A typical home has around six home entertainment devices, including a TV, a DVR player, a set top box, and a media streamer. Each of these devices has its own remote control, and it is easy to either lose these remotes or get sick of the clutter, so this is when a universal remote app comes to help.
Smart remote controls can help you solve the clutter problem, allowing you to put away all of the individual remotes and just rely on one universal remote app. But which ones are the best and are there any with voice control?
Top choice for value for your money: Logitech Harmony Companion
Logitech’s Harmony Companion is a mix of app-based and traditional remote systems. It gives you the best of both worlds by allowing you to use your smartphone or the physical universal remote to control your different device.
The package includes the Harmony Hub and a physical remote. The hub handles all the computing and processing for the system. The hub stores the setup information, it is responsible for updating its software, and it works as a bridge that controls your devices while also communicating with your remote.
Even so, the remote communicates with the hub using radio signals, not infrared. This means you do not even have to point the remote directly at the hub. You can also be in another room and still be able to turn off your TV, for example.
You also do not need to have a clean line of sight with your devices because the IR blasters on the hub are powerful enough to bounce the signals off walls. And for those devices that work with Bluetooth, the Harmony Hub can also send commands using it.
The Logitech Harmony Ultimate can control not just your entertainment devices but your other smart home devices as well, including Apple TV, Roku device control, Denon, Lutron, Lifx, Phillips, and Nest. It could easily control everything from smart locks to smart thermostats.
Not only that, you can use Amazon Alexa and Google Home to control your devices. You do not even have to pick up the remote(or multiple remotes as you would have done it without it), as you can just give the voice command to turn on your TV or change the channel.
Logitech Harmony Companion allows you to control different devices together with just one command and create activities.
For instance, with one tap on the remote or on your smartphone, you can turn on the TV, turn off the lights and lower the blinds, as well as set your thermostat to a colder temperature for movie night. You can create other activities, such as turning off the lights and locking your doors when you sleep at night.
What you would love about the Logitech Harmony Companion
This is one very capable universal remote and you will love just how thin it is at less than an inch, and how light it feels with a weight of only 119 grams. You will also love the button placements, which makes it very easy to navigate the keys by mere touch.
The buttons are of the right size and are grouped together in a logical sense. Every button is intuitively placed.
The use of radio frequency for the remote to communicate with the hub is also a good thing because it allows you to operate your devices even without having a direct line of sight. Plus, the ability to control your entertainment devices with your smartphone also helps sell the Logitech Harmony Companion.
What could be better
The physical remote is quite limited when it comes to activities. There are only three activity buttons and you can assign six activities to these buttons. That means that you have to long press a button to activate a secondary activity.
The physical remote is also not backlit, which makes it difficult to use when the room is dark. The setup process can be quite tedious and you would need to use an iOS or Android device to set everything up.
The final say
The Logitech Harmony Companion (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) can control 8 devices and handle 50 of your favorite channels.
With its ability to control other smart home devices and with its compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, this should prove to be a good universal remote with enough features to justify its price.
Best smart remote to splurge on: Logitech Harmony Elite
The Logitech Harmony Elite offers the same features as the Logitech Harmony Companion. Like the Harmony Companion, the Harmony Elite also gives you the convenience of operating all of the smart device and home entertainment device with a physical remote or with the mobile app.
It also has integrations with different smart devices and it boasts Alexa compatibility. The Harmony Elite, however, has a touchscreen that allows you to easily call up your favorite channels and launch Roku apps.
The biggest benefit of getting the Logitech Harmony Elite is the screen and the many benefits it offers. One benefit is that you are no longer limited with just three buttons that can hold six activities.
The screen allows you to store as many activities that you want. You do not have to long-press any button; just scroll through the list of activities and that’s it.
The screen also helps make your favorite channels, as well as Roku channels, more accessible. It also gives you a way to directly access Amazon Instant, Netflix and other apps that work with Roku.
If you have a lot of entertainment devices, you can make soft buttons and use the screen to access these.
The Harmony Elite (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) can control up to 15 devices.
If you have a lot of entertainment devices, then this should make it easier for you to manage and control them all, without having to remember or program buttons and without long pressing on the activity buttons.
Is it worth the higher price? That is entirely up to you, but Logitech has definitely made sure to pack it with an outstanding screen and with better features that would make it less easy to dismiss outright.
Logitech has some cheaper remotes that do the work of a universal remote control. For example, the Logitech Harmony 665 works like your old remote control, except that it has a screen display. It does not control smart devices nor does it come with a mobile app.
This shows that the company has a remote control for everybody, and if you are looking for a smart remote control, you should definitely consider the Logitech Harmony Elite or the Harmony Companion.
