You already have a killer home theater setup. But you want to take it to the next level to really impress your your friends.
Home theater automation is what you need.
Depending on what other hardware you have in your home theater, you may have a lot of different options. So here are 7 ways to control your TV with Alexa…
7 Ways To Control Your TV With Alexa
I am sure there are more ways out there and feel free to let me know in the comments if you have a great solution, but these are the best ways that I have found to add Amazon Echo automation to your home theater setup.
1. Logitech Harmony Hub
The Logitech Harmony Hub is hands down the most complete way to control your entire home theater setup with an Amazon Echo.
The rest of the options below will only control a portion of your system while the Harmony Hub will control anything that can be controlled with a remote. That even includes complex scenes such as telling Alexa it’s time for “movie mode” (or whatever you want to call it) and watch the hub turn on your projector, receiver, BluRay player, lower the screen, lower the shades, and dim the lights.
I’m working on a way to incorporate popcorn making and pouring me a beer but I haven’t gotten there…yet.
There’s a good reason why the top choice in our breakdown of the Best Universal Remotes was one that includes the Harmony Hub.
2. Fire TV Stick
This is by far the easiest way to add Echo control to your TV viewing. Because the Fire TV Stick and the Echo are both made by Amazon, they work seamlessly together.
Another benefit of this is that just about anything you can do on the Fire TV can be controlled by your Echo. All you need is a WiFi connection that they are both connected to.
You can easily link your Fire TV to your Echo through the Alexa App on your Andriod or iOS device.
Just some of the many Fire TV functions that you can control with Alexa include:
- Start playing a movie or TV show by title
- Search for specific movies or TV shows
- Find movies or TV shows with specific actors or actresses in them
- Control playback of whatever you are watching (Play, Stop, Pause, Resume, Rewind, Fast Forward, etc.)
- Change channels on live TV apps
- Open specific apps
- Return to the Fire TV home page with one command
If you have a Fire TV Edition Television then you can control the hardware functions as well such as on/off, volume, and input.
If you are a Fire TV user already then it can be well worth it to pick up an Echo device. It will add voice control to your multimedia viewing without having to upgrade your watching device at all.
Just like the Fire TV Stick, a Roku can be controlled directly through your Amazon Echo. However, unlike the Fire TV, it requires a bit of a workaround and does not have the vast functionality that you get by pairing a Fire TV with Alexa.
If Alexa control is high on your priority list then a Roku may not be the best option for you.
4. Smart TVs
More and more Smart TVs are adding Alexa functionality lately.
It makes sense because if you are buying a Smart TV specifically to use the Smart TV functionality like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, YouTube, etc., then you probably aren’t using other streaming devices like a Fire TV or a Roku.
If this describes your use case and you’re an Echo user, then looking for a smart TV that has this functionality should be high on your list. This is especially helpful for those Smart TVs where the menu system is somewhat more difficult to navigate. With Alexa on these TVs, you can use voice commands to launch apps (like Netflix or YouTube), ask for movie or show recommendations, play music from services like Pandora, control volume, or even go through the TV to operate smart home devices (although that last one is unnecessary in most cases where the Echo can do that directly).
At the most recent CES (The International Consumer Electronics Show), a number of TV manufacturers announced their plans to integrate Amazon’s voice-controlled smart assistant into their own sets. Some of the more popular brands that have already announced that Alexa functionality will be included in their TVs (either out of the box or with future firmware updates) include Hisense, Sony, and LG.
5. Directly Control Your Cable Box
This is one of those “great if you have it” situations but given the other options above, I wouldn’t recommend choosing your cable company based on whether or not they have the ability to be controlled by Alexa.
Fios, Frontier, Optic Hub, and Tivo are some of the companies that offer Alexa compatible cable boxes.
The downside to this is that if your cable box is the only Alexa compatible device in your home theater setup, then you will still need the remote to turn the TV on and set the correct input for your cable box.
However, if you already have a Smart TV that lets you control power and volume with your Echo, then a compatible cable box is a nice compliment. Having such a box will let you add channel (and potentially DVR) control to Alexa. Now you’ll be able to do a lot more with just your voice.
6. Dish Satellite Box
You could probably put this one in the same category as the Alexa compatible cable boxes. But Dish deserves its own entry because they did a pretty good job implementing Alexa controls. Plus 7 sounds better than 6, so here we are.
A lot of people are torn between Dish Network and a regular cable box. The voice control functionality shouldn’t be the only factor to consider, but it might be a good tiebreaker. If you want to get an up to date rundown of Dish’s functionality with Alexa, click here.
7. URC Universal Remote Control System
This is one I had not really heard of until I started doing some research to write this, but it looks like a decent alternative to the Logitech Harmony Hub.
URC appears to be targeted more towards custom home theater installations rather than consumer purchases. This might be the solution you are looking for if you are spending big bucks on a basement remodel and want a custom built home theater solution.
The benefits of a URC system over something like the Logitech system above is that you have a wider variety of interface options. You can get a touchscreen remote the size of an iPad to sit on the coffee table and a wall mounted touch screen near the entryway as well as more traditional looking remotes.
The downside is going to be cost. These systems are not cheap and if you want to do it right, you kind of have to buy into the whole system.
With products like the one by Logitech, though, and home automation solutions becoming more and more easily controlled by a variety of devices from the Echo to simple apps on your smartphone. I think the days of these custom built control systems are a thing of the past. You’ll still see them in high end homes where the entire home theater was installed professionally. But that’s not how most people build their entertainment system.
Most people get a few components at a time and they want everything to fit in seamlessly with their current system without having to hire an installation professional. If that’s you, then you probably want to head back to the top of this article.