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Old 12-15-2011, 06:05 PM   #1
Lordvic
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I dismantled my Kobo Wifi, And bring you my exclusive report!

as many readers may now, I have had a problem with my kobo wi-fi

The screen did the screwy thing. all the lines. and kobo tech after a drawn out month and a half was no help (not paying nearly the cost of a new ereader, with shipping two ways just fora screen issue that is known)

So, this got me thinking. Why is the Kobo wifi / original having this issue? What causes it? why is it relatively prevalent in these two devices.

So, my investigatory instinct took over. I grab my trusty screw drivers and went to work.

First observation: The case on the wifi / original is eay to open. While this might void our warranties... should they be honored in the first place, It requires no screws. however, around the perimeter of the screen and on the back of the front bezel is a tiny bit of glue. My assumption this is to keep the "build quality" up. no creaking of the plastic and make it appear to have a nice tight fit and finish. It works as intended.

Next I looked at the battery. if you're comfortable removing the front plate, the battery is cake. it is simply held in place by sticky tape. And to my pleasant surprise, the battery itself is attached to the logic board with a plug connector, and is easily replacable at this stage! Battery concerns should be moot as older devices with very little effort can replace this battery.

The D pad is a very simple contact button on the logic board. The rubbery buttons themselves do nothing more than apply presure to these. The rubber button has no contacts on them at all and the liklihood of it's wear and tear breaking the functionality of the D pas is not going to happen.

The Main Logic board itself is held into the back plate of the device, by 5 tiny phllips screws. if you want to remove this, you will need to get one of those tiny electronic screwdriver sets. I had slightly more difficulty on one screw as it appears that its head was stripped already. How this came to be? i dont know, but i was able to eventually loosen the screw with some fancy plyer work.

Next I removed the Logic board, which contains the entire workings of the device from the back plate

here is where things get interesting.

the E-ink screen itself appears that it is made of glass. or a Glass like substance. too "cool" to the touch for plastic, and makes an entirely glass like clicking sound if you tap metal against it.

This made me think about the screen problem which many are having. Where it appears to be "shattered" with lines everywhere, But the feel of it, and the appearance of the surface is intact.

The 'glass' itself looks to be under a millimeter thick. and the recognizable grayish front is an almost spray painted on layer.

I looked at the sides (haven't removed the screen from the board) but it was clear that where the screen appeared broken, there were cracks through the glass looking layer, and while everywhere else on the screen, the screen appears flush and perfectly attached to the circuit board, this side looks to have slightly lifted up. enough to slide a piece of paper under.

2nd Note: The ribbon for the screen that attaches to the circuit board is about 3/4's height of the screen itself. It also wraps around to the back of the board and bends / folded to reach there. (my opinion a terrible terrible design for any ribbon cable) where it attaches with a more standard style ribbon connector.

Flipping it over too look at that i was awed as well. There was a 2gb Micro-SD slot and card! 2gb sandisk memory that is easily purchasable off any shelf. this is simply in a slot like exists on any cell phone. Leads me to imagine possibilities of internal memory expansion, OS or firmware modification and a million other things. I haven't yet put this in my computer to read the contents.

This is where user serviceability completely ends. The screen itself appears to be glued directly to the logic board. aside from where it lifted slightly where it appears broken, there are no screws or clips visible in which to remove and replace the screen. The original reason behind this exercise, was to see if i could replace the screen on my own by buying online somewhere an "as is" partially broken device and salvaging the two together.

But it is apparent this is impossible. What I believe happens, when any device is sent in for a broken screen or logic board, is that the entire thing is replaced. What happens is Celistica (kobo doesn't do their own RMA) swaps your MicroSD card into a new / Refurbished device, and sends it back to you in an "all or nothing" replacement. this would explain why out of warranty repairs like this cost nearly the same as a brand new unit. In all likelihood, it is!

My questions when it comes to the build of this device, and likely other pre e-ink pearl devices is the screen and the aparent material it is made from. We are all lead to believe e-ink is not like an LCD in it's build structure, that it is more robust, and pocketable. That it can take a lot more beating. We have even seen demos of flexible e-ink.

So what is the material they used? Why is it shattering in not just mine, but if you look online, many peoples cases. Why is this happening suddenly? carry around the device for years without issue, then suddenly, one day, read, turn off, put down, turn on .. Broken.

