Roku Remote Rechargeable Upgrade
June 14, 2021
For somewhere around a decade, I have relied on streaming for the majority of my television watching. This meant a computer in the early days, along with a surround sound home theater setup. At some point, however, we simplified to a single Roku Player and the TVs built-in sound.
While we had two Roku remotes by way of an upgraded player, one was more worn, and even duct taped, while the remote’s battery contacts “somehow” got corroded, and the device no longer worked. While replacements are less than $10 on Amazon, I wondered if I could fix my remote (I didn’t) and at the same time make it rechargeable (I did).
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook
Thus started a journey that, in terms of monetary value, probably meant I was getting paid a fraction of minimum wage. On the other hand, I learned a few things along the way, producing ideas for articles that I do get paid for. Besides, if I never took on this kind of questionable project, perhaps I would just waste my time watching TV… with a purchased remote.
The first step was determining how to get one of these remotes apart. While some of the advice online focused on devices with screws holding them together, mine did not have such fasteners. I instead found that it was held together by some sort of tabs. Getting it separated was therefore just a matter of placing a putty knife in between the seam along the front and back, and progressively working them apart.
Inside I found a circuit board, along with the back of the rubber all-in-one buttons that connect each input circuit. The plan was to use snips to accommodate the battery and power components and solder up the new power source. However, as elaborated on below, I never quite got this working. Instead, I purchased a knockoff remote.
A New Remote
This device was disassembled in largely the same way (snap, snap, snap), and inside I found a slightly different design. The buttons were actual switches on the circuit board, rather than circuit elements that were connected by the removable buttons as part of the switch. Perhaps, the genuine design is better from a longevity standpoint, but it is hard to say. It would seem the odds of other incidents (e.g., corrosion, loss, replacement, etc.) happening before the buttons wear out may make this a largely moot point.
The other notable thing about the knockoff remote, is that underneath the four bottom shortcut buttons visible to the user, there are another two buttons concealed underneath the plastic housing. Based on testing, these seem to be active. Perhaps the same board is used for multiple controller designs, but it could be an interesting hacking target for someone that would like to go even further.
The stock device’s 2 x AA batteries nominally provide 3V, and in reality, something like 3.2V when fresh, the rechargeable Li-Ion battery that I was going to use here provides a nominal 3.7V, and somewhere around 4V when fresh. While I “may” have tried simply hooking it up the battery with some success, this seemed overly hacky. I needed a way to reduce the power. Here are a few possibilities that I tried or considered–some are better than others.
- Battery Straight In: May work, but not preferred.
- Boost converter: Definitely not the correct solution, as seen in build video.
- Inline Resistor: Perhaps workable but seemed too variable based on input current.
- Diode: Generally, they have a certain rated voltage “drop.” While not perfect, seemed an acceptable solution.
- LDO: Likely an excellent solution if you need a certain voltage output.
In the end, I settled on the diode here, which would in theory drop the voltage down to close to the 3V required. As seen in the video, this was a little different when installed than I thought it would be, though perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was measuring it when little voltage was flowing. The device works well, perhaps even benefiting from the slightly overpowered circuit.
Image Credit: Jeremy Cook
To take care of replenishing the circuit, I used a Micro USB charge board with protection for the battery built-in. One might also consider this similar USB-C board, which I did not have when this project started. The setup has been working for several weeks without incident and looks mostly stock thanks to the battery cover obscuring my tinkering when not charging. While I hope it keeps working for some time into the future, I look forward to simply being able to plug it in the next time it stops functioning!
Video 1: Here, Jeremy walks through how to disassemble a Roku remote and replace its factory battery with a rechargeable Li-ion battery, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IC79ni-D_0.