Don't Waste Your Money is supported by our readers. When you purchase an item through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Universal Remote

Last updated on October 9, 2023

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

Our Picks For The Top Universal Remotes

View All Recommendations
Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Top Pick

Philips Ergonomic Design 3 Device Universal Remote

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval


Ergonomic Design 3 Device Universal Remote

Available in options that support three, four or five devices, this remote has broad compatibility with popular brands and handy DVR controls. Setup is easier with an auto-scan feature. You can get it in five colors.

Overall Take

Time-Saving ConfigurationIf you want something that makes it easy to get started, this remote has a time-saving auto-scan feature.

 Runner Up

GE LED Backlit 4 Device Universal Remote


LED Backlit 4 Device Universal Remote

Featuring buttons that light up, this remote comes in versions that support four or eight devices. It has a straightforward button layout and wide brand compatibility. There are five color options available.

Overall Take

Accommodates Dark SettingsConsider this remote if you prefer multiple color options and the convenience of illuminated buttons.

 We Also Like

RCA RCR503BE Long Range 3 Device Universal Remote


RCR503BE Long Range 3 Device Universal Remote

Made to control three devices, this remote has a special compact design for ergonomic use. The layout includes the most essential buttons. You also get multiple options for adding device codes.

Overall Take

Small and SimpleThis option is a good choice if you want a remote that is small and has a simple layout.

 Strong Contender

OMAIC VIZIO TV Compatible Universal Remote


VIZIO TV Compatible Universal Remote

This sleek remote supports specific VIZIO smart TV models and doesn't require entering codes to set up. It features special buttons for popular streaming services and has a long range.

Overall Take

No Setup NecessaryYou'll find this brand-specific remote useful if you want to replace your VIZIO TV remote and not worry about configuration.

Buying Guide

When you have multiple devices in your home theater setup, dealing with different remotes becomes very inconvenient. A universal remote solves the problem since you can configure it to control TVs, cable receivers, sound systems, media players and even some streaming equipment. It can also simply serve as an alternative to your factory-provided TV remote when you want something that’s more comfortable to use or has additional features.

You’ll find universal remotes in two forms with different levels of compatibility. The most common type has broad compatibility with devices from multiple manufacturers, and this usually includes at least the major brands. Other universal remotes work with multiple models from just one manufacturer, so they’re less flexible and often used to simply replace an original TV remote.

Universal remotes differ in how many devices you can control. The most basic models usually work with at least three devices, but others can control eight devices or more. Some manufacturers give you different options in this area, so make sure you inventory your home theater equipment so you can add all your devices.

Your universal remote should be easy to use with a clear layout and the right buttons you want. You’ll always find the basics such as volume, channel and playback controls as well as special buttons to configure the remote, switch devices and access a menu. However, some models go further with programmed streaming buttons for popular services or DVR controls. The most high-tech options feature color screens with extra functionality and may let you customize the controls.

Since remotes get used so often, make sure you choose something comfortable to operate. While many options are somewhat large, others are compact or have a special shape so you can hold them in your hand easily. You should also make sure the buttons aren’t so small or spaced close together so that it’s hard to press the one you want.

What to Look For

  • Even if a particular remote says it works with every brand, you should still check the list of manufacturers listed and do further research to verify compatibility. This especially applies if you use devices from less popular brands. Also, pay attention to any exclusions, as these often refer to the remote not supporting certain streaming media sticks.
  • You may want to get a universal remote with keys that are either backlit or glow in the dark. This comes in handy if you want to control the TV when you have the lights off. However, do keep in mind the backlighting will reduce your remote’s battery life.
  • To make the setup process easier, look for universal remotes that have an auto-scan feature. This saves time and work since you can simply turn on the device you want to control and use the remote’s settings to scan through different codes until you find the one that works.
  • If you need to enter remote codes manually, you’ll need to first locate them for each device. You can start with the manual provided with the remote and head to the manufacturer’s website if you don’t find what you need. Once you find the codes, consider writing them down in case you need to reconfigure the remote someday.
  • While universal remotes allow for the most common device functions, still keep the original remotes handy. You may eventually need them to access specific device menus or less common functions.
  • Universal remotes use either AA or AAA batteries and don’t come with any to get started. So, make sure you have enough and consider some extras for when the batteries eventually wear out. 
  • If you start having issues with the remote responding slowly or buttons not working properly, you likely need to replace the batteries. You can also check for issues such as the sensor on a particular device being blocked by something or the remote being out of range.
  • It’s helpful to get a remote made of a sturdy material that can hold up to being dropped. Plus, while black and gray are the most common remote colors, you can sometimes find more interesting options such as blue or gold.

More to Explore

Did you know that the TV remote control dates back to 1950? Named “Lazy Bones” and made by Zenith, this early model featured a long cord and had basic functions to move through the channels and control the TV’s power. Although it was more cumbersome than later wireless models, it still found popularity among TV owners. In 1955, the same company would make a wireless remote control that resembled a ray gun.

The first universal TV remote control didn’t exist until 1984 and would be called the “Controller of Remote Equipment.” Made by Steve Wozniak, this innovative product wouldn’t yet succeed with customers since it was complex to configure and customers were still fine with having multiple remotes. Magnavox was another early maker of universal remotes.

From our partners