best-universal-remotes

Best Universal Remotes (2019 Ultimate Buying Guide)

If you want to have the best home theater on the block, then you need the best universal remote on the market.

Modern home theater setups can get complex, especially if you want to have all the necessary components.

But a solid universal remote system makes all that complexity go away with the click of a button (or a few words as is the case with our top choice here.

If you don’t want to be bothered with the details and just want to know our pick…it’s the Logitech Harmony Elite (CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon).

In fact, the entire list is made up of Logitech options…and for good reason.

They know how to do universal remotes well.

Best Universal Remotes

A good universal remote is more than just the remote itself.

With the integration of computer-based entertainment devices (like the Apple TV 4) and smart home devices (like the Amazon Echo), your remote needs to be a complete system that has multiple methods of connectivity and the ability to let all these different systems work together in Harmony (pun intended).

So on to the list…

Best Overall Remote

The undisputed champ of the universal remote world is the Logitech Harmony Elite.

This remote basically does everything you could possibly need a universal remote to do. It is easy to set up, connects to just about any device you can throw at it (including Bluetooth devices)

Logitech Harmony Elite

Pros:
Smart Home Connectivity
Can Control Bluetooth Devices
Cons:
Expensive
Can Be Too Complex For Some

The Harmony Elite can do just about anything you need it to do. By leveraging the Harmony Hub and it’s connected infrared (“IR”) blasters, once it is set up…you can control regular IR components and Bluetooth components easily.

For more details on this remote, check out our Logitech Harmony Elite Review.

My favorite part of using a universal remote that is compatible with the Harmony Hub is the ability to integrate it with my Amazon Echo. You can give commands to your Echo and the Hub will execute them.

You can also set up “scenes” that use devices controlled by the Elite and smart home devices like lights and window shades. For example, you can set up a “Movie Mode” scene that turns on the projector, the BluRay player, the sound system, then dims the lights and lowers the shades (I am on the lookout for a Bluetooth controlled popcorn machine now to make this perfect).

The only negative I would say about the Elite is that it isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive for a remote and it can be overkill for more simple setups.

But if you have a setup and budget that warrants it, this is definitely the way to go.

You can CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Runner Up

Logitech Harmony Companion

Pros:
Smart home connectivity
Less expensive than the Elite
Cons:
No Touch Screen
Less Customizability For Buttons

The Logitech Harmony Companion is our pick for runner up status because it has all the connectivity of the Elite, just without the touch screen.

I think the Companion represents the next evolution of the universal remote where the physical remote will become less and less important and you will rely more on things like voice control.

Although, as of now, having a touch screen can be very beneficial for problem-solving when the remote fails to perform a task you expected it to. The Elite can run through a series of specific questions to diagnose what function may have been missed. You can’t do that on the Companion.

The Harmony Companion does have all the physical buttons you need including the number pad, playback buttons, directional pad, and customizable buttons that you can use for whatever you want.

It also has the added benefit of being smaller and the lack of touch screen means it uses much less power. It is powered by one, three-volt coin cell lithium battery, type CR2032. According to Logitech, under normal remote usage, the battery is expected to last one year.

You can CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Best Budget-Friendly Universal Remote

The Logitech Harmony 665 has the same ergonomics and ease of setup as it’s more expensive mates, but less functionality and connectivity means a much lower price point.

Great basic universal remote for anyone who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.

Logitech Harmony 665

Pros:
Inexpensive
Easier To Use and Set-Up
Cons:
No Smart Home Control
No Charging Cradle

The Logitech Harmony 665 is essentially a touchscreen remote that can be programmed to control any device that uses infrared (“IR”).

For home theater systems that don’t use any wireless devices, Bluetooth devices, or have smart home devices (like an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant) that you want to integrate…the Harmony 665 is a great option to save some money.

There are similar models out there such as the 650 and the 700. The 665 is the newest model and the clear winner here.

If you want to read a more detailed comparison of the three, we already did the work for you here…Logitech Harmony 650 vs. 665 vs. 700.

Just like the more expensive models above, the Harmony 665 can be connected to your computer to set it up.

This lets you program all your devices (up to 10) as well as scenes or sequences. You can also upload images for your favorite TV channels so that they are easier to identify on the touch screen (sometimes remembering the number when you have 200+ channels can be rough.

Of course, the Harmony 665 has its limitations but for a smaller system or a secondary TV, it’s a great option.

You can CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Universal Remote Comparisons

Ok, so you know that you need a new universal remote and you have it narrowed down to a few options.

But you’re not sure how they compare to each other or which one is best for your specific needs.

We’ve got you covered.

