Best alternatives to Apple TV's Siri Remote

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 2021
There is a certain level of disdain for Apple TV's Siri Remote. Between its glass design, unintuitive orientation, and high replacement cost, it has left many Apple TV users looking for alternatives. Here are our picks for better Apple TV remotes.

The Apple TV Siri Remote
The Apple TV Siri Remote


The Siri Remote debuted with the fourth-generation Apple TV. It has an aluminum back with an all-glass top. The uppermost portion of the remote has a subtle matte finish while the lower portion is glossy.

Without looking, it can be hard to differentiate between the two, making it almost guaranteed you will have the remote facing the wrong direction when casually picking it up.

Should you ever drop the remote -- whether you are just a little clumsy or you have children, the glass is prone to shattering on impact. Considering the high replacement cost -- only for it to happen again -- users aren't thrilled with Apple's design choices.

Apple made a small change with the Apple TV 4K which put an elevated ring around the Menu button to make it easier to orientate in your hand, but otherwise kept the same design. User outcry has been loud enough Apple is rumored to be releasing a new remote with the forthcoming Apple TV 6.






In the meantime though, users are left in the cold. To that degree, here are your best alternatives to Apple's Siri Remote and why we love them, which will all more than likely support the next-generation Apple TV should you decide to upgrade.

Apple aluminum remote

If you want to stick to Apple's first-party solutions but escape the glass-adorned Siri remote for something simple and sturdy, perhaps pick up one of Apple's previous style remotes. These remotes are all aluminum with black manually depressable buttons towards the top.

Apple's discontinued aluminum remote
Apple's discontinued aluminum remote


The design of the remote makes it easy to quickly identify which end is the top versus the bottom, won't shatter when dropped, has physical buttons, and is very affordable compared to others on the list.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue is that Apple officially discontinued the remote years ago, leaving shoppers scouring eBay or opting for generic models in its stead.

Remote app

A (free) alternative to a new physical remote is Apple's Remote app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Use this app on any of your devices to quickly control the Apple TV, as well as the TV itself if you have a newer HomeKit-equipped TV.

iOS Remote app
iOS Remote app


The app is full-featured, replicating nearly all functionality of the physical remote, and in some cases -- more. For example, it is far easier to enter passwords or search with a full keyboard rather than the onscreen keyboard the Apple TV is cursed with.

Download the Remote app from the App Store for free.

SevenHugs Smart Remote

Outside of Apple's solutions, we turn to third-party products to fulfill our need for a capable, improved, Apple TV remote.

SevenHugs Smart Remote X
SevenHugs Smart Remote X


Without a doubt, our favorite third-party option is the SevenHugs Smart Remote. This touchscreen-based remote does more than Apple's could ever do. It can control your whole entertainment system setup including receiver, soundbar, TV, streaming devices including the Apple TV, and much more.

SevenHugs Smart Remote X controlling Hue lights
SevenHugs Smart Remote X controlling Hue lights


Not to mention much of your smart home. Smart devices such as Philips Hue lights, LifX bulbs, Sonos speakers, and WeMo smart plugs can all be effortlessly controlled via the Smart Remote.

SevenHugs also offers two different remotes. The basic remote can do everything outlined above but upgrading to the Smart Remote X offers up contextual awareness. You can point the remote at a light and the Smart Remote X knows what device you are intending to change and the proper controls will appear on the screen.

It is an impressive solution to the problem smart remotes have of cycling through a laundry list of controllable accessories.

SevenHugs Smart Remote X keyboard
SevenHugs Smart Remote X full keyboard


When it comes to the Apple TV in particular, the Smart Remote does a great job at mimicking the Siri Remote's interface. It has a large touchpad towards the top to swipe around or tap on when navigating the UI. Below is the menu button, TV button, volume buttons, play/pause option, skip forward/back buttons, and even a full-sized qwerty keyboard shortcut.

The only thing missing is Siri voice control, which is expected on a non-Apple product.

SevenHugs' Smart Remote U and Smart Remote X start off at $199.

Logitech Harmony

Another massively popular option is the Logitech Harmony lineup of remotes. What is particularly great about the Logitech lineup is there are so many options available. We are using the Harmony Ultimate One, though the newer Harmony Elite is even more capable.

