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The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

SL300/SL400/SL500, L400-L420 and L500-L520 series specific matters only
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abjumpr
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The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#1 Post by abjumpr » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm

If there is already a thread like this my apologies. There seems to be little conclusive information available readily, and the L520 doesn't appear to be as widely used as say, a T520. So I will be putting a list of official and un-official modifications here. The L520 is actually a pretty decent and solid laptop - obviously missing a few of the premium features of a T-series (Thinklight being the feature I miss the most). However, as far as computing power it's a solid performer (for it's time). They can also be had cheaply and readily on eBay, etc.

I have a L520 I bought and fixed up myself (I've also fixed up several for friends), so as I do mods I will list that I have personally verified them. Some will be listed as verified by others, and some listed as likely to work. If you have updates or corrections, post them below and I will edit this post with updates.

Chipset
Intel HM65 Mobile Chipset (Cougar Point family). TDP 3.9W

RAM
Officially supports up to 8GB of PC3-10600 204-pin SODIMM memory. You can use 1.5v memory without any issues. Some modules shipped seem to have a CAS latency of 10 or 11. You can get modules with a CAS latency of 9. Samsung or Hynix memory works well. Stay away from Corsair.

You should be able to upgrade to 16GB of RAM, via 2x 8GB. I will be testing and verifying this in the future. The chipset is definitely capable. This appears to be determined by your CPU package, not necessarily the chipset - to be confirmed. Memory controller resides on the CPU rather than the motherboard, and this is the usual limiting factor.

CPU
Sandy Bridge family CPUs using a PGA988B, also known as PGA988 G2 socket, are officially supported. Up to 45W TDP CPUs are officially supported.

There is one quad-core CPU available officially. This is a plug-and-play upgrade. It is a 2.0Ghz i7-2630QM. If upgrading from a dual-core, Windows will have to install new graphics drivers, and you will have to reboot to get full resolution back again. It will turbo boost up to 2.68GHz easily (according to Intel, it's capable of 2.9Ghz Turbo boost). Word of caution: When running a quad-core, WATCH your CPU temps. The factory Lenovo fan control WILL NOT keep fan temps reasonable. It will get up to 90*C in a hurry and the fan WILL NOT speed up, and at 95*C the CPU will perform thermal throttling. Above 95*C and you probably will have yourself a worthless piece of silicon. You will need to install the correct version of TPFancontrol {Bug warning: TPFancontrol will cause random hibernation under Windows. This is a conflict with Lenovo Power Management software. Working on a solution.} and set the fan to 7, and it will cool the quad-core well even under full load. Alternatives to TPFancontrol on Windows: You can use Argus Monitor, but it's a subscription based product. It works and doesn't seem to conflict with Lenovo's software. You could also uninstall Lenovo's power management software, but you will have to re-install OSD manually and at least one other piece of Lenovo software (can't remember what it is). However, you can enable Lenovo TurboBoost (not to be confused with Intel TurboBoost!), and it will run the fan sufficiently, albeit it will never idle the fan down. Linux users do not have this issue and can control the fan like usual. You can install the Intel XTU utility and modify the maximum allowed power for Turbo Boost and Turbo Boost short max. Note that you may have issues with power supply if you push it too far. 55W is as far as I have allowed it on a 90W power adapter. See below for more info on power adapters. Also note that this is NOT overclocking. You cannot use XTU to overclock on the L520. I will not be providing any instructions on overclocking until a better cooling method is available (if any overclocking is even possible).

Unofficially, a i7-2720QM will also work. I have not personally verified this, but at least one user has said it works over on the Lenovo forums. There isn't a reason it shouldn't work either. Note that the 2720-QM is available in more than one socket type - get the PGA988 style (other option is a BGA chip). 0.2GHz just isn't a huge upgrade in my opinion.

I'm exploring other options for CPUs above and beyond that.

Cooling System

Factory heatsink and cooling fan are connected by a heatpipe. The same heatsink is used between quad core and dual core CPUs. The stock cooling system is pushed to it's max with the officially available quad-core. Anything above and beyond this will require a different cooling system.

In the works: An auxiliary liquid cooling system that can be easily disconnected.


Screen
Officially, the best screen is a 1600x900 resolution.

Unofficially, I believe a 1920x1080 screen can be frankensteined into this model. This is pure speculation as I have not seen anyone attempt to do this yet. Correct me if I'm wrong. I don't see why it shouldn't be possible.

eGPU

External GPU is a future modification. Stay tuned.

