- Why you should trust us
- Who this is for
- How nosotros picked and tested
- Our pick: SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Budget pick: One For All URC7880 Smart Control eight
- A elementary remote we like for those with eyesight, memory, or confusion issues
- Tin I utilize my smartphone as a remote command?
- The competition
Why you lot should trust us
I am the supervising editor of Wirecutter’s AV coverage, and I accept worked every bit a writer and editor in the consumer electronics industry for xx years. During that time, I have reviewed numerous audio and video products, including almost every major DIY universal-remote platform. I also review budget projectors, portable projectors, and other AV accessories for Wirecutter.
Who this is for
Today’s home amusement equipment delivers more functionality in fewer boxes. The average living-room entertainment arrangement may include a unmarried-source device—say, a streaming media player, cable/satellite set up-top box, or gaming console—plus a smart TV and a soundbar. For a setup like this, a universal remote probably isn’t necessary considering basic control of these devices (such every bit browsing content, changing channels, and adjusting volume) is built into—or tin can exist easily added to—the remote that came with your media player or Idiot box.
If, on the other manus, your home-entertainment system is built around an AV receiver and multiple source components, and sitting down to watch a film 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 simply eliminates coffee-table clutter and the remote shuffle but also reduces button pushes by combining multiple actions into ane button press. For example, instead of having to push carve up buttons to turn on your Boob tube, switch HDMI inputs, ability on your AV receiver, change inputs there, turn on your Blu-ray player, and—finally—go your pic started, a skilful universal remote tin reduce all of that to one command (Play Movie), which you can access at the touch of a unmarried button. The technical name for this bundling of commands is macros, but remote-control manufacturers unremarkably phone call them activities or scenes. This functionality used to exist reserved for high-end, professionally programmed systems. But these days relatively cheap remotes can do the same circuitous job.
Although a few DIY universal remotes contain a chip of smart-home command to adjust your lighting, temperature, or security arrangement, there aren’t many options that tin intuitively perform complex dwelling-automation tasks. If you’re looking for avant-garde whole-house control, with lots of complex lighting scenes and independent control of different sources in unlike rooms, you’re meliorate off turning to a local specialty AV retailer that can create a more-personalized control arrangement from a company similar Crestron or Control4. It’southward a more than expensive solution, but if done properly, it volition effect in a much more satisfying experience.
How we picked and tested
In years past, if you wanted an avant-garde universal remote that you could program yourself (equally opposed to models that are sold exclusively through dealers, like Crestron and Control4, that program them for yous), yous had many choices—from brands like Harmony, Sony, Pronto, URC, and UEI. Simply today’s sad truth is that fewer people are buying DIY universal remotes, and this category is nearly dead. When Logitech discontinued Harmony universal remotes, it killed the last of the large-name brands—equally well equally all of our onetime picks in this guide—and left the states pondering how to proceed.
Sure, you can still find a ton of low-end replacement remotes—models whose master purpose is to replace the one the dog chewed upwards and practice little else. But those remotes aren’t designed to provide a really intuitive, streamlined, activeness-based experience. They’re just designed to hold a lot of buttons to control your unlike devices (usually a full of 4 to half dozen devices).
By contrast, a expert universal remote should offering the following features:
- A universal remote control has to be, well, universal. A remote that can juggle at least viii devices at in one case should embrace the average audio/video enthusiast’s system. This organisation may include a Tv set (or projector), a DVD/Blu-ray histrion, a cable/satellite DVR, a surround-audio receiver, and probably a media streamer (such every bit a Roku or Apple TV). A game console or two might as well 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 y’all to look away from the TV to find the right push). The most important buttons (such equally volume, pause, and play) should exist easily accessible. The inclusion of Activity buttons, like “Watch TV” or “Play video games” (every bit described above), is strongly preferred. A customizable display is also a overnice perk, since information technology lets you lot add together functions (like receiver inputs or sound modes) that don’t belong to generic buttons. But this feature is difficult to find in anything beneath $100.
- The more a remote costs, the more than flexibility it should take to control different kinds of devices. Almost AV devices withal rely on IR (infrared) command, where yous must point the remote’due south IR transmitter directly at the device’due south IR receiver. It’southward common for lower-priced universal remotes to work only with IR devices. Simply 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 tin too control smart-home devices, and some tin be linked to an Alexa or Google Home device to add together voice command. Information technology’s rare to detect a universal remote that has built-in vocalisation control.
- The remote should exist by and large easy to program. Many cheap “universal” remotes require that you press a sure combination of buttons and and then input manufacturer codes for each AV device until you detect one that works. This is hardly intuitive. Nosotros prefer brands that offering setup software, via either computer or app, and keep a database of manufacturer codes. There’s e’er going to be a flake of a learning curve with any desktop or app-based software, but if you demand a certificate in C++ to program your remote, that’due south also difficult.
