How to buy the best universal remote control

In 2017, many households have a television, receiver or soundbar, Blu-ray player and TV decoder. And often there is also a game console and media streamer available. Do you operate them all with separate remote controls? Maybe that's not necessary at all. This is how you buy the best universal remote control.

With all those media devices in the living room, four or five remotes are soon lying around. A big disadvantage, because you easily lose them or you just grab the wrong one if you want to zap. Moreover, you prefer to operate all equipment from one device. Manufacturers of universal remote controls respond to this need by tempting you to buy. For example, they promise that you can control up to fifteen devices without restrictions. There is clearly a market for it, because universal remote controls are available in all price ranges. Moreover, there are few hi-fi products that are as controversial as the universal remote control. One experiences it as an incomprehensible nonsense, while the other absolutely cannot do without it. Enough reason to discuss the universal remote control in detail, so that you can determine for yourself to what extent the device is indispensable for you.

How does it work?

When it is possible to set up a universal remote control completely to your liking, the operation is simple. You first indicate which device you want to connect to. On cheap products, for example, you see buttons with TV, DVD/VCR, SAT and AUX at the top. The more expensive models have a touch screen on which you select the correct source. Then you use the other buttons to, for example, adjust the volume and tune to the desired television channel.

Computer programming

If you delve into the world of universal remote controls, you will discover all kinds. The simplest products can be bought for less than a tenner, while a luxury remote control such as the Logitech Harmony Elite is sold for about 240 euros. With cheap infrared remote controls, you often have to enter the product keys of supported devices manually. This is done on the basis of a code table. Usually you can see from an indicator light whether the entered code is correct. Fortunately, even with the cheapest remotes you can increasingly search for codes automatically. You then point the remote control at the relevant device and simultaneously press one or two buttons. The exact procedure for this varies per product. Unfortunately, when you replace the batteries, there is a chance that you will have to reprogram the codes. It is nice that many remote controls store the entered codes in the memory for about twenty minutes, so that there is enough time for a battery change.


If you go for a cheap copy, pay attention to whether there is support for the desired brands. Often the packaging indicates that the remote can handle a staggering number of devices from numerous brands. Unfortunately, it is not always stated which brands exactly. Be sure of compatibility and, if necessary, look up an online manual beforehand. Also check which device groups the product can handle. For example, there is regular support for DVD players, but not for Blu-ray players.

What is your target?

It is important to consider for what purpose you purchase a universal remote control. Would you like a product that replaces all existing original remote controls? Or is the remote control of a specific device broken and you want to replace it? In the latter case, there are also affordable remote controls that you can program via special software. This gives the universal copy exactly the same functions as the original remote control. The condition is, of course, that the device is supported. According to the manufacturer, the so-called 1:1 remote controls from König are compatible with about a hundred thousand devices. You can also opt for cheap universal remotes that can control four or even eight devices.

Not really universal

Some universal remotes only work with one brand of products. So they are not really universal. For example, the manufacturer One For All develops units that are compatible with devices from Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony or LG. An advantage is that you usually do not need to program these remotes. Furthermore, the functions of the products better match the buttons on the original remote control. Think, for example, of opening the smart environment or the electronic manual on a smart TV.


The operation of a smart TV is so advanced these days that using a cheap infrared model is usually not sufficient. Switching on the device, tuning to the correct channel or opening a teletext page is usually still possible. But it pretty much ends there. Opening the smart environment, for example, is often a lot of hassle, making apps such as Netflix, YouTube, NPO and RTL XL not or difficult to reach. Activating the 3D mode or voice function is also usually not possible with a cheap universal remote control. If you want easy access to all functions of the smart TV, you need a more modern one. Fortunately, they are widely available. For example, Logitech is a forerunner in the development of smart remote controls that can be used for every smart TV. Below we will discuss various functions that are available with many luxury remote controls.

App support

Programming a remote control manually via a code table is of course outdated. That is why many modern products have built-in bluetooth adapters, which allow them to communicate wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet. Handy, because you can then use an app on your smartphone/tablet to set up the universal remote control. It is often sufficient to specify the brand of the television, TV decoder or Blu-ray player, after which the app and the linked remote control start a test procedure. You can also immediately enter the correct model number. Sometimes the app contains some extra functions, such as playing a beep on the remote control - very nice if you have lost the remote!

Alternative Solutions

Do you want to limit the number of remote controls on the coffee table? Then do not immediately run to the store for a universal copy. There are also other solutions conceivable. For example, many televisions have a CI+ slot on the side. You can request a suitable CI+ module including smart card from some television providers that you insert directly into the television. This means you no longer need an external decoder with a remote control. To tune to your favorite TV channel, you use the regular remote control of the television. Cable company Ziggo, among others, supplies its customers with an optional CI+ module. With smart TVs from the higher price segment, a remote control is often included with which you can also operate other devices, including external TV decoders and Blu-ray players. The LG Magic Remote is a well-known example of this.

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