Why we picked the SofaBaton U1:
Harmony remotes are great, but they force you to choose between affordability and compatibility. The Harmony 665 is inexpensive, but you’re limited to 10 infrared devices. The Harmony Companion adds Bluetooth to the mix and app-based programming and control, but you’ll pay between $100 and $150 for it.
Like the Harmony system, you can search SofaBaton’s database for your specific device models, and if they’re listed, adding them takes just one tap. If they aren’t listed, you can use the U1’s learning function to teach it the needed commands with your factory remote.
Don’t like how the buttons work? You can assign (or re-assign) them from the full list of every available command — from any added device. If you’re controlling your Apple TV, for instance, you can assign the volume keys to control your soundbar or A/V receiver instead of using the Apple TV’s volume controls.
To choose which device you want to control, a handy scroll wheel lets you navigate an OLED display at the top of the remote. We really like how quickly you can make changes using the SofaBaton app — they happen instantly, no synchronization steps required.
Is the SofaBaton U1 perfect? No. The buttons aren’t backlit so they’re harder to see in a dark room. Unlike the Harmony remotes, there are no activity buttons for things like “Watch Apple TV” that use Logitech’s helpful wizard-based programming.
But there is a workaround: The SofaBaton U1 has four color-coded macro buttons above the number pad, and these can be easily programmed using the app to execute any sequence of commands from any of your added devices. Better yet, you can set these four macro buttons for each device, giving you a maximum of 60 macros. There’s no way to label the buttons, so you’ll just have to remember what each one does.
The best bare-bones universal remote control: GE 33709
Why you should buy this: It does just enough, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a universal remote to handle the basics and nothing more.
Why we picked the GE 33709:
The GE 33709 remote provides a straightforward way to control up to four devices using a host of pre-programmed codes while sporting a traditional design equipped with a basic D-pad and all of the most salient TV/media commands you could need.
If touch screens and programming via a PC or mobile app feel too convoluted for your needs, the GE 33709 is a perfect choice: It’s cheap — but not cheaply made — and it has everything you need to control your infrared devices.
The best universal remote for ultimate home theater control: Logitech Harmony Elite
Why you should buy this: If it can be controlled by a remote, this will let you control it.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking to control every single aspect of their home theater and smart home in one place.
Why we picked the Logitech Harmony Elite:
The most powerful remote on this list, it should come as no surprise that the Logitech Harmony Elite is also the most expensive. No, you probably don’t need this much remote, but if you want the ultimate all-in-one experience, this is where it’s at. Picking up where the Harmony Companion leaves off, the Elite adds a built-in, full-color touchscreen so you won’t need to turn to your phone for precise control nearly as often.