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Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

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zoltan87
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Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#1 Post by zoltan87 » Wed Jul 08, 2020 5:19 am

I am facing a very strange situation. I bought a new old stock Thinkpad A21 heatsink, which arrived yesterday. It was indeed new in a sealed bag.

And here is the weird part: the heatsink has apparently no fins in front of the fan at the exhaust opening. None. It's just a big gaping hole where I can clearly see the fan inside if I look into it. I am having a hard time believing that a heatsink could be designed like this. As it stands, the only heat exchanging surface would be the actual surface of that exhaust opening around the fan. I just don't believe this could work like this. In every heatsink I have ever seen it's always those thin copper fins that dissipate the heat as the fan blows air through them.

I have an other A21 heatsink (from an A21e that I have disassembled, and it has some differences, but the overall dimensions and contact points look to be the same), and it's exactly the same with this heatsink too: there are no fins, just a big gaping hole. What's also quite concerning, this A21e heatsink has a wide shallow groove at the top, where apparently a heatpipe could fit in (and I have seen pictures about such units with that copper heatpipe installed). But on my particular unit it is just sitting there empty. And there are no signs of ever having a heatpipe installed there either.

I would appreciate if anyone with an A21 unit (any variant) could have a look at their system, and let me know whether they have the same situation with their heatsink, or something is not right with mine. But as I mentioned the one I bought was still brand new and sealed. So I am really confused.

Maybe these heatsinks were purposefully used like this, as the used celeron processors didn't produce that much heat (my A21e has a Celeron 700MHz cpu)? I would still find it ridiculous to go cheap to such extent and leave out major parts like fins and heatpipes.
Thinkpad T60, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad T601, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu pin mod for FSB change and undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad X32
Thinkpad A21e
NEC ProSpeed SX/20

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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#2 Post by RealBlackStuff » Wed Jul 08, 2020 7:23 am

Still NOT a great day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff).
Ireland is on FULL lockdown until at least 31 January 2021!
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zoltan87
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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#3 Post by zoltan87 » Wed Jul 08, 2020 8:12 am

RealBlackStuff wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 7:23 am
A21p fan: https://www.ebay.ie/itm/223837893557
A22e fan: https://www.ebay.ie/itm/291272601387
Any help from that?
Yes, mine that came from my 13 inch Thinkpad A21e looks exactly like the one in the second link (A22e fan). That groove/ cavity that I mentioned for a possible heatpipe is clearly visible on the top. Why is it not populated?

I tried to make a picture about the exhaust with the missing fins, but for some reason Imgur didn't work from my phone (the share link is broken). Will try to do it from my laptop later on, as a picture would make it clear what I mean by the missing fins.

But I start to have a feeling that these heatsinks are indeed just that cheap and sub-optimal, and IBM tried to get away using as few components in them as possible. Maybe they overcompensated by cranking up the fan speed? I haven't had the chance to try out my A21e yet as I haven't had a hard drive for it. I ordered a PATA to mSATA adapter and an mSATA 64GB SSD (same combination that works flawlessly in my X32), as soon as they arrive I will set this machine up, and see the temperatures and noise level.

Off topic but I don't want to open a new thread just for this: to me it seems like that Thinkpad T2x series keyboards are identical to the one I have in my A21e (it's the 13.3 inch variant which seems to be a lot less common than the bigger version that has the speakers above the keyboard). Only the nameplate is different which can be swapped I guess? Am I right about this? I want to buy a new keyboard, and I am having difficulty finding an A21e one in new condition, but have seen a few T2x series ones.
Thinkpad T60, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad T601, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu pin mod for FSB change and undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad X32
Thinkpad A21e
NEC ProSpeed SX/20

ThreeIguanasPerSecond
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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#4 Post by ThreeIguanasPerSecond » Wed Jul 08, 2020 10:49 am

any A21e, A22e, or i Series 1800 shares their keyboards with the T20, T21, T22, and the T23. i used to have an i Series 1800 that had its keyboard swapped out for a T2x's keyboard, so that works too. however, it WON'T fit on A21e models that are not MT 2655/2663/2664 systems. those A21e models were based off the A21m and the A21p's shells, and use different keyboards which work only in their respective shells.

looks like you own a MT 2655/2663/2664 A21e, which is kind of odd. i'm pretty sure you're aware of the 440MX being a total piece of crap, since it has a hard limit of 256 MB of RAM, right? it's as if you were buying an oversized 240X, 240Z, or an i Series 1124.

nothing is wrong with your heatsink assembly, that's typical of MT 2655/2663/2664 A21e models. my i Series 1800 had the same heatsink assembly as your A21e does, so that's nothing to be concerned about. by the way, the MT 2628/2632 A21e models don't share the same heatsink assemblies as our crippled 'A21e' models do, they use a heatsink assembly that's similar to the A21m or the A21p's heatsink. those won't fit in as their physical dimensions are off, which means you're stuck with the T20, T21, and the T22's heatsink assemblies.

if i were you, i'd probably set the steaming pile of garbage on fire and walk away. seriously.
"There is always you can not think of the low price." - JD.com

zoltan87
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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#5 Post by zoltan87 » Wed Jul 08, 2020 4:01 pm

