Thursday, May 5, 2022

Roku and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad USB Power Cable with Long-range Wi-Fi Receiver

I've been a Roku user for quite some time. In the early days, there was no Roku stick. They eventually introduced one that connected via an MHL port. That's another long story that we won't cover today, but just know that you couldn't take that stick and expect it to work on most TVs today.

In March 2014, Roku introduced their model 3500 HDMI Streaming Stick (to differentiate between the MHL-based stick for the old "Roku Ready" TVs, which is another long story). I got one of those, because I liked the idea of a stick. It was kinda meh. Heck, it was a lot meh.

In April 2016, Roku upped their game with an update, the model 3600 stick. It was better than the 3500 by quite a bit, but by then, I was used to the speed of a Roku 3, meaning the 3600 stick, while an improvement, was still kinda meh.

In October 2017, Roku released the 3800 Streaming Stick and the 3810 Streaming Stick+. Finally, Roku had a good stick. At least the 3810 Streaming Stick+ was good. I never used the 3800. But I liked the 3810 so much that I replaced all the Roku 3 devices, which were beginning to show their age, with the Streaming Stick+. I didn't replace any Roku Ultra devices, just the older ones.

In 2021, Roku introduced the 3820 Streaming Stick 4K and the 3821 Streaming Stick 4K+. I didn't run out and buy one, but decided to see how well they worked based on others. My Streaming Stick+ devices were good and didn't need replacing, so I was in no hurry.

Research showed they were actually the same device, but came with different remotes in the box. Same processor, same memory, same storage, same everything except the remote. I got my hands on a Streaming Stick 4K+ and tested it. I really liked it, so I bought a Streaming Stick 4K for my own use, replacing a Roku Premiere+ (3921).

So, all is well, right?

No. Not by a long shot.

It turns out that the stick I love so much has good WiFi because of a fancy-schmancy cable that has a WiFi receiver built in. And some of them are going bad. Well, a lot of them. High number, but likely a low percentage. But enough to make it a pain for a lot of people.

Roku sells replacement cables for the 3800/3810. And they're out of stock. And have been out of stock. And no estimate on when they'll be back in stock. If ever.

Roku has really dropped the ball on this one. Now, sure, most of the sticks work fine. Only a small percentage have issues. But a small percentage of a large number can itself be a large number. And that's what seems to be going on.

If you have a Roku stick, and it works, and you're happy, great. If you are thinking about getting a stick, I can say that mine all work great. But that cable issue really bothers me, enough so that I won't recommend a stick.

Yes, I bought a stick recently, and like it. But I don't have a problem spending my own money and dealing with a bad decision. I don't want to cause someone else to spend their money based on my recommendation then they regret the decision. I want your Streaming Life to be free of trouble. Roku is making that difficult.

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