What might have happened to my laptop screen?

Mahesh Abnave

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Apr 21, 2013
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I have age old but still the beast laptop. Dell XPS L502x which I bought in 2011.
Suddenly, its screen started flickering out of nowhere as you can seen in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEnebrtLuMA

It flickers for a moment and then remains stable for a moment and then repeats. The second monitor connected through HDMI-VGA is working well. So, I was thinking what might be wrong with the LCD. I opened it, disconnected and reconnected the LCD connector and also cleaned it too. But still the same.

Can this be an issue due to battery? Battery many time ill behaves? Battery indicator usually blinks in amber color. Can the issue of screen and battery be linked?
 
That looks like the internal video cable connecting the laptop's GPU (located on the motherboard) to the screen is failing. It's not uncommon in older laptops since the cable is twisted 90 degrees every time you open or close the lid. Failure at the hinge between the lower and upper halves of the laptop is most common. But it's also possible for it to fail at the connector to the GPU or the screen.

Looks like replacement cables for that model laptop are still available on eBay.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=l502x+video+cable&_sacat=0

Installing the new cable is not for the faint of heart though. You'll need to disassemble both halves of the laptop to be able to reach everywhere. And there's no guarantee this is the problem either (though at $6 it's probably worth the risk).

Since an external monitor works, the GPU is fine. The other possibility is a failure in the screen's hardware. The screen has a processor and RAM in it as well, which translates the signal sent over the video cable into signals sent to the screen to draw the image. A failure at this stage usually results in a constantly messed up image though, which is why I suspect it's just a bad cable. But if it is the screen, you may be able to buy a replacement screen. Try the cable first though since it's a lot cheaper.

https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Dell+XPS+15-L502X+Screen+Replacement/52002
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dell+l502x+screen+replacement
 

Mahesh Abnave

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Apr 21, 2013
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Tried replacing that cable with possibly original cable. It is giving exactly same issue. It means both the new and old cable are original and are in good condition right?

Now the question is if I should try by replacing the screen. I have following doubts:


1. Firstly will it work for sure? Wont motherboard at fault? I called dell tech support and they said if motherboard was at fault, it would have not started only at first place.
2. Current screen is my third screen. First screen got screwed (used to get red-pink tint) during warranty period. So got it fixed without any extra cost. Second screen got screwed after 2-3 years (some black spot appeared on it)



Corresponding thread: http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2154781/happened-laptop-screen-resolve.html

Should I really go for fourth screen? I love my laptop a lot. I have upgraded it over time. Core i7 2630QM, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD. It still flies. Full configuration: https://valid.x86.fr/9jekkf

So should I consider buying new lappy now? I want to keep this laptop as a possible media center PC. Also I wish to buy a high end machine with gtx1080ti graphics card, possibly desktop, not laptop, since that will cost less.

So should I replace screen and buy desktop or replacing screen will be useless as laptop is 7 years old and it will fail anytime? So buy a budget laptop and then a desktop. But I still feel I should keep this laptop as a media center PC. Also I feel buying budget laptop will still cost considerable as I have some minimum specs requirement (8th gen i5 quad core, 8 GB RAM. It costs INR 50000). Also replacing just screen will help me postpone buying new laptop. So possibly will allow me get better configuration in the future at same or lower cost.


 
If the cable didn't help, then the problem is either the screen, or the connector (somewhere between the GPU to where the cable connects to it). Since you say the screen has suffered similar problems before multiple times, my guess would be that it's a manufacturing defect in the original motherboard which is degrading the signal. The signal tolerances were probably close enough to within spec that a new screen originally worked. But as the screen aged and became less tolerant, the image started to degrade. Another possibility is something is out of spec with the motherboard/GPU and is slowly destroying your laptop screens.

The laptop is old enough it probably isn't worth repairing. The specs are still plenty good (I still haven't started recommending people upgrade from Sandy Bridge systems, and my home server has a Sandy Bridge CPU). But at some point you have to give up on old tech. 7 years is a pretty good run for a laptop.

One last thing I'd try is to remove the video cable, take a can of compressed air, and try blasting the inside of the connector on the motherboard. Clean out any debris which may have gotten wedged in there causing an intermittent connection. As for postponing buying a new laptop, try to see if you can get an external monitor set up at the places where you normally use the laptop (usually home and work). The money spent on an external monitor won't be wasted with a new laptop, as you should also be able to connect the new laptop to it to extend your desktop. Once I show people how to do this, they tell me they love the extra desktop space they gain from this.
 
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