Keyboard
Not that anyone really cares a whole lot about keyboards. While I live in the US I prefer the UK layout. The swap is simple, just follow the HMM. One quirk you may run into, is that the UK keyboard seems to cause random beeps. I never had this issue while using the US keyboard. The random beep caused by keyboards has to do with key jamming - as far as I understand it, it's pretty much if you type to fast, it can't read it that fast and beeps at you. For what it's worth, even when the beep happens my keyboard never skips a beat and I'm not missing any characters. You can disable the (worthless) beep in the bios.

Power Supply
Two adapters are officially available: 65w and 90w. Get the 90w, especially if you plan to upgrade to a quad core CPU. There's really no reason to not have the 90w adapter.

Unofficially - I have a 170w AC adapter that I am in the process of modifying to confirm that it does work with the L520. Why? Because, why not? The L520 isn't particularly power-hungry (at least not compared to my old T61p, which would eat all of 90w and still not have enough). However, 90w may not be sufficient with other new modifications that I haven't done yet, so options are options. It would be no fun to run out of power supply and that be the limiting factor.

Personally confirmed: 170W AC adapter (used on the W520) works without issues. Lenovo P/N 45N0114 (45N0113 should also work) is the one I have. You will have to modify the tip - as most (if not all) of the 170W adapters are keyed.Warning: Don't be stupid. Unplug the adapter several minutes before you modify the tip. As with any electronic device, this carries a SHOCK RISK if you don't unplug it. I am NOT liable for any injuries or property damage caused by this modification. You can use security Torx bits to strip out the unwanted plastic "keys" and then clean up the rough edges with an exacto knife or something similar. You will need a T25 and T30 Torx Security bit. Why the security Torx? It has a hole in the center of the bit, and the pin in the connector will fit in it and stay safe. You can get a set for about $9 at any auto parts store. Credit for the idea/method goes exclusively to jcvjcvjcvjcv (a member here on the forum, see links below for his original post). Lenovo Power Manager recognizes and reports the 170W power adapter.

Hard drive
SATA II (3GB/s) drives are supported. Chipset supports SATA III (6GB/s), although I have not seen any official Lenovo documentation stating it is enabled. T520 laptops are reported to work with SATA III so I do not see why it won't work on L520 units, but I could be wrong. I have a SATA III SSD on the way, stay tuned for confirmation.

BIOS
Working on the details of a properly functional coreboot BIOS. Should unlock additional opportunities/enhancements. I'm not aware of any modified Lenovo BIOS (aka Middleton).

Other
Thinklight - When I get around to the screen upgrade, I'll be checking the possibility of adding something along the lines of a Thinklight to the lid. Just because I hate not being able to see my keyboard.



Links
Intel ARK HM65 Chipset Specifications: https://ark.intel.com/products/52808/Mo ... ss-Chipset
Official Lenovo Specifications Page: https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/solutions/pd015792
Modifying the 170W AC adapter to work with other models - /viewtopic.php?f=48&t=113022&p=730218#p730218


I will edit and update as things progress. Stay tuned!
Last edited by abjumpr on Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:41 pm, edited 7 times in total.
Current: L520 (daily), 770x, T23, X200s (broken)
Past: T41p, T61p, E530, X200, X61, 760XL, T420, and many many more.

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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#2 Post by dr_st » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:50 am

Welcome to the forum! :banana:
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
There seems to be little conclusive information available readily, and the L520 doesn't appear to be as widely used as say, a T520.So I will be putting a list of official and un-official modifications here.
You are 100% right, which is why I'd like to thank you for doing this. :)
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
There is one quad-core CPU available officially. This is a plug-and-play upgrade. It is a 2.0Ghz i7-2630QM. If upgrading from a dual-core, Windows will have to install new graphics drivers, and you will have to reboot to get full resolution back again.
Yup. Funnily I just went through the same process doing a motherboard swap on a desktop. Even though it was exactly the same chipset, Windows (7) insisted on reinstalling every single driver. The experience, however, was very smooth - all drivers installed automatically, and only a single reboot was required. Much better than say, Windows 98 (and possibly also XP).
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
You will need to install the correct version of TPFancontrol and set the fan to 7, and it will cool the quad-core well even under full load.
Is the fan very loud at 7? If not, you can also set it to 64 - maximum RPM (which may be necessary in some particularly hot locales).
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
Unofficial modification to come: Better cooling system. The factory fan can cool the officially available quad-core CPU, albeit it's pushing the limits, and even then you have to manually set fan speed to max. There's enough room that I think I can sneak in a discrete additional cooling system, while leaving the factory system intact. In other words, a cooling system you can hook up easily when you're at home and want to take full advantage of your powerful system, but can be disconnected easily when you need to go mobile.
Interesting. What did you have in mind? Something that sits inside the laptop? If so, how do you disconnect it on the go? Or something along the lines of the cooling pads with USB-powered fans to put underneath the system?
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
Screen
Officially, the best screen is a 1600x900 resolution.

