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Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

X60/X61 series specific matters only.
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englishbob
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Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#1 Post by englishbob » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:29 am

Hi all, this is my first post to the forum. I'm a very happy owner of a X220 and T420. I've found myself recently checking out the X61 after coming across an old X60 at work. You can pick them up quite cheaply and if I did I would replace the battery, update the bios with middleton's bios and put a SSD in. I read a lot about heat generation and fan noise. Is it really that bad compared to a T420? And performance wise, is the laptop still relevant? I don't really need one, they just seem like fun! I understand the X61s is low voltage, uses less power and should be quieter, my interest is for the X61 due to the more powerful processor.

Any thoughts Anno 2015?

regards,
EnglishBob

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#2 Post by ajkula66 » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:44 am

Welcome to the forum!
englishbob wrote: I read a lot about heat generation and fan noise. Is it really that bad compared to a T420?
On the average, yes.
And performance wise, is the laptop still relevant?
The answer to that question depends on what your intended use for it would be. For browsing the web and office use - presuming that you're OK with 1024x768 resolution to begin with - it's above and beyond sufficient.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#3 Post by RealBlackStuff » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:45 am

Welcome to the forum.
The X61, and especially X61s is still a nice machine for travelling.
It's limited to XGA (1024x768), it's not the lightest, but it's quite sturdy.
Important: put in a 1/2-size wifi-card with 1/2-size adapter to prevent heat buildup under the palmrest.
They take up to 2x4GB PC2-5300 or PC2-6400 RAM, and any 2.5" SATA HD or SSD will fit.
With Middleton's BIOS you get SATA-II speed, wifi whitelist removed and Slic2.1 tables loaded.
I have a nice X60s with an X61s motherboard from a 7666-3EU for sale with an 8-cell battery, good for ~5 hours.
PM me if interested.

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#4 Post by englishbob » Fri Sep 18, 2015 2:49 pm

Hello,

I filled in my location when I signed up so perhaps there is a bug in the forum software?
Anyway, I'm in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post.

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#5 Post by rkawakami » Fri Sep 18, 2015 3:27 pm

englishbob wrote:I filled in my location when I signed up so perhaps there is a bug in the forum software?
It's not a forum software bug... It's a feature :lol: .
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#6 Post by vavet » Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:42 pm

The performance difference between x61s and x61 is essential. An x61 with 4-8gb and ssd is really robust enough for flawless daily use and even some java development in my case. For the later sxga+ screen mod is a must.

The good thing about these machines is that all the limitations can be fixed (screen, performance, heat, battery or even lack of webcam and touchpad)
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#7 Post by englishbob » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:19 am

vavet wrote:The performance difference between x61s and x61 is essential.
Does that make the X61s the no longer relevant anno 2015?
I've been looking at the thinkwiki.de website and note that the X61s is thinner at the back (where the fan is). Given this, does the X61s pump out as much heat with its lower voltage processor as the X61 with its higher voltage processor?

The svga+ update looks rather daunting, unfortunately the links to photos on the various form threads here seem to be expired. If anyone knows of a current link I'd be grateful.

I've read about the palm rest heat issue, I guess a more modern half height card with a suitable bracket is a neat way to solve that issue given modern designs are more energy efficient.

(I've edited this post to expand my question and fix a type)

Rob

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#8 Post by englishbob » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:32 am

rkawakami wrote:
englishbob wrote:I filled in my location when I signed up so perhaps there is a bug in the forum software?
It's not a forum software bug... It's a feature :lol: .
Gotcha! A sort of anti-bot check? :lol:

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#9 Post by axur-delmeria » Sat Sep 19, 2015 6:03 am

Given this, does the X61s pump out as much heat with its lower voltage processor as the X61 with its higher voltage processor?
Having used the X61, X61s, and X61 Tablet, I can answer this from experience:

The X61s has 17w TDP CPUs, much less than the 35w TDP CPUs on the regular X61.
CPU temps rarely go over 60, and I only got over 70c one time because of a non-spinning fan.

Battery life is also much longer. I only had the X61s for a short time (I bought it for a client) but it can reach 5 hours with the 8-cell battery. The regular X61 only reaches around 3 hours with the same battery, and that's already undervolted.

Is the X61s still relevant? It really depends on how you want to use it. Most have the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo L7500, which is enough for light duty (web, email)-- similar to netbooks. But the X61s has a better keyboard and a bigger screen than 10.1 inch netbooks. :D
It's also smaller than the X220 (I also have an X220 so I know this for a fact) and probably lighter too-- I didn't have the X61s and the X220 at the same time so I can't be 100% sure).

