV Remotes Have Voice Commands?
Not all Samsung TV remotes have voice commands.
If your remote has voice command capabilities, there will be a dedicated button on the remote control.
If your remote control does not have it, it cannot take in voice commands without the help of a third-party device, such as Chromecast or Alexa.
Can I use Alexa to Control a Samsung TV?
Not all Samsung TVs can be controlled using Alexa.
Your TV must be Alexa-compatible to be able to integrate with Amazon’s smart home system.
Can I use Google Assistant to Control a Samsung TV?
You can use Google Assistant to control your Samsung TV, provided that it has Google Chromecast or Google Assistant built-in.
You can also plug in a Chromecast if your TV does not have this feature, but the functions will be limited when it comes to voice commands.
How Do I Know Which Remote My Samsung TV Needs?
If you want a direct replacement for your remote control, you can check Samsung Parts and input the model number of your TV to get the exact remote control for your TV.
But, if you are not particular about the replacement, you can go for universal remote control.
How Much Does a New Samsung Remote Cost?
A direct replacement can cost around $65 from the Samsung Parts store.
For universal remote controls, you can get one for as low as $20.
How Do You Pair a Samsung Remote to a Samsung TV?
If you need to replace your remote control with a new one here’s what you need to do.
- Aim the new Remote at the remote control sensor of the TV. (The remote control sensor is located at the bottom right corner of the TV or the lower center part of the TV’s front panel.)
- Then press and hold the Return and Play button at the same time for at least three seconds.
- Your TV should begin pairing with your new remote.
- A message will then appear on the TV saying that the remote is now paired to the TV.
How Many Remote Controls can you Pair with a Samsung TV?
You may only pair one remote control unit with a Samsung TV.
Can You use a Samsung TV without the Remote Control?
You can use a Samsung TV without the remote control, but there will be a lot of limitations.
You are likely to be limited to the basics, such as channel switching, volume control, and power functions.
What Are the Best Third-party Remote Controls for Samsung?
There are a lot of third-party suppliers that offer remote controls that work with Samsung TVs.
Here are some of them.
Coolux Universal Remote Control system.
The Coolux is also one of the cheapest third-party remotes available.
This third-party remote control lets you do more without the hassle. It features hotkeys to your streaming apps so that you don’t have to look for them every time.
Logitech Harmony Companion
The Logitech Harmony Companion is a higher-end remote control that works with different brands.
- It comes with its hub, remote control, and app for better performance.
- Should this be insufficient for you, there’s also the Logitech Harmony Express, which contains a smart home hub that you can program with Alexa.
- Note that Logitech recently announced the phase-out of this remote, so you better go grab one while you can!
If the Logitech Harmony has a successor, it would be the SofaBaton U1 universal remote control.
- The nice thing about this remote control is the custom functions. You can create hotkeys for certain commands.
- With the help of the smartphone app, you can easily pair and manage up to 15 devices, including cable TV boxes, and even RGB LED lights in your room.
Samsung TV remote controls are not universal—but their TVs have the widest compatibility when it comes to Universal Remote Controls.
Thus, if you are looking for a replacement, you can either get the exact model for your TV from Samsung, or you can use universal remote controls from a third party, which are much cheaper.
And if you need a quick fix, the smartphone app should suffice.
Having a different problem with your Samsung? Check out our article 5 Most Common Problems With Samsung TVs (Explained).
Find a Replacement Remote Control for your Samsung TV
Smart TV Voice Recognition Concern
Connect the Samsung Smart Remote to your TV
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Remote best buy samsung universal
A universal remote control is an amazing device to own if you've got a serious home-theater system, or even a semiserious one with three or more components. While immersive sound and giant screens are fun, it's more confusing than convenient to manage an army of remotes: TV remote, DVD player remote, a remote for your game console, soundbar, streaming box and so on.
The best universal remote can unify all your clickers -- the ones that control your soundbar, Apple TV, Blu-ray player, Roku streaming stick and more devices -- into a single wand with buttons in a way that can feel almost magical, especially because you never have to search for a different remote.
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All the best universal remote options have more intuitive buttons, superior ergonomics and a better feel than standard remotes. Many remote controls have apps to ensure they work with your mobile device whether you have an Android, an iPhone or other smartphone. A universal remote can also work with smart devices and voice control systems such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
My family and I have used many of the smart remotes on this list as control devices for my main home-theater system for months or years at a time. At various points, multiple remotes on this list have been used to control my TVs, AV receivers, game consoles, Blu-ray player, Roku streamers, and even a cable box DVR. My family uses the system as much as I do and my main criteria in a smart universal remote or universal remote app is making it simple enough for a kid to operate, even with all those buttons.
