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Published Apr 21, 2022 9:00 AM

The first-generation Apple TV Siri Remote has earned a … less than stellar reputation over the years. Particularly, owners have criticized its awkward touchpad and obtuse design, which makes it difficult to figure out when it’s facing right side up. You may not realize this, but you don’t have to settle and use Apple’s remote. There are other options out there, though. If you have an older Apple TV, the new Siri Remote on the Apple TV 4K is a significant improvement over the previous model. You can go even further afield, though, including old-school universal remotes, gamepads, and even your phone. If you’ve been frustrated using Apple’s set-top box, you no longer have to suffer, because we’ve rounded up the best remotes for Apple TV.

How we picked the best remotes for Apple TV

I’ve owned an Apple TV (HD) since 2015, and am intimately familiar with how bad its remote feels. The thin design makes it uncomfortable to hold and easy to lose between couch cushions, and the clickable touchpad can be finicky. It’s bad, but I still use it all the time. And suffering through that has instilled a passion for finding a better way to use my streaming device of choice.

Beyond personal pride, I’ve been writing about technology, including streaming devices, for a very long time. I started covering consumer electronics for TechnoBuffalo back in 2011, and have written for many publications, including CNN Underscored, Gear Patrol, iMore, Android Central, and XDA Developers.

When selecting our picks, I researched sites like Amazon to see what other remotes are available for the Apple TV. I also considered the opinions of websites that are dedicated to covering Apple products, as well as critic reviews and user impressions.

Things to consider when picking the best remote for Apple TV

This was a tricky one, folks. Sadly, there isn’t an abundance of options like there are other Apple accessories. If you’re happy with the remote that came with your Apple TV 4K—or just use the iOS remote accessible on every iPhone/iPad—there’s no reason for you to buy something new. Aside from a few highly niche options, like the Channel Master Simple Remote, there really aren’t a ton of options. If you curse the older Apple TV Remote every time you pick it up, though, we have some suggestions for how you might ditch it.

Design

TV and set-top box remotes are generally very utilitarian, so their general designs haven’t changed much over the years. We looked at remotes of all shapes and sizes and considered everything from build quality to thickness and weight. A remote’s design shouldn’t go overlooked, and since it’s something you’ll likely use every day. We tried finding options that look nice and feel good in your hand. We also searched for options that feature higher quality materials, durability, and buttons that don’t feel mushy.

Features

A remote shouldn’t be complicated to use, but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer a few extra features. We looked out for options that, if possible, go beyond basic menu navigation. A few of the universal remotes on our list are smartphone-like in their ability to not only control the Apple TV, but smart home devices. Meanwhile, the Apple TV Siri Remote offers quick access to Apple’s digital assistant. It’s these features that help set these remotes apart, and provide a more well-rounded experience beyond simply changing the volume.

Battery life

When researching our picks, we tried finding remotes that promise long-lasting battery life. A remote is of no use if it’s constantly dead. Ideally, a remote should last a few months before it needs to be recharged or have its batteries replaced. We also generally prefer remotes with a rechargeable internal battery, rather than AAs, in order to reduce e-waste over the lifespan of the device.

Price

The Apple TV 4K is already more expensive than most dedicated streaming devices, so we tried prioritized remotes that don’t add too much to the overall cost. Despite that, our picks range in price from $20 to several hundreds of dollars. We’ll be the first to admit that spending more than $100 on a remote is a big ask, but the more expensive picks have a lot of utility for many devices, not just the Apple TV.

The best remotes for Apple TV: Reviews & Recommendations

We dug into the details to find the best remote for Apple TV that works for you. It’s an eclectic list, but one that we hope will lead you to find a better experience with your fave streaming device.

Best remote for Apple TV: Apple TV Siri Remote

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: A lovely aluminum design and precise D-pad make this the best remote for Apple TV.

