Comparing Universal Remotes

Features to look for in a universal remote control

Universal remote control devices allow you to access all your media and entertainment equipment from one simple handset. They put an end to the confusion caused by multiple remote control devices, and simplify your entertainment experience by putting your entire digital collection at your fingertips. However, not all universal remotes are made equal, and comparing universal remotes can seem tricky if you're not particularly tech savvy. Let's take a closer look at the essential features you can expect from a good universal remote control.

Points of Comparison for Universal Remotes

Here are quick and easy ways to compare the features offered by various universal remote control devices:

  • Number of supported devices. The more, the merrier. Common supported devices include your TV, DVD/Blu-ray player, stereo and amplifier, media sound system, and satellite or cable boxes.
  • Layout optimization. If you use your DVD player or TiVo frequently, you'll want a universal remote with an optimized layout which supports these features.
  • Operational range. Most universal remotes use infrared technology for device connectivity, and as such, they have an operational range. Choosing a device with a generous operational range is best, though even the shortest-range devices generally connect within about 23 feet of the source.
  • Programmable features. Do you find yourself pressing the same buttons over and over? If so, you can get universal remotes that allow you to create programs so you don't have to go through the trouble each and every time.
  • Download support. In some situation, you may need to download device codes to connect new devices to your system or access certain types of content. You should bear in mind that only a select few of the very best universal remotes on the market support downloadable device codes, so choose with care if this is a feature you anticipate a need for.
  • Ergonomics. Finally, look at how the device is laid out. Is it intuitive? Do you know what everything is for, or do you see yourself having to consult the manual every time? Ergonomics are not to be overlooked as a factor in your decision.

Some of the best-reviewed universal remotes on the market include:

  • The Logitech Harmony series
  • Philips universal remote: the Prestigo line
  • The URC universal remote series

Got questions about audio, video or Internet cables? Wondering whether high-end cables are worth buying? Learn all about cable types, features and prices here:

Plasma, LCD or LED -- which type of screen will give you the best picture and features for your money? Find out here: