If you've been looking for a universal remote to control your TV, these are the best options out there.
It's never fun needing multiple remotes to control your entire home theater system. That's where a universal remote comes in handy, controlling nearly every device with a single clicker so that you don't have to move from your comfy seat on the couch or search for a missing controller between the cushions.
After Logitech discontinued the Harmony remote line, it seemed that the category was done -- especially after another one of our previous recommendations, Caavo, also became no longer available. But Sofabaton has breathed new life into universal remotes with its brand-new U2 universal remote. It offers simplicity of setup -- with a straightforward app and a Bluetooth connection -- and an even better ease of use. At half the price of the Harmony 650, the SofaBaton U2 is the best universal remote for most people.
So what's left? Among remotes we can recommend based on hands-on testing, not much. The outgoing Fire TV Cube is expensive and more of a hybrid Alexa speaker/streamer than a universal remote, although it will also control your devices. And the Roku and Fire TV clickers, while great for controlling those streaming devices respectively, as well as most brands of TV, don't really qualify as "universal" remotes in the classic sense. A number of cheap replacement clickers are available too, but we can't recommend them because we haven't tested them yet.
Even with the emergence of SofaBaton, the universal remote category is still less popular than before. Many entertainment systems today don't have as many separate devices as in the past, so you might not even need a universal remote. With a smart TV connected to a soundbar and a game console, for example, you can control streaming apps, audio and device switching from a single remote (the TV's), eliminating the need for a universal remote. If you have an AV receiver and multiple sources, however, it gets more complicated.
With those caveats in mind, here are our current picks for the best universal remote.
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If you have a handful of remotes you regularly juggle, and you have a smartphone, then the SofaBaton U2 is the best way to tame them. The SofaBaton U2 picks up the mantle left by the Logitech Harmony remotes, pairing simple programming with excellent ease of use. While the more-expensive Logitech 665 offers more power -- including the ability to program more sophisticated macros or "activities" -- the SofaBaton is the best universal remote for most people.
Logitech Harmony wrote the book on the universal remote control devices, and this remote is still very good despite being discontinued. The main appeal over cheaper universal remotes, including the Sofbaton U2, is the activity-based control. Press the "Watch TV," "Play Game" or "Listen to Music" and the Logitech Harmony remote turns on all the relevant devices (such as your smart TV, cable box game console and AV receiver), switches to the right inputs and maps the keys to that activity: Volume to the receiver and Channel up-down to the cable box, for example.
As this is an end-of-life product it can sell for some pretty crazy prices, but you shouldn't be spending any more than $100 or so for it.
If you have a Roku streaming device and it lacks the ability to control your TV, the Voice Remote Pro may be worth the investment. This clicker isn't universal -- it only works with Roku streamers -- it will control volume, power and mute on pretty much any brand of TV, so you might not need the TV's original clicker at all.
Note that you can also use this remote with Roku TVs, where it might make sense to upgrade the clicker that came with your set.
The coolest feature of the Voice Remote Pro is the voice-activated remote finder. Just say "Hey Roku, find my remote" and it will beep from among the couch cushions (or wherever you left it). The Pro also has a headphone jack for private listening and works with Roku's voice system.
Much like the Roku Voice Remote Pro, the Fire TV version is designed to work with Fire TV streaming devices, allowing control of connected TVs' volume, power and mute. It's not actually universal, aside from the fact that it controls most brands of TV. We didn't like the Fire TV's remote finder function as much -- it requires a separate Alexa device to work -- but otherwise the two are very similar.
The wacky Cube is a mashup of universal remote controls, the Fire TV 4K streamer and Amazon Echo speaker, making it the king of your smart home devices. It comes with a device but its buttons are sparse and rudimentary; real device control happens via your voice. The Cube has an IR emitter to control your gear and a mic sensitive enough to hear your commands over the blare of music. On the downside, you'll need to keep your old remotes (even ones that aren't smart) around for many functions.
This controlling universal remote is often sold for as little as $80 or less, so definitely wait for a sale on this device -- or Prime Day -- before buying it.
It's worth noting that the 2019 Fire TV Cube has been replaced by a new Fire TV Cube. Look out for CNET's full review shortly.