Unofficially, I believe a 1920x1080 screen can be frankensteined into this model. This is pure speculation as I have not seen anyone attempt to do this yet. Correct me if I'm wrong. I don't see why it shouldn't be possible.
So far the only discussion I could find (albeit I did not spend a lot of time searching) is the one below, where someone attempted it without much success:
https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comme ... p_upgrade/

But looks like he damaged something in the process, so there are still no conclusive results. I think the lower popularity of the model is why few have attempted it.
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
Keyboard
Not that anyone really cares a whole lot about keyboards.
Hah! You haven't been on this forum much, have you? :D Here there is a rather big, rather vocal group of people who care so much about keyboards that you would think they are crazy. Yours truly is a member of this group. Unfortunately, what I need is a 7-row layout, so the L-series was never an option for me, before Lenovo moved to island keyboards, and after that as well.
abjumpr wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:48 pm
Power Supply
Two adapters are officially available: 65w and 90w. Get the 90w, especially if you plan to upgrade to a quad core CPU. There's really no reason to not have the 90w adapter.
I think this pretty much goes without say. Officially, Lenovo recommends to use 90W with any discrete GPU model of those generations, but in practice, a 65W is very adequate even for discrete GPU and is a good road companion as it is smaller and lighter; however with a quad core mod, I would probably use at least 90W at all times. On workstations Lenovo recommends a 135W minimum, sometimes 170W!

Once again, thank you for this write-up, and you can be certain that your future updates will be welcome. :D
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#3 Post by Screamer » Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:37 am

While this may be a L520-only thread, may I ask if it is possible to upgrade a L512 to a L520 by swapping the L512's motherboard for a L520's motherboard? I have cross-checked the port layout and motherboard layout, they both seem similar to allow a swap, though I have not tried this yet.

This is the L512's motherboard, and this is the L520's motherboard, looks like it has next to no difference between these two.

EDIT: No confirmation? I suppose I will confirm this myself. Theoretically speaking, the L520 and the L512's motherboard seems to have no differences in terms of the screw mountpoint positions. Although there is a slight difference in the motherboard's layout, it should not prevent the L512 and the L520's motherboard interchangeability.
Last edited by Screamer on Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#4 Post by TPFanatic » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:06 am

I recall someone JeffBai on this forum the Subreddit used an L520's HD+ cable an SL510's cable in the L420 to get HD+ in the L420. Images: https://imgur.com/a/Pd0RP

Some L520 were equipped with HD+ screens and the appropriate HD+ cable. As with T410, T420, T430, and R-series, different cables for different resolutions because money is saved from excluding the extra wires necessary for HD+ from the more popular HD configs.

L520 HD+ cable FRU is 04W1730.
SL510's cables are 45M2859 and 45M2860.

Lenovo Parts Lookup IDs them as HD+ cables. The 04W1730 is very hard to find on eBay, right now there is only ONE eBay listing from Spain with the correct cable FRU readable from the picture and at an inflated price, the 45M2859 is also hard to find and expensive, but there is a cheap 45M2860 currently for sale.

I never even knew SL510 was shipped with HD+.

Theoretically with the HD+ cable FHD is compatible, just remember to disconnect the AC and BATTERY before disassembling the laptop and messing with LCD components or your backlight fuse is KIA.
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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#5 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:02 am

People, you need to be a bit more focused!
Just type the P/N or FRU (in this case: 04W1730 ) in Google and search!
Encompass is the Lenovo Parts-sales outfit, and they have this:
https://lenovo.encompass.com/item/10646 ... _Teflon_15
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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#6 Post by abjumpr » Sun Sep 23, 2018 4:57 pm

dr_st wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:50 am
Is the fan very loud at 7? If not, you can also set it to 64 - maximum RPM (which may be necessary in some particularly hot locales).
From my experience, the only valid values are 0-7 on the L520. Anything higher than 7 will result in 0 RPM. 7 will operate it at around 4700RPM. You can definitely hear the fan, but in my opinion it's not really annoying - it's doing its job.
dr_st wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:50 am
Interesting. What did you have in mind? Something that sits inside the laptop? If so, how do you disconnect it on the go? Or something along the lines of the cooling pads with USB-powered fans to put underneath the system?
USB cooling pads are great but they don't help a huge amount with immediate CPU heat - they target the dissipation of that heat in the frame. So while they may be helpful they are limited, and in the case of the L520 the heat is pretty well contained (as opposed to my old T61P that would get frighteningly hot throughout the whole machine).