Harmony remote
harmony remote


You can use the remote to control your devices or you can control many of them via the accompanying Harmony app.

Harmony remotes have one of the largest catalogs of devices they support for entertainment centers but also smart home devices. It works with all the above devices that SevenHugs supports but also popular ones such as Lutron, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, August, Honeywell thermostats, and much more.

Harmony remotes have been around for ages and have continued to get better over time. The more recent app-based setup process is a huge improvement over its Mac and PC-based software, making the new models more aligned with modern devices.

They play well with the Apple TV, offering up both a touchscreen as well as physical buttons. Once again though there is no Siri support.

Caavo

Another alternative is Caavo. Caavo brings all your entertainment devices together.

Caavo Control Center
Caavo Control Center


Connect your Apple TV and other peripherals to the Caavo Control Center you can use one remote for everything. Thanks to its massive tie ins with other devices, you can even use Alexa to tell your Apple TV to play -- if you use Amazon's virtual assistant.

It will show Sonos controls on your TV, offers a universal search to go across all different apps and platforms, and unifies your TV experience. It also has its own voice search for further control, which is beneficial since Siri isn't available.

Game controller

Finally, don't think about traditional remotes. Apple TV has full support for game controllers too including the PS4 DualShock controllers and the Xbox controllers.

Game controllers
Game controllers


We often use the SteelSeries Nimbus controller where you can use the directional pad or thumbsticks to navigate and go back to the menu with the button in the center. Not only are these "remotes" useful for navigating, but they are great to play games with too.

Pickup the SteelSeries, PS4, or Xbox controllers for your Apple TV.

Sit back and relax

Siri Remote does a good job at controlling the Apple TV. It just has drawbacks in its physical design. It is unintuitive, breakable, and expensive to replace.

Fortunately, the wealth of options above gives users ample opportunity to either replace a broken remote or upgrade their own for a better TV experience.

Regardless of which remote you prefer, we can all agree that Apple TV is one of the best streaming boxes on the market.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,956member
    As this article outlines, the AppleTV remote is abysmal. It’s minimalist design also means horrible functionality as you try to guide the cursor over a on onscreen keyboard. The Siri remote with a touchpad was an improvement, but having a remote that will break that easily when it hits the floor is an equally bad design choice.

    I try to use my iphone whenever I can but since iOS 13 I’ve found that it routinely doesn’t connect, meaning I have to stop and fiddle with it to try and get the AppleTV and my phone to see each other. Seriously, Apple? Can’t you do better than this?
    mike54lkruppelijahgcfilipponianantksundaramFlaSheridn
  • Reply 2 of 37
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    They can do better. The question is “why won’t they?” 
    razorpitmike54elijahgcfilipponianantksundaramFlaSheridn
  • Reply 3 of 37
    What a bunch of over priced and over complicated set of alternatives. I have ATV on all my TV’s. The Apple remote was a cute piece of technology when it wasn’t my main TV device. As soon as I cut the cord and  it became my main TV box I soon wanted to take that stupid remote and stick it up Johnny I’s buttocks. You can’t pick it up with triggering some unwanted action, no matter what the sensitivity settings. No mute? Fast forward, rewind, Ugh! The iPhone remote app is not an improvement. 
    edited April 2020 razorpitmike54elijahgd_2minicoffeeFlaSheridnSpamSandwich
  • Reply 4 of 37
    The Apple Remote has not been discontinued years ago. It is still available and in stock directly at Apple for $19, including free shipping: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MM4T2AM/A/apple-remote
    edited April 2020 mbenz1962razorpitemoellerlolliverjony0FlaSheridnSpamSandwich
  • Reply 5 of 37
    NotMuch-You?NotMuch-You? Posts: 18unconfirmed, member
    The best remote may be the one already in your hands (your TV remote, that is).    I use the remote that came with my 4-year old Sony Bravia.