The SXGA+ upgrade is difficult IMO. Unless you're very confident in your tinkering skills, or already have the modified cable and LCD panel without the protective glass, I don't recommend that you undertake it.
The performance difference between x61s and x61 is essential.
True. The fastest X61s is only 1.8GHz, equal to the slowest X61.
The fastest X61 has a 2.5GHz processor. :O

X61 models with the later 45nm Penryn CPUs (T8100, T8300, T9300) are nice to have because they run cooler than the earlier models (T7100, T7300, T7500) and undervolt better as welll.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#10 Post by pianowizard » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:48 am

axur-delmeria wrote:Most have the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo L7500, which is enough for light duty (web, email)-- similar to netbooks.
Performance-wise, yes, but an increasing number of web sites including web-based email are optimized for 720p widescreens, so the X61's 1024x768 screen is severely crippling. For example, my institution's Outlook Web App shows three columns. The leftmost column lists the different folders, the middle column lists message subjects, and the rightmost column shows the body of the selected message. If I had only 1024 pixels across, these columns would be very narrow and uncomfortable to read.

I would say a netbook with 1366x768 is better for web browsing.

My main computer has one 40" 3840x2160 monitor and two 27" 2560x1440 monitors. Each of my web browsers is sized at 1280x1440, so that two of them tile a 2560x1440 screen perfectly.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#11 Post by Shredder11 » Sat Sep 19, 2015 9:27 am

I wonder what has changed so radically with office software in the past ten to fifteen years, to make resolution such a problem for older machines? I used MS Office since about version 1997 and Outlook since about 2001/2, and at the moment I use MS Office 2010 on an old CTX 19" 1280 x 1024 monitor which is fine for me. I have used the same suite on my X61s and I agree it is far more restricted and less comfortable to use. Back in 2001/2 I used a CTX 17" 1024 x 768 resolution and that was fine then with MS Office 2000 and later 2003.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#12 Post by shawross » Sat Sep 19, 2015 10:09 am

I use my X61 with its XGA sceen with Win 7 and Chrome and I just setup Chrome to zoom 90% or 75%. It is not my daily driver and obviously it is still just a XGA screen but the resolution is a lot easier to adapt to.
I love the machine but for me it is only used occasionally. For general use it is still ok but it can get a bit warm if pushed.
To me it is a collectible which can still be useful with todays software.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#13 Post by vavet » Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:40 pm

englishbob wrote:
Does that make the X61s the no longer relevant anno 2015?
I would say, it is still ok, if you are not going to watch online >=720 video.
englishbob wrote: I've been looking at the thinkwiki.de website and note that the X61s is thinner at the back (where the fan is). Given this, does the X61s pump out as much heat with its lower voltage processor as the X61 with its higher voltage processor?
The slimness of x61s is useless because most of the batteries you would find for it would pop out and make it the same thickness as x61. The only battery that is slim is very rare and expensive if found. And it will give you 2h max when new. As for the heat, I have had x61s 1.6GHz and 1.8Ghz and now I am using an x61 2.5Ghz. I haven't felt the x61s to be cooler than x61, I would say the opposite. if comparing the two x61s than 1.8Ghz is definitely hotter.
englishbob wrote: The svga+ update looks rather daunting, unfortunately the links to photos on the various form threads here seem to be expired. If anyone knows of a current link I'd be grateful.
here the link that will give you the basic info. The search in this forum will give you the answers to the remaining questions.
https://ithinkpad.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/x6xipsguide/
englishbob wrote: I've read about the palm rest heat issue, I guess a more modern half height card with a suitable bracket is a neat way to solve that issue given modern designs are more energy efficient.
The heat issue of these machines is mainly related to their age in general. The thermal paste is usually dried out. So replacing it usually lowers the heat to comfortable levels. The wifi card change solves the hot palmrest issue as well. As for the battery, I have replaced the cells of my cheap ebay 4 cell battery with 3400mAh panasonic cells. And it gives me about 3-4h, which is quite ok.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#14 Post by vavet » Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:49 pm

Just want to add that recently I decided to move on and get something newer. So I bought myself a google pixel 2 and installed linux. The machine was amazing in all aspects. But when I decided to check out my old x61, I packed the pixel and put it on a sale on ebay. Mainly because there was nothing essential that it could offer more than my x61 already does.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#15 Post by axur-delmeria » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:35 pm

