Sick of having a coffee table that’s just cluttered with remote controls?
Universal remotes are the key to unifying your entertainment system. With the addition of one small accessory, you’ll be able to turn on your TV, adjust the sound on your soundbar, control your streaming stick, and even your thermostat.
But when it comes to finding the best universal remote, there are a few important things to keep in mind: design, price, device compatibility, and battery life, to name a few.
In this guide, we’ve compiled our list of the best universal remotes for smart TVs, after taking all those factors into consideration. Enjoy!
Our pick for best universal TV remote for smart TVs: Logitech Harmony Elite
It goes without saying that no universal remote control on the market can compete with the Logitech Harmony Elite.
But before you get too invested, we have some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that Logitech—the long-time leader in the universal remote space—decided to discontinue all universal remote controls as of April 2021 to focus on making computer mice and keyboards, which they found a more profitable endeavor during the recent years’ work-from-home craze. We know, bummer.
There is some good news, however. You can still get the Logitech Harmony Elite used or refurbished on many websites like Amazon or eBay, and Logitech has promised to continue to offer customer support to those who own their universal remote controls. It might be tough to find it without a significant mark-up, though.
But if you choose to still buy it, we can guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Why the Logitech Harmony Elite?
The Logitech Harmony Elite is a longtime fan favorite. To this day, it has basically no worthy competitor. The Caavo Control Centre used to give Logitech a run for its money, until it also got discontinued around the same time.
From a neat sleep timer that allows you to set a time to power off your devices—if falling asleep during a movie is a common occurrence for you—to a handy Help feature which brings all your devices into sync in case of a power outage, this universal remote has everything you need for a streamlined entertainment system.
Top 5 features
- One-touch control: The Harmony Elite allows you to control all of your devices with a single button press. You can swipe through screens just as you would on a smartphone to easily find the apps you’re looking for.
- Voice control: The Harmony Elite is compatible with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, so you can use voice commands to control your devices and perform tasks such as setting reminders, checking the weather, and more.
- Smart home integration: The Harmony Elite has a 2-day battery charge and can be integrated with a wide range of smart home devices, including lights, thermostats, and security cameras—so you can control them all using your universal remote and create customized routines that automatically adjust your home's lighting and temperature based on your preferences.
- Customizable buttons: The Harmony Elite has a customizable touchscreen display that allows you to create buttons for your favorite channels, devices, and activities. This makes it super easy to quickly access the functions you use the most.
- Mobile app control: The Harmony Elite can be controlled using the mobile app, which lets you control your devices and set up custom routines from anywhere using your smartphone or tablet.
Once again, since the Harmony Elite is discontinued, it’ll be tough to find it at a reasonable price. If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out the other great options on this list.
Best runner-up universal remote: SofaBaton U1
If you’re not willing to spend the big bucks on a used or refurbished version of the Harmony Elite, then the SofaBaton U1 is a great second choice. It offers similar features as the Harmony Elite for a much lower price.
Reasons to choose
The SofaBaton U1 is a truly universal remote control—just pop in a couple AA batteries and enjoy. The all-in-one remote is able to control over 350,000 different devices, including TVs from major brands such as Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio, as well as streaming media players from popular brands such as Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. Whatever you’ve got, chances are the SofaBaton U1 has you covered.
The remote is also extremely easy to set up, thanks to its handy "Code Search" function that lets you easily find the code for your specific device. On top of that, its user-friendly interface makes navigating the remote a seamless experience.
Just like the Harmony Elite, the SofaBaton U1 is compatible with a variety of smart home devices, and allows you to set up custom macros, which are sequences of actions that can be performed with a single button press. If you’re looking for an affordable universal remote control, this is a great option.
Reasons to skip
Unlike the colorful Harmony Elite, the SofaBaton U1 only has a black and white screen, and instead of being able to use it like a smartphone, you have to use a wheel to scroll through your options, which takes a bit longer.
Best for Amazon Alexa: Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a little different from the other options on this list—it’s not exactly a universal remote control in the traditional sense, but it does work similar to one, with some other bonus features.
Reasons to choose
Amazon Fire TV Cube is one of the best streaming players on the market. It is the perfect balance of a universal remote, a 4K streaming stick and an Echo speaker, all in one.
If you own a few Alexa devices around your home, you may want to consider getting the Fire TV Cube. It’s powerful, and you’ll be able to control all those Alexa-supported devices using the remote that comes with your Fire TV Cube.
The remote control is pretty basic, but its strongest asset is its voice control feature. You can speak commands to the remote, and Alexa takes care of them. One thing we love most about the remote is the sensitive mic, which means you’re heard even when music is blaring.
