Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why you need to be careful when buying a USB serial adapter

I got a BAFO USB to RS232 Converter Adapter from DinoDirect. I thought I was getting a good deal. It was more expensive than the no-name adapters available elsewhere, but BAFO is an actual brand with support and drivers. I noticed that they were distributing a relatively recent Prolific PL-2303 drivers, which should mean they used PL-2303 chips which didn't trigger the code 10 error. What I got was a piece of junk:
  • Recent drivers fail to work with the adapter, giving a code 10 error. Even the most recent drivers downloaded from BAFO fail. (I wonder if it is really a BAFO product.)
  • The output is 0-5V. The adapter cannot output negative voltages like DinoDirect claims. (They write "The output voltage of our USB to RS232 converters (Pin 3: TX line) is about -9VDC".)
  • The plug is loose, and the USB connection is disrupted if the adapter is moved.
  • In Linux or in OS X with the open source drivers, the adapter starts endlessly repeating the last character that is received. (Prolific's drivers don't work in OS X either.)
  • The adapter cannot detect RS-232 break.
  • Timing may be inaccurate at higher baud rates
The adapter is usable for some applications in Windows with older drivers. However, watch out: some old drivers from Prolific cause bluescreens.

When I complained to DinoDirect, I was told I'd get a $5 giftcard with which I could "pay as cash" , but I was given a $5 off $20 coupon. When I tried to post a review listing the problems the review didn't get approved. A positive review for another item was approved immediately, and I got DinoPoints. When a second attempt to post the review didn't get approved either, I decided to write this blog post.

I should have done some research before dealing with DinoDirect. It seems like a lot of people dislike them. Some even feel that DinoDirect is a scam. I think it's pretty clear they're not a scam, but I can't trust the information on their website, or that they will respond to my problems in a satisfying way. (DealExtreme would probably give store credit for a product like this.) After browsing the DinoDirect web site more, I found a lot of questionable reviews and even questionable product information. For example, some macro diopters have information and reviews as if they're polarizers. Overall, many reviews seem questionable. I'm not saying that DinoDirect is posting fake reviews. Maybe some users post lots of reviews so they can get DinoPoints and free stuff. DealExtreme also offers points for reviews, but their reviews seem genuine. Go ahead and compare DealExtreme and DinoDirect reviews. Also, note that DealExtreme has a lot of activity in the per-product forums.

DinoDirect isn't all bad. They gave me a $1 gift card, I guess for creating my account. Then, I got 100 DinoPoints, corresponding to $1, for a short survey. When the flashlight I ordered wasn't in stock, live support they gave me a $3 gift card. Finally, I ordered the RICHONG RC-7001 LED Flashlight (1*AAA Battery) flashlight and received it. It's a decent little LED flashlight. It seems pretty rugged, and I like how it uses one AAA battery instead of several coin cells. Getting that for free partly makes up for the USB to serial junk I paid for.

Finally, if you really want to order from DinoDirect, two suggestions: Try to find some better information on the product elsewhere. Check for coupon codes, because DinoDirect is always running promotions. RetailMeNot has a good list.

1 comment:

rajiv said...

I got BAFO-810 but it did not worked at 38400 baud rate.