Specs:

  • Size: 1.04 x 6.93 x 2.62 inches
  • Weight: 0.28 pounds
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Battery life: Two months

Pros

  • Better design than past Apple TV remotes
  • Jogwheel controls
  • Clicky buttons

Cons

  • Kind of expensive for a better version of the thing you already have

It took Apple several years to release an Apple TV remote that people don’t hate. The new Apple TV Siri Remote, which comes with the Apple TV 4K, is a significant improvement over the first-generation Apple TV Siri Remote, ditching the clickable touchpad for a much more intuitive D-pad. The new version is taller and thicker, so it’s more comfortable to hold. The button layout has been tweaked slightly and now includes a mute button. The directional pad also features touch-sensitive “jogwheel” controls, which lets you cycle through your content by sliding your finger around the circular navigation controls, like you would on an old-school iPod. Overall, the new Apple TV Siri Remote is better than its predecessor in every way. It finally makes controlling the Apple TV enjoyable, rather than a constant nightmare.

Best universal remote: Logitech Harmony Companion

Logitech

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Why it made the cut: The Logitech Harmony Companion offers powerful features and can control thousands of devices.

Specs:

  • Size: 10 x 5.4 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.24 pounds
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • Battery life: One year with normal use

Pros:

  • Programmable buttons
  • Support for custom activities
  • Ability to control your devices away from home through smartphone app

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Not in production, so it’s hard to find

The Logitech Harmony Companion is more than just an Apple TV remote: It’s a complete replacement for all the remotes in your home. When paired with a smartphone app, you can set up the Logitech Harmony Companion to control over 270,000 home entertainment and smart home devices. The Harmony goes beyond mimicking the controls of your various remotes, empowering you to set favorite channels and create multi-device activities—kind of like Apple’s Shortcuts app or a smart home hub—so you can dim the lights, lower the blinds, and play a movie with the press of a button.

It sounds great, right? There’s just one catch: Logitech stopped making Harmony remotes in 2021. They’re still great devices if you have a lot of home theater and smart home gear, but they are more expensive than they used to be and may be hard to find in stores. Last we checked, it’s still available from Amazon—albeit at an inflated price. The good news is when Logitech discontinued its lineup of universal remotes, it said it would continue to provide support to users, so it may still be worthwhile if you want a remote that does absolutely everything.

Best premium universal remote: Logitech Harmony Elite

Logitech

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Why it made the cut: If you want the ultimate universal remote, you can’t do any better than the Logitech Harmony Elite.

Specs:

  • Size: 6 x 2 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 0.75 pounds
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Battery life: 3-7 days

Pros:

  • Programmable buttons
  • Support for custom activities
  • Display makes it easy to quickly access custom activities

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Not in production, so it’s difficult to find

The Logitech Harmony Elite was Logitech’s top-of-the-line universal remote, with even more functionality than the Harmony Companion. Like the Companion, it supports one-touch actions, custom activities, and wide support for over 270,000 entertainment and smart home devices. The Harmony Elite takes things a step further with a small capacitive touch display for you to swipe through like you would on your smartphone. The display puts everything right at your fingertips—including the ability to turn on your Apple TV—giving you total control over your entertainment and smart home devices. As far as consumer universal remotes ago, the Harmony Elite is the best money can buy and is a great way to replace that pile of remotes sitting on your coffee table.

The Harmony brand is officially dead, so Logitech no longer makes the Harmony Elite. As with the Companion, Logitech continues to support the remote, but they will be expensive and, potentially, tough to find. Since the Elite was already $349.99 when it was in production, expect prices on new ones on Amazon to be very, very high. This is one where you’re definitely better off buying used if you are comfortable with that.

Best for gamers: PlayStation DualSense

Mike Epstein

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Why it made the cut: Sony’s next-generation console controller is comfortable to hold and features a satisfying heft.

Specs:

  • Size: 3 x 7 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 0.95 pounds
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • Battery life: 10 hours

Pros:

  • Comfortable design
  • Excellent haptic feedback (in games)
  • Display makes it easy to quickly access custom activities

Cons:

  • If you don’t play games, may feel awkward in-hand

If you plan to use your Apple TV to play video games, then your controller can double as a perfectly great remote. You can use any Bluetooth-compatible gamepad to the Apple TV, but we’re particularly partial to the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. The DualSense features nice textured grips on the back, a built-in microphone and headphone jack, and charges via USB-C. It’s slightly larger than the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller, filling the hand better and featuring advanced haptic feedback. You will need to charge the DualSense more than the average TV-style remote, but players who are comfortable with a controller will feel right at home using it to control your Apple TV.

