By John Patrick Pullen
March 29, 2016

The more gadgets we’re cramming into our homes, the more remotes we’re amassing to control them. And here I come recommending that you buy just one more.

Don’t fret — getting one of these means you can kiss all those other remotes goodbye. Varied in pricing and capability, one will surely push your buttons the right way.

Logitech Harmony Elite

Logitech Harmony Elite
Logitech

Like its name (and $349 price tag) implies, this universal remote is the top of the line. Made by an established tech company, the Harmony can handle whatever you throw at it, able to connect with more than 270,000 devices. From televisions to streaming boxes, to connected lights and smart window shades, this clicker controls it all, making it a must-have for techies.

And that’s a good thing, because it takes a more tech-savvy user to configure it. The remote is configured using the Harmony Android or iOS app. In theory, this should make it easier to program in your various devices. But if you’re upgrading from a previous Harmony remote, you may be in for a bumpy ride. If you don’t have a smartphone handy, you can set it up with a computer, though the software doesn’t always play nice.

That said, once you get the Harmony up, it runs like a dream. With physical buttons, it’s as easy to use as your current remote. The 2.4-inch color touchscreen allows for dynamic menus that give the Harmony expanded capabilities, like multi-device, single tap shortcuts. So, say you like watching movies with the lights dimmed, thermostat chilly, and surround sound cranked, consider this remote your home theater’s master of ceremonies.

Ray Super Remote

Ray Super Remote
Ray Super Remote

It’s surprising that there hasn’t been a fully touchscreen universal remote like the Super Ray before now. But it was worth the wait. Essentially an Android handset, the Super Ray has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, infrared, and the ability to connect with devices from more than 1,200 brands.

But the best part of Super Ray’s design isn’t its gorgeous 4.8-inch Gorilla Glass display. Its the physical power, mute and volume buttons the creators put on the remote’s side. Because touch-screens are great for doing lots of things, but they really stink when all you want to do is pump up the volume.

Setting up the $249 Super Ray was relatively painless, so long as you still have your old remotes. While it does have a database of devices it can connect to, it mostly learns to control your devices by having you point your old remotes at it and press certain buttons. So if you’re buying this universal remote to replace your missing remotes, that will be a challenge.

It also didn’t exactly play nice with my TiVo, which is understandable but frustrating. Those devices are still popular enough that it was disappointing to see Super Ray’s touchscreen unable to mimic important functions like the “TiVo” button.

Then again, Super Ray also tried to out-TiVo my TiVo, using its gorgeous display and slick user interface to suggest shows and streaming programs it thought I’d like. This capability might be the coolest thing about the Super Ray.

Pronto and Peel

Pronto
Pronto

Given everything smartphones can do, it’s surprising they generally lack a pretty basic feature: The ability to change the TV channel. Many firms have tried to deliver this functionality, but the tandem of Pronto and Peel are the only two worth recommending.

A 360-degree IR-blaster about the size of a salt shaker, Pronto is the hardware component. When paired with a smartphone running the free Peel app, Pronto is able to communicate with everything from your home theater receiver to your Blu-Ray player.

The Peel app, available for Android and iOS, turns your phone into a handheld television guide for the 21st century. Not only will it tell you what’s currently on the tube, but it also reaches into streaming services to share what’s hot and lets you set reminders for your favorite shows. Just tap on the show that appears on your phone’s screen and — poof — it appears on your television. You don’t even need to know what network it’s on. (Or what number you’d need to punch in with your old remote.)

When I saw Pronto’s $49 price tag, I had my doubts. But my experience using it with Peel left me impressed. However, there are downsides to using your smartphone as your remote control. You have to surrender your smartphone to let someone else take control of the TV, for instance, and you need to make sure your phone has a charge. But for someone looking for a cheap and easy TV remote solution, the Pronto is a great choice.

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