Amazon Fire TV Cube – Best Overall
Amazon’s latest Fire TV Cube is a big jump over its predecessor, especially in hardware and software, which piqued my interest. Amazon has been a big name in the world of video streaming and related products for a while now. However, the only thing that deterred me from purchasing the Fire TV Cube was the lack of support for YouTube. I am an avid YouTube Prime user; hence, I did not want to invest in something that did not come with support for YouTube playback.
However, the new Fire TV cube supports YouTube and other high-end AV formats, including the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. In addition to this, the Fire TV cube provides high-end performance and is pretty flexible when it comes to controlling different gadgets connected to the home theatre system. The cherry on top is that you can also manage other smart home products using voice controls thanks to built-in Alexa. The system is 4K ready, which means it supports 4K media streaming.
The device has an unassumingly styled black cube design, which made it perfect for my system. I wanted something that would not grab sudden attention, and this device gives me exactly that. In addition to the remote, you can also use the four control buttons on top of the Amazon Fire TV Cube. They can be used to mute audio, increase/decrease the volume, and summon Alexa. Moreover, since the device has eight far-field microphones, it has an extended listening range.
To get 360 degrees IR coverage, I have attached my Fire TV Cube to an IR extender. Amazon sells the IR extender separately, and it connects at the back of the Fire TV Cube. So, now I can control multiple components with the Fire TV Cube’s remote. It comes with an 8 feet long cable that provides flexible placement and gives me access to various AV components.
It is a complete TV/AV control center.
In addition to the system itself, the remote also supports voice control.
It comes with support for 4K HDR playback.
You can electronically mute the mic using the button on top.
There is a lot of Amazon content on the home screen.
Logitech Harmony Companion – Best for a smart home ecosystem
The Logitech Harmony Companion is an excellent system for anyone who wants something that would help send out commands to both smart products and AV components. The system consists of a remote and a hub equipped with an IR blaster. Since it is a complete package, you don’t have to purchase any complementary products. This system by Logitech can connect to eight devices at a time, and the list of compatible devices is ever increasing. At the moment, it is compatible with more than 270,000 devices available on the market, including smart TVs, cable boxes, Philip Hue lights, Gaming consoles, and lots more.
As far as the setup process is concerned, it is straightforward. I did not face any issues while setting up the device or the application. Moreover, none of my smart home products had a problem while establishing a connection with the system. I was able to control my blinds, Philips Hue bulbs in the garage, and the Next thermostat with Alexa as well. The remote also made controlling the gadgets connected to my home theatre fairly easy.
However, I do have some concerns when it comes to the build of the remote. Even though it feels very nice and soft, it is a fingerprint and dust magnet, making it look grimy. As far as batteries are concerned, it comes with pre-installed cells that, according to the company, should last for almost a year. I used the device for a little more than a month and did not have to change the batteries.
The hub that the system comes with communicates with other devices using RF or Bluetooth signals. It sends across the commands given by the remote. This means you don’t exactly have to point the remote towards the device you are trying to control, which I found very freeing. Moreover, there is no lag, and the commands are relayed by the hub almost instantly.
The batteries are pre-installed and long-lasting.
The number of compatible devices is ever increasing.
You can also use the system to control gaming consoles.
It also works with smart home devices.
The remote picks up dirt and fingerprints quickly.
Logitech Harmony Elite – Best for automation
The Logitech Harmony Elite, which is sold as a set consisting of Logitech’s Harmony Hub and Harmony 950 touchscreen universal remote, has been designed to control both smart home devices and home entertainment devices. On top of providing more versatility, power, and customization, the system can simultaneously connect to and control up to 15 devices at a time.
The harmony hub that the system comes with is essentially the same as the one that accompanies Logitech Harmony Companion. It has a similar structure and is a wide-angle IR transmitter. The highlight of this system is the touchscreen remote control. It is equipped with a 2.5-inch touchscreen that displays the active devices along with the activities being performed.
What I like about this system is that even though the touchscreen offers access to several settings and functions, the remote still has physical buttons. They can also be customized to perform custom activities. The remote has a cradle that you can leave it on. This way, when not in use, it is being charged. Moreover, you will misplace it less often.
All IR-controlled devices are pretty easy to control with the remote. Smart devices, on the other hand, require some setup. However, if you list the item on the Harmony app on your phone, it guides you through the process, which makes it simple. While setting up my PlayStation 4, the app asked me to add the remote as a Bluetooth remote using the settings, and it worked like a charm.