    Settings -> Remotes and Devices -> Learn Remote
    razorpitflydograndominternetpersonlolliverjony0FlaSheridn
  • Reply 6 of 37
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,301member
    When I set up my ATV 4K, it automatically enabled the use of my Sony TV remote for almost all functionality. This was a pleasant surprise.
    Ironically, the only thing I can't seem to do with the Sony remote is take the ATV out of standby. For that I use the remote app in my phone or Watch. The Siri remote mostly remains in a drawer.
    razorpitFlaSheridn
  • Reply 7 of 37
    dkdedkde Posts: 2member
    God, the sevenhugs remote is the biggest piece of sh*t I've ever used in my life.  Battery life that is less than a day when left unused...  needs resetting all the time.  no feel...  do yourself a favor and buy a harmony remote if you want a smart remote.  they can be found on sale for cheaper, are more functional, work with many more devices, and battery life is good.  sevenhugs is run by a bunch of tech bros that don't actually look to see what else is on the market, release alpha ware as finished product, and are surprised by requests such as a battery life that is less than a day unused ("our device is magical").  I don't understand all the positive reviews other than either people have insanely low expectations or are being paid off by sevenhugs.
    FlaSheridnSpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 37
    retrogustoretrogusto Posts: 1,118member
    I customized my remote with a piece of bicycle inner tube and some yellow electrical tape, and it made a huge difference. I can tell which way is up at a glance, even in a dark room, and by touch. It even keeps it from sliding off smooth surfaces, like the arm of an upholstered sofa.
    edited April 2020 randominternetpersonbonobobelijahgminicoffeejony0FileMakerFellerFlaSheridn
  • Reply 9 of 37
    dysamoria said:
    They can do better. The question is “why won’t they?” 

    “Stay lean, stay cool, stay foolish” is what Steve said
    “Go for the masses, milk the formula, target the bottom of the pyramid” is what Tim did.
    “Think Different“ is what Steve asked.
    “Think Indifferent” is what Tim introduced

    Consequently by its addiction to wealth, the company intellectually almost starved off. 
    elijahganantksundaramFlaSheridn
  • Reply 10 of 37
    "Without looking, it can be hard to differentiate between the two, making it almost guaranteed you will have the remote facing the wrong direction when casually picking it up."

    What a terrific example of hyperbole.  I agree that only having a 50-50 chance of picking it up correctly is annoying.  Having said that I hope the next version of the Apple TV remote is an evolutionary improvement and not a radical redesign.  The touch pad is great, but I would love haptic feedback and somewhat lower sensitivity.  Backlit keys and a small casing change would eliminate the challenge determining orientation.
  • Reply 11 of 37
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    "Without looking, it can be hard to differentiate between the two, making it almost guaranteed you will have the remote facing the wrong direction when casually picking it up."

    What a terrific example of hyperbole.  I agree that only having a 50-50 chance of picking it up correctly is annoying.
    It could also be upside down  :p
    emoellerFlaSheridn
  • Reply 12 of 37
    neilmneilm Posts: 989member
    Without looking, it can be hard to differentiate between the two, making it almost guaranteed you will have the remote facing the wrong direction when casually picking it up.
    Well, not unless the laws of chance and probability have been repealed. (Edit: Ninja'd by Randominternetperson!) And anyway, the same thing might be said about many remotes, such as the peanut shaped TiVo remote. First world problem — get over it.

    Not that I'd recommend rushing out to buy one just for this purpose, but I use a spare BT Apple Magic Keyboard (the one with no numeric keypad) to supplement the stock ATV remote. Navigation using the cursor keys is foolproof, and having an actual keyboard to type and enter passwords is now pretty much foolproof.
    edited April 2020 randominternetperson
  • Reply 13 of 37
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,080member
    I'm not in love with the Harmony 650 (yes, the cheapest of the Harmony line), in fact it's incredibly buggy depending on the devices you must configure.  I have two of them (different rooms), and in order for certain things to work, I have to either traverse its help menu, or give up altogether and use the "real" remote for whatever device is misbehaving.

    Also, Silverlight as a device-programming UI in the current decade is just embarrassing.

