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The story of my AFFS X301

X200, X201, X220 (including equivalent tablet models) and X300, X301 series specific matters only.
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600X
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The story of my AFFS X301

#1 Post by 600X » Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:31 pm

My love for the X301 began almost 5 years ago. I was looking for a new laptop to replace my broken Netbook. My mom handed me her old 600X in April 2011, which needed a new keyboard to get going again. I replaced the keyboard and used the 600X from then on. I quite liked my Netbook, but there were some things that annoyed me, including how difficult it was to service any parts. Experiencing how easy it was to replace the 600X keyboard was merely my first glimpse into the amazing world of ThinkPads.

In the following weeks and months, I started to appreciate the features of the 600X to such an extent that I decided to get myself a ThinkPad. The main reason was durability; my Netbook just couldn't keep up with my lifestyle, and even though I hardly knew anything about ThinkPads back then, I did know that they had a reputation for being tough and being built to last.

I loved the form factor of the 600X and naturally looked for something similar in the line-up of 2010 and 2011, but was shocked to discover that no such machine existed. However, one day, during my online searches, I discovered the X300. It was love at first sight. It appeared to be the epitome of all the values the 600X stood for in a sleek, modern package. It seemed too good to be true. And indeed, that was the case. A quick ebay search revealed prices that were galaxies beyond my budget.

Eventually, a local seller that we have been friends with for quite some time pointed me towards the X201. I was about to pull the trigger on it, but prices were still high and not falling as expected. So I settled for a campus edition X220i. I still find it ironic how that brand new machine was cheaper than a used X201. Granted, it was an "i" version, but still, the cost cutting measures were quite obvious. Don't get me wrong, the X220 is not a bad Laptop at all. In fact, I bought my mother one to replace her T60. Nevertheless, it never really satisfied me and it lacked that distinct sensation of using a real ThinkPad which I so dearly longed for, especially following my exposure to the 600X.

Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and my dream becomes a reality. I got my very first X301 after I discovered that prices had rapidly dropped on B grade machines. I would like to be able to say that it felt like Christmas when it arrived, but as I just mentioned, it actually was Christmas. A sign perhaps? In any case, the X301 absolutely blew me away. I had high expectations, which doesn't usually end well. This time though, it did, and I probably became the most committed X301 fanatic that the (German) forums had ever seen. My admittedly over-enthusastic review of the X301 was the peak of the revival period of the X301, and I had infected many fellow ThinkPadders with the X301-virus during 2013.

However, there is a dark side to every fairytale. Of course the X301 had some weaknesses. Not even the 600X was perfect. But none of them was as blatant, intrusive and indeed cancer-causing as that wretched excuse of a display. I don't know what Lenovo was thinking and I don't know what Toshiba was thinking when they slapped this piece of trash into this marvellous 3000$ Laptop. Honestly, it is beyond comprehension. Being someone who values not only quality but also his eyesight, my quest for a replacement IPS panel began sometime in mid 2013. Although I was aware that such a mod already existed (the guy who did it is called Leo Kim), the lack of any useful information or details meant that I had to start from scratch.

I was able to identfiy a suitable panel quickly, the HV133WX1-100 by BOE Hydis. It's a 13.3" AFFS panel with a resolution of 1280x800 and a glossy surface. It was only ever used on a few Fujitsu tablets, such as the T5010. The PIN Layout is different, so I would need a modded adapter. In theory it seemed so simple. I just needed the display, one Fujitsu and one X301 LCD cable, the pin Layout of both Displays and someone with a few soldering skills. Mods like this have been before. As you may already be able to sense, given how much I have already written, it wasn't that simple. Not by a long shot.

I have spent the last 2 years trying to do this mod myself. I would like to spare you of every single step and failure I went through. It's all recorded on the German ThinkPad forums anyway if someone is really that interested. Basically, I had two major attempts:

1.) In order to fit the Hydis into the X301, the frame had to be removed. There was only person on the forums who seemed to be capable of doing this. I was amazed by the results he delivered. The panel was being held together by tape, just like the original X301 Display. After that it was time to mod the cable. This is where I made my first mistake. I read the PIN Layout wrongly and got a cable that sent 20V to areas where 20V should never be sent to. So I fried my display.

2.) My next attempt was similar, but this time I had the cable done by el-sahef. I think I don't need to explain that he is an absolute modding genius. This time around the display itself was damaged in the process of removing the frame, but the damage wasn't visible unless the screen was running. The cable itself sort of worked, but the picture was reduced in color, as if it could only display 16 colors. We are still not sure what went wrong, but I assume that the wires on the LCD cable need to be the exact same length, otherwise the signal will become muddled. The modded cable had wires with slightly different lengths.

