The abrupt lack of Multi Room Satellite Television caused the whole family to fall apart.
Paid around £400.00GBP (excluding price of Hard Disk) for my Vu+ Duo 2 a couple of years ago – was extremely pleased with it – but over time it did start slowing down & doing (many) slightly strange things for several months (I thought it was the frequent Duo2 software updates – no it turned out that the Duo2 was slowing down etc. because of the failing hardware!) then suddenly my £400+ Duo2 is stuck in standby and absolutely will not come out of standby – and worse still it is totally out of warranty!
As it was a big job there is a lot more to read and pictures to compare on this page – so for the impatient – spoiler alert – I enjoyed total success in repairing my stuck in standby Duo 2 while also saving a lot of money – I then repeated my successful Hybrid Polymer Capacitor Upgrade on my other Duo2 (some of the Photographs are from my other Duo2) as well because there was such a big improvement in performance and stability – while the polymer upgraded tuner module shows big gains in signal sensitivity and signal quality and signal lock on speed/performance in the process – read on for more details.
Fortunately I have another (younger and still fully working) identical Vu+ Duo 2 “box” so I started swapping parts over between them – the power supply when swapped over from the dead box would not start the good box (Motherboard etc.) worse still the known to be good power supply would not start the now faulty Duo2 either – meaning that we have both a faulty Duo2 Power Supply Board and a faulty Duo 2 Motherboard to deal with. Studying the Vu + Duo2 power supply there were zero signs of visible failure / damage and it produced 12Volts while under load on all its pins – which matched what was printed on the Power Supply Board itself.
Eureka Moment – I realised that the LNB (the device connected to the other end of your satellite dish signal cables) needs either a 13 Volt or 18 Volt supply which switches between the two different voltages to enable you to tune in to all the different Channels (the voltage switches the LNB between Vertical & Horizontal Polarization) therefore half the power supply is on the actual Motherboard itself as there is no other way for the Duo2 Power supply that gives ONLY a fixed 12 Volt output to the Motherboard to become 18 Volts for the LNB except if the Duo2 Motherboard is stepping up the voltage by drawing increased current (amperage) to convert it to a higher voltage on the actual Duo2 Motherboard – which explains why a known to be working Power Supply does not start the rest of the box – because half of the Power Supply Components are physically installed on the Motherboard itself! Sadly that fact also means a far bigger & more complex repair.
Research Phase – Completely took apart the faulty Duo 2 and made notes on all the Capacitors that I suspected which resulted in a shopping list for over 40 Capacitors – some were not even available in the UK while others were horribly expensive for their size – even worse a lot of them had a minimum order quantity of 10, 15 or even 20 when I only needed five & in some cases a need for a single capacitor resulted in having to buy 10
Budget Realisation Phase – The cost for every single Capacitor needed was well over £100! About 20% of that was due to me picking very long lifespan big name Japanese made capacitors as an upgrade to 10,000 Hours of full load service life at 105ºc – by comparison the original now suspect non-Japanese capacitors averaged a mere 2,000 Hours of service life at mostly 85ºc
So do I want to pay for another £400 Vu+ Duo2 or spend over £100 on Capacitors? I do have a second Duo2 but if that also fails I will be down £800 – lets buy some Capacitors!
Proof of Concept Phase – As I would have to order from multiple different suppliers I initially only ordered the Power Supply Capacitors along with a few others at the same stockist to satisfy their minimum order value & quantity requirements. Having de-soldered all the old Power Supply Capacitors I soldered in all my new upgraded Japanese Capacitors and put the rebuilt Power Supply into my other (still working) Duo2.
Moment of Truth – It now works! The Power Supply from the faulty Duo2 now works in my other Duo2 – before it did not work in either Duo2 – so the original Duo2 Power Supply Capacitors are proved to be faulty!
Hoping Against Hope – I tried my (now also proved to be working) Rebuilt Power Supply with the faulty Motherboard in my other Duo2 – it does now start booting a little from cold (before the Power Supply rebuild nothing much at all seemed to happen – with similar symptoms when powered on the other Power Supply) but then gets stuck – Hmm….
Defiantly Undeterred – I finally pay up and order the rest of the capacitors from two other suppliers while putting the rebuilt Power Supply back in my other still working Duo2 to see if it is stable in use – in fact it is far better than before with much faster power on & boot up from cold times, better on screen colour rendering, better audio, quicker menus etc. all of which implies that the other Duo2 Power supply is past its best or on its way to failure – anyway my current priority is to fix the other Duo2 Motherboard.