    Yes, I know, you get what you pay for...
    FlaSheridn
  • Reply 14 of 37
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,775member
    dysamoria said:
    They can do better. The question is “why won’t they?” 
    Obsession with minimalism and thinness, which is eating into usability for other devices too (looking at you thermal throttling Macbooks and Mac Minis, plus butterfly keyboard).
  • Reply 15 of 37
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 577member
    I must be at the far end of the long tail, because I really like the remote.   I have 3 AppleTV's and I've probably owned every kind of remote there is and find the simplicity of the AppleTV remote superior to them all.  It may be because I do everything through my AppleTV, I don't bounce around a lot of other connected devices (such as DVD's, etc).  The remote can be fiddly, such as using the zoom feature (bet most of you didn't even know it had that!).   But with a little practice the remote is incredibly handy.

    The issues I have had are mostly with third party apps that reduce the remotes sensitivity (such as volume or playhead control, but also scrolling, etc).  Using it with AppleTV+ the remote is buttery smooth, but not so much with AT&TNow.  

    As others have noted you can substitute the physical remote with an iPhone/iPad remote app (or even your Apple Watch  https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205549 ).   But neither of those are a smooth and efficient as the physical remote IMHO.


  • Reply 16 of 37
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,775member

    "Without looking, it can be hard to differentiate between the two, making it almost guaranteed you will have the remote facing the wrong direction when casually picking it up."

    What a terrific example of hyperbole.  I agree that only having a 50-50 chance of picking it up correctly is annoying.  Having said that I hope the next version of the Apple TV remote is an evolutionary improvement and not a radical redesign.  The touch pad is great, but I would love haptic feedback and somewhat lower sensitivity.  Backlit keys and a small casing change would eliminate the challenge determining orientation.
    Edit: seems I wasn't the only one to think this!

    You realise there are four orientations the remote can be picked up in, and only one that is correct? Meaning 75% of the time in the dark it will be the wrong way. Backlighting would ruin the battery life if on all the time, and if it turned on when picked it up it would still be in the wrong orientation most of the time. 
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 17 of 37
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,775member
    I use a Sony PS4 as a remote more often than the AppleTV remote. My only complaint with that is due to a dumb software decision by Apple; for some inexplicable reason to get to the home screen requires a 2-3 second press on the PS button and a short press activates the barely used "control centre" pane from the right. There are what, 10 other buttons on the PS4 controller that are unused but in typical Apple fashion, they have to overload one button, reducing usability and increasing frustration when the damn control centre comes up for the 10th time that day because you held for 1.9 sec rather than 2.

    Apple's UI/UX design and experience was absolutely stellar in years past, minimalism has taken over so much that things are harder to use because of it. It really pisses me off.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 18 of 37
    elijahg said:
    You realise there are four orientations the remote can be picked up in, and only one that is correct? Meaning 75% of the time in the dark it will be the wrong way. Backlighting would ruin the battery life if on all the time, and if it turned on when picked it up it would still be in the wrong orientation most of the time. 
    The volume control button is the easy way to orient the ATV remote in the dark or without looking at the remote. It's the only oblong button and it needs to be on the right for correct orientation. Touching the buttons will quickly tell you if that oblong button is on the left (incorrect) or the right. 
    edited April 2020 zhtfreak
  • Reply 19 of 37
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,775member
    elijahg said:
    You realise there are four orientations the remote can be picked up in, and only one that is correct? Meaning 75% of the time in the dark it will be the wrong way. Backlighting would ruin the battery life if on all the time, and if it turned on when picked it up it would still be in the wrong orientation most of the time. 
    The volume control button is the easy way to orient the ATV remote in the dark or without looking at the remote. It's the only oblong button and it needs to be on the right for correct orientation. Touching the buttons will quickly tell you if that oblong button is on the left (incorrect) or the right. 
    Very true, but it still requires fumbling around and turning it up the other way. I immediately know the orientation of any other remote as soon as you pick it up. The ATV remote slides off everything and ends up between the cushions constantly so even if you put it down the right way around it still ends up back to front!
    FlaSheridn
  • Reply 20 of 37
    gbsimsgbsims Posts: 3member
    I use the Harmony Remote you demoed in the video. It works very well, with the exception of voice control. Apple's voice control is excellent, so have to keep the Apple TV remote at hand for that. Speaking of the Harmony Remote, I am currently running one MacBook Pro computer on the old operating system because Harmony never came up with a 64 bit app for changing settings on the remote. If anyone knows a work around, I would sure like to know? Harmony promised an update, but have never delivered it, at least to my knowledge.
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