Why if this is a known issue, and possibly a build quality issue with materials used, is Kobo being so strict with enforcement of warranty issues? This sounds like something Kobo should be considering extended coverage for, for aditional years.

What about Pearl? I have never had the chance to use one, Never mind open one up and have some fun with it. Does it still have the same build structure? quality of build? what exactly are the materials and the technological build differences between the two?

I know this was long and Wordy. But thank you for reading. This was meant for informative. I have already written off my Kobo Wifi as dead and wasn't going ot pay the replacement value for fixing this, so i felt like i would do a service and report on what i found inside. I haven't taken any photos, but if anyone has a particular photo they would like to see of any of these parts, Or further information, i would gladly report!
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:17 PM   #2
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I know that Terminator, one of our MR stalwarts, was able to send his reader to Kobo for $5. Needless to say, it did not go using an overnight service. It was looked at and replaced at no charge.

Apparently the holy crap it just broke and the I dropped it on the garage floor kind of breaks are easy to tell apart. At least that is what I was told when I brought my WiFi into my local Chapters store and they replaced it on the spot.
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:24 PM   #3
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ya. I was told I pay for shipping there, and they would examine the evidence and if it was still under warranty (they were unable to determine based on serial numbers). the thing about the warranty was it was over by the time i got that result. The device broken mid october, and I didnt get a response from tech support till 2 weeks after request, then final "send to us" nearly a month later. That point i was told in all liklihood it was a 69.99 replacement and i would have to also cover shpping back to me. None of wich came directly from Kobo, but from Celestica internationals RMA department

All in all, i decided the cost associated, and the bitterness of taking nearly a month for real tech support response, that i would walk away from Kobo entirely and show my displeasure with my dollar instead of words.

This wasn't meant to be a report on the tech support, warranty and issues though. I just wanted to report on the physical hardware, and my observations and how it might have related to known issues. As sort of a thank you to this community wich I have enjoyed reading for a while now.

I'm thinking of making a snapshot of the memory card that they use if anyone is interested in it as well for their "personal development" and future community's fun.

More information on a product is never a bad thing right?
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:36 PM   #4
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Funny how they charge $69.99 for a replacement when I just bought a refurb for $39.99. I figured I'd have a spare for just such accidents, and considering my WiFi is over a year old...
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Old 12-15-2011, 06:39 PM   #5
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There are always refurb's available, in high quantities. in fact, the original / Wifi model often has more refurb's in stock at Best Buy / Futureshop around here than new. it leads me to believe that the two models had a very very high failure rate, which furthers my concern of their tech support issues.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:13 PM   #6
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They also got a whole bunch returned when about six months after releasing the WiFi, along came the Touch. They have to be sold as refurbs, too, even if there was nothing wrong with them. I know in Canada retailers did that sort of exchange for several months after the Touch was released.

Kobo has, in the past, offloaded readers to BestBuy and Future Shop when they were getting ready to stop promoting the product themselves. We may be seeing that.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:37 PM   #7
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I've taken pictures of a few things for those who are interested in the internals. I know i love seeing how things are put together so hopefully these will be of interest to those who won't want to destroy their own device to see!

[Image exceeds guidelines for size - MODERATOR]

Here you can see the front bezel from the back. As noted in my description, the bezel is held mainly via plastic snaps to the back panel, and the strip of glue around the screen (the black felt looking). The D pad is entirely rubber and there are no mechanics to it that would effect the D pad's electronic behavior

[Image exceeds guidelines for size - MODERATOR]

Battery is pretty standard fare. Good to see that if you wish, you could replace it yourself.

[Image exceeds guidelines for size - MODERATOR]

Back of the logic board. Clearly visible, the folded ribbon cable from the front for the screen, and the internal MicroSD card. inside was the 2gb card


[Image exceeds guidelines for size - MODERATOR]

Best I could get showing the layer of "glass" and the cracks to it. The top grey layer appears perfectly intact on top and is still perfectly smooth to the touch.

