10 Best

Universal Remotes

of September 2023

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A Guide to Buying a Universal Remote Control

Yehudah Posnick

We’re all familiar with using a remote control for a television set. Televisions with a remote control have been around since 1956! But, if you have a lot of electronic devices in your home, such as a home theater system, gaming consoles, or DVD/Blu-Ray players, they might each have their own remote control. You’d probably think that it would be nice to consolidate all of these devices, and control them all with a single, universal remote control.

We’ll see that there are universal remote controls that are programmable: you supply them with a device’s product code, and it automatically recognizes it. You can then use the remote control for several devices at once, selecting each particular device from an on-screen display. Some of them pair up with a smartphone app, to help you add devices to be controlled. We’ll see remote controls that require that you to have an unobstructed view of the device, and others that use WiFi or Bluetooth that can go through walls.

All told, a universal remote is not just for people too lazy to get off the couch to change channels on their TV set. It can help you manage a number of devices and even kitchen appliances with ease!


What can a universal remote control do?

Universal remote controls are devices designed to operate multiple electronic devices, such as TVs, DVD players, audio systems, and more. They can operate on infrared signals, radio frequency signals such as Bluetooth, or Wifi.

  • An infrared remote control requires that you have a clear line of sight between the remote control and the device that you wish to operate.

  • On the other hand, Bluetooth and Wifi devices can go through obstacles such as walls, or be operated from another room.

What can I do if my universal remote control breaks? How do I regain control over my devices?

If you’ve set up a universal remote to control several devices, and the remote control breaks, you shouldn’t be stuck back in the Stone Age. You have several options:

  • Replacing your universal remote, either with the same model, or one that is compatible with your devices.

  • Using a smartphone or tablet in the meantime: Many devices have smartphone apps that allow adequate control, until you get a new universal control.

  • Going back to the individual remote controls: You can also go back to the individual remote controls for each device.

  • Manual controls: Many appliances and devices have on-board controls that allow you to adjust settings in the absence of a remote control.

  • IR Blaster: If you have a smartphone with an infrared (IR) blaster, you can search for universal remote control apps that utilize the IR blaster to send signals to your devices. These apps turn your phone into a remote control by mimicking the signals sent by a traditional remote control. However, not all smartphones have an IR blaster, so this option may not be available to everyone.

Types of Universal Remotes

We can divide universal remote control devices between those without a hub, and those with a hub:

  • Without hub: These control Bluetooth devices (Apple TV, Roku, Firestick), as well as anything that uses an Infrared remote control. You set up these universal remotes by the following procedure:

    1. Install the universal remote’s smartphone app on your smartphone.

    2. Put the batteries in the remote control.

    3. Pair the universal remote with your smartphone by means of the app. (This is a much easier option than previous universal remotes, which required you to pair them with your PC in order to configure them.)

    4. You’ll then see a list in the smartphone app of all of the devices that your remote control can operate.

    5. You can also look for additional devices in your home that use a remote control, and add them to the list.

An example is the SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control.


SofaBaton U1 Universal Remote Control

  • With hub: There are universal remote controls that use a hub. A network hub is a device that allows you to connect several devices to the Internet, such as computers, printers, and servers. A hub for a universal remote works much the same way. For example, the SofaBaton X1 Universal Remote Control with Hub & App will connect to your TV, DVD, game controller, CD player, and speakers. The accompanying remote control then communicates with the hub. This way, the remote control only has to be within range of the hub. But note that the hub needs its own power supply, such as a power cord. The handheld remote control will usually have a rechargeable battery and can be charged by means of a USB cable.