You might be thinking of getting a new TV, soundbar, maybe even a new stereo system. However, if you want to control them all, as well as, say, a streaming stick or gaming system, and not have half a dozen remote controls cluttering your coffee table, you'll want to get a universal remote. With it, you can automate a number of tasks—such as turning on all the components, and having them change to the right settings—with a single button press.
However, when it comes to universal remotes, the choices are less than universal. After testing all of Logitech’s line of Harmony remotes, the best universal remote is the Logitech Harmony Elite ($279). It can control up to 15 devices including smart home gadgets such as lights and thermostats, integrates with Alexa and Google Home, and has a touchscreen that lets you access every setting for every linked remote control.
The Harmony Companion ($100) is a much more affordable option, and has all of the features of the Elite except for the touchscreen. The best budget universal remote is the Harmony 665 ($49), which can control up to 10 devices, and has a great design.
Latest News & Updates (June 2019)
- Caavo lowered the price of the Control Center to $59, but increased the price of its lifetime subscription to $129 (or $39.99 annually). Caavo has also added several new features, including support for Sonos speakers, an updated iOS app that lets you control the Control Center, and Family Care, which lets you remotely monitor what family members are watching, receive notifications when mature content is being watched, and send messages that will appear on the TV. Other enhancements include full integration with TiVo DVRs, support for OTA tuners from Dish, TiVo, and ChannelMaster; and compatibility with Samsung, Sony, and LG smart TVs, Android TV, and Roku TV.
- Logitech's newest universal remote, the Harmony Express ($249) has Alexa built in, so you can use Amazon's voice assistant to turn on your TV, launch streaming apps, and more. However, in our review of the Logitech Harmony Express, we found that using voice control for everything wasn't as intuitive as it should be.
Logitech’s top-end remote, the aptly named 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 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 ecobee4 thermostat. Plus, it can be connected with Amazon Alexa, so that you can issue Harmony Elite commands using nothing but your voice.
What Owners Are Saying
The Harmony Elite averaged 3.5 out of 5 stars among the 1,300-plus Amazon reviews. More than 80 percent of those reviews are legit, according to Fakespot.com, which uses algorithms to determine whether owner reviews are fake.
Those who wrote reviews on Amazon generally praised the Elite’s comprehensiveness, but noted there’s a bit of a learning curve. “It takes awhile to figure out all its capabilities but after you realize how it can control pretty much all your entertainment needs, it's wonderful,” said one reviewer.
Another person, who rated the remote 3 out of 5, took some issue with its ergonomics. “When you hold the remote it's rather difficult to reach the touch screen and some of the buttons with your thumb...The smart home buttons on the bottom of the remote are a nice touch, but I feel they’re a bit more of a novelty than a necessity since there are plenty of other standalone switches & voice control devices that can do the same job.”
A Best Buy exclusive, 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. 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.
What Owners Are Saying
The Harmony 665 has been reviewed more than 1,800 times on Best Buy's site, with an average rating of 4.4 stars (out of 5). Most praised the remote's design and robust programming features, but cautioned that setup could be a little intimidating, especially for novices.
"The Harmony 665 is a very capable device, but there is a learning curve if you’ve never used one of these," wrote one user. "Frankly, most of this learning curve comes from trying to navigate Logitech's MyHarmony support site and their desktop software (needed to program the remote)."
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 device, as well as a number of streaming services. 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 ($1.99/month, or $59.99 for a lifetime membership).
What Owners Are Saying
The Caavo Control Center has about 350 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. "After a few months using the Caavo, it is still working well," wrote one customer. "My two minor issues currently are the remote and the lack of updates/news from support. The remote works, but since it's just plastic it continues to feel super cheap compared to my other remotes (Shield TV and Apple TV have glass and metal)."
Another person commented "I don’t have to set up routines i.e. programs as I did with the Harmony. Hit the on button and the system is up in seconds. The remote has almost all the commands/functions that I use. What’s really cool is if put your finger on a button a small pop up on the screen shows you what you’re touching and the function. This is especially helpful with the TiVo."
Similar to the Harmony Elite, the Harmony Companion can also control smart-home devices in addition to your entertainment center. The biggest difference is the Companion’s lack of a screen of any kind, so you’ll have to designate physical buttons to enable Watch TV mode, for instance. It, too, comes with the Harmony Hub, allowing you to not only hide components, but also let you use Alexa to control your TV and more.
What Owners Are Saying
The Harmony Companion received 3.5 out of 5 stars from more than 1,200 Amazon customers, some of whom liked it more than the pricier Harmony Elite. Of the reviews on Amazon, more than 90 percent are accurate, according to Fakespot.com.
This is a really fantastic universal remote system, especially if you have home automation devices like lights or blinds,” said one reviewer. “Adding the Home Control buttons towards the top made them shift the play/pause section down lower where your thumb naturally rests...In fact, this shift is why I would recommend this remote over the Smart Control even for users without home automation devices to control.”
The biggest complaint was the lack of backlit keys. “The only downfall is the key pad has no backlight,” said one reviewer. It’s difficult to see the correct button to push when it is dark in the room.”
Logitech's least expensive remote lets you control up to eight devices, and favorite five channels. While it lacks a screen like the 665, it will let you start your entertainment center with the push of a single button. It lacks smart home controls, so consumers who want to dim their lights using a TV remote should look to one of Logitech's more expensive options.