Best Universal Remote
Rather than dealing with the clutter of half a dozen different remotes, it's infinitely more convenient to program all of their functionality to a universal remote control. These devices range from feature-filled, multi-tasking remotes to more basic options that can replace a lost or damaged factory remote control.
Logitech Harmony 300 Universal Remote Control
Universal Remote Control URC WR7
Sony RM-VLZ620 Universal Remote Control
Logitech Harmony 200 Universal Remote
RCA 6-Device Universal Remote Control
Logitech Harmony ONE Advanced Universal Remote
Logitech Harmony 650 Universal Remote Control
URC R40 "My Favorite Remote" Advanced Universal Remote Control
Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote
Logitech Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote Control
The Logitech Harmony 300 is generally more expensive than other "budget" options, but this universal remote offers some features that are otherwise unavailable at this price. The Harmony 300 shares a family resemblance with higher-end Harmony models, though the multi-tasking screen has been replaced by dedicated buttons as dictated by its lower price. This universal remote can control up to 4 devices, and supports macro customization for the programmable buttons. Complaints are few: the numeric buttons and volume/channel rockers are on the small side, and the lack of backlit controls make this remote more difficult to use in the dark. One of the best features of this particular model is its ability to sync to a PC or Mac, eliminating any complicated setup procedures that frustrate users. For this alone, the higher cost may be worth it.
If simple, affordable functionality is what you're after, look no further. This universal remote control is relatively straight-forward, consolidating the functions of 7 different remotes into a single easy-to-use unit. The four color-coded "favorite" buttons provide instant access to user-programmed functions. The buttons are all clearly marked, and are completely devoid of cryptic symbols that require consulting the manual to decipher. All of the major controls are back-lit for better low-light visibility, making this model ideal for users who like to watch movies in the dark. MacroPower enables users to program the remote with command strings, while the Learning mode allows the remote to "learn" various remote functions directly from the original factory remote. Despite the low price, the URC WR7 comes bristling with features that make it particularly well-suited for more complex home theater systems.
Even with its low price, the Sony RM-VZL620 offers everything you need from a quality universal remote control. In traditional Sony style, the grid-pattern buttons are laid out in a logical manner, though the tight spacing may take some getting used to. The volume and channel rockers are large and easy to press, though the buttons are not backlit for nighttime use. The RM-VZL620 operates up to 8 different devices, and comes pre-programmed for use with Sony products. If you don't own Sony devices, the RM-VZL620 also accepts codes for most other brands as well. Though the "custom function" buttons are not color-coded, they can be programmed with a variety of controls (including macros). For larger home theater systems, the Sony RM-VZL620 is the best budget-friendly pick.
It seems as though Logitech has some sort of secret recipe for creating some of the best universal remote controls around. Even their most affordable Harmony remote, the Harmony 200, comes with outstanding features and capabilities that make it convenient to consolidate remote controls. The Harmony 200 works with up to three devices, with each receiving its own dedicated (and labeled) button right where it's easily accessible. Four color-coded buttons allow users to program custom functions, while the "Watch TV" button can switch on your entire entertainment system with a single press. The Harmony 200 is extremely easy to use, thanks to its large and legible buttons, but it does not offer backlit controls unlike many competing models. Given the price, however, this omission is entirely forgivable.
If you need one remote that can control 6 devices rather than 4 but you like the design of the RCA remotes, the RCA RCR6473 will fit the bill. Essentially a larger version of the RCR4373 which itself is a fine universal remote for everyday use, the RCR6473 adds another two devices to its memory. The design trades in the silver face for a flat black one and rearranges a few buttons for better ergonomics with the added buttons. The RCR6473 is very easy to use and has high compatibility with various brands, including obscure ones. The RCR6473 is simple to program, as it features both an automatic and manual mode to help make the process easier. The RCA RCR6473 is everything you expect from a good universal remote - easy to program, easy to use, and easy to live with.
Tired of having remote controls scattered around the house? The Harmony One combines them all to give you one-touch access to your entertainment. You can have it turn on your satellite receiver, TV, and A/V receiver, change all the devices to the correct input, and set the volume to your favorite level - at the push of a button. Or configure it to watch DVDs or Blu-ray discs or play video games. You program it through a simple online software interface that has codes for more than 5,000 brands of devices. The Harmony ONE stands above the competition because it feels great in your hand, has a sleek full-color touchscreen display, and is incredibly easy to setup and use.
If you like the idea of having a Logitech Harmony universal remote but can't justify spending over $100 on what is basically a dressed-up remote control, consider the Harmony 650. Though you don't get a touchscreen like with the higher-spec models, the Harmony 650 can still be programmed to be used with up to 5 devices. The color screen displays various interface items, and the soft buttons which flank the screen can be used to select functions or channels. The Harmony series' claim to fame is the sheer ease of use, thanks to its computer-based configuration and updates which eliminate blind button-mashing of lesser universal remotes. Additionally, the Harmony 650 runs on standard AA batteries (as opposed to a built-in rechargeable one), which some users may prefer. While those of you who have more than 5 devices in your entertainment system may find the capabilities of the Harmony 650 rather limited, this universal remote control is a great choice for those who have more basic needs yet still want a high-feature remote.
The Universal Remote Control company makes plenty of products, but the R40 model represents the "sweet spot" for most home entertainment systems. This model comes packed with all of the latest features, including a color OLED screen, on-board setup interface, and control over 18 devices. The bright OLED screen is flanked by six "soft buttons", each of which correspond to the displayed function. The R40 offers a "learn" mode that allows users to add to its database, and is easier to use thanks to graphical prompts that can walk users through the procedure. This model supports complex macro functions, and can be set up to turn on (or switch off) your entire home theater system with the press of a single button. "Copy and Paste" functionality is supported as well, which enables the remote to "copy" one volume command and "paste" them across your entire system. The backlit keys make low light usage infinitely easier, though the small-ish buttons require an adjustment period before users are completely comfortable. One feature that sets the R40 apart from the competition is its "Favorites" capability, which gives users the ability to map favorite channels to color-coded (and labeled) "My Favorites" buttons.
Let's say you like the feature set of the Logitech Harmony One, but your entertainment system devices reside behind a cabinet door that blocks remote signals. Logitech offers the Harmony 900 just for this purpose. The Harmony 900 is essentially the same unit as the Harmony One (save for a few minor changes), but the biggest difference is how the Harmony 900 operates using RF signals instead of IR. You simply install a RF wireless system inside your cabinet, which then repeats your remote commands via IR. This setup allows you to control all of your entertainment devices, even when they're hidden out of sight and out of reach of standard remote signals. Otherwise, the operation of this remote is the same as the much-praised Logitech Harmony One.
The Logitech Harmony 1100 is a high-end and expensive remote, but it’s cheaper than many other tablet models and has a sleek touch-screen interface. While the touch-screen is used for most of the actions and activities (such as Watch TV, Watch a DVD, etc), there are also hard buttons for changing the channel, adjusting the volume, and navigating through menus and guides. The Harmony 1100 performs well and is very responsive. It can control up to 15 devices and is programmable through a web-based software interface that’s compatible with Windows and Mac. Additionally, the remote includes a docking station and rechargeable lithium ion battery. One missing feature is built-in RF support – you’ll have to buy the Logitech RF Wireless Extender for that capability. Though many will prefer the wand-style Logitech Harmony One for its great performance and more affordable price, the Harmony 1100 is an excellent universal remote control that will not disappoint shoppers seeking a tablet-style remote for their high-end home theaters.