Sofabaton U2 review: the best economical universal remote control

Sofabaton U2 review: the best economical universal remote control

Sofabaton U2 review: the best economical universal remote control


Sofabaton U2


  • Easy to program

  • Affordable

  • Fun to use

  • Can request device additions from the app

Do not like

  • Some gaps in its device database

  • Macro function is limited

When Logitech unceremoniously abandoned its universal remote business, it left a hole that is still felt by home theater fans many years later. The company’s Harmony line of remotes may not have been the only players in this field, but apparently all competitors were destined to follow suit. Couches across the country serve as memorials to remotes lost forever under cushions. Here lies Caavo. Rest in peace, Acoustic Research. Sevenhugs, we barely knew you.

Could Sofabaton offer the relief from juggling multiple remotes that home theater enthusiasts have been hoping for? At first glance, the U2 looks very much like a Logitech remote – from its ergonomic shape to the button layout and display at the top of the device. But it’s not just the looks that the U2 Universal Remote inherited, it also benefits from Harmony’s ease of use, and more.

While you could spend $100 or more on a used Harmony 665, the smart money is on the $60 Sofabaton U2. The U2 is easier to set up than the old Harmony, and it’s both fun and simple to use. I’m going to get some hate mail for this, but it’s also arguably a better buy than the Logitech Harmony series ever was. The couch king is dead; long live the king of the sofa.

What it is

The Sofabaton U2 is a universal remote control. Using its Android or iOS mobile app, Sofabaton explains, the U2 can be programmed to control more than 500,000 devices. The remote can manage up to 15 devices at a time, while the competing Harmony 650 can only offer five. The remote connects via Bluetooth to your phone, and I found that more convenient than the 650/665’s USB PC connection, or even the hub-based Harmony models’ Wi-Fi connection.

Ty Pendlebury/CBS

According to Sofabaton, the main differences between the old U1 and U2 are greater infrared range, a redesigned battery compartment and more buttons. The remote is also slightly longer than the original at 8.9 x 3.4 x 1.5 inches (HWD). The top of the remote features a three-line OLED display with a scroll wheel to switch between devices. The rest of the remote – which unfortunately isn’t backlit – features a logical layout that includes a set of programmable macro buttons.

The Sofabaton U2 on the left is a bit longer than the U1.

Ty Pendlebury/CBS

You can add macros – where a single button performs multiple tasks at once – but this is limited to the physical buttons on the remote. For example, you can have the remote turn on all your devices, but changing inputs can be tricky because there’s no dedicated button for a third HDMI input, for example. You could Program the remote to cycle through inputs by issuing the input command multiple times, but this may not work if you have manually switched inputs yourself.

The OLED screen measures three lines.

Ty Pendlebury/CBS

If you’re looking for a remote that allows for more sophisticated macros, or in Sofabaton parlance “activities”, you’ll have to pay a lot more. There’s quite a jump between the $60 U2 and the all-singing, all-dancing X1, which costs $190. But for the increase of three times or more, the increase adds Wi-Fi, voice control and charging capabilities. I haven’t reviewed the most expensive model yet, but I’m interested in it as a potential replacement for the incredible and even more expensive Harmony Elite.

Put in place

Setting up a universal remote used to be something best left to the IT guys – going through lists of model numbers, using trial and error to choose the right codes, etc. Logitech’s Harmony remotes changed all that: their main benefit was that they simplified the setup process – first by using a PC, then streamlining it even further with the use of a smartphone app.

Programming is easy with the Sofabaton app.

Ty Pendlebury/CBS

There are three main ways to program the U2 remote: infrared mode, Bluetooth mode and manual learning mode. Since most of the devices I used were in the database, I opted for the first mode the most. Going to “Add” in the top right corner lets you enter new devices by adding the manufacturer and model number.

Sofabaton offers an online device checker, where you can see if a brand is supported, although it’s only a single model in some cases. Indeed, the successful addition of devices to the remote control may depend on their presence in the database.

The remote worked great for Vizio and Samsung TVs and Marantz and Onkyo receivers, but in the latter case I had to choose a model similar to our Onkyo TX-RZ50 reference. If your device is a bit more obscure, you may need to program the remote yourself using manual learning mode. This requires you to put the U2 and the device’s remotes end to end while holding down the buttons. It’s pretty straightforward in practice, but that’s also where I ran into trouble.

Although Cambridge Audio shows up in online search, I had a hard time getting the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Music Streamer to work. For example, play/pause control is a single button on the CXN remote but two discrete ones on the Sofabaton. That shouldn’t be a problem – you’re just programming the same button twice – but oddly the Sofabaton’s two controls performed different functions each time, sometimes pausing, sometimes playing. Given my years of programming remotes, I don’t actually blame Sofabaton for this quirk: some devices are weird, and I expect that to be an easy fix. This is because you can submit your device to Sofabaton through the app, and it can add the correct codes to the database. I will update this review if and when the company responds.

Using the remote control

Ty Pendlebury/CBS

I’ve used many universal remotes over the years, including One for All and several Harmony models. Until now, remotes like the Harmony 900 have been at the top of the universal controller game. But the biggest advantage of the Safabaton, for me, is that my family was able to take the remote control and use it without any supervision. It’s that simple. Use the wheel to select your device, then, if programmed correctly, all buttons will work as expected. Apart from the previously mentioned Cambridge Audio device, all other devices worked as I expected.

The remote fits well in the hand, with three ergonomic bumps on the back, and my only complaint is that even with my long fingers, the thumbwheel felt a bit overdone. The lack of backlighting might bother people who want something they can use in the dark, but I found it easy enough to locate the main buttons by touch.

Since one of the main reasons to buy the U2 is the increase in infrared performance, I tested the U2 against the U1. And yes, the U2 broadcasts its IR signal much better than the U1. Previously I had real problems trying to control a Vizio TV with the U1 unless I was pointing the sensor directly. Although I didn’t have the TV with me for U2 testing, I found that I didn’t need to point it directly at a Samsung TV to get it to work – I could even point it behind me and it would work . I couldn’t control the TV like that with the U1.

Should I buy it?

Although you could pay a ridiculous amount of money for one of the legacy Harmony remotes, the Sofabaton U2 proves that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great remote. With its ease of setup and ability to control a wide variety of devices, the Sofabaton U2 is the new benchmark for anyone looking to simplify their living room. Hail to the king, baby!


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