Once you’ve purchased a smart TV, you will quickly realize one of the medium’s worst aspects is how difficult it can be typing using a navigation menu. None of the devices on the market come with keyboards out of the box, leaving you to find an outside solution for your issues.
There’s just one more problem: closed systems. Finding a universal remote that will work with every smart TV is almost impossible, which forces you to scramble for the few options that exist. How hard is it? After taking a hard look at the market, we were only able to find three new devices we felt comfortable recommending.
There are a few things you need to know before you try to find a smart TV keyboard. First, your best bet is almost always going to be an app. Your smartphone is a powerful device, and thanks to the magic of Wi-Fi, it can control virtually any smart TV on the market. Use that power.
Secondly, if you’re looking for a traditional remote your options are going to be limited.
The best smart TV keyboard
1. Your old USB keyboard
If you’re just looking for something to quickly type in menus on your smart TV, look around the house and see if you have an old USB keyboard. Plug it in and see if your TV supports the device. This move will take a few minutes of your time and require you to get up whenever you want to search something if it works, but for budget-minded readers, it’s worth a shot. Not every smart TV supports USB keyboards, but enough do that it’s worth trying out, even just once.
VIZIO is a beloved budget brand, but it’s also one of the only companies with its own dual side QWERTY remote. In addition to a fully featured standard TV remote on the front face, this cheap wonder—a steal at $12.35—includes hotkeys for the Netflix and Amazon apps. Flip it over, and you get a full QWERTY keyboard, complete with directional controls. If you need a physical keyboard, this is a fantastic option. Just make sure it’s compatible with your model of TV before you buy.
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This Samsung smart TV remote comes packed with a full QWERTY keyboard on the back of the device, combining remote and keyboard into one beautiful package. You need to double check before you order to make sure your Samsung model works with this device, but if it does, you get the best of both worlds. It even includes a d-pad to help you navigate around menus. A little setup is required out of the box, but that’s the case with every Bluetooth device. The one downside is its $79.95 price tag.
If you’re looking for a cheap solution and your smart TV supports external Bluetooth keyboards, COO’s wireless keyboard is a steal. This two-channel device can connect to two smart devices at the same time, quickly switching between your computer and your smart TV (if that’s how you want to use it0. This gives you the power of a full keyboard on your smart TV and not much else, but it’s 40-hour battery life means it won’t live on the charger. Its small size makes it ideal for stashing under the coffee table. At $24.98, it’s a solid option.
Smart TV keyboard apps
In the world of smart TV keyboards, your phone is probably still your best bet. Every smart TV manufacturer has a propriety app that lets you use your smartphone as a secondary keyboard. Below you’ll find a list of each major manufacturer’s app and where to find it for your device. But first, let’s look at the one heroic option on the market for folks who want a universal remote.
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AnyMote iOS Google Play
AnyMote shouldn’t exist. This app is the conjoined twin of AmyMote’s IR hub, a device that lets you add inferred control functionality to everything from AC units to game consoles. AnyMote’s IR hub costs almost $100, and while it’s cool, it’s not something most people will need. However, the app that goes with it is well worth your time. Supporting thousands of devices, from media players to smart TVs, this app is a free ad-supported universal remote. You can turn off ads by paying $6.99 for the Pro version, but even if you use the free version, AnyMote will blow your mind.
Once you’ve downloaded AnyMote, make sure your smart TV and phone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Then search for your brand, and the app will try to find your device. (We tested set up on a brand new Roku 4K smart TV, and it took exactly one minute.) From there you gain access to a full set of customizable remote control options, but more importantly, you also get the ability to use your phone’s keyboard when you search. It is a night and day difference between using the tiny Roku remote that came with the TV. Thankfully, AnyMote supports a broad range of devices including Samsung, LG, LG with WebOS, Sony (except Android TV), Sharp, Panasonic, Philips smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
What about manufacturer’s apps?
The good news is that almost every major manufacturer has some option to use your smartphone as a smart TV remote, complete with keyboard. The bad news is that only two of them go above and beyond the call of duty. If you’re using a Roku or Amazon Fire TV, we highly suggest that you try using their respective apps. For everything else, we suggest giving AnyMote a shot before you try the manufacturer’s options.
1. Roku iOS Google Play
Roku’s smart TV app includes an easy-to-use keyboard that makes dealing with the system’s occasionally clunky TV interface fun. Search is clear and easy, no matter what app you’re using and boy does it make entering passwords less of a chore. Where it shines, however, are its tiny extra features, like the ability to launch apps from your touchscreen, and private listening, which lets you plug in some headphones to your phone so you can watch TV without bothering anyone in the house.
2. Amazon Fire TV iOS Google Play
Like Roku, Amazon Fire TV’s app makes searching through system menus and channels fun. In addition to the great keyboard, Amazon Fire TV’s app gives users access to Alexa voice search and quick access to your favorite apps from the touchscreen. Alexa voice search is almost as impressive as private listening, but as someone who is often watching movies after the rest of the house has gone to sleep, that’s a feature that’s hard to beat.
Smart TV remotes: The best of the rest
These are the apps for the four remaining major smart TV brands. If worst comes to worst, give them a try if the options above don’t work. We will update this article if these options improve in the future. At a minimum, they’re worth a shot as a last resort or if you’re a die-hard loyalist of the brand who made your TV.
- Philips MyRemote iOS Google Play
- Samsung SmartView iOS Google Play
- Panasonic TV Remote 2 iOS Google Play
- Vizio SmartCast iOS Google Play
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.