Many people have taken the time to upgrade their home theater systems during the coronavirus pandemic. While immersive sound and giant screens are fun, managing an army of remotes is more confusing than convenient. If you've got a serious home-theater system — or even a semiserious one with three or more components — a universal remote control is an amazing device to own.
The best universal remote can unify all your clickers — sound bar, Apple TV, surround speakers, Blu-ray player, Roku streaming stick and more devices — into a single wand with buttons in a way that can feel almost magical.
Here are some excellent choices for the best universal remote control currently available.
WHAT Logitech Harmony 665
THE COST $69.99
AVAILABLE FROM logitech.com
Logitech Harmony makes the most basic clickers for a smart home. Just press the "Watch TV" or "Listen to Music" buttons and the Logitech Harmony remote controller turns on all the relevant devices (such as your smart TV, blu-ray player, and AV receiver). It also switches to the right inputs and maps the keys to that activity: Volume to the receiver and Channel up-down to the box.
Unlike more expensive Logitech Harmony options, which use a universal remote control app on your phone for setup and control, you'll have to use Harmony's Mac- or PC-based software to program the remote.
WHAT Caavo Control Center
THE COST $59
AVAILABLE FROM caavo.com
Caavo Control Center includes an HDMI switch in addition to the smart remote. You plug your device into the switch and it handles the rest, including automatically recognizing your gear during setup. Caavo has its own smart voice control system and on-screen display to help you find stuff to watch on your streaming devices. The universal remote control device itself is simple and elegant and the remote finder is gold.
Like the hub-based Harmonys, Caavo doesn't require line of sight (the switch acts as the hub) and the remote control will also work with a voice command from Alexa and Google Home speakers in homes with multiple devices.
On the downside, to get Caavo's advanced features, you'll need to shell out for the service fee. It costs $4 a month, $40 a year or $160 for the lifetime of the remote.
WHAT Amazon Fire TV Cube
THE COST $119.99
AVAILABLE FROM amazon.com
The wacky Amazon Fire TV Cube is a mashup of universal remote control, the Fire TV 4K streamer and Amazon Echo speaker, making it the king of your smart home devices. It comes with a device but its buttons are sparse and rudimentary: real device control happens via your voice. The Cube has an infrared emitter to control your gear and a mic sensitive enough to hear your commands over the blare of music.
On the downside, you'll need to keep your old remotes (even ones that aren't smart) around for many functions.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: executive editor John Falcone, senior managing editor David Katzmaier and copy editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.