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  Kindle Fire...

[11 August 2020] Today I received a faulty Kindle (5th Generation, SV98LN) that won't power on. I plugged it into my computer to charge it and I can hear it repeatedly connecting and disconnecting. It will do this for a while, then pause, before repeating the sequence.

I considered that the USB socket could be faulty and preventing the USB plug from making proper contact, but upon closer examination (as I was cleaning the screen), I noticed something noticeable, behind the screen... a distinct circle some 6mm across, and some further little spots, all present within the centre 3rd of the screen when looking horizontally.

(buttons and sockets are off the bottom of the image)

visible circle beneath the screen measuring 6mm

I had already watched a Youtube video on how to replace the micro USB socket and could see from that that the circuitry of the Kindle lies at the top of the device and not beneath where these screen blemishes are; the only thing there is, I think, the battery. So while the screen (or the digitizer) isn't cracked, it is damaged.

What to to with it?

  • sell it as it is?
  • dismantle it to investigate further?

[12 August 2020] I carefully opened up the device to take a look inside. I would say obvious liquid ingress, only slightly though but enough to show on some components and on the inside of the cover in that corner.

I disconnected the battery and screen and cleaned the circuit board with isopropyl alcohol then plugged it into my computer to test the result (with the screen disconnected). Still not starting up, although the power cycling time was different.

After a bout of trial and error and trying different variations of things connected or not, I eventually overcame my assumption that the screen was faulty (rather than the digitizer) and reconnected it, but leaving the digitizer disconnected. I pressed the power button and it came on! The battery at this point was connected and the icon on the screen showed it at only 1% and charging, so I left it to do this for a while. I then tried it with the digitizer connected, and again the Kindle came on, but, as I now suspected, the device wouldn't respond to my inputs on the screen.

I then ordered a replacement digitizer. The cheapest ones on ebay don't include the necessary double-sided adhesive tape. There is one from China that does, for 30p more. Do I...

  • order the screen from here in the UK and order suitable tape (which will take further deciding*), or
  • get the one from China (which I'll have to wait longer for)

I can see from the China listing that the tape included is 3M 300LSE; it is a minefield on ebay trying to choose the most cost effective listing. Again, I can also get this from China!

I found I could get a 55M roll of 10mm wide tape, for 12.99, more than I would need, but good cost per M. Or a 10 x 20cm sheet for around 4. I then searched instead for tape for the job rather than the "300LSE" I had seen, and found two sheets of 3M 468MP tape for the same price. What's the difference?

I found this comparison sheet of the 3M tapes and learned the following:

LSE of 300LSE stands for Low Surface Energy (Acrylic), suitable for such materials and also powder coatings, and oily metal (not what you should find inside a Kindle Fire!) 468MP seems ideal so I have ordered that since it's not going to be bonding to metal.

[13 August 2020] I watched a video on how to remove the digitizer layer of the screen... heat was required to release the existing adhesive. That strange circle and the other specs were on the actual screen beneath the digitizer layer and wiped off with a cloth damped with isopropyl alcohol. I can't see what's actually wrong with the digitizer layer. I now await the double sided tape in order to attach the replacement digitizer.

[14 August 2020] 3M tape adhesive tape arrived and I connected the replacement digitizer. I can see from where that circular blemish is on the screen that it is inline with one edge of the ribbon cable. The Kindle works with the replacement digitizer connected, although it still does a similar "USB connect" issue when plugged into a computer, only now it doesn't follow that with the "disconnect" sound, just repeated "connect" ones. Perhaps there remains a fault with the USB socket, such as with the data pins (it is charging fine on a standalone USB charger), or some other board fault.

This remaining issue is a shame because I had thought about replacing the Kindle Fire's default operating system. With it not connecting correctly over USB it seems I will be unable to try this.

[20 August 2020] It turned out the USB issue was resolved by using a different USB cable; it turns out the one I was using works fine for my Action Camera but not the Kindle or my Samsung Galaxy S phone; both of those do the whole disconnecting reconnecting thing... so... I could in theory tinker with the Kindle's OS.

That's for another day. For now I have reassembled the Kindle Fire with its new screen/digitizer, being careful to leave the screen beneath a spot-free as possible by using a lens cloth before removing the 3M adhesive tape's backing with tweezers.

I'm getting used to playing around with the Kindle Fire:

  • I've not yet managed to get it to load epub files which many of my books are in for my Sony eReader
  • Some PDF files are poorly displayed/formatted for reading on the 7" screen
  • I finally got the Alex App working on it; I discovered I had to press and hold the Home icon until the blue bar appears for me to speak to
  • I had Alexa start reading a book about Marcus Aurelius to me; the voice was easy to follow, almost like a real person until some weird parts/characters or something were read literally. It's frustrating that I have to leave my WiFi router on for this feature.
  • I'm not sure how good battery life is. I did think about replacing the battery before reassembling but it appeared stuck in
  • I'm still not certain the Kindle's power button isn't finicky.
  • I ordered a case for the Kindle... that came from China.

The Kindle Fire's case arrived recently from China. They had sent the wrong one which I determined was for a 2019 9th Revision 9 instead of one for my 2015 5th Revision based on pictures of the buttons and sockets.

I complain that the case covered the volume buttons and microphone. The buttons are operable through the PU leather of the case but the microphone is too obstructed for Alexa to hear me. The seller offered me a partial refund which I accepted. I'll cut a hole where the microphone is and perhaps trim where the volume buttons are and all should be well.

I'm still not sure if I'll keep the Kindle long, the screen's backlight is uneven from the original screen issue and the power button needs a firm press to operate. I recently acquired another tablet, an Acer Iconia 10, which I thought had a faulty power socket but turned out to need a hard reboot (disconnecting the battery and reconnecting). The screen was somewhat scratched but using some toothpaste, water and my fingers, I've smoothed that out somewhat... I've ordered a case for that one too... here's hoping the right one arrives! I could install the Alexa app on it if I so wish. This tablet appears to have front-facing speakers so I'm hopeful the audio will be much improved over the Kindle Fire's which is pretty poor from it's measly rear-facing speaker. The Iconia is worth a fair bit more though, so I might sell that on and have the money and made-do with the Kindle Fire! My eReader is far better for reading outside thanks to its eink display.

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