Soldering & Soldering – Wear a Respirator NOT a dust mask AND take full ESD (Anti-Static) Precautions (details later). The rest of the imported Capacitors are finally delivered and I start working on the failed Duo2 Motherboard – unlike the Duo2 (single sided single layer circuit board) Power Supply the Duo2 Motherboard is a marvel of circuit board miniaturisation – meaning a dual sided AND multi-layer circuit board with a combination of conventional and SMD (Surface Mount Device) components (including some of the suspect Capacitors) and also with plated through (solder) holes – this is not something for the inexperienced to trifle with – one small slip of the soldering iron (or de-soldering tools) will remove one of the many tiny SMD passive components that are next to most of the suspect Capacitors – you have been warned – while I have experience, love a challenge & should know better so immediately I get soldering steadily removing old Capacitors by de-soldering then soldering in the replacement bigger & better Japanese capacitors – the work is slow going so I decide to see if I can get away with only replacing the conventional (non-SMD type) Motherboard Capacitors. As it turns out – no you can’t! Although the box now starts up and responds to the remote control it is wildly unstable with not all channels working – but it is definite progress as the faulty Duo2 now boots up, runs and produces a picture!
Grim Determination Phase – The SMD type Capacitors are clustered around the pair of Motherboard sockets that the Tuner Modules plug into – access to them is difficult as they are blocked (for soldering access) by nearby conventional Capacitors also some of the SMD Capacitors are very awkwardly positioned next to the tuner sockets which will make SMD Capacitor replacement more difficult – nevertheless I start de-soldering the SMD Capacitors and end up having to remove some of the nearby already replaced capacitors as access for soldering the SMD Capacitors is proving very problematic – eventually all the SMD Capacitors are successfully replaced and upgraded with superior replacements and it is done!
The Relief Washed Over Me Phase – With some trepidation (as there was now not that much more left on the Motherboard to replace – so this had better work or I will have to resort to deploying my Oscilloscope – Why is it that Vu+ like similar Korean Manufacturers produce no known service/repair manuals for their hardware? The implication being that the Koreans want you to just throw it away when it fails) I rebuilt the Duo2 for the second time – left the lid off – plugged it in, threw the rear mains switch and held my breath – it is booting….. – boot progressing quicker than before……… – picture on screen – it is actually working and is totally stable, changing channels, Picture in Picture from a separate second tuner input (both channels simultaneously on screen & both simultaneously in HD) all good – nothing I can do is tripping this Duo2 up!
No Half Measures Phase – the only old Capacitors now left are the mostly SMD ones on the Tuner Module(s) and the pair of SMD Capacitors inside the front panel between the VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) and Infra Red remote control receiver so I change them too – not only just for the hell of it – but also because it means even more new technology Polymer Internal Capacitor Chemistry – SMD Polymer Capacitors with fantastic performance characteristics compared to the conventional Duo2 Aluminium Electrolytic Capacitor chemistry (including SMD)
In any event Aluminium Electrolytic SMD Capacitors that would actually be a measureable improvement in performance AND Endurance were so expensive it made sense to do more research and use carefully selected Polymer SMD Capacitors instead for a superior upgrade with outstanding endurance and stability – Five SMD Capacitors were fitted to the Tuner Card plus a massively up-rated non SMD type Capacitor – then changed two more capacitors beside the VFD on the front display panel circuit board – and finally there were no more capacitors left to change!
Perfection at Last – Reassembled and power on – this time it boots from cold like a rocket and puts a picture on screen so fast it beats the Plasma Televisions automated (by programmable remote control) start up routine meaning a picture is on screen the moment the Television screen is lit up & ready not the other way round like it used to be (before the Duo2 repair it was:-TV screen on, but no picture & waiting for the Duo2 Picture source to come on line) – extremely fast channel switching, very responsive menus, outstanding remote control response and no more interference bars when another tuner switches on or off (for a timer recording or Picture in Picture etc.) annoyingly my other (so far still working OK) Duo2 is also doing the Tuner interference bars fault and is slow to respond to the remote (by comparison) – however after all that work and research a nice side effect is that the Software the Duo2 was running (when it stopped working) is now working very well (don’t even need to bother re-flashing this Duo2!) – previously I suspected it was causing most of the problems but it was failed Capacitors all along!