Assuming a SSD is being used, the only major heat source is the CPU. The factory cooling is probably the limiting factor for any further CPU upgrades. My idea is a discrete liquid cooling system that compliments the factory system, allowing you to still use the factory fan when you need to go mobile. This would require the user to limit CPU performance when mobile but that's really a minor issue. I was quite surprised at the amount of room around the heatsink and such. So my plan is to solder copper tubing to the copper heatsink. As to what size and how to route it, that is to be determined yet. There are various quick couplers available for small tubing, but they may not prove viable in such a small space. So the connection is still up in the air. A quick coupler would be nice so the system wouldn't have to be drained each time you want to go mobile.

If heat gets built up in other parts of the machine, adding a forced air source won't be much more difficult. It's quite roomy for a laptop.
dr_st wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:50 am
So far the only discussion I could find (albeit I did not spend a lot of time searching) is the one below, where someone attempted it without much success:
https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comme ... p_upgrade/

But looks like he damaged something in the process, so there are still no conclusive results. I think the lower popularity of the model is why few have attempted it.
It appears he blew a fuse, while breaking the golden rule of laptop repair - always disconnect and drain all power sources before attempting to remove any components. Various components on laptops can be active even when powered down. In addition many of the Dell laptop displays are IPS and while the LVDS connector is identical the pinouts are not all the same. There are also several different LVDS cables and they are not all compatible. So they could have had multiple issues.

I'm not sure how it correlates but the display components on the L520 are particularly disposed to issues when the power is disrupted. Running your battery 100% exhausted can reward you with a screen that won't turn on next bootup. Fix: remove the battery and unplug it and let it set... forever. Not quite, but I let mine set several weeks and it started working again once plugged in. Never had this issue on any other thinkpad.
dr_st wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:50 am
Hah! You haven't been on this forum much, have you? :D Here there is a rather big, rather vocal group of people who care so much about keyboards that you would think they are crazy. Yours truly is a member of this group. Unfortunately, what I need is a 7-row layout, so the L-series was never an option for me, before Lenovo moved to island keyboards, and after that as well.
I've seen a few interesting discussions surrounding keyboards on here, but that is more of a personal preference rather than a flaw in my opinion. You have got to get what is best for you. I did not like the keyboard on the Edge that I had, and I cannot stand the keyboards HP has on their newer laptops. As far as key action, the old 760/770 keyboards are the best :lol:

That being said, some upgrades on the L520 may also work on similar models, i.e. T520, etc. The platforms are similar from what I know.
Current: L520 (daily), 770x, T23, X200s (broken)
Past: T41p, T61p, E530, X200, X61, 760XL, T420, and many many more.

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Re: The ultimate L520 Upgrades and Modifications thread

#7 Post by abjumpr » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:01 pm

TPFanatic wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:06 am
I recall someone JeffBai on this forum the Subreddit used an L520's HD+ cable an SL510's cable in the L420 to get HD+ in the L420. Images: https://imgur.com/a/Pd0RP

Some L520 were equipped with HD+ screens and the appropriate HD+ cable. As with T410, T420, T430, and R-series, different cables for different resolutions because money is saved from excluding the extra wires necessary for HD+ from the more popular HD configs.

L520 HD+ cable FRU is 04W1730.
SL510's cables are 45M2859 and 45M2860.

Lenovo Parts Lookup IDs them as HD+ cables. The 04W1730 is very hard to find on eBay, right now there is only ONE eBay listing from Spain with the correct cable FRU readable from the picture and at an inflated price, the 45M2859 is also hard to find and expensive, but there is a cheap 45M2860 currently for sale.

I never even knew SL510 was shipped with HD+.

Theoretically with the HD+ cable FHD is compatible, just remember to disconnect the AC and BATTERY before disassembling the laptop and messing with LCD components or your backlight fuse is KIA.
LVDS cables can be had aftermarket as well, although I'm not sure how well they will work. To be determined when I upgrade panels.

I suspect the FHD panel from the T520 will fit well in the L520 chassis. If not, there are several alternatives.
Current: L520 (daily), 770x, T23, X200s (broken)
Past: T41p, T61p, E530, X200, X61, 760XL, T420, and many many more.

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