Here are my choices for the best universal remote control currently available, in ascending order of price.
Update, April 2021: Logitech has announced that it's sunsetting the Harmony remote line, which makes up the bulk of our recommendations below. However, the company has pledged to continue supporting the product line and updating the software.
Read more:The best Google Assistant and Google Home devices of 2021
Logitech Harmony 650/665Logitech Harmony
Logitech Harmony wrote the book on the universal remote control devices and these are the most basic clickers I can recommend for a smart home. The main appeal over a cheaper, non-Harmony-based smart remote controller, or the device that comes with your set-top boxes, is the activity-based control. Press the "Watch TV" to use as a TV remote or "Listen to Music" buttons and the Logitech Harmony remote controller turns on all the relevant devices (such as your smart TV, blu-ray player, and AV receiver), switches to the right inputs and maps the keys to that activity: Volume to the receiver and Channel up-down to the box, for example.
Unlike more expensive Logitech Harmony options, which use a universal remote control app on your phone for setup and control, you'll have to use Harmony's Mac- or PC-based software to program the remote (needless to say, a remote app is more convenient). The 650 and 665 also rely on IR (infrared) codes emitted from the front of the device -- if you want point-anywhere convenience, you'll have to spend up for a system with a hub.
The 665 is the only smart remote currently listed on Harmony's site but the 650 is identical (aside from color and number of devices each can control) and can often be found for less, especially refurbished.
Read our Logitech Harmony 650 review.
Caavo Control CenterSarah Tew/CNET
Caavo's Control Center is one of two non-Harmony smart remotes on this list and is also the second-cheapest device at $59, but there's a catch. To get Caavo's advanced features, you'll need to shell out for the service fee. It costs $4 a month, $40 a year or $160 for the lifetime of the remote.
Unlike Harmony, Caavo Control Center includes an HDMI switch in addition to the smart remote. You plug your stuff into the switch and it handles the rest, including automatically recognizing your gear during setup. Caavo has its own smart voice control system and onscreen display to help you find stuff to watch on your streaming devices. The universal remote control device itself is simple and elegant and the remote finder is gold. Like the hub-based Harmonys below, Caavo doesn't require line of sight (the switch acts as the hub) and the remote control will also work with a voice command from Alexa and Google Home speakers in homes with multiple devices.
Read our Caavo Control Center preview.
Best universal remotes in 2021
The best universal remotes help control the clutter on your coffee table by consolidating all of your remotes — for your TV, your cable box, your soundbar, and more — into one device. No more digging in the couch cushions for your Apple TV remote!
Even better, a universal remote lets you get to what you want to watch faster, by combining a number of tasks into a single push of the button. For example, it can turn on your TV, soundbar, and streaming stick and change all to the right 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 easily.
What are the best universal remotes?
Among the best universal remotes, the choices are less than universal. Logitech, which has a number of models, is by far the dominant player, with the Logitech Harmony Elite as the best universal remote overall. It can control up to 15 devices, which includes not just entertainment system components, but a number of smart home devices such as smart lights and smart thermostats. It integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant, and has a touchscreen that lets you access every setting for every linked remote control.
Logitech announced it was discontinuing its Harmony remotes, but said that it would support the remotes for new and existing users. The remotes will be available while supplies last.
Our second-favorite universal remote is the Caavo Control Center. It acts more as of an HDMI hub (which limits you to four inputs), but what it does offer is an easy way to flip not just between your devices, but through your various streaming services as well—many of which are supported by the Caavo itself. Plus, the Caavo has a universal voice search built in, so you can press a button on its remote, and search across multiple sources for your favorite shows. The Caavo also offers curated lists of programs, and lets you create your own favorites, too. However, the Caavo does require a subscription (though, if you pay an extra $160, you're covered for life).
The best universal remotes you can buy today
1. Logitech Harmony Elite
Best Universal Remote Control
Devices Controlled: 15
Favorite Channels: 50
Smart Home Controls: Yes
Mobile App: Yes
Size: 7.6 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 5.8 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Easy setup+Intuitive interface+Dedicated smart home buttons+Works with huge number of devices
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than previous version-Expensive
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 color touch screen from which you can quickly select a favorite channel. You can also create custom buttons, such as Watch a Movie, to automatically turn all your devices to the right 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 SmartThermostat. 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.
Read our full Logitech Harmony Elite review.