Shredder11 wrote:I wonder what has changed so radically with office software in the past ten to fifteen years, to make resolution such a problem for older machines? I used MS Office since about version 1997 and Outlook since about 2001/2, and at the moment I use MS Office 2010 on an old CTX 19" 1280 x 1024 monitor which is fine for me. I have used the same suite on my X61s and I agree it is far more restricted and less comfortable to use. Back in 2001/2 I used a CTX 17" 1024 x 768 resolution and that was fine then with MS Office 2000 and later 2003.
The toolbar in Office 2007 and later is around as tall as 4-5 rows of toolbars in Office 2003 and older.
In Word 2003, I think 2 rows of toolbars is the default, which results in having more vertical space for documents.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#16 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:45 pm

I have mentioned this already in 2012, so stop complaining about M$-Office.
OUT with that stupid space-wasting ribbon!
http://www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages/
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#17 Post by axur-delmeria » Sun Sep 20, 2015 12:00 am

RealBlackStuff,
Now that's a good software to have.
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

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Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#18 Post by pianowizard » Sun Sep 20, 2015 5:47 am

vavet wrote:So I bought myself a google pixel 2 and installed linux. The machine was amazing in all aspects. But when I decided to check out my old x61, I packed the pixel and put it on a sale on ebay. Mainly because there was nothing essential that it could offer more than my x61 already does.
The Pixel's only selling point is its fantastic screen. Other than that, it's nothing special.
RealBlackStuff wrote:OUT with that stupid space-wasting ribbon!
It can be minimized. Think of it as Office 2003's menus turned sideways. Thus, the ribbon actually saves tons of vertical space.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#19 Post by flyingfishfinger » Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:37 pm

As most people have said, depends on what you want to do with it.

With the proper mods, it can probably do almost anything you want. I put in an SXGA+ screen and SSD with optional overclock to 3+ Ghz so now the only thing really lacking would be a GPU (which I'm also working on).
My stretch goal is to be able to run SolidWorks, but of course that's just me seeing how far I can push things..

YMMV, but they're still great little machines.

R

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#20 Post by pgoelz » Tue Sep 22, 2015 8:06 pm

I have been using a 1.6GHz X61s for maybe six years and a $30 Ebay special 1.8GHz X61s (it had a stuck fan) for about a year. I find that with a decent WiFi card, they both run slightly warm to the touch at the palmrest and blow cold air when surfing the net or checking Email. The fan runs continuously at a low speed and is inaudible in all but a dead quiet room. For example, I am typing this on the 1.8GHz machine in the family room with no other ambient sounds at all. CPU is running maybe 10% displaying this web page. I can hear the fan, but JUST BARELY. And only if I concentrate. It is blowing air that is just above ambient. That drops to ambient if I close the browser and the CPU drops to its usual idle of 1-2 percent and 50% clock speed. In all but 100% CPU scenarios, the bottom of the machine is warm but by no means hot. Even on a bare leg.

That $30 Ebay special is now my daily driver and is now equipped with a 250GB SSD. It boots and resumes quickly and feels very snappy in normal use. Its CPU performance is way more than adequate for all normal tasks but it does usually max out playing 1080p YouTube videos. With that one issue aside, it is a lovely < $100 (sometimes WAY less than $100) laptop. The stuck fan on this one (disclosed in the Ebay listing as a "noisy" fan) was just gummed up oil in the bearing. I had to partially remove the MB to open the fan shroud to remove the impeller but it was a very easy fix to clean the shaft and bearing sleeve and re-lube. Runs perfectly.

At 100% CPU, either machine blows medium hot air but the fan is really not that noisy even at 100% CPU. YMMV... depends on your expectations and sensitivities.

I don't mind the X61s screen resolution. I wear glasses and am 20/20 with them on. I can't quite see the pixels at a normal viewing distance but can just begin to make them out at anything closer than "lap distance". So aside from more screen real estate, I don't see the point of higher resolution. Especially not given the cost of a used X61s.

I keep looking for a better (more bang for the buck) laptop and so far, have not found one. I love the efficient use of space with a 4:3 screen. Widescreen laptops might have some uses, but they are wider for the same vertical screen space than a 4:3 machine.

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#21 Post by englishbob » Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:36 am

Many thanks for all the input.
I'm looking at a X61s with a 1.8Ghz LV CPU. I know this is the low voltage version of the X61 cpu.
The seller claims the built in wifi doesn't work. Is this a known problem? I was planning to replace the card anyway, given the advice already given so I'm hoping it isn't an issue. Or is this symptomatic of something else I should be looking out for?