This list may seem a bit short but you need to keep in mind that there were tons of discussions in between and it took a great amount of work to source all of these parts, find people willing to do the mods, tell them what exactly needed to be done and coordinate the entire project. In the end, I spent nearly two years working on the project on and off. My latest attempt was this summer, and after that had also failed I was about to give up.

A glimpse of hope appeared on the horizon as I discovered that there was a workshop on nb51 that did these conversions. You could just go there and order one. That is of course if you speak Chinese and live in China. I was desperate. So desperate in fact that I decided to order one LCD unit via a third party. I will leave it up to them to reveal themselves in this thread if they wish to do so. After an undisclosed amount of money had been transferred, it was time to wait. Since my entire life pretty much revolves around the IB program, time flew by quickly. I study in England, but I keep my ThinkPads in my home in Germany. The display arrived over a month ago, but I only landed in Germany this Saturday.

The LCD unit was noticeably heavier than the original one since the Hydis still has its frame. The LCD bezel does bulge out a little bit, but I can live with that. Installing the LCD unit was simple, considering how often I had done it for my previous modding attempts.

Words can't describe the joy, relieve, and sense of accomplishment I experienced upon firing up my X301 and laying eyes on this gorgeous, and most importantly working, AFFS display. You may imagine that one would get a greater satisfaction out of doing such a mod by yourself, but after all the effort and money I had put into trying to do this mod myself, simply having purchased a pre-modded unit feels just as satisfying.

I also took a few pictures of my AFFS X301 for you guys. The quality isn't that great, but it's the best I can do with the dire lighting conditions during winter. I didn't have a second X301 with a standard display, so I just compared it to a T61 4:3. Both displays are calibrated.

http://www.mediafire.com/view/8gmr8883cxd83a1/X301a.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/05f5d5ft8yvn7mg/X301b.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/81pam6ip1qaz9mb/X301c.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/3iyua6u22k86bt2/X301d.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/8cth41c8xdw6rt3/X301e.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/45ean97xir9ifrx/X301f.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/aqdooxei3243wvd/X301g.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/4cdmqttaw19eya4/X301h.JPG
http://www.mediafire.com/view/b98xace8vtn5p0m/X301i.JPG

The only thing I could complain about is the brightness. At 200 nits, it's fine for indoors, but not so much for outdoors. Since I only use my X301 at home, I don't really mind however. The contrast is absolutely stunning. Despite the low brightness, the black levels, according to NBC, come in at 0.23 nits, resulting in a contrast ratio of 865:1, which seems about right to me. This is further amplified by the glossy surface which provides a crystal clear viewing experience. The resolution is perfect to me on 13.3"; I always found 1440x900 to be a bit too small on the X301. The viewing angles pretty much speak for themselves and although the panel doesn't cover the sRGB color space, the overall experience is extremely enjoyable.

This mod is certainly not suitable for everyone. Even if you are able to acquire such a unit or even build one yourself, I know more than a few people who would complain about the resolution, or the glossy surface or whatever else comes to the critic's mind. By now it should be clear that everyone has their own preferences, and this Hydis display is nearly perfect to me in every aspect.

Ultimately, it brings my X301 a big step closer to absolute perfection, and that's more than good enough for me.
Last edited by 600X on Tue Jan 19, 2016 5:58 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#2 Post by PandorasThinkpad » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:21 pm

First, this possibly have had the chance to get an neverending story ;-) But it found an end with success...

I have read the whole thing....yes, this is it....if you are once infected you won't be able to stop.....you have to try even if it's costs will be far from all mankind measures...

Just to take me.....owned also some thinkpad.....this one wasn't good enough for this, this one not for that....and then some bugs here and there....

for now, i've stayed at T23,...which i don't use for an daily use, just to use them when i have got some old hardware to test....at T410s...the best thinkpad in my eyes, everthing is working quite out of the box and the drivers cause no problems at all...and at W520...where i have the current problem that scrolling in firefox isn't smooth.....ultranav issue or whatever....

But i will try to find it out.....

What else? Every one of us is waiting for the new classic or retro....right? :-)

Kindly,

PandoRA
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#3 Post by shawross » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:56 pm

What a beautiful display and the viewing angles are second to none. I admire all your endeavours to get this project done and it's nice to know there are options available. :thumbs-UP: :thumbs-UP: :thumbs-UP:
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#4 Post by theterminator93 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:56 pm

That is some unmatched determination right there. Glad to see your endeavors finally succeeded in the end. :)
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#5 Post by UMPC2024 » Tue Dec 15, 2015 12:19 am

You did all this whilst studying under the IB Programme? Hats off to you man and good luck with your endeavors. :bow:

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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#6 Post by Temetka » Tue Dec 15, 2015 1:57 am

You are very persistent.

