The Best Universal Remotes

Remote controls, as a general rule, suck. It's not a matter of your device — stereo, TV, set-top box, whatever — having a good remote. It's more of "OK, which is the least worst?" ... and "How many do I have to keep on hand?"

Universal remotes changed all that. Though for years and years they also were a source of frustration. Were all of your devices supported? Was there any way to update the remote for new devices? How hard was it to program? Just how well (or poorly) would all of this work?

That was then. This is now. Universal remotes are good again. And there's really only one company whose remotes I'd turn to. That's Logitech and its Harmony system.

And there are a number of options — and price points — to consider. Let's take a look.

The basics of Logitech Harmony

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Here's Harmony in a nutshell:

The Harmony Hub: This is a hub that connects to your Wifi and makes all the things work. It connects to the internet so you'll always have access to the latest device profiles. It also does Bluetooth control, which can be important for things like Apple TV and Android TV boxes. And it also does old-school infrared controls, and it has extenders that you can connect to make sure that all of your devices are within sight, even if you want to keep the hub hidden away somewhere.

The Harmony app: This is how you'll set up all your devices and activities. And you can control various smart devices through it as well. While it's maybe a little slower to use than I'd like, it's also methodical in the setup process, making what used to be a complicated task into something anyone can do. It also lets you control everything via your phone or tablet, if that's how you roll.

The Harmony remotes: Logitech has a number of remotes of various degrees of sophistication, and at various price points. Some are simple and (relatively) inexpensive, while others have touchscreens. Both have their merits.

Smart assistant integration: Logitech Harmony also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (and that means Google Home), so you can control things with your voice, if that's how you roll. Note that it is not compatible with

Let's take a closer look at what I think you should be taking a closer look at:

Logitech Harmony Hub

Logitech Harmony Hub

If you're only going to get one thing, get this. It's the heart of the Harmony system. And while I'd still recommend getting an actual Harmony remote control, you can do a lot with just the hub.

For starters, it's the one thing that links all the other things together. That's kind of important. It also lets you control everything from the Harmony app, which is available on Android and on iOS.

And it's the thing that talks to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You'll at the very least want this, and it's only about $80.

See at Amazon

Logitech Harmony Companion

Logitech Harmony Companion

The Harmony Companion is certainly more than a bare-bones basic universal remote. And while it's certainly not inexpensive, at about $133, you get a whole lot here.

First and foremost, you get the Hub. So that's covered. And then you get a beautiful universal remote. It's still probably the most nicely designed product in my home — and that's including smartphones.

If you want to go cheaper, there's the Harmony Smart Control. But I'd spring the extra money for the Companion for this reason — it has dedicated buttons for smart devices like lights and plugs. That's great future proofing if you're not already using those things — and it's an excellent silent way to turn off the lights at night if you already are.

If you ask me which remote to get, this is the one I recommend.

See at Amazon

Logitech Harmony Elite

This remote control is ridiculous. As in ridiculously cool. It's not nearly as svelte as the Harmony Companion, and it's more expensive. (It lists at about $350, but big discounts aren't uncommon — I'm currently seeing it 25 percent off.) But Logitech also has crammed a touchscreen in here.

What's so important about the touchscreen? For one, it's a totally different paradigm for controlling things. While I'm not at all interested in only using my phone as a remote, when you've got a mash-up like this it opens a lot of doors.

It also makes things easier. Instead of guessing which activity button turns on the TV and which one launches the Xbox and which one switches things over for the Nintendo Switch — it's all there, using words and stuff. So kids can use it more easily. Grown-ups can use it more easily.

And I'm a huge fan of the one-touch access to things like my Sonos favorites. Wanna start up some music? It's literally just a swipe and a touch away. No loading up apps.

Plus this has the Harmony Hub included and a bunch of home control buttons. If you want the best of the best, this is what you get.

See at Amazon

Phil Nickinson