The 8 Best Universal Remotes of 2020

See why this is the only remote control you'll ever need to fight over

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The Rundown
"Enabling full voice control for up to 15 home entertainment and connected home devices."
Best Smartphone Control:
Logitech Harmony Smart Control at Amazon
"Works with over 270,000 devices from 6,000 brands"
Best Streaming:
Inteset INT-422 at Amazon
"Pre-programmed right out of the box for Apple TV, Xbox One, Media Center and Roku."
"Top pick for buyers looking to add monitoring of smart devices."
"With an expansive code library that works with all major television manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and Sharp"
"The Logitech Harmony 665 is compatible with a growing list of over 6,000 brands."
"Works with up to six different devices simultaneously"
"Simply download the Sofabaton companion app and connect your devices from there in a matter of minutes."

Universal remotes allow you to control a whole host of different devices with one controller. From TVs and sound systems to cable boxes and streaming devices, we have a lot of technology to keep track of. Maybe you’ve started putting all those remotes in a box, or maybe they’re slowly covering your coffee table — why not just replace them with a single controller? When buying a universal remote, it’s important to consider features like device compatibility, smart home support, and the ability to create custom device configurations and combinations of settings. We’ve researched and tested the best universal remotes from different brands and price brackets to find most ideal options available.

Best Overall: Logitech Harmony Elite

What We Like
  • Supports up to 15 devices

  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant

  • No line of sight necessary

  • Crisp color touchscreen

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Lengthy setup

  • Steep learning curve

For most people, the very best universal remote is the Logitech Harmony Elite and, while it may be the most expensive, it’s well worth the price. Essentially, the Harmony Elite connects to a base station that is connected to your entertainment console, which allows the use of the remote anywhere in your home (even without direct line of sight). Our reviewer was able to use it with Amazon’s Alexa devices, and there’s full voice control for up to 15 home entertainment and connected home devices. The full-color touchscreen allows easy swipe and tap for control of volume, movies, 50 favorite channels and even smart home devices such as LED lighting for automatic dimming when a movie starts.

Options such as “one touch activity” allows for automatic power on and switching to the right devices with the right settings. Additionally, features such as closed cabinet control let the Harmony Hub assist in controlling devices that are stored behind closed doors in cabinets. The Harmony smartphone app (Android and iOS) doubles as a separate universal remote, which is convenient in case you are charging the Harmony Elite in its charging station. While the pricing might turn some potential buyers away, if you want the most feature-rich universal remote on the market, the Harmony Elite is the one to own.

"Once we cleared the initial connectivity and setup hurdles, we experienced generally fast and responsive performance from the Harmony Elite." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Smartphone Control: Logitech Harmony Smart Control

What We Like
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa

  • Slim and lightweight

  • Smart home support integrated

  • Handles up to 8 devices

What We Don't Like
  • Lengthy initial setup

  • Inconsistent performance

  • No touchscreen

Featuring control of up to eight devices, the Logitech Harmony smart control works with over 270,000 devices from 6,000 brands, including cable TV boxes, Apple TV and Roku. The connectivity doesn’t stop there since the Harmony Smart offers a smartphone app for both Android and iOS that offers up to 50 favorite channel icons, volume control and media playback.

Gone are the days of irritating on-TV keyboards. Instead, voice control is handled directly from your smartphone or tablet and speech recognition will help find your content faster. Beyond voice control, the Harmony excels at working with devices that are hidden in closed cabinets through its IR (infrared) and Bluetooth connectivity. Our tester did point out however, that while overall performance and software was good, it wasn't always consistent.

"If you’re okay with not having a touchscreen and spending some dedicated time to programming this device, it could be exactly what you’ve been looking for."Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Streaming: Inteset INT-422 4-in-1 Universal Backlit IR Learning Remote

What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Roku and streaming support built-in

  • Simple initial device setup

What We Don't Like
  • Takes time to program advanced commands

  • Inconsistent learning

  • Incompatible with Amazon Fire TV

Pre-programmed right out of the box for Apple TV, Xbox One, Media Center and Roku, the Inteset INT-422 four-in-one universal remote is well worth a look. While streaming is the Inteset’s claim to fame, added features such as volume and channel lock allow an added layer of security from children, roommates or spouses who might want to change things around.

When it comes to connecting directly to the television itself, the Inteset features a worldwide database of device codes for connecting to all the top television manufacturers by completely replacing their default remote controls. Our reviewer especially liked how easy it was to program different commands with one button. Inteset takes its unique feature set up another level with macro programming that allows you to program up to 32 commands to a single button, so you can turn on/off all devices, switch inputs or change to a favorite channel.

"The Inteset 422-3 is a bargain at $27, especially compared with more expensive smart remotes on the market." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Smart Home: Logitech Harmony Companion

What We Like
  • Control up to 8 devices

  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Controllable via app or remote

What We Don't Like
  • Lengthy setup process

  • App can be buggy

  • No screen on remote

  • No backlighting

Controlling a total of eight devices, the Logitech Harmony Companion universal remote is a top pick for buyers looking to add monitoring of smart devices, too. Our reviewer didn't like its lacks a touchscreen or backlit buttons, however, the Harmony Companion does include Amazon Alexa certification. Beyond Alexa, the Harmony Companion works fantastically with other smart home devices such as Philip’s Hue lighting or Nest’s learning thermostat. The included Harmony Hub allows for even more device control, including those gadgets hidden between cabinet doors or walls (read: video game consoles). After a simple setup on the computer, the Harmony Companion is ready to work with more than 270,000 devices, including Apple TV, Roku and Sonos audio players. 

