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X230 Upgrade

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myxomop
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue May 29, 2012 12:43 am
Location: Eugene, OR

X230 Upgrade

#1 Post by myxomop » Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:54 pm

Hello All,

I have greatly enjoyed the durability and design of my eight-year-old X230 for the past several years, and while I hope to get more years out of it still, it is starting to show its age. I'm also starting to see software support go away for older OS builds, and feeling the unwelcome push to upgrade. I wonder if this community might have some recommendations for machines -- whether thinkpads or otherwise -- which boast that same durability and design, as well as some of the upgrades and improvements of the latest generation of notebooks. My budget is $500 or less for a machine that should exceed the specs of the one in my signature.

Many thanks in advance :)

-myxomop
ThinkPad X230 w/ IPS Display (LEN40E2)
Intel Core i7 3520M @ 2.90GHz Ivy Bridge
8GB Single-Channel DDR3 @ 798MHz (11-11-11-28)
180GB Intel SSD Pro 1500
Win7Pro x64 SP1

myxomop
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue May 29, 2012 12:43 am
Location: Eugene, OR

Re: X230 Upgrade

#2 Post by myxomop » Sat Sep 12, 2020 2:23 pm

I have answered my own question. I can only hope that Xue Yao and his uncle will still be making and selling X330s by the time I'm ready to upgrade to one. What a beautiful project!
ThinkPad X230 w/ IPS Display (LEN40E2)
Intel Core i7 3520M @ 2.90GHz Ivy Bridge
8GB Single-Channel DDR3 @ 798MHz (11-11-11-28)
180GB Intel SSD Pro 1500
Win7Pro x64 SP1

atagunov
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 337
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:11 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: X230 Upgrade

#3 Post by atagunov » Sat Sep 12, 2020 6:02 pm

myxomop wrote:
Sat Sep 12, 2020 2:23 pm
I have answered my own question. I can only hope that Xue Yao and his uncle will still be making and selling X330s by the time I'm ready to upgrade to one. What a beautiful project!
Hi, the project indeed is quite good. I just wanted to make sure you're aware of all details. X330 is often an X230 where 2 core processor has been replaced with a 4 core one. Since the processor is soldered in the replacement requires a BGA rework station, but they are quite common among people repairing computers so that's not a huge problem. As far as I'm aware the famous 51nb company in China was involved, but it doesn't have to be them. There's no rocket science here, just some careful craftsmanship. If I find enough time I may acquire the skill at some point :) And you could too - if you wanted too. But I'm digressing. If you just want an X230 motherboard with the processor replaced you can get one. http://reddit.com/u/xueyao who is also present on this forum as xytech and who is using https://xyte.ch/ as his website can help you purchase you one. Alternatively I think they are sold on TaoBao, can get you a link if you want. It's a bit tricky to purchase on TaoBao but not impossible. I'm using an intermediary superbuy.com, they take my money over Paypal, purchase the goods, receive to their warehouse and re-send them to me. It's me who declares the customs price that is put on the outside of the box. Boxes have been arriving ridiculously fast to UK lately via EUB - under 2 weeks I guess. Well it can be much much longer but I've consistently seen good times. I think via this route you would be looking for $200-250 for the motherboard. Not sure what price xytech can offer.

The other distinctive feature of the X330 is the display upgrade. X220/X230 natively have so-called LVDS connector to driver the display. Modern laptops (Thinkpads starting with T440) have switched to so-called eDP connectors. Further the LVDS on X220/X230 is limited to 1366*768, so the only upgrade available "natively" is from non-IPS to IPS panel. To use cool new panels with higher resolutions eDP connector is required. There are adapter boards sold of different makes that do this. There are two display port connectors on the docking connector of your X230. The way these boards work is you solder wires to "steal" one of them. The other btw continues working I believe. This board is stuck somewhere in the narrow space inside the guts of X230. Then a better panel can be put in. It can be of the original size 12.5" but with better resolution or it can be of increased size 13". In the latter case more heavy modding is required to the whole of the screen assembly.

Applying both of these changes - processor upgrade and screen upgrade, usually to 13" makes a "X330". Though sometimes just upgrading the display alone gives people enough confidence to refer to their machines as X330. It's not only master Xue Yao who's making them btw :) People DIY them too, the screens at least.

Now there are different things.. 51nb has made a batch of very modern motherboards to fit into X200 or X201 body. The resulting machines are known as X210 or X2100, depending on the revision of the board. Again the display can be modded or not modded. This doesn't fit into your budget but have a look anyway: https://xyte.ch/shop/x2100-pricing-list/ I remember the motherboard alone was something like $700 with shipping. That's a limited merchandise, who knows when next batch will come round :) You could ask Xue what is the cheapest machine he can offer. I imagine not replacing the stock display in a X201 would make this a cheaper project.. Or perhaps he call still sell just the board.. You'd need DDR4 RAM too btw.

Please also be aware that Xue Yao had an ambition to produce a batch of very modern motherboards for X230 specifically. He hoped to do it in 2021. I imagine if you keep checking his website you'll see if/when he gets around to doing it. Perhaps it would be an even better match for you upgrade - if he does get them produced. Usually motherboards like this allow both new screen panels and original screen panels to be used. So perhaps you'd be able to purchase just the motherboard and swap it.. But again, you'll need RAM at least.. Funnily enough I don't know what the status of SATA SSD-s support is on machines like this.. I'm waiting for an X2100 myself but I don't know if it will support SATA :) Perhaps it will!

Also please keep in mind that projects like this take time. I paid in January and expected the X2100 in June. Well it looks more like by end of year now :) That's the timescale people have to put up with. BTW if you do decide to go for X2100 motherboard now - and if one is available - it may be a lot faster. So here we are :)

An finally - 2 cores to 4 cores upgrade on X230 retains the docking connector. Even upgrading the screen I believe still allows you to use the dock - though now you can only have one external display, not two. But fully new motherboard like X2100 for X200/X201 or the future ones for X220/X230 that Xue Yao plans to produce don't have the docking connector at all. Okay they do have a USB-C connector. You can attach an external "dock" ($50 I guess) to that, and to that $50 dock you can attach at least one external monitor, or maybe two, keyboard, mouse and 100Mbit/sec LAN. Yes 100Mbit only if you want high resolution on displays. Or maybe there are variants of these docks that support 1Gbit ethernet but lower resolution on the display, don't remember. I have the former variety - 100Mbit LAN and USB 2.0 only. Also for X2100 in particular you can't power the machine up via that connector. You still need the classic round barrel that you already have. Docking now means attaching two wires: USB-C and power. Still not too bad.. Another "glitch" is that you can't power on X2100 without opening it. With normal dock you put the X230 into the 4337 dock, press the button on the dock and it powers up with external monitor and keyboard. Not so with X2100.. I actually asked Xue to fit an extra button into the former expresscard bay (think we're loosing it too) to power X2100 up without opening it, but I haven't heard back.. perhaps it's not that easy and master Xue won't be able to do it for me..
X220, 2 *T520

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