What’s the best smart home remote? I’m glad you asked. It’s early enough, still, that there are really only a few options to choose from. That said, the existing options are all REALLY cool! In this article I’ll discuss the three best physical smart home remotes (each of which has a touchscreen, by the way) and the best app remote for smart homes (actually, a couple of the remotes I talk about here also have accompanying apps). But first, let’s briefly talk about the smart home landscape.
Wondering what you can control in your smart home? The most popular smart home applications include controlling lighting and temperature. But that’s really just the tip of the smart home iceberg. You can also control cameras and security systems, locks, sensors, window shades, your home theater and entertainment setup and even your sprinkler system. In the coming months and years this list will continue to expand (fairly rapidly, I would guess).
More specifically (but don’t consider this a comprehensive list), you can control: Nest products, Ecobee products, Sonos products, the new Apple TV, Roku products, Philips Hue products, cable boxes and satellite systems, the Xbox One and Xbox 360, Playstation 4 (and 3) and the Nintendo Wii. There are so many smart home devices I actually don’t fee like listing them all here (ha).
Alright, let’s get into the best smart home remotes.
The NEEO remote (which is actually a system that consists of the remote itself and “the Brain”, or hub) is an aluminum smart home remote that features a 291 ppi (pixels per inch) touchscreen (which is higher resolution than a Retina iPad). Unlike the Logitech Harmony Elite remote below, this smart home remote features a very minimal button layout. One really cool feature is the hand recognition technology which allows for individual user profiles and specific parental controls. The touchscreen measures 3″ diagonally, is fingerprint resistant and features an ultra-thin bezel.
What I really like about the NEEO is the ability to use recipes, or sets of instructions, to automate your home and routine. For instance, you could program a morning recipe that turns on the lights in the kitchen, but not all the way, begins playing a favorite playlist and heats up the bathroom. Or you can use recipes for more security minded operations such as turning on the lights if there’s motion detected in the living room between 1pm and 8am.
NEEO has a very Apple-like aesthetic about it. It’s sophisticated and sleek and every detail seems to have been taken into account. This is a device that you would want to show off to your friends — it’s not an ugly appliance meant to hide in obscurity.
I’d recommend buying the NEEO if you’re looking for a smart home remote with a luxurious, premium feel.
Logitech Harmony Elite ($349)
The Logitech Harmony Elite smart home remote is a black, plastic remote with lots of dedicated buttons and a slightly smaller touchscreen than the NEEO remote (at 2.4″). The first thing you’ll notice about the Harmony Elite is probably that it looks more like a traditional tv remote with all those buttons – which some people will no doubt enjoy.
There are a few nice features that help to set the Harmony Elite apart from other smart home remotes. One such feature is the vibration feedback which lets you keep your eyes on your entertainment. Dedicated buttons for lights and outlets as well as four color-coded buttons help you accomplish some tasks quicker and easier. Finally, the backlit controls make using the remote in dark spaces more doable (this feature is even motion activated).
While I personally like the look of the NEEO remote quite a bit better, I wouldn’t shy away from the Harmony Elite just because it seems a tad clunkier. I tend to be a big fan of Logitech products, which always seem to work as expected with minimum hassle. One thing to keep in mind is the distance from the bottom-most button to the top of the touch-screen — that is how far your thumb or fingers will have to travel (which probably makes using this remote a two-handed affair at times).
I’d say buy the Logitech Harmony Elite smart home remote if you prefer lots of dedicated buttons or simply like the all black look.
Sevenhugs Smart Remote ($TBA)
The Sevenhugs Smart Remote is a LOT different than the other two remotes I’ve mentioned already. It’s smaller, for one, which makes it a lot easier to hold in your hand. It’s pure touchscreen for another: there are no physical buttons to mess with. Oh, and it’s got some serious smarts…
The Sevenhugs remote actually adapts (the screen changes) based on what it is pointed at. If you point it at a connected thermostat you can control the temperature. Point it at the tv and you can change the channel and the volume. Point it at a light and you can change the color and brightness. Aside from the smart home functions you’d expect, you can also see information like the weather. I also like that you can mount the charging station on the wall (say next to the door) and tap the screen to run off the lights as you exit a room!
Do be quite honest, I love the design of this remote. It’s so sleek! And I tend to be a fan of minimalism. Whereas remotes like the Harmony Elite try to do everything with the push of a dedicated button, the Sevenhugs remote shows one simple function at a time — and that is really cool. And the colors really come to life on this screen! While it’s not an approach everyone will like, this product definitely shows a team that was thinking outside of the box.
I’d say buy the Sevenhugs Smart Remote if you want something simple, something different or just a smaller remote.
A person could make a good argument that your smartphone is the best and last remote for anything and everything you may ever need and it’s not an argument that isn’t without substance. In fact, of the remotes I listed above, the NEEO and Logitech both come with accompanying smartphone apps that duplicate the features of the respective remotes. And Apple, maker of the world’s most premium smartphone, isn’t sitting on the sidelines when it comes to smart home tech. Thanks to Apple HomeKit (and the ever-growing assortment of HomeKit enabled devices, anyone with an iPhone already owns one of the nicest smart home remotes.
The most powerful aspect of HomeKit is probably the ability to create scenes (remember those recipes from NEEO?). You could create a scene for waking up which opens the window shades, warms up the house and turns on the electric kettle. Scenes are cool, of course, but there’s one important thing HomeKit can do a few things the other remotes listed here can’t…
With HomeKit you can control your house using your voice thanks to Siri integration. You can say thing like, “Turn on the upstairs lights,” or, “Goodnight,” or, “Set the Tahoe house to 72 degrees.”
HomeKit also lets your house control itself (kind of). HomeKit is smart enough to do things like turn on lights based on when you arrive home. Or you can setup motion sensors to heat or cool areas or control lights — but only when you’re home (for example). These are called conditions and they’re pretty awesome.
I’d say use Apple HomeKit if you’ve already got an iPhone (duh) but you can use it in conjunction with a physical, dedicated smart home remote if you prefer.
While we’re nowhere near having a remote as powerful as the one we saw in that Adam Sandler movie I can barely even remember existed, we’re nearing a time when we can control much more of our environment much easier. As homes get even smarter, I won’t be at all surprised to wake up one day and find out that I can change the paint on my walls with the click of a button (or change the wall’s screensaver or whatever it will be).
I think as augmented reality marches closer to becoming a widespread, more usable technology we’ll see remotes that can do things we can’t even imagine in just a few short years. When that day arrives, it probably won’t be all that astonishing. Think about it: the remotes I’ve listed here today would’ve been considered absolutely mind-blowing to people just 10 years ago.
I’m sure remotes will integrate with robots in the very near future as well!
Still, I’m plenty excited about the remotes that are currently available for controlling our smart homes. Which remote is your favorite? Was there one I somehow missed that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments section down below.