Regards,
Rob

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#22 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Sep 25, 2015 1:02 pm

englishbob wrote:The seller claims the built in wifi doesn't work. Is this a known problem?
Well, there are a few possibilities, orted in order of severity and likelihood:
- Hardware wifi switch is set to off, and the seller doesn't know about it.
- Hotkey software not installed
- Card is disabled in BIOS
- Wifi card is defective (it happens)
- slot is defective (bent/broken contacts)
- southbridge chip is malfunctioning (ESD damage, solder failure)
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#23 Post by englishbob » Fri Sep 25, 2015 2:51 pm

axur-delmeria wrote: - Wifi card is defective (it happens)
- slot is defective (bent/broken contacts)
- southbridge chip is malfunctioning (ESD damage, solder failure)
I'd thought about the first three. Is there value in running Lenovo's diagnostic software from a bootable USB stick to see if it will pickup problems related to the last three quoted above?

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#24 Post by axur-delmeria » Fri Sep 25, 2015 2:58 pm

If the cause is physical (e.g. bent pints), may be able to eyeball the damage with a loupe and a good light source.
Southbridge issues also show other symptoms like wonky USB ports, flaky SATA ports, etc.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#25 Post by englishbob » Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:14 pm

The seller says the card doesn't appear in the device manager.
I have a Intel Centrino Advanced 6205 in my X220. If I took that and put it in would it violate the standard BIOS white list?

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#26 Post by RealBlackStuff » Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:15 pm

Yes it would.
You should install Middleton's BIOS on any T61/R61/X61.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#27 Post by englishbob » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:22 pm

Hello all,
Well, I'm now the happy owner of a X61 with a 2GHz processor and 4GB of RAM, all for the princely sum of 85 euros!

I'll post pictures etc. at a later time.

I replaced the BIOS with Middleton's BIOS to remove the whitelist and enable the SATA 2 interface
I've removed the WWAN card and have a Intel 6300 card (including half-height adapter) on its way together with a Broadcom 70015. I stripped the screws trying to undo the WiFi card and had to Dremel them off with a vacuum cleaner hovering over it to pick up the dust.
I've borrowed an Intel 6205 from another laptop and all is working well.

I also put a Mushkin G2 120GB in but the drive immediately failed. It's visible in the BIOS but identifies itself as a Sandforce drive with a CHS geometry equal to 32kb instead of 120GB. It was still under warranty so I hope to get a replacement before the end of the week. The behaviour of the drive is the same in 3 different laptops and a desktop so I don't know what happend there.

I've also replaced the thermal paste, which wasn't in bad shape but I felt it wouldn't hurt as I'd opened the laptop up. The CPU idles at 48 but goes upto 75 underload with the TP Fan utility running. The GPU is generally cooler than the CPU. If I put the cards in when they arrive, I'll check the paste again for coverage.

Lastly, I'd forgotten how a 4:3 aspect ration focusses the mind. Less peripheral distractions.

I'd like to say thanks to all who offered comments and advise. I hope to do the same to other users down the road!

Rob

*Edited, I typed X60 when I meant X61*

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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#28 Post by ajkula66 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:18 pm

englishbob wrote:The behaviour of the drive is the same in 3 different laptops and a desktop so I don't know what happend there.
SandForce junk, plain and simple. You'd be well-advised to pick out a different SSD altogether IMO.
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#29 Post by Shredder11 » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:50 pm

I switched from Intel X25-M series once I realised they were rubbish, and now I am trying out a couple of Crucial BX100 SSD drives (250GB and 500GB). Not sure what opinion the people here have of these value based drives, but they perform very well indeed compared with the Intel X25-M series.
Z61p x3 (C2D T7600, 3GB, 500GB SSD, BCM70015, Advanced Dock x1, Mini Dock x2)
W520 (C2Q i7-2720QM, 8GB, 60GB SSD)
X61 (C2D T7500, 3GB, 250GB SSD, BCM70015)
X61s (2GB, 120GB SSD)
T43p (P M 760, 2GB, IBM Port Replicator II)
G41 (P4 3.46GHz, 2GB, 40GB)

Bibin
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Re: Thinkpad X61 still relevant?

#30 Post by Bibin » Thu Oct 08, 2015 3:41 pm

I've always had a great time with Crucial SSDs (except the V series). Given the SATAII bottleneck of the machine I haven't bothered putting anything above a C300 or M4 in there (why go higher end?) but they've been fine in the X61.

I do want to warn you that people will say the palmrest heat problem is solved with a replacement smaller wi-fi card, but I don't think that's true. In every X61 I've used I experience the same gradual warm right palmrest even without a card inserted at all. It's not a huge deal, but keep it in mind.
Give your T43/T43p/R52/X41 the SATA it deserves! http://mikejmoffitt.com/sata

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