Universal Remote Control Reviews and Buying Guide:
We've all heard it from our wives, why are there so many remote controls for the TV, stereo, DVD player, CD player, VCR, and TIVO. It's really a good question considering remotes perform some basic functions that should be shared by all remote controls regardless of what device they came with. For years we have had 4 or 5 remote controls on our coffee table that run various audio video equipment like the television or stereo. The invention of the universal remote control
sounded great, but many people have found them to be cumbersome to setup and not always reliable. Therefore, not nearly as many households have incorporated the universal remote into their family rooms and eliminated the other remotes. Over the last year or so new models have hit the market that make it easier to program the universal remote and the latest TV's and DVD players are more in sync than ever and can be grouped onto 1 remote control. Prices are all over the board with universal remotes
($15-$300) so keep reading this article and choose wisely based on user reviews and expert feedback. The Logitech Harmony 880 and 890 were the top selling models, but the newest Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote
has taken over top honors on Amazon.
If you go online there are lots of sites that claim to have all the answers when it comes to remote controls, but we found the best consumer reviews and ratings on sites like CNET.com, Remotecontrol.com, Tivocommunity.com and Hometheaterspot.com. All those sites have expert reviews and online forums with customer comments and the top rated and most popular universal remote controls. The top brands are RCA, Philips, Sony, GE, Harman Kardon, Logitech, Panasonic, and Universal Remote. Some of the touchscreen LCD remotes work great once they are setup, but getting them properly programmed to handle all the A/V components in your home theater or entertainment system is another thing. Unfortunately they are supposed to make life simpler on you yet many do the exact opposite just adding confusion to the whole remote control problem. As more people use DVR's and services like TIVO, the question of which remote can handle TIVO comes up quite often and we have to say that the Tivocommunity.com website answered all our questions. We tried to break down the universal remote control market into 4 categories below so that you can try to find the "best choice" in the category that fits your needs. No matter which one you choose, expect some initial setup time to program and coordinate all your remotes into 1 simplified system (an hour or more in some cases). Once you have successfully setup the universal remote you can clean off that coffee table and stuff the old remotes into a drawer somewhere and get rid of that extra clutter. You can browse the most popular universal remote controls on Amazon here
Best Universal Remote Control:
Certainly the most popular universal remote control is the Logitech Harmony 880
($250) and it appears to live up to the high ratings it gets. The Harmony 880 is a universal learning remote that is web programmable, has a color LCD screen, rechargeable batteries and a docking station. For use with DVR's, the Harmony 880 can handle it. Owners say that getting the Logitech universal remote control programmed is a bit tricky, but you'll be happy you did since it eliminates the need for 4 or 5 remotes for all those other components in your home entertainment system. Place the Harmony 880 in its docking station and start the software that comes with the remote. After answering a series of questions on your other home theater devices (tv, stereo, dvd, cd, etc.), the software will take that information and then upload all the correct control codes to the Logitech 880 remote. Not all codes were "perfect" say some owners, but the overall ease of programming is better than other remotes. You may have to tweak a few control codes to get things exactly right, but the Logitech Harmony 880 is the best universal remote control for now. The latest Harmony 890 has reached the market but reviews aren't as positive as they are for the older 880. There are certainly cheaper remote controls listed below, but if you have a complete home theater setup in your house, owning the 880 will make all the difference in the world. See the complete list of Logitech Harmony remotes on Amazon.com here
High End Universal Remote:
The Monster Cable Home Theater and Lighting Controller 300
($500) is a high end remote that has a similar software version of the Harmony software listed above. The button layout is 2nd to none and the backlit keys make it possible to see in darker rooms. You get both infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF) plus you get the possibility to control audio visual components in multiple rooms. Although most experts will say the Monster 300 is a bit overpriced, it's overall superior functioning makes it worth the cost. Many user reviews we read say the same things we heard time and again. The setup and programming of the remote can be difficult even with the docking station and software that comes with the universal remote. If you have the patience, setting the remote up for multiple rooms in your house is a big plus but may require lots of troubleshooting to get things "just right". Philips offers some high end remotes like the Philips RC9800i Home Entertainment Remote Control
but reviews weren't so positive. RECOMMENDED
- We suggest the new Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote Control with 3.5-Inch Color Touch Screen
- you get customizable icons, commands, and screens along with a full touch screen display. It is RF wireless capable and it supports 5000+ brands and 225,000 devices. It was recently won the CES 2009 Best of Innovations Award
. Reviews are very positive on this model, although some question the high price tag of $400.
Budget/Value Universal Remote Control:
As we noted earlier in the article, there is a wide price range on universal remotes and many are available for less than $50. The One For All URC 8910
($23) is available on Amazon.com and features the capability to manage up to 8 A/V components. It does not have an LCD screen like other remotes listed on this page, but it does many of the same functions they do, just in a less technical manner. It supports VCR, Tv, Amplifiers, CD players, DVD players, Cable boxes, Satellite TV systems, and TIVO DVR's. Users call it the "best bang for the buck" and "can do anything more expensive remotes can do". Reviewers say the customer service is superior to other companies and you can get additional remote codes over the phone. For less than $25 you can't go wrong. Another excellent low end universal remote is the RCA Learning Remote Control RCU807
($40) - a great 8-in-1 LCD remote control. See all the top rated tv universal remotes here
Universal Remote that Work with TIVO:
The Home Theater Master MX-500
($75) does all the functions you would expect on more expensive universal remotes for a lot less. You can control up to 10 A/V devices (including TIVO) and it comes preinstalled with codes of 1000+ makes and models. Called a "great value" by many owners, it takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to setup your equipment on the LCD screen. Punch in the codes for each a/v unit and never need multiple remotes again. Users say the buttons are big (not too bulky) but manageable and the custom macros are great for turning on multiple devices with a single click. The MX-700 model is slightly more expensive and offers many of the same features with a few extras. Both are available at Bestbuy.com.