Although the pickings are slim in today’s market, we go along to telephone call in new remotes that meet as much of the in a higher place criteria as possible.
To examination the remotes, I gear up up each 1 to control two unlike AV systems in my dwelling house: One is a more-bones living-room setup with a Samsung TV, Polk soundbar, and Apple TV 4K media player. The second is a more-complex abode-theater organization with an LG Television, Onkyo AV receiver, Sony Ultra Hard disk Blu-ray histrion, Chromecast with Google TV, and Xbox I 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 run across how intuitive and reliable each is to use on a daily ground.
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 Moving-picture show”) 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’southward AV equipment. You can programme this remote using a user-friendly mobile app that makes calculation, removing, and irresolute 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 action buttons (such every bit “Watch TV”) that make information technology easier for everyone to use. And the setup app requires yous to figure out a lot of the advanced programming yourself, which may evidence to be likewise challenging or frustrating for some people.
The U1 has a clean, simple design, with nigh all of the buttons you’d need organized in an intuitive style that’s actually quite similar to that of our former meridian pick, the at present-discontinued (and more than expensive) Harmony Companion. Our merely complaint about the button layout is that fast-forward/reverse and chapter skip share the same buttons past default, but you can reassign those functions to other buttons if you want. The remote itself is a manageable size that’s not also wide, long, or heavy; even with my modest hands, I could reach all the controls with my pollex without having to shift the remote around in my paw. The bottom half of the chassis is a bit thicker and heavier than the summit, which keeps the remote feeling balanced. The U1 is powered by two AA batteries, which are included in the package.
At the superlative of the remote there’due south a simple OLED screen that shows the model names of the devices you’ve added, with a coil wheel to quickly select the device you want to control. The screen automatically lights upwardly when you pick up the remote. Being able to meet the actual model names is more than intuitive than generic device buttons labeled Television, 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 aforementioned type—say, two media players, ii TVs, and ii audio systems. Add in its power to control a full of fifteen devices, and the U1 certainly can be set upwards to command multiple systems around the house.
As nosotros mentioned, the U1 tin can control IR and Bluetooth devices, which should cover almost whatsoever AV device y’all 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 information technology can’t control Wi-Fi–based devices, so yous 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 back up Wi-Fi, and it price $150 or more.
To program the U1, you need to apply the gratuitous SofaBaton app for iOS and Android. At that place’s no choice to use estimator software or to program the remote manually, then if you don’t own an iOS or Android mobile device, this is not the remote for you (consider our budget choice instead). The remote communicates with the app via Bluetooth, then the outset step in the setup process is to pair the two. And then you tin can showtime adding your devices; this is a straightforward process in which you tin choose from a list of preloaded devices (including Roku, Burn down Goggle box, Apple TV, Nvidia, DirecTV, and Xfinity) or enter the manufacturer and device proper name. SofaBaton claims its code database includes 350,000-plus devices and six,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 whatever push on the U1 to perform any task from any device that you’ve loaded into your system configuration. You can also chop-chop learn IR codes from your existing remote, and you can choose what y’all want each device to be named on the OLED screen. But you tin can’t add together whatsoever actual control functions to the screen, as y’all could with our sometime budget selection, the now-discontinued Harmony 665.
Overall, nosotros found the basic setup process to exist straightforward but not necessarily quick. Your fourth dimension investment will depend on how precisely you desire to tweak your controls. SofaBaton makes you customize every petty matter yourself (different the Harmony setup software, which figured out a lot of stuff for you). For case, if you want to control your AV receiver’s volume and mute functions while watching your Apple Telly (without having to jump back and along between devices), you accept to manually reassign the volume buttons. It’south easy to do in the app, but if y’all have lots of very specific desires for how things ought to work (like I do!), be prepared to spend time making information technology happen. (More on this beneath.)
The practiced news is that all of the programming and customization has to happen just one time (unless you tend to upgrade your AV gear a lot). And any little tweak you lot make can be uploaded to the remote instantly, as long equally it’s connected to the app, and so there’southward no need to search for a cable, connect the remote to your figurer, and load an all-new configuration. I didn’t encounter any connection bug between the remote and the app, and when all was said and done, the U1 successfully controlled both of my systems the manner I wanted information technology to.
Flaws but non dealbreakers
Although there’south a lot nosotros similar 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 pattern choices. The difficult truth is, with the death of the Harmony remote line, consumers take been left with a smattering of universal-remote options that all accept notable flaws. We recollect the U1’s low cost 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 blackness-buttons-on-a-black-crush design, makes using it in a dark room somewhat more challenging. But the U1’south intuitive push layout and the fact that the master navigation, volume, and channel buttons are conspicuously distinguished by size and shape will help alleviate those challenges.
