Universal remotes have been around for a while, and they’ve come a long way. They can control your media center, your IR devices, and even your smarthome. But are universal remotes worth your money? If so, which one should you buy?
What Can a Universal Remote Do?
Before deciding whether or not a universal remote is worth your money (and which one you might want to buy), you should know that universal remotes can do more than just control a TV.
We’re going to quickly look at the Logitech Harmony Companion’s features, as it’s arguably the most robust universal remote. Keep in mind that other (cheaper) universal remotes may only carry only one or two of these features, but we’ll get into that later.
Here’s what universal remotes can do for you:
- Simplify Your Media Center: Universal remotes can imitate the IR blast from any remote control. In other words, you can control multiple devices with one remote.
- Create TV Routines: A universal remote can also automate your TV processes. If you wanted to turn on your TV and PS4 with the press of one button, for example, a universal remote could do that. You could also flesh out this routine by adding time-saving commands like “switch to HDMI input 2.”
- Control Your Smarthome: Along with IR controls, some universal remotes can control Wi-Fi enabled smarthome devices. This means that you can control Alexa, Google Assistant, Philips Hue, and other devices through the universal remote control (or companion phone app). These smarthome features can also be used in conjunction with TV routines. You could set your Philips Hue bulbs to dim when you turn on the PlayStation, for example.
- Make “Dumb” Devices Smart: Some universal remotes can control any device with an IR sensor (cheap lights, portable air conditioners, etc.). In effect, they can technically make your “dumb” devices smart. An electric fireplace that’s set up with a universal remote can be controlled through Alexa or Google Assistant or added to smarthome routines. (This can only be done with smarthome compatible remotes).
Now that you know what universal remotes can do let’s get into it.
Do You Own a Complicated Media Center?
If your TV is hooked up to just one video source, then you probably don’t need a universal remote. But if your media center is comprised of a cable box, a few game consoles, a Blu-Ray player, and an old VHS player (for example), then a universal remote is probably worth your cash.
Aside from the ability to turn on different devices with a single remote, some universal remotes, like the Logitech Harmony Companion or the Harmony 665, can build custom routines. You could program your PS4 and TV to turn on with the press of a single button (which can be done without a universal remote on some TVs using HDMI-CEC), for instance. Or, you could expand on the routine by adding commands like “turn to HDMI input 2,” or “set volume to 20.”
Of course, you could keep things simple with a cheap remote, like the GE 33709 or the Philips Universal Remote. These remotes don’t have smarthome features or routines, but they’re capable of controlling up to four devices at a time. That’s still better than fidgeting with a pile of different remotes.
Do You Have a Robust Smarthome?
Even with a tiny media center, a universal remote can still be worth your money. That is, so long as you have (or want) a robust smarthome.