My hat is off to you for seeing this through. I'm sure there was more than one time where you wanted to give up.

That being said according to:

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X301

The native LCD resolution is 1440x900.

Does an IPS/AFFS LCD exist that will work in the X301's at that resolution? I'd love to get my hands on one of these systems either way.
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#7 Post by 600X » Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:22 pm

Thank you for the comments so far. I really appreciate it!
UMPC2024 wrote:You did all this whilst studying under the IB Programme? Hats off to you man and good luck with your endeavors. :bow:
"Only" the second half of my quest, starting in mid 2014, took place during the IB.
Temetka wrote:The native LCD resolution is 1440x900.

Does an IPS/AFFS LCD exist that will work in the X301's at that resolution? I'd love to get my hands on one of these systems either way.
There isn't. Only the 13-inch MacBook Air has a decent 1440x900 screen, but as far as I am aware, it can't be fitted in the X301.
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offtopic : X20

#8 Post by automobus » Tue Dec 15, 2015 6:36 pm

Thank you for sharing.
2014-05-17 : Re: Computers you've owned : 600X wrote:IBM ThinkPad X20 … Really nice build quality, but not of much use with its old hardware.
I agree with you: X20 family is not of much use these days, so it is a good monitor stand. (Because of horrible hinges and hot chips, I stopped using mine a couple years ago.) It is square, stocky/solid brick-like, lid is perfectly flat and level/parallel with base, and a non-slip surface. I stood a number of things on it (though, not a monitor).

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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#9 Post by Bibin » Tue Dec 15, 2015 11:52 pm

I am very glad to see somebody finally go through with it and have it working. A friend bought one of the Boe-Hydis displays and it arrived. I took a look at it and decided the connector is too small for me to attempt messing with it for the sake of experimentation. I have the LCD panel sitting around. If the required cable to make this mod happen becomes marketed I'd buy one happily...
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#10 Post by ajkula66 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:11 am

A truly excellent write-up. Congratulations on completion of the project as well as on the lovely essay that you've gifted us with.

Thank you.
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#11 Post by TonyJZX » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:15 am

I first came across the X301 working for a govt. dept. where we deployed and did L2/L3 support on these things.

Its a special machine the 301, close to being perfect but they were $2,5K plus at the time.

Two things though, I think the OEM screens although LED arent the best quality but passable but absolutely fine for fluoro offices.

2nd thing, the SU9400 whatever CPU, is it fast enough in this day and age?

I personally have not been able to get an X301 on the ex lease market as yet, they are rare unlike the torrent of T and W machines.

You all know that some lines of Thinkpad have poor quality screens, the T420 900p is typical.

I agree with you guys, the T400 LED, T410/410S 900p screens are pretty spot on as far as quality goes.

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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#12 Post by ZaZ » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:07 am

TonyJZX wrote:2nd thing, the SU9400 whatever CPU, is it fast enough in this day and age?
It can't be any worse than a T23. The benches are slightly better than a Core Duo, so it's likely to chug on anything processor intensive like flash, but might work depending on your particulars.
TonyJZX wrote:The T400 LED, T410/410S 900p screens are pretty spot on as far as quality goes.
With 1080p IPS being found on most 14" business class notebook these days, which are significantly better than anything offered on the T400 or T410(s), that's the way I'd go. If my budget was tight, I'd look at a Latitude E5450 in the Dell Outlet.
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#13 Post by pianowizard » Wed Dec 16, 2015 8:35 am

ZaZ wrote:With 1080p IPS being found on most 14" business class notebook these days, which are significantly better than anything offered on the T400 or T410(s), that's the way I'd go.
When did you start to appreciate screens with such a high pixel density? 1080p on 14.0" gives 157.4 DPI. I thought your ideal was 1366x768 on your 12.5" X series (X220i?), corresponding to 125.4 DPI.

Anyway, I agree that ever since 1920x1080 became common on 14-inchers, I completely lost interest in 1600x900 for this size, let alone 1440x900. 1920x1080 works great for 14.0" and 13.3", even without scaling. On 12.5", 1920x1080 would be somewhat hard to see (176.2 DPI), though if it's a high quality IPS panel, I would probably still adjust to it fairly quickly.
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#14 Post by Tasurinchi » Wed Dec 16, 2015 9:00 am

Long story with happy end! :D

Great panel!! You're now the owner of a very unique ThinkPad! Well done!
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Re: The story of my AFFS X301

#15 Post by ZaZ » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:12 pm

pianowizard wrote:When did you start to appreciate screens with such a high pixel density?
I run my Dell at 125% DPI, which makes it sort like a HD+ LCD.
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