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The best universal remotes of 2020

The best universal remotes of 2020

You might be thinking of getting a new TV, soundbar, maybe even a new stereo system. However, if you want to control them all, as well as, say, a streaming stick or gaming system, and not have half a dozen remote controls cluttering your coffee table, you'll want to get one of these best universal remotes. With one, you can automate a number of tasks—such as turning on all the components, and having them change to the right settings—with a single button press. 

However, when it comes to the best universal remotes, the choices are less than universal. After testing all of Logitech’s line of Harmony remotes, the best universal remote is the Logitech Harmony Elite ($279). It can control up to 15 devices including a number of the best smart home devices such as best smart lights and best smart thermostats, integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant, and has a touchscreen that lets you access every setting for every linked remote control. 

The Harmony Companion ($100) is a much more affordable option, and has all of the features of the Elite except for the touchscreen. The best budget universal remote is the Harmony 665 ($49), which can control up to 10 devices, and has a great design. 

For those with Roku or an Amazon Fire TV device, Philips has released a $25 universal remote into which you can slide a remote from Roku or Amazon. It looks a little funky, but it's cheap, and we're curious to see how it works.

Logitech Harmony Elite

(Image credit: Logitech)

1. Logitech Harmony Elite

Best Universal Remote Control

Devices Controlled: 15 | Favorite Channels: 50 | Smart Home Controls: Yes | Mobile App: Yes | Alexa-Enabled: Yes | Size: 7.6 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches | Weight: 5.8 ounces

Easy setup
Intuitive interface
Dedicated smart home buttons
Works with huge number of devices
Heavier than previous version

Logitech’s top-end remote, the aptly named Elite, can control up to 15 devices at once. In addition to physical buttons, it has a color touch screen from which you can quickly select a favorite channel. You can also create custom buttons, such as Watch a Movie, to automatically turn all your devices to the right settings. The Elite works in conjunction with the Harmony Hub (included), enabling you to hide electronics in a cabinet. It also works with several smart-home devices, including Philips Hue lights and the ecobee5 thermostat. It can be connected with Amazon Alexa, so that you can issue Harmony Elite commands using nothing but your voice. It's one of the best Google Home compatible devices, too.

Read our full Logitech Harmony Elite review.

Logitech Harmony 665

(Image credit: Future)

2. Logitech Harmony 665

Best value universal remote

Devices Controlled: 10 | Favorite Channels: 23 | Smart Home Controls: No | Mobile App: No | Alexa-Enabled: No | Size: 10.8 x 1.6 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 7.2 ounces

Inexpensive
Comfortable
Controls up to 10 devices
Somewhat involved setup
Nonrechargeable battery

A Best Buy exclusive, the Logitech Harmony 665 has a small display (which is not a touchscreen) with buttons arrayed around it, letting you quickly access activities, favorite channels and more. On-screen help makes it fairly easy to troubleshoot any issues. However, the Harmony 665 works via infrared (IR) only, so you can’t hide any of your entertainment center’s components, and this remote can’t be used to control smart-home devices.

Read our full Logitech Harmony 665 review.

Caavo Control Center

(Image credit: Future)

3. Caavo Control Center

Best universal remote with voice control

Devices Controlled: 4 | Favorite Channels: n/a | Smart Home Controls: No | Mobile App: Yes (iOS) | Alexa-Enabled: Yes | Size: 10.4 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches (Control Center), 6.9 x 1.5 x 0.9 (remote) | Weight: 2.2 pounds (Control Center), 3.5 ounces (remote)

Accurate voice search
Works with a variety of devices
Aggregates content from all your devices into one interface
Curated lists of programs to watch
Can only connect four devices at once
iOS app only
Can't set content preferences
Requires monthly subscription for many features

While the Caavo Control Center can only control four devices at once, it separates itself from Harmony's remotes in that it offers a unified interface, through which you can search through content on any device, as well as a number of streaming services. The Caavo remote has built-in voice search, and a unique section of lists of shows and movies curated by others—That's something Harmony doesn't have. To get all this, though, you'll need to sign up for a Caavo subscription ($1.99/month, or $59.99 for a lifetime membership).