2. Logitech Harmony 665
Best value universal remote
Devices Controlled: 10
Favorite Channels: 23
Smart Home Controls: No
Mobile App: No
Size: 10.8 x 1.6 x 2.8 inches
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Comfortable+Controls up to 10 devices
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat involved setup-Nonrechargeable battery
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, favorite channels and more. On-screen help makes it fairly easy to troubleshoot any issues.
The Harmony 665 can be paired with up to 10 devices, and you can program up to 23 of your favorite 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 this remote can’t be used to control smart-home devices. But those many not be important if all you're looking for is an inexpensive universal remote that feels great to use.
Read our full Logitech Harmony 665 review.
3. Caavo Control Center
Best universal remote with voice control
Devices Controlled: 4
Favorite Channels: n/a
Smart Home Controls: No
Mobile App: Yes (iOS)
Size: 10.4 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches (Control Center), 6.9 x 1.5 x 0.9 (remote)
Weight: 2.2 pounds (Control Center), 3.5 ounces (remote)
Reasons to buy
+Accurate voice search+Works with a variety of devices+Aggregates content from all your devices into one interface
Reasons to avoid
-Can only connect four devices at once-Requires subscription
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 a number of 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.
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 get 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 at the same time—and you don't need a Caavo Control Center to use this feature.
Read our full Caavo Control Center review.
4. Logitech Harmony Companion
A simpler Logitech universal remote
Devices Controlled: 8
Favorite Channels: n/a
Smart Home Controls: Yes
Mobile App: Yes (iOS)
Size: 10.2 x 5.5 x 3.6 inches
Weight: 14 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Controls smart home devices
Reasons to avoid
Similar to the Harmony Elite, the Harmony Companion can also control smart-home devices in addition to your entertainment center. The biggest difference between the Harmony Companion and the Elite is that the Companion lacks of 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 not only hide all your AV components, but also 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.
5. Amazon Fire TV Cube
Best universal remote for Alexa voice control
Devices Controlled: n/a
Favorite Channels: n/a
Smart Home Controls: Yes
Mobile App: Yes (iOS, Android)
Size: 3.4 x 3.4 x 3.0 inches
Weight: 16.4 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Speedier performance+Alexa's cable box controls are great+Great 4K HDR picture quality
Reasons to avoid
The Amazon Fire TV Cube packs both one of the best streaming devices and Alexa into a single package, so you can use Amazon's assistant to not only look up shows and programs you want to watch, but also control your TV, cable box, switch HDMI inputs, and more.
Plus, as a streaming device, it offers an excellent 4K HDR image, fast response times, and more. The Fire TV interface could use some improvement — whose can't? — but 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.
Read our full Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) review.
6. Function101 Button Remote for Apple TV
Best Apple TV remote
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Size: 6.5 x 1.1 x 0.7 inches
Batteries: 2x AAA
Compatibility: All Apple TVs
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-No Siri button-Buttons not backlit
Let's face it: The worst thing about the Apple TV is its remote. 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 actually 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.
Read our full Function101 Button Remote for Apple TV review
How to choose the best universal remote
If you've gotten this far, you know by now that truly good universal remotes aren't that common. Logitech's Harmony remotes are pretty much the only game in town, and work well; the main choice you have to make is how much you want to spend.
The Harmony Elite, at the top end, costs around $250, but lets you control everything you would want, and has a little touchscreen at the top that makes it easy to switch between watching, say, cable TV to your Fire TV stick to your gaming console.
The Harmony Companion doesn't have a touchscreen, but we do like that it has a physical number pad at the bottom, which is better suited for those who like to punch in channel numbers. Both the Elite and the Companion have dedicated smart home controls, so you can dim the lights easily, and you can also use Logitech's app to control everything if you happen to lose your remote.
If you're looking for something a little different, the Caavo Control Center is an inventive universal remote that acts in many ways like a super-smart HDMI switcher. It also has its own universal voice search, so you can search across multiple devices and services for the program you want.
How we test the best universal remotes
To test universal remotes, we set them up in our home entertainment system, and connect them to several streaming devices (an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Cube, Roku) as well as a Dish TV receiver, and a soundbar.
We look to see how easy things are to set up, and once everything is up and running, how quickly and accurately the remote can send commands to all of our devices.
We also take into consideration the feel of the remote in our hands, as well as the ease with which we can reach all the buttons.
Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing the home, smart home, drones, and fitness/wearables categories, as well as all buying guides and other evergreen content. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine or some other cooking gadget.
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