Have you ever lost the remote to your Cable or TV, and you were stuck with no TV for the night? Or you have like eight remotes for your TV, AV receiver and blu ray player arranged on your desk like soldiers on parade and you wish to streamline them.
Then getting a universal remote will definitely be of great use to you. With a universal remote, you can link your home theater devices to a single remote and control all of them at will. Instead of having to juggle between 8 remote, you can have just one remote for all your devices. Some universal remote even lets you control smart home devices like lights, thermostats, and so on.
What is a universal remote?
Universal remotes are like your normal remote controls that come with your TV – but these remotes are programmable to control multiple electronic devices like AV Receivers, Blu-ray players and streaming Device like the Apple Tv, Fire TV using either an IR signal, WiFi, or Bluetooth.
Take a step up in price, and many universal remotes boast dedicated apps and large databases that let you select the TV or receiver you want to link from the comfort of your phone. Most of these remotes are compatible with a larger number of devices. And today we will be listing the best universal remote you can pick up for your self.
The Logitech Harmony Companion Smart Control And Universal Remote (our pick):
Are you looking for a remote that not only control all your home theater systems and setup box but also controls your home? Like an actual universal remote should. Then Logitech has a couple of remotes for you to pick from.
When it comes to universal remote, there are are the top Dogs of the market, it is the only company to have multiple products on our list today. But our pick for the best universal remote control is the the Logitech Harmony Companion.
The Logitech Harmony Companion remote is a universal remote packed with tons of features. Thanks to the tech on this remote, not only can you control your TV, Av system, and cable, but can also control other smart home devices like the lights, thermostats, switches, and so on. In essence, it can be used as a smart home hub.
From the box, you get the Harmony hub, and the harmony Companion universal remote control. Looking at the device, design-wise, it looks sleek and elegant. The hub itself would easily fit into your home theater setup. For the remote, there isn’t anything special separating it from other remote unlike the remote you get with the Harmony Elite.
But unlike the other remotes, the Companion has a set of dedicated smart home button, at the bottom which you can assign to control other smart home devices. As well as create Automations like a TV Automations that will dim your light and turn on the TV.
When it comes to connectivity, it’s sad to see that the harmony hub does not work with ZigBee or Z-wave devices. Instead, it controls all your devices over WiFi, Bluetooth, and it’s IR Blaster. You can control devices like the Apple Tv, Fire Tv, Chromecast, TV, Sound system, Blu-ray player, and so much more. But if you wish, you can still get a module that adds ZigBee and Z-wave capability for $99.
You can also link it with the Google Assistant or Alexa to add voice control to its arsenal. With a single voice command, you can turn on the TV or even switch between channels.
Caavo Control Center:
The Caavo control center remote is the perfect description of what you get when you add some smart and features to a regular HDMI switch. In essence, the Caavo is a control center that combines all your HDMI devices like the Apple TV, Fire Tv, Chromecast, Cable and Roku TV in one place.
Aesthetics wise the Caavo control center looks like a regular setup box, with the logo at the top and a silver power button at the edge of the device. It should easily fit into your home theater desk or, if you wish, can hide it inside your cabinet.
Flipping to the back you have an assortment of ports. You have 4 HDMI input port and one HDMI output port for your TV. Besides that, you have an Ethernet, IR, and Power port. As you must have guessed, the Caavo allows you to connect up to 4 devices.
When setting up the device, the process was rather straightforward. All you need do is connect the power cord, then connect your device to the HDMI port, like the Apple TV, Fire TV or Play Station, then follow the setup prompts on your TV, and you are good. But after reading some reviews, I found out that some users found the setup process for the Caavo control center complicated. After doing some research, I found the best way to install the Caavo was with the Ethernet cable rather than WiFi.
The Caavo user-interface is really unique. It combines all the apps from all your linked device into one clean section. Apart from that, you can request for movies, series, and shows right from the Caavo dashboard and Caavo will then perform a search and open it on your preferred streaming device or cable.
Another cool feature I like about the Caavo was it dedicated voice search feature, you can turn on the TV, search for movies and series all with your voice and while it’s not perfect, it’s voice recognition did impress me. And if you wish, you can link it up with either the Google assistant or With Alexa to turn on the TV, switch in-between channels as well as change devices.
