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things I break/fix for fun and learning

Nov 2, 2019 - 4 minute read - Comments

T540p From Parts Only to a Fully Functional Computer

I’ve been lurking ebay for quite a while and noticed a for-parts-only machine at a good price. Thinkpad T540p, no RAM, no HDD, no HDD mounting bracket, no HDD back cover, and no charger. It has been several weeks and the listing is still available. Looks like no one is interested so I took a bite. The seller even discounted the price and still no one is buying it. I decided to offer below asking price and the seller agreed, which makes it even better!

Once the item arrived, it’s just a matter of swapping components from my X220 / T420s to check if it works or not. Surprisingly, it works OK. I’ve installed additional SSD via the m2 slot, upgraded the CPU and also upgraded the screen for the 3K model. All in all, it has been a rewarding experience and the machine is way more powerful than my X220 / T420s.

This is the item I ordered labelled as for parts only. I didn’t bother to remove the sticker to remind me that once it was a broken machine and now it works perfectly!

Spare parts to get things going - HDD mount, HDD cover, 3-button trackpad and barrel-to-square-tip adapter lets me re-use my old chargers.

RAM and SSD from my T420s transferred over. This is where my Linux install is located.

Additional SSD using m.2 2242 SSD slot. This is where my Windows 10 install is located. Since I don’t use Windows that often, I decided to skip the branded ones and opted for cheap SSD.

Performed overnight memtest to test the stability of the system. Memtest reported no errors. To the right is my T420s.

Updated the BIOS to the latest version released last Sep 24, 2019. Impressive for a 5yr old machine to still receive BIOS updates!

Preparing to remove the old CPU - a dual core i5 4200M.

CPU upgraded to a 47W quad core i7 4810MQ. Performance gains is very noticeable compared to the old CPU.

BIOS shows that it detects the CPU as i7 4810MQ. 16GB RAM is also detected.

Power On Self Test information showing CPU, RAM and 3 storage devices.

Clunkpad replaced with a proper 3-button trackpad. One of the best mods ever!

Preparing to replace the LCD. The stock LCD has a screen resolution of 1366x768 while the replacement LCD has 2880x1620.

Retrofitting the display. Had to replace the whole lid assembly and install a new display cable.

Testing the screen before putting it all back together. Thankfully it works!

T540p all working and ready to go!

Some of the programs I use that greatly utilizes the 3K high resolution …

Lightworks non-linear video editor for Linux.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) photo editor for Linux.

LibreOffice Writer and Calc - word processor and spreadsheet for Linux running side-by-side!

VMware workstation for running Windows programs.

And finally a benchmark of the CPU power …

Video encoding using the original dual core i5 4200M. It takes about 10mins to encode a slideshow video using Proshow Producer.

Video encoding using the quad core i7 4810MQ. It takes about 5mins to encode the same video!

Final thoughts …

I like this machine, the last Thinkpad T-series generation that is highly modular and upgradeable. I dualboot with Fedora31 and Windows 10, depending on the workload. My main OS is Fedora31, and if I need to do video editing / photo slideshow creation then I boot to Window10.

T540p will be my daily driver for years to come, the X220 as my backup machine, and the T420s will be a Windows 10 / Office 2019 machine for my kids schoolwork.

Specs of my T540p -

  • Intel quad core i7 4810MQ
  • 2880x1620 3k screen resolution
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • 480GB Intel SSD
  • 120GB TCSunbow SSD
  • 500GB HDD
  • Intel 7260 WIFI

For those who wanted to try the 3K screen mod, this are the components needed -

  • If your T540p originally came with the 1366x768 screen (like mine), you need to replace the lid (04x5521), bezel (04x5523), hinges (04x5535 and 04x5536), display cable (04x5541) and the screen (04x4064). I went with a whole lid assembly to save me from all the trouble and it turns out to be a little bit cheaper instead of buying the parts one by one.

  • If your T540p originally came with the 1920x1080 screen (very rare), then it is a drop-in replacement. Just need to replace the screen (04x4064) and display cable (04x5541).