If you’d prefer a larger gamepad, the Xbox Wireless Controller also works very well with the Apple TV. Many gamers have a strong preference for an Xbox- or PlayStation-style controller, so it’s great that both options are available.

Best budget universal remote: GE Universal Remote

GE home electrical

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Why it made the cut: The GE Universal Remote makes it easy to replace that pile of remotes on your coffee table.

Specs:

  • Size: 1 x 2.24 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 0.2 pounds
  • Connectivity: Infrared
  • Battery life: N/A (Requires two AAA batteries)

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Connects to four devices at once
  • Master volume control

Cons:

  • Plastic design feels cheap

If you want to go the universal remote route without spending hundreds of bucks on a Harmony, the GE Universal Remote is a basic TV remote that only costs about $10. It comes pre-programmed with support for thousands of audio and video devices out of the box and can control up to four different devices at once—including the Apple TV. It features master volume control, allowing you to adjust for any device it’s connected to without hopping between connections. The GE Universal Remote is a basic product—it doesn’t feature the most elegant design—but it is very affordable and popular with users, making it a hidden gem for thrifty Apple TV fans.

Best remote that’s already in your pocket: iPhone 13

Stan Horaczek

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Why it made the cut: The iPhone 13 (or any other current model) provides quick access to the Apple TV Remote app if your actual remote is nowhere to be found.

Specs:

  • Size: 6.1 x 3 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 0.4 pounds
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Battery life: 10 hours

Pros:

  • Minimal setup
  • You probably already have one
  • Easy to use Remote app

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • “Bring your own remote” setup can be inconvenient

Hear me out on this one. If you aren’t satisfied by any of our picks, consider using an iPhone (assuming you own one or would want to own one). You can use an iPhone to control your Apple TV through the Apple TV Remote app, which can be accessed via Control Center in iOS. When you invoke Control Center, click on the Apple TV Remote icon, and an interface for the Apple TV will pop up. There are controls to turn the Apple TV on/off, change channels, play/pause, and a touch area to swipe through tvOS. You can’t control your TV’s volume through the Apple TV Remote app, but it’s a decent option in a pinch.

It can be annoying if you set your phone down to charge, then realize you need it to work your TV, so keep in mind that this should work with any updated iPhone. You can breathe new life into an old iPhone you have lying around by making it your permanent Apple TV controller.

FAQs

Q: Can you use a different remote with the Apple TV?

Yes! Many third-party remotes work with the Apple TV. In fact, your streaming device will walk you through the whole connection process. Simply open the Apple TV’s “Settings” app, open “Remotes and Devices,” then tap “Learn Remote” and follow the on-screen prompts. Once that’s complete, a screen will appear asking if you want to set up playback buttons, which will teach Apple TV the play, pause, rewind, and fast-forward commands on your remote. After the setup process is finished, you should be able to control the Apple TV with your new remote.

Q: How much does a remote for the Apple TV cost?

Our top pick, the Apple TV Siri Remote, costs $59. Other picks on our list range in price from $10 to $300 or more, which we acknowledge is quite expensive for a remote. There are options for any budget, but $60 seems to be a reasonable expectation.

Q: Is the Apple TV remote IR or RF?

The Apple TV Siri Remote uses an IR (infrared) transmitter to send a signal to your TV, which in turn interprets what it’s being told to do (whether that’s to change the volume or power on). It also uses Bluetooth 5.0 to communicate directly with Apple TV itself.

A final word about the best remote for Apple TV

It turns out, Apple still makes the best remote for its streaming device. The 2nd-generation Apple TV Siri Remote features an excellent design, great battery life, and a dedicated button for invoking Siri. It can feel like a pain to invest extra money in a streaming device, but optimizing little things like this—the things you use every day—can help smooth out the bumps of everyday life.