Amazon's newest tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX, features twice the memory and three times the processing power of its predecessors. But for users who prize the ability to repair a cracked display or a replace a lame battery, the HDX ranks well below Amazon's earlier efforts, repair site iFixit reported Oct. 15, following a teardown of the device.
On iFixit's repairability scale of 1 to 10, the Kindle Fire HDX received the "lowest score for any Kindle we've ever taken apart," Miroslav Djuric, iFixit's chief information architect, wrote in a blog post.
One quickly discovered difference between the Fire HDX and the "Fire HD of yesteryear," as Djuric put it, was that in the latter "the rear case was a bare piece of plastic, without any additional components. This time around, all of the peripherals have been offloaded into the rear case, along with a shiny, heat-dissipating plate."
"As the case wrapping around the entire device and forming a near-unibody enclosure," the team wrote on its teardown site, the rear case was a little tricky to open up. Once inside, however, they quickly found two notable things: The micro-HDMI port in last year's model has been replaced with Miracast wireless mirroring technology and Second Screen sharing technology. And, the volume buttons, microphones and headphone jack are all separate, making each easy to replace.
The Motherboard Conundrum
Once the team removed the antenna—which they reported, with some incredulity, was "connected, screwed, and taped three times in place"—they got to the motherboard and some bad news.
The liquid crystal display (LCD) and digitizer cables were "trapped" between the LCD and the midframe. Consequently, removing the midframe from the display assembly is the only way to get the cables back in place, in the event of a repair.
"To make matters worse," the team wrote, "the battery connects via spring contacts beneath the motherboard—so a battery replacement makes for an even more involved repair procedure."
They added, "What was that? The sound of the HDX's repairability score free-falling into the abyss."
The Fire's Battery Requires Some Heat
Another area where the Fire HDX lost points was its battery, which Amazon clearly wants to remain where the company put it. It took the iFixit folks four spudgers, "a lot of our own heat" and not a little aggravation to pry out the battery and not break the front glass or LCD.
Then came another test: Would it be possible to replace the motherboard with the midframe removed?
Some heat from its iOpener (a long, microwaveable sack likely originally intended for soothing sinuses), some picking with something like a guitar pick and much rubbing away of rubbery adhesive balls, and the team concluded that such a repair would be difficult, since it would require all new adhesive to stick everything back in place.
With the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX in so many pieces, iFixit gave the tablet Amazon's new record-low score: a 3, on a scale of 1 to 10.
For What It's Worth
The 7-inch, 16GB, WiFi-only Kindle Fire HDX starts at $229—while the WiFi-only 16GB Apple iPad with Retina display starts at $499. This begs the question of how likely users are to even try to repair a broken HDX. Will they simply recycle and move on?
Should users instead decide to move on by trading in (Google, after all, is expected to introduce a new Nexus 10 any day now, and Apple has sent out invitations for an Oct. 22 iPad press event), they shouldn't expect the Fire HDX to hold on to as much of its original value as its competitors.
According to trade-in site Glyde, the Kindle Fire HD and HD 8.9, a year after their introduction, have held on to 35 to 40 percent of their original value, while the fourth-generation iPad and iPad Mini have held on to 60 percent of their original selling price.
Glyde also offers this piece of advice: If you're going to sell your current iPad, do it before Oct. 22. iPads, according to the company, "typically lose 15 percent of their value following the release of new models." In the case of the third-generation iPad, that was a matter of $75.