This remote requires line-of-sight to control any IR-based equipment, and you demand to be deliberate in pointing the U1 at your gear rack—and keeping information technology pointed at that place until whatsoever command sequences are washed. My family is accustomed to using a Wi-Fi–based system, where you can point the remote anywhere in the room and the commands volition still piece of work, so the U1 took some getting used to. (If you want to hide your gear abroad in a cabinet, you’ll need to option upward an IR repeater kit like this one.) And if the U1 fails to execute a command, in that location’s no Aid button to piece of work out the trouble. Y’all take to select the device in question and resend the command.
Peradventure most importantly, there are no defended activity buttons labeled “Lookout man TV,” “Lookout a Movie,” and the like. Y’all can create your own activity button that does what a “Watch Television” button would do—like plow on all the necessary devices, switch to the correct inputs on your TV and receiver, and peradventure launch a card. But y’all have to figure out the macro (or sequence of steps) and assign information technology to a random button. That may work fine for y’all since you lot’ll know what button you picked, merely it won’t be as clear for others trying to use the remote. For my family, the nigh logical option was to programme a Scout TV macro onto the power button for the Apple tree TV or the Google Chromecast—likewise with the Xbox for gaming. But it’s a shame that SofaBaton omitted such a simple and of import characteristic.
Speaking of macros, the process of creating them, though logistically uncomplicated in the app, volition 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 primary steps for you lot, the learning curve for a more than complex AV organisation 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 depression-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, y’all have to unpair the remote from the setup app to test the device control, then re-pair to the app to proceed going with setup. It’s kind of abrasive. SofaBaton is reportedly working on a new remote that will support more one Bluetooth device, only we don’t have any further details yet.
Upkeep pick: I For All URC7880 Smart Command 8
If all of your devices can be controlled by infrared (IR), the I For All URC7880 Smart Command eight is a simple, affordable remote that has all the important buttons, including activity control to group components together. With back up for eight AV devices, the URC7880 tin can accommodate a pretty extensive home-theater system. And, though archaic, the ability to programme the remote manually may really be welcomed by people who don’t own a mobile device and therefore can’t programme their remote using an app. The drawbacks are that this remote doesn’t work with Bluetooth devices, the programming options aren’t as flexible equally those of the SofaBaton U1, and we didn’t notice the button layout and shape to be as intuitive.
The URC7880 has all the necessary buttons we like to run across, and the cadre functions, like book, mute, channel, dwelling, menu, back, get out, and navigation, are grouped together near the center. There are fifty-fifty a few app-shortcut buttons (including a dedicated Netflix button) that you lot tin plan from the device of your choosing. Overall, though, we didn’t find the physical blueprint to be equally intuitive as the SofaBaton’s. Eight pre-labeled devices are listed at the top, with ane device button to scroll through them all (a button for each device would exist 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 chip cramped, and I had more problem reaching all the buttons with my thumb without having to shift the remote around in my hand. Add in the lack of backlighting, and nosotros think this i will be a scrap more challenging to use in a dark room.
The remote requires 4 AAA batteries, and they are not included in the package—which is kind of obnoxious. Brand sure you lot add a set to your shopping cart.
On the plus side, the URC7880 does have an activity push button that can ringlet through 5 activities (Television set, movie, music, game, and custom). During setup, you can designate which devices should exist grouped together for a certain activity, and the URC7880 volition automatically assign key buttons (like volume, input, home, and navigation) to control the right device. Plus, a printing-and-concord of the red power button serves as an all-off for each activity. With the SofaBaton U1, y’all have to program all these things yourself, so the URC7880 is actually a lilliputian easier to set up in that respect. Plus, the inclusion of action controls cuts downwards on how oftentimes you’ll need to switch between devices.
As nosotros mentioned, the URC7880 can just control IR-based equipment, so it needs to have line-of-sight with all your gear. Its IR window was a flake wider and more robust than that of the SofaBaton, so I didn’t have to be quite as direct in my pointing. Only it does not have a Help button to deal with commands that aren’t executed properly, and information technology could not command my Bluetooth-based Google Chromecast. Nor does it support Wi-Fi–based smart-dwelling devices, which is not at all surprising for a remote in this price range. If y’all want to hide your gear away in a cabinet, you’ll need to choice up an IR repeater kit similar this one.