Moving on to my favorite feature – Automation. Like a smart home hub, the app and the remote allow setting up activities that can fire up and configure multiple devices as part of an activity or a routine. I have set a Cinema mode that turns on the TV, changes the input to Netflix, dims the lights, and sets the remote to control the home theatre system.
It does not stop there, however. You can even set the four buttons on the remote to each of your most-used devices.
Of course, the remote feels bulky, and due to the added customizations, the whole system costs a lot more than other similar products. However, if you are big on automation and don’t have a budget constraint, this device will revamp the way you control different gadgets around the house.
The remote comes with a cradle for charging.
The whole system is easy to set up since the mobile app provides all the instructions.
You don’t have to purchase any complementary products.
It can also control devices inside a closed cabinet.
The remote feels bulky in hand.
Caavo Control Center – Best budget option
The Caavo Control Center with the RF blaster is a hard-wired system that includes a control center and a remote. To control different devices, you will have to plug them in. You can only control up to four devices using this system. However, for an average-sized home theatre setup, this is more than enough.
The control center is compatible with most cable and satellite TVs, Direct To Home systems, DVD and Blu-Ray Players, as well as AVRs. What I also like about this system is that as soon as you plug in a device, it automatically detects it and displays the configuration steps on the screen.
Another feature of the Caavo control system that stood out for me was the media search bar. Once you type something, it checks for availability on all the media streaming websites, including HBO, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV, Netflix, Roku, and HBO. This one time, I was looking for a particular movie that was available on Amazon Prime. However, thanks to the search bar, I found that it was available on Netflix at a lower subscription cost. I was able to save a couple of bucks on media streaming thanks to the search bar.
The Caavo control center is a powerful system with an IR blaster that allows you to control a limited number of devices efficiently. However, while setting it up, I found that I had to pay a couple of extra bucks for a subscription to access all functions. Caavo had not mentioned this on the box at the time of purchase. Amazon also offers different packages that allow you to buy a lifetime subscription in one go.
Nevertheless, despite this one minor caveat that adds to the system’s cost, the Caavo Control Center is one of the best smart remotes I have tested. It provides efficient functionality; the operations are on point, and there is no lag. It is ideal for anyone who is on a budget and does not have a lot of products to control.
The system recognizes and sets up products from most of the major brands.
Displays curated list of content on the TV.
The search bar searches across all streaming services.
The construction of the control center is subtle, and it does not stand out.
Requires a subscription to access complete functionality.
Here are some of the features you might want to consider before investing in a Smart remote control system.
Number of connected devices
Each smart remote control comes with a limited number of devices it can simultaneously connect to and control. Hence, before investing in a smart remote control system, make sure that the number of connected devices a system offers is in accordance with the number of devices your home theatre system has.
If you are looking for a universal remote that will control more than one device, it is better to invest in one that comes with the most common type of communication technologies. These include IR, RF, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
Scenes and Routines
Even though scenes and routines are not compulsory features, they will make your life easier. If a system is compatible with scenes and routines, it will allow you to set certain modes that activate a number of gadgets at a time. For example, I have set a cinema mode that, when activated, turns on the TV, changes the input to Netflix, and dims the lights. The term scenes and routines can also be used interchangeably with One-Touch-Activities.
Most smart remote controls come with an in-built voice control system nowadays. However, some like the Caavo Control Center don’t. As banal as this feature may sound in a world of smart products, it can make things easier for you. Even when you are feeling lazy, you can change the input on your home theatre, or turn off the lights by just talking to the remote.
Investing in a smart remote control system with an RF blaster was one of the best decisions I made. Now, not only can I easily control my home theatre system without having to jumble between different remote controls, but I can also use voice commands to change input channels, fire up certain electronics and set different routines.
Since I wanted something versatile yet powerful, I decided to stick with the Amazon Fire TV Cube. If you want something that will integrate well with your already in place smart home, the Logitech Harmony Companion is a good choice. However, if you want to go all out and want something top-of-the-line that will help control all AV devices as well as smart devices, the Logitech Harmony Elite will not disappoint you. The Caavo control system is also a good option if you have a budget constraint but don’t want to compromise on features.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a universal remote for Smart TV?
Yes, there are many universal remotes on the market that are compatible with Smart TVs. A universal remote can communicate with gadgets using RF, IR, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Is there a monthly fee for Amazon Fire TV Cube?
No, the Amazon Fire TV Cube does not have a monthly fee. It is a one-time purchase.
Does Fire TV Cube work with any TV?
Yes, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is compatible with most TVs. If you are having an issue, you can purchase the Amazon IR Blaster to be used with the Fire TV Cube for added communication.