Last edited by Dr. Drib; 02-23-2014 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:52 PM   #8
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Very Kewl!!!
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:41 PM   #9
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We are all lead to believe e-ink is not like an LCD in it's build structure, that it is more robust, and pocketable. That it can take a lot more beating. We have even seen demos of flexible e-ink.
Not sure where you got the idea that e-ink is "more robust and pocketable". Can't say I've seen that claim anywhere. That extremely thin glass layer is what actually makes them MORE susceptible to damage via twisting or bending. Yes there is some talk of flexible e-ink, but those are research products and not commercially available yet and definitely don't reflect the current generation of e-ink screens.
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:01 AM   #10
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Why is it not feasible to make the layer of glass thicker or to find some other way of making it more robust?
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:38 AM   #11
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Why is it not feasible to make the layer of glass thicker or to find some other way of making it more robust?
the two things that come to mind are weight and price. you want to keep the device as light as possible while keeping the cost down as well. I believe Sony has a metal frame on some of theirs, which does decrease the chance of it flexing, but you also pay a bit more of a premium..

For all intents and purposes, I've found the kobo to be pretty strong as is, and I've dropped it a number of times (mesa little bit..clumsy...)
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Old 12-16-2011, 10:07 AM   #12
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the teardown for me was an eye opener . i didnt realize just how "fragile" they really are. I know i've dropped mine several times over it's lifespan. I think the first day i got it I fell asleep reading and it fell right out of my hands onto a tile floor.

it was my own ignorance to believe it's robustness. I should have researched E-ink better and seen exactly how it is made.

The reason for the insanely think pieces of glass i would assume might be two fold. The weight issue for one, and secondly, costs (not just dollar, but how much waste of material for extra glass would be used when in reality, it isn't needed).

Adding thicker back glass would definitly add to the weight. We are so used to the glass on our phones and tablets and how ridiculously strong they are. When I think of glass, i think of all those drinking glasses i've broken accidentally just with my hands cleaning them. Now I can see that if e-ink isn't using one of those "gorrilla glass" or deritives of re-inforcement, these devices are more fragile than your average tablet.

I know I spent the better part of the life of my device carrying it around in my pants pocket. I never thought twice about it.

I loved the e-reader. it was fantastic for reading on. Nothing compares but paper book. I'm going to look into how the e-ink on the pearl screens is done. if it's basically the same, with the same fragility, I might think twice about getting another one. I'm not rough on my devices, but a "spontaneous cracking" really troubles me. I might end up with a small tablet, Nook or Fire perhaps if i can get one up here, or perhaps one that has put in some extra reinforcement. The Kobo as shown above really has no structural reinforcement around the screen. the front case is stuck onto it with sticky tape, and the entire screen itself is glued directly to the PCB. Design flaw? Not really, just probably not as robust as other alternatives, that i will be fully researching now that i'm not so ignorant.

Last edited by Lordvic; 12-16-2011 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 12-16-2011, 10:46 AM   #13
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I'm not sure what the engineering reasons for the thin glass is (could be cost or there might be an actual physical/engineering reason). As far as I know the Pearl screens would be near identical in design in terms of having the glass in it. As Pyske said, it would be nice to have a little more structure to protect it since I think a lot of the time it is the twisting that kills it. Unfortunately due to the structure (thin and flat) I doubt it would be very easy to re-enforce it in a way to prevent flexing without making it thicker or smaller. Again I could be wrong, but part of why they may "spontanteously" break is from a pre-existing mico-fracture combined with time/temperature changes etc (the same way a car window with a chip can suddenly crack).
Interesting to see the actual internals of the Kobo though and exactly what the glass screen looks like. Thanks.
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Old 12-16-2011, 01:14 PM   #14
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I have both the WiFi and the Touch. It seems to me that there is more flex in the WiFi, but this could entirely be in my imagination.
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Old 12-17-2011, 03:23 AM   #15
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I have the original and the Touch and I definitely think the original has more flex to it. Also, even though the Touch is smaller it weighs more, and in my mind it feels more robust than the Kobo original.

Even though my original Kobo had a lot of flex (and I would often give it a little left-right twist while holding it in both hands) I thought it was very forgiving. In the summer, I often carried it in my cargo shorts' pocket without a cover or case. And, I was clumsy and dropped my Kobo a few times. Once, after I dropped it I found the case separated a little bit, but I just popped it back together with no problems. Unfortunately, the last time I dropped it (and broke the screen last month) it was a bad fall, with the Kobo spinning in the air like a coin tossed. I know you should treat your electronic devices with care, but I think the newer generation e-readers are more robust than you give them credit for.
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