Repairing a broken USB port in a Wacom Intuos 4 L

Wacom Intuos 4 L tablets are notorious for having their USB ports just soldered on top of the PCB and breaking off at the slightest push. Whoever at Wacom thought flat mounting of an element that’s inevitably going to be subject to stress is a good idea should be fired, and then fired upon. When users complained, Wacom support had the audacity to claim the socket must’ve been broken by excessive force, and they can only replace the Intuos 4 L board with a new one, at the price of almost a new unit, and of course the new PCB is going to have the same design flaw as the old one, so it’ll break sooner or later anyway.

(Blatant keywording notice. This post is intentionally chock full of direct references to Wacom, Intuos 4 L, and broken USB ports. Hopefully it’ll be useful to people with the same problem.)

No way, Wacom. Let’s fix this baby.

1. Disassembly.

The tablet has several visible Philips screws, and four extra ones hidden under the outer sides of the rubber legs. You can safely peel them off a bit, remove the screws, then stick them back on.

After the screws comes a difficult bit – the button side of the case has two catches that need unsnapping. You’ll probably be best off wedging a credit card in there – I just forced mine open and it opened without damaging either catch.

The PCB is connected to the buttons, so you’re best off laying it facing down, so that you’ll have access to the back of the PCB.

2. The socket of madness.

This socket that has to withstand the user constantly poking it with a cable was just soldered flat onto the PCB. Good job, Wacom. (It’s upside down on the photo below.)

Micro USB socket that broke off the Wacom Intuos L PCB due to crappy design.
Micro USB socket that broke off the Wacom Intuos 4 L PCB due to crappy design.

3. Socket on legs.

I decided to make this socket strong enough to take some serious beating, so I added extra “legs” to it, made from stripped solid wire, clamped around the side flaps and soldered:

Micro-USB socket with legs
Micro USB socket with legs added for extra stability.

4. I am a dwarf and I’m drilling a hole, drilly drilly hole, drilly drilly hole…

A 0.5 mm drill bit looks funny when mounted in a regular, bulky, battery-operated power drill, but it did its job well. One hole was drilled into the PCB on each side of the socket site.

Wacom Intuos L PCB with a hole drilled into it.
Wacom Intuos L PCB with a hole drilled into it.

(Please bear with my horrible microphotography. It’s not easy taking a picture of a 20 mm square area with a phone camera. A drop of water is fun as a macro lens, but distorts the image badly.)

5. Mounting the socket, however wrong that sounds.

This was the easiest part. The socket was inserted with the legs going down through the holes, and then the legs were tightly bent from under the PCB back over it, to make a loop on each side of the socket. Finally, the loops were soldered closed. Try to get out of that, you socket, you.

IMAG0726
USB socket remounted maybe a bit too strongly onto he PCB of the Wacom Intuos 4 L where it broke off.

6. Soldering the connectors, or catching mosquitoes using boxing gloves.

Five connectors, each 0.5 mm wide, need to be soldered back onto the PCB, whence they came. You’ll need an extremely pointy soldering iron tip, very good solder (one that flows a lot, instead of getting all gluey – I think unleaded is best), a strong magnifying glass, freakishly steady hands, and a lot of patience… or magic. I used the latter. (Yeah, I wish.)

Micro USB socket soldered back onto the Wacom Intuos L.
Micro USB socket soldered back onto the Wacom Intuos 4 L circuit board.
Soldering 0.5 mm pins onto the board... Oh joy.
Soldering 0.5 mm pins… Oh joy.

7. Sewing the patient up.

When closing the case, remember to push the PCB’s USB connectors into their openings first, before you push the other end of the case into the catches on the button end. As for the catches, just squeeze the case top and bottom together, and they’ll snap shut.

 

There. You just saved yourself a $200 worth of Wacom’s own repair service!

cloud: accor:

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