ThreeIguanasPerSecond wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 10:49 am
any A21e, A22e, or i Series 1800 shares their keyboards with the T20, T21, T22, and the T23. i used to have an i Series 1800 that had its keyboard swapped out for a T2x's keyboard, so that works too. however, it WON'T fit on A21e models that are not MT 2655/2663/2664 systems. those A21e models were based off the A21m and the A21p's shells, and use different keyboards which work only in their respective shells.

looks like you own a MT 2655/2663/2664 A21e, which is kind of odd. i'm pretty sure you're aware of the 440MX being a total piece of crap, since it has a hard limit of 256 MB of RAM, right? it's as if you were buying an oversized 240X, 240Z, or an i Series 1124.

nothing is wrong with your heatsink assembly, that's typical of MT 2655/2663/2664 A21e models. my i Series 1800 had the same heatsink assembly as your A21e does, so that's nothing to be concerned about. by the way, the MT 2628/2632 A21e models don't share the same heatsink assemblies as our crippled 'A21e' models do, they use a heatsink assembly that's similar to the A21m or the A21p's heatsink. those won't fit in as their physical dimensions are off, which means you're stuck with the T20, T21, and the T22's heatsink assemblies.

if i were you, i'd probably set the steaming pile of garbage on fire and walk away. seriously.
Hahaha man you have just made me simultaneously burst out laughing, and kinda sad at the same time. I honestly had no idea about the capabilities of the laptop (I knew the cpu was a 700 MHz celeron but that was it). I bought it for cheap quite some time ago, and it's in really nice condition, so I don't mind buying it, but was hoping for a system that could be used for games from the 90s up until like 2000. I mean it should still be fine for Win 95 -98 games right? Probably the most demanding games I would like play on it are Viper Racing and SWAT 3. I guess I just have to try it out.

At least the keyboard situation is good news, I have more choice then I first thought.

Just in case I uploaded a picture about the heatsink to Imgur here is the link:
https://imgur.com/a/84UFXOs

I think this heatsink is for T22 laptop, so not even sure if it will fit. Either way, the heatsink that is inside the laptop has the same situation going on with mentioned empty exhaust space. I still can't believe it that some genius at IBM thoguth this will be OK like this. If the system works like this (and apparently it has to), were there proper cooling fins attached, it could run in virtually silence with like 1000 - 1500 rpm fan speed. Madness. But I am sure IBM upper management was happy that they could save that 20 cents...

EDIT: I looked up that 440MX chipset, are you sure it has a 256 MB total RAM limit? Because it seemed to me that limit applies to the maximum size of an individual RAM stick, and my A21e has two slots, so 512 MB might just work?
Thinkpad T60, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad T601, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu pin mod for FSB change and undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad X32
Thinkpad A21e
NEC ProSpeed SX/20

ThreeIguanasPerSecond
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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#6 Post by ThreeIguanasPerSecond » Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:44 pm

you unknowingly bought a hunk of junk, at next to no cost? well, i guess that's simply the norm for nearly everyone nowadays. not that i can complain or criticize it, it's just like opinions and preferences.

a Rage Mobility M0 can handle Viper Racing fine (~36 fps), as for SWAT 3 i'm not sure. and i assume that you have the latest Rage Pro driver installed, because its plenty obvious ATI had loads of driver-related problems that you really wouldn't want to waste your time on in games. if you don't, get that first before playing any sort of game.

never in my life had i seen a 440MX being capable of detecting more than 256 MB of RAM, and seeing that the 240X, 240Z, i Series 1124, S30, and the S31 were all affected by this RAM limitation as they used this chipset, i would be very sure of the limitation myself. it does and you're not wrong, but that limit itself is irrelevant when the maximum RAM limitation is basically the same as a single RAM DIMM limitation.

so did my i Series 1800, it had two SO-DIMM slots but it could only detect up to 256 MB of RAM. it wouldn't budge even if i installed two low-density 256 MB SO-DIMMs. the only way i could fix this was to replace the motherboard with an A22e's motherboard that had a 440BX in it, but at that point i sold it off as it was nothing but a dumpster fire. anyways, it's your money and your call. i personally wouldn't spend any money on crap but that can be different for other people.
"There is always you can not think of the low price." - JD.com

zoltan87
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Re: Thinkpad A21 heatsink mystery

#7 Post by zoltan87 » Sat Jul 25, 2020 7:31 pm

Just an update on this laptop, I managed to get it back to working order. I completely cleaned it down, re-pasted the cpu cooler, changed the dead rtc battery and put an SSD in it (in an mSATA to PATA adapter). I had the original restore discs, so installed Win 98se and all the drivers too. The sound one was tricky, the 5 point something version didn't work that was in the appropriate Win 98se folder, I had to use the earlier 4 point something version from a different folder. And the installation process for it was... interesting. It couldn't boot into windows any more after install, had to start in safe mode. Then on a new restart everything went ok and the sound started working.

Anyway it is working fine now. I actually really like this machine even with it's limitations. With the SSD it's super fast, quiet and also has a very nice screen. The resolution is only XGA, but the colours and viewing angles are quite nice, better than on a Thinkpad T60 standard TN panel.

I will install some Win 95/98 games on it when I have some free time again.
Thinkpad T60, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad T601, 15" Flexview, with mods (Xiphmont's LED mod, T500 heatsink, cpu pin mod for FSB change and undervolt, reinforced frame)
Thinkpad X32
Thinkpad A21e
NEC ProSpeed SX/20

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