Friday, October 29, 2004

Replaced my PowerBook G4 LCD

I had some dead columns of pixels in the LCD on my PowerBook G4 Titanium (Onyx). It went from a single dead column about 3/4 of the way to the right edge to about 9 dead there and another 3 about 2/3 of the way across from left to right over about a 9 month span. That went from annoying to unusable.

So, I went hunting for screen replacements. Apple wants about $1,050.00 to swap the top half hinges and all. I found some third party services that will replace the LCD panel in your hardware for between $550 and $425. Considering the thing is 2.5 years old and probably not worth more than $700 none of these options seemed viable to me.

I thought, "How hard would it be to replace it myself?". So, I started reading up and found that taking it apart and taking the top half off was fairly simple. It was extracting the LCD panel from the casing, hinges and front bezel that was difficult. The problem is that besides the 4 screws holding it together, there is a bunch of strong epoxy as well. Most tools someone like me would have would damage the casing and plastic frame in the process of cracking the epoxy. This put me off the repair for a while.

Then, I started looking for used top halves on Ebay. My limit was $200 including the price of shipping and I began bidding. Unfortunately they were ending between $240 and $325 and I lost auction after auction when holding fast to my price.

In doing more research I found some instructions for taking the bezel, plastics and housing off the LCD panel. They still warned of damage but it now seemed a bit less risky. Thus began my bidding wars on just LCD panels. I stuck with auctions for new or refurbs from high feedback number sellers to avoid buying an LCD with dead pixels or in generally bad condition. I stuck to panels in the Computers->Apple section of Ebay to be sure of compatibility. And... I still kept losing auctions with my max bid of $185.

Then, I found a guy selling them for $149 starting bid and $164.50 "Buy It Now" prices. He had positive feedback in the 500+ range. There was a single panel I put my bid in at $165. It had 1 day and 9 hours left and I was the only bidder. Then, with 2 hours to go someone bid it up over me and over the "Buy It Now" price which wasn't available because of the bid(s). Damnit! But, I checked the seller other auctions and he had LCD panels with the same part numbers for sale in the PC laptop section with no bids and the same "Buy It Now" prices set. I wasn't risking losing again and paid the $164.50 + $10 shipping and snagged it.

I had to tell the guy the exact part number I needed as he had multiples so I got to cracking the epoxy. I bend the crud out of some of the pieces and cracked the plastics in a few places, but nothing horrid. Oh well, my case now looked like it had barely won a bar fight.

The LCD arrived 4 days after I paid and I immediately hooked the cables up to see how it looked. I was expecting the worst for the cheap price, but it looked fabulous. No dead pixels or scratches on the face. It was a Panasonic instead of the Samsung I had and the connectors seemed better arranged and less prone to damage.

Now I had to get it back together. I had the wife buy me some metal/plastic to metal epoxy (Superglue brand) at the hobby store and a set of 20 small plastic clamps. I fitted all the pieces together to make sure I was comfortable with the process and could do it quickly as the epoxy works up in 30 seconds and only has a 4-6 minute working time before harding depending on room temperature. So, I had to work fast. I did the plastics, hinges and back cover first and clamped everything together as tight as I could. Then, to avoid fidgeting with it, I walked away for an hour. When I came back it was time to test and hope for the best. The top turned on its hinges nicely without any cracking noises or bowing/moving parts that shouldn't. SUCCESS! I then smeared a layer of epoxy from a new mixing onto the front and clamped the bezel on. It had a few more bows and kinks than the back but I managed to get it to stick and held the bottom where I couldn't clamp with my hands for 6 minutes while the epoxy set up. I then walked away for another hour. The final open and close was a sucess as well, though it takes a good slow push to get the latch to drop and catch, but it works.

So, I now have a replaced LCD in my PowerBook. There are some wavy bubbles in the titanium covering around it and a bit of epoxy coming out of the gaps where the front sandwiches to the back. But, it's all cosmetic and I can live with that since my LCD works properly again. If you're cheap like me and daring enough to do what I did you can fix your broken PowerBook 15.2" LCD for about $195* plus your time, wrakced nerves and adding a bit of "ugly" to the look of the top casing.

* Price breakdown:
$165 for the LCD
$10 for shipping
$8 for epoxy and clamps
$12 for #8 and #6 Torx screwdrivers


Blogger Tasha said...

What?!? NO Duct tape?!?

Congrats though. I'm glad to hear the operation was a success!

Just goes to show, if you want something bad enough, it can be done/had/acquired.

Oh, and I bet it was a friend of the sellers jacking it up over the buy now price. I don't trust Ebay..never will :P

But congrats anyway!

9:25 AM  

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