Side by side comparison of the Logitech Harmony Elite, Logitech Harmony Companion, and the Logitech Harmony 665
|Brand||Logitech Harmony Elite||Logitech Harmony Companion||Logitech Harmony 665|
|Price||(For the latest prices and discounts, check here)||(For the latest prices and discounts, check here)||(For the latest prices and discounts, check here)|
|Smart home controls||Yes||Yes||No|
|Size||7.6 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches||7.25 x 2.1 x 0.8 inches||10.8 x 1.6 x 2.8 inches|
|Weight||164.4 grams||119.0 grams||204.1 grams|
If you are looking for remote controls that are not from Logitech, there are some notable ones from other brands.
Ray Super Remote
There is the Ray Super Remote, which takes on a different form. If the Harmony remotes look more like traditional remote controls, the Ray Super Remote looks more like a smartphone. The Ray Super Remote has a 4.8-inch touch screen display that allows you to control your entertainment devices.
It can give you recommendations on what to watch, and even search for shows using the remote itself. You can set things up on the remote as well. You do not need to download any apps or even use your PC to do this.
What’s more, the Ray Super Remote uses premium materials and it looks very solid. It has top-notch screen, as well. In fact, when it comes to the screen, no Harmony remote can hold a candle to Ray Super Remote.
Whereas Harmony remotes have lower resolution screens and really bad graphic, Ray Super Remote has eye-catching icons on sharp and bright displays.
Ray also comes with a charging cradle, where you could park the remote control when not in use. The battery gives enough power for three days before you would need to recharge it.
What you would like about the Ray Super Remote
No doubt about it, the Ray Super Remote gives you an easy time to set up your remote to work with different devices. None of that painstaking process that the Logitech Harmony requires. There is no app necessary for downloads and everything can be done on the remote.
But, what really makes it better than other remote controls is that it allows you to get recommendations on what to watch depending on your preferences. You can also set reminders so that you do not miss an episode of your favorite show.
The premise why the Ray Super Remote exists is to simplify your TV watching experience. You no longer have to figure out how to control a certain device, and which one of the close to 100 buttons to press.
What you would not like about the Ray Super Remote
The Ray Super Remote says that it has several IR LEDs that allow it to control different devices around it.
However, this does not always work. There are times when you try to control a device without a clear line of sight and it fails. This proves that the Ray Super Remote requires a line of sight to reliably control your devices.
The biggest turn off, though, is its price. The Ray Super Remote (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) may not offer enough features to justify that price tag. In fact, there are cheaper Harmony remotes that give you more functionality.
The Ray Super Remote is cheaper than the Logitech Harmony Companion, which gives you the ability to turn your smartphone into a universal remote, but also offers a separate physical remote control device for those who want to control their devices by feel.
If you like the idea of having a big touchscreen for your remote control, and if you like getting recommendations on what to watch next, the Ray Super Remote should be a good idea.
But if you do not like the expensive price or the fact that it relies on a direct line of sight to reliably work, then you should consider Pronto.
Pronto works with your smartphone or, more accurately, converts your iPhone or Android device into a universal remote that you can use to control your DVS, set-top boxes, Blue-ray, and TV, among other devices.
When you download the Peel app, you can also get personalized recommendations on what to watch based on the TV programs you have seen, as well as on your preferences.
Pronto uses Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone, and this is enough to control your devices and hide all of those remote controls away. If you have appliances that you keep inside cabinets, you can still control them by using the IR extension cable. The IR extension cable is included with your purchase.
The Pronto needs four AA batteries to work, and the good news is that you do not have to charge it every day because the batteries have as much as one-year battery life. And the best thing? Pronto is very inexpensive. It sells (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) on Amazon!
What you would like about Pronto
- Very affordable (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
- Works with 450,000 devices.
- Can control more than 50 devices, but has a limit of 10 devices per room.
- The IR extension cable allows you to control appliances that do not have a direct line of sight with the remote.
What you would not like about Pronto
- Setting up your remote, especially for AV receivers and other more sophisticated devices might be frustrating.
- You cannot control devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Answer: Yes, you can use your smartphone as a remote control, with a simple IR Blaster and by downloading a remote control app, which will switch the channels for you. On the plus side, you can also monitor and give commands to different smart devices as well which you might have at home.
Answer: Yes and no. This truly depends on the number of devices you have at home, and you want to control, but it’s definitely necessary if you have a couple of TVs, smart monitoring devices, and lots of apps you use on daily basis.
Answer: This truly depends on the budget you have set, but most smart remotes go a bit higher than $50 and come with at least 1-year warranty.
Answer: To pair a universal remote with a device, you need to first turn the device you want to control ON, and press in the same time the DEVICE and POWER button and press the PASSWORD that is already written on the universal remote, then you need to keep pressing the DEVICE button, and if the remote starts blinking, you will likely be able to see all the basic functions of your TV on the screen.