Reasons to skip
Even though the Fire TV Cube is a huge addition to your entertainment system, it likely won’t replace all your remote controls—unless everything you own is Alexa-compatible. If getting rid of as many remote controls as possible is your priority and Alexa is not a majority in your home, then you’re better off with another option on this list.
Best for Apple TV: Apple TV Siri Remote
If you have an Apple TV, we recommend sticking with the small and stylish Apple TV Siri Remote. Although previous versions of this remote have been a little lackluster, the 3rd generation features an improved design, including a USB-C port to recharge your remote faster.
Reasons to choose
The Siri Remote has a built-in microphone, allowing you to use voice commands to search for content, browse your playlists, and manage playback. The touch surface on the clickpad of the remote allows you to easily navigate through menus and select items on screen, the same way you would’ve on an old-school iPod.
It can also go a whopping whole 2 months before needing a battery recharge. Considering our top contender, the Harmony Elite, can only go about 2 days before dying, this is pretty impressive.
Reasons to skip
Like the Fire TV Cube, the Apple TV Siri Remote isn’t technically a universal remote. But if you have a pretty basic set-up, it’s all you really need. If you’re looking for something more “universal”, we recommend checking out the Harmony Elite or the SofaBaton U1.
How to program a universal remote to your TV
There isn’t exactly a “one size fits all” way to program a universal remote to your TV—exact steps for programming a universal remote may vary depending on the specific model of universal remote you have. Your best bet is to consult the manual for your universal remote for specific instructions.
Some universal remotes, like the Harmony Elite, have an app where you can search for the devices you already own within a database and easily connect to them one by one. Others offer easy pairing by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Some require you to enter a code for the device you wish to control, while other devices have standardized control codes located on the device’s remote or in the user’s manual.
What can universal remotes do compared to normal remotes?
Universal remotes are designed to be able to control a variety of different types of devices you may already own in your home, such as TVs, Blu-ray players, cable boxes, and more, whereas a normal remote is typically only able to control one specific type of device. This means that you can use a universal remote to control all of your home entertainment devices, rather than having to use multiple different remotes for each device. No more digging through couch cushions to find the missing remote to your sound system, or having a coffee table cluttered with remote controls—one gadget does it all.
Many universal remotes also offer additional features and functions that may not be available on a normal remote. For example, certain universal remotes can be programmed to create shortcuts for frequent activities which involve multiple devices. This means you could set up a one-touch command called “Movie Night” that could turn on your TV, cable box, and sound system all at once using just one shortcut.
Other universal remotes may have screens that display information about the device being controlled, or may have built-in apps that allow you to access streaming services like Disney+, Netflix and Prime Video.
In short, a universal remote is multiple normal remote controls, all bundled into one.
What universal remotes work with smart TVs?
The best way to find out exactly which universal remotes work with the smart TV you already own is by contacting customer support of the manufacturer of your smart TV.
Most universal remotes work with smart TVs, as long as the universal remote is able to transmit infrared (IR) signals. Smart TVs typically have an IR receiver built in, which allows them to receive and respond to commands from a universal remote that is transmitting IR signals.
If you have a universal remote that is not able to transmit IR signals, you may still be able to connect to a smart TV using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Alternatively, many smart TVs also come with their own remote control app that can be installed on a smartphone or tablet, which allows you to control the TV using your mobile device.
Our takeaway: The Harmony Elite is still the best universal remote control out there, and the SofaBaton U1 is a close second
There aren’t that many universal remote controls currently on the market that can do it all—since Logitech and Caavo discontinued their product lines in 2021, there’s been a huge gap in the market.
The best overall universal remote control is the Harmony Elite, which you can still buy used or refurbished on Amazon, although it may come with a steep price tag. The closest runner-up is the SofaBaton U1, which offers a cheaper but still feature-packed version of our #1 pick.
We also recommend the Amazon Fire TV Cube as an alternative to a universal remote, which is best for Amazon Alexa support. If you have an Apple TV and a pretty basic set-up, we recommend the Apple TV Siri Remote.
Tara Khudairi • Author
Tara Khudairi is a freelance content writer and copywriter based in Toronto. Since 2014, she has contributed to brands and blogs alike to tackle popular topics relating to technology, personal finance, entertainment, travel and lifestyle. Whether it’s the latest streaming service or cryptocurrency, she’s passionate about making the complex simple. When she’s not busy typing away, you’ll find Tara watching Netflix’s latest true crime doc or a classic 90’s horror flick.
Desiree Wu • Editor
Desiree is a full-time Honours Business Administration student at Ivey Business School at Western University. She also served as an Editorial Intern at Flixed. Desiree is based in London, Ontario.