Temperature Readings – shown onscreen (information menu) have also plummeted from well over 40ºc down to only 26-27ºc even when running for hours! – probably due to increased efficiency – meaning that I can touch the top of the now cool CPU with my finger which tallies with the on screen temperature reading so all good all round – with a massive performance increase to boot – this is the Duo2 Vu+ should have built in the first place – the picture quality is outstanding – easily better than new – with sublime new levels of intricacy, colour and detail PLUS £400.00 recovered on this previously useless Duo2 that would not come out of standby and was out of warranty.
Fringe Tuning Benefits – Now I can pick up all those distant and previously too flaky to watch channels – On screen the signal strength and signal quality percentages have both gone up between 7 to 12% depending on the channel – that would be my extreme upgrade capacitor choices on the Tuner Module (those next generation technology imported [Polymer Chemistry] Japanese SMD Capacitors strike again!) combined with the massively upgraded in value and specification conventional Capacitor now increasing the overall length of the tuner module – in some in circuit applications Polymers just don’t work in practice in a circuit so instead you fit a huge conventional upgrade Capacitor if you have the space to fit it in – and in this tuner application happily there is plenty of space! The same tuner modules also fit other Vu+ receivers like the Solo4K, Uno and the Ultimo etc.
BTW the Solo4K PSU & Motherboard are built together on a single Printed Circuit Board (they are in no way separable) which if you think about it – is either a very bad or very good development!
It Had It Coming – My other standard spec. Vu+ Duo2 was now a total embarrassment in terms of performance, remote control response and picture quality etc. compared to my rebuilt Duo2 – you only realise after you compare the untouched Duo2 with my hardened rebuilt version – damn the useless warranties the satellite dealers give out (if you try warranty claiming satellite dealers just keep you talking saying the box needs an update/restore/re-flash/clean re-flash or its “user error” or the oldest chestnut of all time “software driver conflicts” so why does flashing back to an old software version not fix it then?) – so imported yet more Capacitors (I was short of the ones with low or no Minimum Order Quantity) & pounced on it with yet more Soldering & Capacitors – then after all that also had a very late response back about a technical performance question I asked a Japanese Capacitor Manufacturer regarding a particular choice between two different capacitor ranges which are fitted in a couple of places (different values at each location) on the basis of their answer have made a further change to the capacitors involved which (comparing the pair of upgraded Duo2’s) has further improved the picture quality and also reduced the measured mains energy consumption of the originally repaired Duo2 – so the other Duo2 (that was upgraded BEFORE it failed) will get the final refinement of the rebuild ASAP!
Health and Safety – Wear a respirator / gas mask NOT a paper disposable dust mask while soldering the Vu+ Duo2 – Not certain what is causing it but something noxious on the Duo2 circuit boards is extremely irritating to the lungs – dust mask proved totally useless – next day was wheezing and had broken out in spots where the edge of the paper dust mask was on my face despite trying different makes of solders and lead free solder as well as conventional lead solder still the excess smoking/fuming during soldering operations persisted – de-fluxing before de-soldering etc. did not help either – there was a hell of a lot of flux leftover from Vu+ manufacturing processes on both my Duo2’s which despite today’s various “No Clean” Flux formulations – it is still better to clean off and remove permanently any and all leftover Flux for the ultimate in long term reliability and operational stability – the only reason hardware manufacturers leave the flux on is it saves them time and money. Ideally do the Duo2 soldering outdoors because of the terrible fumes but you would need really still & warm weather conditions in a sheltered area – a good gust of wind could easily cause a bad / dry solder joint with the level of precision required for the Duo2 motherboard – don’t forget the ESD precautions or you can end up with a totally software corrupted & bricked but electrically perfect Duo 2!
Since Rebuilding my pair of Duo2’s – I have successfully also rebuilt a third (initially totally dead) Duo2 for a friend – as I still have leftover capacitors due to minimum order quantity requirements – he is delighted with the repair and euphoric to be able to go back to a high performance / no compromise Duo2 because previously he decided to be pragmatic (about his dead [out of warrantee] Duo2) by replacing his dead Duo2 with a “Dealer Promotion” £99 Satellite receiver which in longer term use (compared to the Duo2) proved to be unbearable as it was so slow & restrictive in general that when the £99 Satellite receiver also started playing up he decided to stop making his Satellite equipment dealer any richer (he felt he would end up having to buy yet another £99 garbage satellite receiver nearly ever year) got his £99 BACK from the dealer & is sticking to his now repaired and upgraded Duo2 instead!