"While it lacks a touchscreen or flashy design elements, the Harmony Companion is still pretty sleek." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Budget: GE 33709 Universal Remote Control

What We Like
  • Many colors

  • Budget-friendly

  • Large code library

What We Don't Like
  • Can't control more than 4 devices

Available in a multitude of colors, the GE 33709 four-device universal remote is so budget-friendly you might just want to purchase it as an extra remote around the house. It can control up to four different audio and video components, including TVs, Blu-ray and DVD players, as well as streaming media players and soundbars. The expansive code library works with all major television manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and Sharp. Powered by two AAA batteries, the GE can work for months on end before requiring battery replacement. Furthermore, the inclusion of features such as master volume control allows the GE to control the volume on every device that’s connected to the remote. One last highlight are the multicolored A, B, C and D buttons that let you easily access hardware favorites.  

Best Compatibility: Logitech Harmony 665

What We Like
  • Save different device configurations

  • Jump to favorite channels

  • Wide device compatibility

What We Don't Like
  • Not designed for use with smart home devices

  • Plastic build is not very durable

If you have lots of devices from lots of different brands, you’ll want one universal remote that can rule them all. The Logitech Harmony 665 is compatible with a growing list of over 6,000 brands, which means it works with more than 270,000 different devices. From TVs to audio systems to gaming consoles and more. This remote is also great for saving your favorite channels and device configurations. There are buttons at the top for “Watch TV” or “Watch a Movie” that automatically change your input and switch to your preferred settings for that activity, i.e. changing over to your streaming device and turning on your soundbar. You can also create shortcuts to your favorite channels and easily access them from the remote’s screen.

Another advantage to the screen: it includes step-by-step troubleshooting help. If you have a problem, you can follow instructions right on the Harmony 665 to resolve it. In terms of customizability and user-friendliness, this remote is hard to beat.

Best Value: Logitech Harmony 700

What We Like
  • Comfortable, ergonomic design

  • Rapid programming

  • Works with many devices

What We Don't Like
  • Won't connect to smart home appliances

With a comfortable ergonomic design, the Logitech Harmony 700 reduces the need for multiple remote controls while working with six different devices simultaneously. The 23 programmable channel icons for selecting your favorite stations makes it simple to rapidly find your favorite channels. Past programming, the backlit controls allow for easy nighttime remote navigation that’s powered by AA batteries for months of activity before requiring replacement. All totaled, the Harmony 700 works with more than 225,000 devices from 5,000 plus brands (and more are always being added). Updating with new brands and devices is easily done through a connection to both PC and Mac computers and, while it won’t connect to smart home appliances, the Harmony 700 is an easy to use remote that won’t break the bank.

Best Setup: Sofabaton U1 Universal Remote

What We Like
  • Simple app setup

  • List of compatible devices is regularly updated

  • Good value for the features

What We Don't Like
  • Not compatible with Wi-Fi devices

  • Flimsy build

If you’ve ever owned a universal remote, you know that setting it up can be one of the most frustrating steps. The Sofabaton U1 is our pick for best setup because it actually streamlines this process. Instead of entering a bunch of device codes and struggling to pair your remote, you simply download the Sofabaton companion app and connect your devices from there in a matter of minutes. This remote is compatible with hundreds of thousands of devices and that list continues to grow.

The Sofabaton U1 is a cheaper alternative to a lot of the expensive remotes on this list. But it does make some compromises. For example, it only works with infrared and Bluetooth devices. This includes most TVs, sound systems, and gaming systems, but does not include Wi-Fi connected devices like the Roku streaming stick and the PlayStation 4. Before you buy this remote, it’s important to check the manufacturer's specifications to make sure your devices are compatible.

Final Verdict

If you're someone with tons of smart home devices, TVs, air conditioners, and other appliances at home, the Logitech Harmony Elite will best suit your lifestyle. It offers compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice commands, can work with up to 15 connected devices, and works with devices outside of line of sight. If you want the same features for a lower price and with support for a smartphone app, the Logitech Harmony is a good choice. It can support up to 8 devices, is slim and lightweight, and can work with the Harmony app and Hub.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate remotes based on design, range, sensitivity, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases and how easy they are to program and how accurate they are and at what distance. Our testers also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Yoona Wagener has written for Lifewire since 2019 and has a background in tech. She's reviewed many of the devices on this list and she liked the Logitech Harmony Elite for its broad compatibility and the ability to work outside of line of sight.

David Beren has more than ten years of experience in the tech industry. He's previously been published on TmoNews.com and has written extensively about the telecom industry.

A former editor of Lifewire’s product round-ups, Emmeline Kaser has over four years of experience researching and writing about the best consumer products out there. She specializes in consumer tech.

What to Look for When Buying a Universal Remote

Compatibility - Before purchasing any piece of technology, it’s essential to make sure that it’ll work with the gadgets you already have at home. Some remotes offer built-in controls for services such as Netflix, others only have a general control layout, and some won’t work at all. Be sure to check your remote’s compatibility before making a purchase.

Automation - The majority of universal remotes you find will merely allow you to switch between controlling different devices, but some solutions such as Logitech’s Harmony lineup offer automation. Just hit a single button to turn on your TV and receiver, switch to the correct input, and even dim the lights.

Smart home support - Going beyond standard automation, some universal remotes are beginning to support virtual assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. If you wish to tune to your favorite game on ESPN or launch a game on your PlayStation with the command of your voice, be sure to look for a remote that supports smart home devices.