Ask LH: Is It Worth Repairing My Broken Tablet?

Hi Lifehacker, I recently put a crack in the screen in my Sony Xperia Z tablet rendering a third of the screen unusable. According to Sony this would cost $450 to repair, nearly the value of the tablet itself. I could not find anywhere in Melbourne that would repair a Sony tablet but I was able to keep using it, albeit with much reduced functionality. However, a recent software update has made the tablet completely unusable as I cannot get past the language selection screen (as pictured).

I would like to know what to do with my rather expensive but useless tablet. Is there a way to repair it that I have not found or should I sell it? Is there anything at all I can do with it? Thanks, Bad Medicine

Dear BM,

From your brief explanation, the problem seems to be the placement of the "Done" icon which happens to coincide with the non-responsive portion of the screen. If this is indeed the case, the solution is so simple you're going to kick yourself.

Like most Android tablets, the Sony Xperia Z comes with a Micro USB 2.0 port — simply buy a USB OTG cable and plug in your mouse. You should now be able to click on the damaged section of the screen with your cursor.

It's possible that the USB host software won't be able to recognise the mouse due to the incomplete update. If that's the case, you could try removing the pre-installed screen protector from the tablet. This can reportedly help to improve touchscreen sensitivity, although you should naturally proceed with caution when dealing with severe cracks.

Mind you, even if you do manage to get past the language selection screen, you're still going to be left with a tablet that's barely functional. We doubt you'd be able to sell this for anything more than chump change.

Seeing as you've got nothing to lose, you might as well attempt to fix the device yourself. This actually isn't as difficult as you might think. You can pick up Xperia Z screen replacement kits from various online suppliers; all of which are just a Google search away.

In your case, the actual LCD that supplies the visuals appears to be fine, which means you only need to replace the outer touch-sensitive panel. This will set you back no more than $40, which is a damn sight cheaper than what Sony is charging.

So how's it done? There are numerous tutorials available online that will talk you through the screen-swap process. All tablets follow the same basic build principle comprising a back cover, motherboard, glass chassis, LCD, front frame or bezel and touch-sensitive panel. In other words, don't be afraid to follow the steps for a different model.

As long as the parts are in roughly the same place, the same advice should translate to your device. The below video guide will help to give you some idea of what's involved:

Good luck! If any readers have suggestions or tips of their own they'd like to share, let BM know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    The obvious solution to the current problem is a micro to standard USB adapter and a mouse, or possibly a BT mouse if the settings menu can be accessed and mouse paired.

    EDIT: and then I read the article... :-)

    Last edited 25/07/14 8:52 am

    I preface this statement by saying I haven't used an Android tablet - but wouldn't rotating the device also work?

    If my ipad had the same problem I could just turn the device and the Done button would be rotated 180 degrees....

    Maybe I'm missing something....

      If it's in a software update, depending the manufacturer they sometimes lock screen position during install.

    Ultimately, if you're unsure - sell it on gumtree - LOTS of people willing to buy broken tablets etc in the hopes they will be able to repair them.

    If the tablet is like the phone, you will not be able to replace the top layer without replacing the LCD. They are bonded (totally unlike the tablet for which the video applies).
    (I had the same thing with an Xperia Z phone, and replaced the screen).

    If the screen and digitizer/glass are bonded, don't waste your time. The screen is expensive. The devices are waterproof, so you need to also buy new adhesive (which is horribly difficult to apply) as well as use a suction cap, spudgers, and a heat gun to get the thing apart. You then need to lever the glass off the front without damaging any internals (which again requires a heat gun and spudgers).

    In that case, just buy a new tablet, and use the HDMI out and USB-OTG (keyboard and mouse) to turn that one into an XBMC or something.

    Last edited 25/07/14 11:08 am

      +1. Once you have to have to start removing adhesive like that, it's not worth it. It takes a long time, needs serious attention to detail, and you have a high chance of damaging the screen further anyway.

      A quick google shows up no results for your model's screen, so: try to take the LCD and digitizer apart. If they aren't bonded, you can just buy the digitizer on the cheap. If they are bonded, it's easier to just buy the whole LCD assembly (looks like you can get one for about $140: ). The Xperia S tablet from 6 months before definitely has a bonded screen so chances are it'll be the latter.

      Good luck. Tablet and phone repair can be fiddly, but if you follow some teardown videos online you've got a good chance of success.

    Excellent advise Chris... I don't normally say this to writers, but well done..! :)

    I'm just surprised your Sony tablet got an update.

    I picked up my xperia tablet z and found that is has about 2 inches of black at the top of the screen. Enough not to see the pull down menu. To my knowledge it has never been dropped. Sony said to try a factory reset which helped none. Any suggestions what I can try? If I send it in it will take up to 6 weeks. I just love my tablet too much to wait. Oh and the screen is not cracked or scratched.

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