Read our full Caavo Control Center review.

Logitech Harmony Companion

(Image credit: Logitech)

4. Logitech Harmony Companion

A simpler Logitech universal remote

Devices Controlled: 8 | Favorite Channels: n/a | Smart Home Controls: Yes | Mobile App: Yes (iOS) | Alexa-Enabled: Yes | Size: 10.2 x 5.5 x 3.6 inches | Weight: 14 ounces

Inexpensive
Controls smart home devices
Lacks touchscreen

Similar to the Harmony Elite, the Harmony Companion can also control smart-home devices in addition to your entertainment center. The biggest difference is the Companion’s lack of a screen of any kind, so you’ll have to designate physical buttons to enable Watch TV mode, for instance. It, too, comes with the Harmony Hub, allowing you to not only hide components, but also let you use Alexa to control your TV and more.

  • Robert_481
    Well, I can't say I agree with your assessment. Spec-wise, the Harmony's are absolutely great, actual usage, not so much. The cloud based storage of the remotes is broken at the moment, you cannot change anything, but even when it's working, the software just isn't as good as the specs -- ever. Also why, oh why doesn't Logitech put real number keys on their upper end remotes?? I need an upper end remote because I have a lot of devices, but I totally hate the minimalist physical buttons.

    Truth be told, I don't know of anything better because all the review sites are enamored with the Harmony's, but I sure would like to hear of something!!
    Reply
  • americanaudiophile
    The better remotes are for custom installers not consumers
    The URC Pro and RTI remotes are excellent but require programming and are not cheap. They can work over IR, RF, and WIFI. They have hard button remotes which are usually better for AV than a touchscreen but they have apps if you want to go that way too.
    The programming software isn't easy to master for most people and isn't usually out there for the end user. You can customize the layout and set up macros in any way you like since the programming isn't on the cloud. You can teach commands from other remotes into your database. In the RTI you can even enter hex codes and set up auto repeats for commands that are fussy.
    Reply
  • Robert_481
    Thanks, I'll have to take a look at those, though I really don't want to have to do raw programming on something for home!

    I expect Logitech to get their software fixed eventually, but it sure seems like there's an opening for some competition in the home market.
    Reply
  • jason.cae
    yea, 100% agreed Robert. Wish there was a 500-1000 dollar range product that worked for your typical closet/remote setups. If anyone finds one; let me know.

    There is custom pro setups costing in the thousands and then harmony at 100-200, URC crap pisses me of because they offer no easy way to get the software. Authorized dealer crap only is a real turn off, develop applications that run 500+ node clusters for mission critical software @ 99.999% uptime, can probably handle setting up a universal remote for AV. Not a huge fan of allowing a grad student from geek squad fumble with my AV setup.

    Currently stuck with harmony hub; which seems to quirky and buggy with a UI that makes me want to throw it out window. Probably the worse is the odd bug where devices slow down to respones over time, deleting and re-adding fixes.

    Played with the PI project here; but its under developed (great idea though); https://github.com/bbtinkerer/LircNodeJsWeb

    Think the dream would be a IR hub that connected to a old ipad/driod with some type of stay resident software. Since most of us have a stack of old tablets. Before you say harmony; try programming that guy with a ipad... Then the UI... omg.... its like they purposely made it shit to sell their remotes.
    Reply
  • jsmithepa
    Am still running on a very old, discontinued Phillips Pronto Neo, but every time I want to upgrade it, I read all the bad reviews and the $^%# buttons locations, paying all that $ and keep hearing "they gonna fix it next firmware" (God, I haven't heard that before) convinces me to keep what I got.

    Am very insistent a universal must have certain things: One-hand operation, so size and location of buttons matters. The Pronto Neo has the perfect number of hard buttons vs soft buttons, you don't want 100-buttons complicated but enough to get the job done with minimum keypress. My Neo, as all Pronto I suppose every button can be a macro, that makes it very flexible and highly customizable.

    I feel like Logitech universals are like Teslas, they reel you in with whizzbang features but when you bring it home, the doors don't close properly, big gaps on panels, the screen crashes..... can't anybody do things right out of the door? Grrrgg.
    Reply