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Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

W530/W540/W541/W550 Series
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t61p_user
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Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#1 Post by t61p_user » Tue Jul 02, 2024 1:08 pm

First i'll explain a little bit of my situation and what i want (and why) , then I'll pose the questions. Please feel free to comment on the part before the questions if you feel there's anything worth mentioning though, or if you have any recommendations or observations.

So my t61p just died and I'd been wanting to get a new, more powerful thinkpad for a while now.

I'd mainly been looking at the t440p since I need the performance (I run gentoo), and as far as I know you can upgrade its cpu to a core i7-4910MQ , which is fine for me.

I need an absolute minimum of 16GiB of ram, however I'd prefer 32Gib. From what I've gathered, I can only have that if I go with the worstation series, the closest equivalent being the w540, which, apart from the screen being 1.6 inches too long for me, which I can tolerate, would be fine I guess. Although I'll probably get the w541 since I've heard there's some issues with the screen on the w540.

Now my questions:

1. How can I ensure that the model I purchase is compatible with a 32GiB of ram upgrade? Because i've seen some people say only some models of the w541 are compatible with 32GiB of ram.

2. I've also read you can theoretically upgrade to a core i7-4940MX . That would be nice, but would if be safe? Mainly asking because of the potential temperature issues. Just want to know whether it can be safely done and, if it can, if any special considerations should be taken.

3. The subreddit sidebar states I should ensure the BIOS is not locked with a Supervisor Password and that CompuTrace isn't activated, how can I ensure this? Should I just ask the ebay seller?

4. I've also grown quite fond of the old keyboard (like the one on the t61p , I believe it's called a 7-row keyboard), I've read you can replace the keyboard of a t440p with the one of a t25 , but the keyboard of the w541 is bigger (and has a numpad), is there any "old-style" keyboards that can be substituted for the default w541 keyboard? Perhaps the w520 keyboard? Else I'll learn to live with it, but it would be nice if there was any way to replace the original keyboard with the old one.

5. Another question I have is that in [libreboot's official hardware compatibility list](https://libreboot.org/docs/hardware/) it states that the w541 is supported however i've read in several places that the w541 only supports coreboot and not libreboot. Why is that?

6. I loved the thinklight on my t61p, would there be any way to mod that onto a w541?

7. After a little bit of searching on newegg and various other sites, I've found an old model that's selling for pretty cheap. That, a cpu upgrade, a gpu upgrade, and an ssd upgrade (if I do end up buying it I plan on upgrading the ram too, but a little bit later, not initially) would cost me approximately 390 eur (which is approximately 420 usd right now according to google), and would leave me with a sytem with an i7-4910mq , a quadro k2100m, 1 TiB of ssd storage, 16 GiB of ram, and a 3K screen. Is this a good investment?

8. Is there anything that should deterr me from buying the w541 ? Any known issues?

To finish (but also important), the alternative would be the p52 (or p53 if I had the money, although that would be without the removable battery), which, although arguably more powerful, doesn't seem as appealing to me, mostly because of the worse upgradeability, and the lack of libreboot support. I'd appreciate if you also told me more about this model, and how it compares to the w541, perhaps that'll change my viewpoint.

Thanks a lot in advance \:)

TPFanatic
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Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#2 Post by TPFanatic » Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:47 pm

The newest ThinkPad with a 7-row, ThinkLight, and fitting 32GB of RAM is the W520, or a W530 adapted with the keyboard from a T420,T520,W520,X220,T410,T510, or W510. The **30 models are heavily derived from the **20 designs which is why the 7-rows can be made to fit. Refer to these pages for doing the physical, electrical, and firmware mods to make the 7-row fit best.

https://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Install_ ... _ThinkPads
https://github.com/hamishcoleman/thinkpad-ec

For no-nonsense and only marginally slower performance it's easier to just get a **20 model. W510 may also be a candidate, it's just less efficient but it too can do 32GB.

W540/41 can never fit a 7-row, they use a whole new case design that's pretty flimsy. This video shows it well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8J53lomLOc

P-series are superior to the W540/41 in every way, they bring in Thunderbolt, NVME, and DDR4. I'm using a P71 which is the last model supporting built-in optical. Next time I need more performance I'm getting a powerful desktop and a trackpoint keyboard or doing some remote control / KVM from a classic ThinkPad.

schen
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Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#3 Post by schen » Sun Jul 07, 2024 1:25 pm

I have both a W540 and W541 which (as you know) are essentially the same machine. I use the W541 as a backup workstation so it doesn't get a lot of use. I mostly use a full-sized desktop for most work and a T480 when I need something light "on the move". I would say that based on your previous experience, the W541 would be perfectly adequate especially running some version of Linux. However, IMHO, I wouldn't use it as a front line machine mostly based on your last point of whether it's a "good investment". Just just thing that in today's market with the availability of numerous P Series machine selling at very decent prices (at least here in the U.S.), there are a number of models that give you far greater capability at a better price/value balance especially when considering what the W541 would cost after upgrades. Yes, the build quality isn't what it was in the old IBM A31p/T60p days, but they are very decent and give you greater upgradeabilities in a number of areas such as storage and memory capability.
Family Daily Drivers- T450s, T540p
Work- Sadly, the ThinkPads have gone away...... and replaced by HP Chromebox drone machines :(
ThinkPad Projects- T530, T400, R60, Z60t
Historic Retired ThinkPads- Z61m (Titanium), X20, A31p, 701c, 760XD, WorkPad C505, C500 :bow:

t61p_user
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2024 12:41 pm
Location: Valencian Community, Spain

Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#4 Post by t61p_user » Sun Jul 07, 2024 2:19 pm

TPFanatic wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:47 pm
The newest ThinkPad with a 7-row, ThinkLight, and fitting 32GB of RAM is the W520, or a W530 adapted with the keyboard from a T420,T520,W520,X220,T410,T510, or W510. The **30 models are heavily derived from the **20 designs which is why the 7-rows can be made to fit. Refer to these pages for doing the physical, electrical, and firmware mods to make the 7-row fit best.

https://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Install_ ... _ThinkPads
https://github.com/hamishcoleman/thinkpad-ec

For no-nonsense and only marginally slower performance it's easier to just get a **20 model. W510 may also be a candidate, it's just less efficient but it too can do 32GB.

W540/41 can never fit a 7-row, they use a whole new case design that's pretty flimsy. This video shows it well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8J53lomLOc

P-series are superior to the W540/41 in every way, they bring in Thunderbolt, NVME, and DDR4. I'm using a P71 which is the last model supporting built-in optical. Next time I need more performance I'm getting a powerful desktop and a trackpoint keyboard or doing some remote control / KVM from a classic ThinkPad.
First of all, I'm sorry for the late reply.
I ended up getting the w541 as, unfortunately, the latest processor compatible with the w530 ( the i7-3940xm ) , does not fit my needs.

I'll look through those manuals anyway since the overall subject interests me.

I'll keep the p52 in mind for when i need to upgrade, thanks on the insight, that did clear it up quite a bit.

Although I did end up buying the w541 , I appreciate your insight. Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond \:)

t61p_user
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2024 12:41 pm
Location: Valencian Community, Spain

Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#5 Post by t61p_user » Sun Jul 07, 2024 2:24 pm

schen wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2024 1:25 pm
I have both a W540 and W541 which (as you know) are essentially the same machine. I use the W541 as a backup workstation so it doesn't get a lot of use. I mostly use a full-sized desktop for most work and a T480 when I need something light "on the move". I would say that based on your previous experience, the W541 would be perfectly adequate especially running some version of Linux. However, IMHO, I wouldn't use it as a front line machine mostly based on your last point of whether it's a "good investment". Just just thing that in today's market with the availability of numerous P Series machine selling at very decent prices (at least here in the U.S.), there are a number of models that give you far greater capability at a better price/value balance especially when considering what the W541 would cost after upgrades. Yes, the build quality isn't what it was in the old IBM A31p/T60p days, but they are very decent and give you greater upgradeabilities in a number of areas such as storage and memory capability.
Although I ended up buying the w541 , I've considered the p52 , and seeing as it is such an amazing machine, I'll definitely consider it for the future when I need to upgrade.
Thanks a lot for the insight \:)

schen
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Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#6 Post by schen » Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:10 pm

t61p_user wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2024 2:24 pm
Although I ended up buying the w541 , I've considered the p52 , and seeing as it is such an amazing machine, I'll definitely consider it for the future when I need to upgrade.
Thanks a lot for the insight \:)
If it was me, I'd absolutely be looking at the P5x series for a wide variety of reasons, but mostly due to the ability to hold so much modern storage and large amounts of RAM! I'll continue to use my beloved W541, but it will not be expected to offer frontline service.
Family Daily Drivers- T450s, T540p
Work- Sadly, the ThinkPads have gone away...... and replaced by HP Chromebox drone machines :(
ThinkPad Projects- T530, T400, R60, Z60t
Historic Retired ThinkPads- Z61m (Titanium), X20, A31p, 701c, 760XD, WorkPad C505, C500 :bow:

t61p_user
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2024 12:41 pm
Location: Valencian Community, Spain

Re: Some questions about thinkpad w540/w541

#7 Post by t61p_user » Fri Jul 12, 2024 4:21 am

schen wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:10 pm
t61p_user wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2024 2:24 pm
Although I ended up buying the w541 , I've considered the p52 , and seeing as it is such an amazing machine, I'll definitely consider it for the future when I need to upgrade.
Thanks a lot for the insight \:)
If it was me, I'd absolutely be looking at the P5x series for a wide variety of reasons, but mostly due to the ability to hold so much modern storage and large amounts of RAM! I'll continue to use my beloved W541, but it will not be expected to offer frontline service.
Yeah, I'll definitely get a p52 when I need to upgrade, although I plan on keeping the w541 for at least half a decade or so. Thanks for the insight though

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