My main desk has two monitors. The monitor that is centered on my desk is hooked in through a KVM to my laptop dock and my Hacintosh. The other monitor sits off to the side and is hooked in through a second KVM to my Linux server and to my Win XP server. So while the laptop/Hac monitor is my primary, I got the same monitor for my servers to share. I figured that way I’d have maximum flexibility and I really liked the monitor. Both are Samsung 204B monitors. They are 20″ diagonal with 4:3 aspect ratio and both are running at 1600×1200. I’ve had the primary since 2006 and the secondary, probably early 2007.
Three years ago, the primary gave out. It wouldn’t stay “on” – the backlight kept shutting off. Fortunately, it was under warranty and Samsung was great about the repair. 12 days after reporting the problem, a replacement was waiting at my local UPS Store – I walked in with the broken one and walked out with the replacement. I thought that was it.
But then only a little more than a year later, that replacement monitor had the same problem. I was worried this time since I was out of warranty and since the serial number had changed with the replacement. Fortunately, Samsung was able to figure it all out and give me warranty work on the warranty replacement. The downside was that I had to wait 3 weeks for the monitor to be sent away, repaired, and then returned.
Now the secondary monitor is exhibiting the same symptoms. I suppose it makes sense that the secondary one took a lot longer to have a problem since much of its existence is in energy saver mode. But of course I’m long out of warranty. So I started thinking that maybe I’d get a new monitor for my primary and shift the primary to the secondary. Unfortunately, to get a monitor 1200 pixels in height, I’d need to go with a 1920×1600 monitor for close to $400. And considering I got the originals for $300 each and that was 5 years ago, it’d really hurt to spend that kind of money today. Especially since I’m still happy with the monitors.
I did a little poking around on Google late last night and discovered a number of other people with the same issue with the same model monitor and other similar models. The problem turns out to be with some capacitors on the inverter board. And even better, the caps can just be replaced by anyone with soldering capabilities!
First, take a look at the repair info for a 204T monitor. The author of that page wrote a great PDF based on info that he figured out from fixya; I’ll mirror that PDF here: SamsungSyncMaster204T-cap-repair since he writes that his connection is slow (and it is). In it, he describes how to disassemble the 204T and how to replace the capacitors. The caps are the same in the 204B and the inverter board appears pretty similar. Note also that he has a clever option for substituting different caps if you can’t find the exact right ones (the note is near the end of the PDF).
Second, I found a page that describes the repair for a 204B with pictures of the 204B. The author of that page also sells a kit to do the replacement so you don’t have to find the various capacitors. That’s nice but I think it’s easier to just open up the monitor and see which caps are blown – the ones with the bulging tops and the black goo on them. Those are the ones that need replacing and you don’t need to replace the others. But this page is helpful to see the insides of the 204B.
I also have some of my own notes: The disassembly of the 204B is different than the 204T. There is no little hole to start the case split on the 204B. You have to just choose a place at random and start prying. You’ll probably leave some marks as I did – oh well. I started on the bottom where they will be least likely to be visible. There appear to be more sensitive areas in the corners and I broke two of mine in the process but the broken parts don’t appear to matter when you put it back together. The back plastic piece and the front plastic that goes around the screen are actually just sandwiching the meat of the monitor – the metal shielded body that the stand screws into.
Once you get into the case, follow either of the linked guides above and the cap replacement is pretty easy. As I mentioned above, figuring out which caps to replace is pretty easy – the ones that have gunk on a domed top. I was able to find the exact replacement cap which is a 820µF @ 25V / 105?C. It was cheap at Mouser for less than a dollar but locally I paid $2.90 for each. Still, less than $6 for a full monitor repair is totally worth it and of course, I would have needed to pay shipping to Mouser and waited. The original caps were 10mm diameter by 20mm long while the replacements are 10mm diameter by 25mm long. The diameter is important since they need to be cozy next to each other. And I wouldn’t go longer than the 25mm because that might interfere with the shield. But changing from 20mm original to 25mm replacement seemed to be fine.
Also, it was interesting that at the electronics store I went to, these particular caps were not in the normal place with the others – they were on an end since they were popular. They were also packaged differently from a different supplier apparently. And I needed help locating them because they weren’t in the normal spot. The sales guy said that there had been a bad batch a few years ago and caused a lot of different monitors to break – and this is before I told him what I was going to do with the capacitors. I thought about getting two more to have on hand in case the replacements break and he said I shouldn’t worry because the problem has been fixed.
The only problem I had was when my iron got too hot, I seem to have released the solder from the PCB completely on one hole. I had to bridge one cap pin to the neighboring pin on the same trace with a leftover clipped lead from the replacement cap and I did manage to get a little solder to stick on the PCB at the point. Not my finest soldering work, but it’ll do.
When I put the monitor back together, I took the opportunity to hit it with a screen wipe – great access to the full screen this way without needing to worry about getting into the corners and along the edges.
That’s about it. The secondary monitor is happily humming along now. The only question is whether or not the primary will have this problem in the future – did the second repair on the primary put in caps that are not going to be susceptible to the problem or is just a matter of time. Time will tell.