vrijdag 13 november 2015

Why the WD TV Live remote control works so poorly

Owners of a Western Digital TV player, or WD TV Live as it tends to be called, may have noticed that the remote control is hit or miss. Especially in larger rooms, it only works when standing near to the player, which makes it a pretty poor ‘remote’ control. We have one of these things in our development setup and I got sick of having to walk up to the player every time I needed to change settings or start a new video. I tried to hook up the player to the network so I could use the web-based remote control, but the player cannot handle our heavy network traffic and freezes within 10 minutes, so this was not an option.

Out of sheer frustration I dismantled the top of the remote to see if anything was wrong with the infrared LEDs. This indeed reveals there is something wrong… by design.


As the photo shows, the remote has two LEDs, but instead of pointing forward, they point away from the central axis at a ±15 degree angle. Sure enough, when aiming the remote 15° away from the player, it works fine even at larger distances.

Let me tell you what our QA engineer thinks of this: he would want to find everyone responsible for this design and shove one of these remotes up each of their ***es. I agree.

I don't know what the motivation for this design was, maybe to enable even the most drunk of persons to control their player even when they can no longer aim properly? The problem is worst in large rooms because in smaller rooms, the infrared signals can bounce off walls and the off-center aim does not matter.

Unfortunately it is not trivial to remedy this by bending the LEDs such that they point forward, because this poor design is protected by ample plastic to hold the LEDs firmly into place. I'll try to do some surgery with an X-acto knife but I would not recommend this to the average consumer who does not want to risk cutting themselves. The easiest workaround is to actually aim 15° away from the player when using the remote.