Just because you “can” do something, doesn’t mean you “should.” That’s the moral of today’s story about small home electronics. Most small electronic devices like streaming boxes or satellite TV boxes have RF remotes. That means you don’t have to point the remote straight at them. It also means you can put the box behind a TV or in a cabinet. Technically, it means you can also put the thing in your sock drawer. I’m just begging you not to do that.
Why you could do this
Putting a device like this in your sock drawer is going to work when you try it. The RF technology in streaming boxes and satellite client boxes makes it possible. Traditional remote controls use infrared technology. For years, this was a less expensive way to go. That’s why it’s so common in older electronics. However, less expensive RF chips derived from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology make it possible for low-priced remotes to work as well as higher-priced ones.
Infrared technology uses a simple camera within the box. It can’t make out pictures, but it can detect flashes of infrared light. It counts the flashes and looks them up to see what you want to do. It was actually a pretty impressive thing 30 years ago but today it’s just kind of played out.
RF technology sends a much more complex signal out. The signal has not only what you want to do but what receiver should be listening for it. Because the technology uses radio waves, the signal passes through nearly anything. That includes the front of your sock drawer and your socks.
Why you should not do this
The problem is heat. Heat is the killer of most consumer electronics. A device like a streaming box or DIRECTV Genie client could work for decades if it’s kept nice and cool. Heat it up, and it could fail within months. Excess heat kills electronics by causing microscopic failures in chips and circuit boards. Everything looks ok to the naked eye, but those pathways are unusable. It also causes larger components like capacitors to fail. Without a working capacitor, devices like this — indeed any electronic device — can’t get power.
Putting a box like this in your sock drawer all but guarantees that its vent holes are going to get covered up. Those vent holes are there to allow heat to escape and let cool air in so that your components can stay at the right temperature.
People don’t like fan noise so most components today are designed with what’s called “passive cooling.” The design of the boards, along with heat sinks, provide enough cooling so a fan isn’t needed. However, something that’s passively cooled will need decent airflow, which is exactly what you won’t get if you put a box like this in a sock drawer.
Resist the urge
Yes, I get it. There’s someone in your home who doesn’t like wires and little boxes. They’re going to want to hide every electronic gadget. When they find out your gear will still work even in a drawer, they’ll want to shove everything you have into that drawer and cover it up with a pillow, a doily, or some socks. Just don’t let them. It’s so much better for your electronics to have some air around them. Let them breathe!