The huge Elephant in the room when it comes to the Caavo control center is the fact that after buying the device, you will need to subscribe for a membership plan to unlock all its features. The subscription plan costs $1.99/ month, $19.99/year, and $129 for the Lifetime subscription.
While this might not be a full universal remote that offers you control over your home theater as well as your home like the Logitech harmony. Most of us only need universal remote for our entertainment systems, and the Caavo helps users do just that. And while the price/subscription plan might be a little high the features built into the device makes the Caavo worth checking out.
Fire TV Cube 2nd Generation:
Apart from Amazon being a giant online store, the Amazon brand has been a prominent name in the smart home space too. With tons of products like the Echo speakers, Echo show, Fire Tv, Firestick and so much more already installed in lots of homes. And the Fire TV Cube 2nd generation is one of those products.
The Fire TV Cube aims to simplify and control all your home theater devices in one hub. With the Cube you can control your Av receiver, Blu-ray player, Play Station and TV all with your voice or with the remote.
Straight out the box, the design of the Fire TV Cube is quite striking. The Cube form makes the device look sleek and futuristic. At the top of the device, you have the regular Echo button layout, which honestly you may never use and eight far-field microphones that can pick up your voice command even in a large room.
You also have an Led strip that lights up to the Amazon blue color at the edge. Flipping over to the back, you have a USB, HDMI, IR, and Power cable ports. For placement, Amazon recommends placing it a foot away from your TV set to have a clear line of sight to control other devices.
The installation process of the Fire TV Cube was not a hassle at all, but it only took a lot of time to setup. Simply follow the on-screen prompts, then connect all your other home theatre devices to the Cube, and you are done. The Fire TV Cube uses an IR blaster to control your devices if you wish to hide the Cube in your cabinet, you may need to hook up the IR extender you get in the box.
Once set up, you can start using the Amazon Fire TV Cube to either stream movies from services like Amazon Prime or Netflix or control some smart home devices. The user interface was fast and snappy, with movies and apps being well organized. You can either use your voice to request for a movie like “Alexa, watch Game of Thrones” or “Alexa, Tune to Fox,” and it will switch to the most appropriate service.
Being that the Fire TV Cube has Alexa built-in, you can also use it to interact with other smart home devices, like the lights, cameras, and so much more. You can use the Fire Cube to stream your doorbell or Camera on your TV with only a voice command.
Logitech Harmony Elite Remote:
The Harmony Elite Remote is the second Logitech harmony remote on our list today. When it comes to comparison, only a few factors separate the Harmony Companion and the Elite apart. Which is the remote that comes with a touch screen and a higher price tag. But apart from that, you are getting the same features and functionality.
Unlike the Harmony Companion, the design of the Elite remote puts it in the Elites rank. The ergonomics and design of the remote stand out from any other remote you have seen before. A glance at the remote, and the first thing you will notice the 2.4 inches touch screen placed at the top of the remote, Which can be used for selecting from favorite, starting activities and changing channels or inputs. Unlike the Companion where you have a physical number pad, you get a digital number pad by sliding left or right on the Elites touch screen.
Just like the Companion, you still get the same Harmony hub from the box, which you use to control all devices, like TV, AV receiver, inputs as well as smart devices like lights, switches, etc. The harmony hub controls all these devices either through WiFi, Bluetooth, or an IR signal. But you don’t get ZigBee or Z-wave protocol from the box, for that you will need to purchase a $99 module.
The Harmony Elite set up process is not different from the Companion’s. The process should be hassle-free and straightforward, even for beginners. Just power the hub and link your devices.
On the remote, you will notice that the dedicated smart home button on the Elite has been moved up compared to the Companion’s own, which is placed at the top of the universal remote. But that does not change anything. You can still use the Elite to control your smart home devices as well as create Automations with a couple of devices. Linking it up to either the Alexa or the Google assistant will vastly improve the controls you get.
Another factor that differentiates the two remotes is the price. The Harmony Companion costs $50, while the Harmony Elite costs $350, which is a massive jump in price, and is mostly due to the touch screen on the remote. For my take, I would go for the harmony Companion and save myself a cool $300 instead of going for the overpriced Harmony Elite. But if you have a few bucks to share you can get the Elite from Amazon here.