My new, cheap remote control

My new remote, much like the old one

My new remote, much like the old one

Yesterday, I did something stupid.

Actually, I did many things stupid. First, I put my glass of orange juice on a table I knew perfectly well wasn’t stable. Then I wasn’t careful when I sat down, knocking the table and causing the glass to spill onto my remote controls.

Then, thinking I was brilliant, I decided to rinse the orange juice off my Videotron illico remote (taking the batteries out first to avoid short-circuits). It worked, in that the orange juice stickiness was gone. But being impatient, I put the batteries back in after only a couple of hours (the case was dry, but the internals were still soaked), and shortly thereafter started smelling the familiar scent of a blown capacitor.

So I was in the market for a new remote (I suppose I could have just tried to replace the capacitor, but I can’t open the remote without breaking it and I value my sanity). It had been hours, and not only is walking the six feet to the television a horrible idea to even ponder, but the thought of pressing the “CH+” button a hundred times to switch between CTV and the Comedy Network made me want to shoot myself in the head.

Since the Illico remote has special functions (that aren’t accessible on the box itself), I didn’t want to get a general universal remote, and lose something important like the on-screen guide navigation. Looking at Videotron’s website and that of electronics retailer Future Shop, I found both quoting a new Videotron-branded remote at $35. Thirty-five dollars for a plastic case, some buttons and an infrared transmitter. I’d blame Quebec union labour, but these things were made in South Korea.

Rather than pay that ridiculous price, I headed down to cheap electronics store Addison Electronique. They specialize in raw electronics. If you need a resistor, a switch or a breadboard, that’s where you go. They suggested a similar remote that they said was compatible with Illico boxes, and it only costs $8.

Left: Videotron-branded RT-U49C-15+. Right: Pioneer BR-360

Left: Videotron-branded RT-U49C-15+. Right: Pioneer BR-360

Though the Videotron remote is Videotron-branded, it’s hardly unique. Rogers, Time Warner and other digital cable providers use identical remote controls and boxes by the same manufacturers, with only the branding changed. The Pioneer remote is supposed to go with a Pioneer-made digital cable box, but has a similar design and uses the same codes as the one used by Videotron.

I took a chance (Addison has a no-refunds-no-exchanges-it-doesn’t-matter-if-it’s-an-empty-box-you-ain’t-getting-your-money-back policy), took the remote home and it worked perfectly once I got the AAs in.

The differences are minor. Missing on the knockoff remote are the “all” and “mode” buttons, the # button for HD zooming, the M1/M2 memory buttons and the favourite button, none of which I ever use. The device buttons don’t light up, and there are a few buttons (Menu, help, day +/-) that don’t do anything. But all the important stuff (guide, info, A/B/C, VCR-style controls for video on demand, and the usual remote functions) work fine.

In fact, I discovered the new remote had an extra feature the old one didn’t: it communicates properly with my television set, something the old one never could achieve despite hours of entering programming codes. I can now remotely turn on and off the TV (and control its volume) with the same remote I use to change the channel.

So, if this new remote does all the same functions and is essentially equivalent in every way that matters, why does Videotron’s remote cost more than four times as much?

UPDATE (Nov. 29): $8 too expensive for you? It’s only $5 at Acces Electronique on the West Island.

18 thoughts on “My new, cheap remote control

  1. John

    It costs more because you are helping to pay for all those nifty TV ads and full page ads in the newspaper… Same thing with Bell DSL – It will cost you a lot less with a lot less headache if you go with a DSL reseller like teksavvy who does not advertise… You sir have done what a lot of people don’t do and that is research and bargain hunt. If you’re semi technically inclined – you could even get 1 cent/minute long distance on your cell phone if you use a voip service provider like link2voip – I’ve been doing this for about a year now and i’m sure i have saved thousands of $$$. The possibilities are endless and i’m just happy that i’m not dealing with Bell anymore!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Teksavvy doesn’t provide digital cable TV, or any TV for that matter. If my consideration was solely providing low-cost Internet service, I’d probably choose another provider, but I like my TV.

      Reply
  2. JoLalo

    Steve. How come don’t you own a Harmony remote? There’s always some kind of an extreme deal at NCIX, TigerDirect and other similar webstores, for like 40 bucks.

    Of course, it’s not 8 bucks, but it sure doesn’t but you in the hassle of owning 4321 remotes.

    Reply
  3. Marc

    why does Videotron’s remote cost more than four times as much?

    Like the accompanying Illico boxes, it’s a cash cow P.K.P. can’t stop milking. Actually I think the Pioneer one looks nicer.

    I love Addison – great store.

    Reply
    1. Shawn

      I don’t think I could ever shop at a place that refuses to exchange even if they sold you something defective. I mean, come on.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I’m joking, of course. The law requires a merchant to sell what is advertised, which means if it doesn’t work you could take it back. But there’s still a lot of risk on the consumer. Addison does this mostly because of people who buy electronic components and then realize they have no idea how electronics work and want to take it all back.

        Reply
      2. Marc

        It’s a store designed for people who know what they want and know what they’re doing. The staff also really know their stuff.

        Reply
  4. SpeedyGonzales

    I dunno if it’s still like this, but a couple of years ago, when my remote wasn’t functionning, it just went to my local Videotron Superclub, told them the remote wasn’t working anymore and they gave me a brand new one, no questions asked. If you didn’t try that, give it a whirl, you never know.

    Just don’t tell them about the juice… that might reduce your chances…

    Reply
  5. ATSC

    Congrats for finding a deal over at Addison. It’s really a great place to get stuff. The other place I go to as well in Madison in Laval. If you know what you want, you’ll get a great deal.

    Reply
  6. wkh

    this is relevant to my interests. my illico remote has had a busted volume for about two years now, and probably some other functions too. We use it for nothing other than channel changing at this point.

    Reply
  7. Elias

    It’s the same reason FutureShop can charge $150 for a Monster HDMI cable when you can get the same picture quality buying a $6 HDMI cable at monoprice.com. They sell all of the cables and accessories for your home theatre needs at a fraction of what you’d pay at Best Buy. They even offer iPhone and video game accessories as well. Shipping is cheap to Canada as long as you buy a few things at once.

    Only thing more bush league than charging $35 for a remote is Videotron’s HD lineup.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to leigh Cancel reply