One For All says yous can gear up up this remote using an app, but that’s misleading. Aye, in that location is a gratuitous Ane For All setup app for iOS and Android, and yes, it pairs with the remote via Bluetooth and lets you add together your devices past inputting the manufacturer proper name and model number or testing different codes. But that’s all the app offers past style of setup. If you want to change the beliefs of buttons, set codes that aren’t working, or build macros, you have to exercise it directly on the remote (you tin add together devices manually, too); this involves pressing the “Magic” push button to put the remote in programming mode and then pressing a lot more buttons to accomplish a sure job. Thankfully, the printed instructions are thorough. This procedure is more labor-intensive than what SofaBaton offers through its setup app. And the fact that the remote’southward programming mode times out after a few seconds means y’all must act quickly and deliberately. In that location was definitely some trial and error involved as I tried to build macros for “Scout Television set” 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, merely you can’t actually control anything via Bluetooth.)
The fact that y’all 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 ways yous tin prepare commands instantly, without even having to attain for your phone to launch an app.
Because the URC7880 is locked into viii device options—labeled TV, STB, BLU, AUX, DVD, GAME, MEDIA, and S.BAR—you lot’re more express in how you lot tin configure the remote. Unlike the SofaBaton, which can be set up to control different systems effectually your abode, the URC7880 lets you assign only one Idiot box device, one set up-top box, one gaming panel, and then forth. Sure, you could program a game console onto the DVD characterization and a second TV onto some other unused category, just that’s not helpful for other people trying to use the remote. This ane is actually meant to command a single system, which is fair given its low request price.
Finally, the One For All setup app does take one helpful feature: a remote finder. If you can’t locate the URC7880, you tin can printing 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-push 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 arrangement out of whack). It’s not actually a universal remote considering information technology 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’south internal tuner. It’s non designed for people who use streaming media devices and volition not work with devices that are controlled via Bluetooth or radio frequency (RF). (If yous’re not sure how your device is controlled, point the remote at the footing in the opposite direction from the device it’due south supposed to command, and then press a button. If the remote still executes the command, then it’s using Bluetooth or RF signals.)
Nosotros tested ii pop big-button remotes: the Flipper and the EasyMote. Both accept six principal buttons for power, mute, volume upward/downwardly, and channel upward/downwards, but the Flipper adds a number pad and so you can directly punch in a desired aqueduct. We like that it hides the number pad behind a slide-down panel, to proceed the main remote design every bit unproblematic as possible. The Flipper isn’t backlit like the EasyMote, simply it uses different colors for the power, mute, book, 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 (thank you 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 middle 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 non also heavy, as well large, or too minor. They found it very like shooting fish in a barrel to set up up (it took about ane infinitesimal), and they thought the instructions were easy to empathise. And information technology controlled their ii devices perfectly. I like that the Flipper gives you lot three ways to program the remote (versus only 2 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 command arrangement, such as the (recently discontinued) Logitech Harmony Hub or MoesGo, which lets y’all use your mobile device every bit a remote control. Nosotros don’t recommend this approach, nonetheless, because using your mobile device’s touchscreen every bit a remote requires you to await abroad from the Tv set screen and down at your device—to search for the right function of the screen to touch—and this makes aqueduct 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 arrangement whenever you lot want to change the channel or the volume. Certain, you tin can disable sleep manner on your phone. Simply y’all’ll be draining your battery during the time you’re watching a motion picture or show.
Since our concluding update in May 2021, several universal remotes that we previously tested have been discontinued, including the Caavo Control Center and the Sevenhugs Smart Remote U and Smart Remote 10.
Logitech’southward Harmony Companion, Harmony 665, and Harmony Elite were our former picks in this guide, but parent company Logitech 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 footstep to a higher place the competition in how many features you lot got for the cost and how much easier the remotes were to program for people with complicated dwelling house theater systems. If you’re thinking about getting one before they’re all gone, the visitor’due south statement on the production discontinuation added the post-obit:
“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 go along to be offered.”
Sofabaton recently launched the crowd-funded X1 universal remote, which costs roughly iii times more than the U1. This model tin command a lot more devices (up to 40) and adds a wireless hub to control AV and smart home equipment via W-Fi. The remote itself has a larger, more than customizable screen (with the ability to create activities) just fewer physical buttons. The X1 is conspicuously the company’due south attempt to create a more advanced DIY remote to fill the void left past Harmony’south departure. Unfortunately, early Amazon reviews were very negative, and it has been unavailable for a while—and then nosotros have not tried to test it. Perhaps the company is working on fixes and will reintroduce information technology at a later on date.
Similar the Flipper, the EasyMote is a large-button remote designed for people with vision, memory, or defoliation issues. Our senior testers generally liked the EasyMote, simply they thought the Flipper’s slightly larger size made it more comfy to hold. We appreciated the bright, light-green backlighting (which you can turn off) and the wrist rope. But I noted that the instructions had smaller impress, so they might exist harder to read. Plus, the EasyMote doesn’t accept a number pad to directly melody in a sure channel; this may be fine for over-the-air or bones-cable users, just it volition exist a hurting if yous take a large aqueduct 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 programme 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.