Below are some of the most common comparisons consumers like you want to see…

Logitech Harmony Elite vs. 950

This is by far the most common question we see here. These two remotes are at the top of the Logitech Harmony food chain so naturally, a lot of you want to know what distinguishes them.

The primary difference is that the 950 does not include the Harmony Hub. But that’s also a big deal because a lot of the best cutting edge functinality of these high-end universal remotes requires the hub to communicate with many of today’s devices.

If you want to read more about why we don’t recommend the 950 over the Elite then check out our Logitech Elite vs. 950 Comparison.

Logitech Harmony Elite vs. Companion

The companion is an interesting addition to the Logitech Harmony lineup.

It has a lot of the functionality found in the Elite (including the hub) but without the touch screen. It is a great option for those of you that want the added connectivity and smart-home compatibility that the Harmony Hub provides, but without the added cost of the touchscreen on the Elite.

For more details, check out our more in-depth, Logitech Harmony Elite vs. Companion Comparison.

Logitech Harmony 650 vs. 665 vs. 700

Right in the middle of the Logitech remotes are three models that have caused a lot of confusion for consumers, the Harmony 650, 665, and 750.

The short version is that the 750 is the oldest of the three but comes with rechargeable batteries, the 650 came out next and is pretty much the same as the 750 without the rechargeable batteries, and the 665 is just a newer version of the 650 that can control 10 devices instead of the 8 devices that the 650 can control.

If that was confusing to you or you want to read more about what differentiates these three Logitech Harmony models, then check out our Logitech Harmony 650 vs. 665 vs. 700 Comparison article.

Logitech Harmony 350 vs. 650

The Logitech Harmony 350 is the basic model in the Logitech lineup. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. You might be able to find it for $15-$20 less than the Harmony 665 but the savings doesn’t really make up for the lack of features.

We did a comparison to the next step up in the Harmony remotes, so if you want all the details then check out our Logitech Harmony 350 vs. 650 Comparison.

How To Choose A Universal Remote

Budget

Most review blogs won’t put this first because the other factors are a lot more fun to read and talk about.

But let’s face it, this is a major deciding factor for most of you out there.

If you are setting up a home theater, figuring where to spend your budget can be a little tricky.

The key to deciding how much to spend on a universal remote is to first decide which features are a must-have for you, which features are something you would like but aren’t critical, and which features aren’t important at all.

Once you have that list, you may realize that you don’t need the most expensive option. Either way, you’ll have a good understanding of what you need for your individual setup, which will prevent you from overspending.

Connectivity

As far as the feature set goes, connectivity is the most important.

After all, a universal remote’s only job is to connect you to all your devices.

Here is where you get what you pay for. The top of the line Harmony Elite can connect to just about anything while the Harmony 655 only works with devices that are controlled by IR.

The biggest step up in this category is the ability to integrate with all kinds of smart home devices.

To me, that is the feature that you really want in any universal remote. That will be somewhat of a future-proofing because the Harmony Hub can always be upgraded with firmware to work with any Bluetooth or IR device.

So before you buy any of these remotes, make sure you take stock of all the devices you currently have and even consider what you may add to your system in the future.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics are an important, but often an underrated factor.

The good news is that every universal remote on this list has years of Logitech development behind it. So they are all very well designed ergonomically.

The Harmony Elite’s Well Designed Layout

When you pick up a remote, you should be able to reach all the most important buttons easily and without having to regrip the remote or use a second hand. These are things like channel, volume, control pad, and playback functions.

If you can get to all of those quickly and easily, you’re off to a good start.

The other ergonomic factor that can be overlooked, is the ability to use the remote without looking at it.

There are a number of reasons you may need to do this…you could be watching a movie in a dark room, you may not want to take your eyes off the game as you raise the volume, or maybe you just need to keep an eye on your toddler playing in the room.

Whatever it is, the design of the remote and the shape and feel of the buttons can either make that really easy or quite difficult. Even the number pad should have some varying texture to it so you can find the different numbers easily.

Rest assured that all the remotes on this “best of” list cover both these bases.

Durability

Finally, let’s talk about durability.

If you are going to spend over $100 or $200 on a remote, it better last for a while.

Users see wear and tear show up most often in the form of a worn-out button. To be honest, there is no way to avoid this completely, even in the top of the line remotes.

That being said, the more expensive models like the Harmony Elite are going to take a lot longer for any buttons to wear out than something like the 665.

I’ve heard from users leaving comments on the other reviews here that the budget-friendly model on this list, the 655, has buttons that work well for a while but tend to wear out after around 3-4 years. That’s not bad and actually out-performs a lot of other remotes in that same price range.

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