The ThinkPad X60 and X61 are almost legendary machines , revered and loved by users who used (or continue to use) them with passion. Those designs ended up being abandoned by the manufacturer, who even without neglecting the family has preferred to take advantage of other design decisions and components.
This is where 51nb managers come in, a group of users in China passionate about those old ThinkPads and obsessed with updating them. So much that they have managed to turn their hobby into a business, and now they transform these old laptops and rejuvenate them with better screens, processors, more RAM than ever and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Old on the outside, new inside.
When the ThinkPad were other ThinkPad
Probably many of you have lived with one of those mythical machines of the original families of IBM ThinkPad. Cuadradotes, solid, reliable as few and besides the famous trackpoint had keyboards that were especially appreciated by their owners.
The keyboard of an X220 with those 7 rows that now many users of the old ThinkPad miss.
When Lenovo bought the ThinkPad division from IBM, it did so with the intention of not abandoning it, but wanted to impose some significant changes on it. The screens were mostly in the 16: 9 format instead of that 4: 3 format that had dominated the original designs, but also the keyboards became “island” type and the 7th row of keys at the top disappeared also to the misfortune of those who years later continue to debate about it and its usefulness.
Lenovo came to create a very special model for those looking for things like that seventh row: this is the ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25 , which appeared at the end of 2017 based on a T470 but with important internal improvements. The price, however, was high and amounted to $ 1,899, but at least gave an official response to this demand from users.
The last ThinkPad with 4: 3 screen was the X61 , a solid contender for its contemporaries when it was launched in 2007 but today is clearly harmed by its Core 2 Duo and the other components that 12 years later have logically lost many integers . In technology 12 years, you know, they are a world.
Chinese enthusiasts to the rescue
That’s where 51nb comes in , a Chinese forum of enthusiastic and enthusiastic Thinkpad users. In 2015, its administrator, nicknamed “HOPE”, began working on a singular project: a modified motherboard for the X61 .
The people in charge of the 51nb community create tailor-made motherboards to later integrate all the modern components into the old ThinkPad chassis.
That was growing and these experts ended up creating a modern and improved version of the X61 which they called X62 . That model improved the features of the original in all areas:
These developments, yes, imposed some other sacrifice . The ports for the VGA output, the dock and the Cardbus slot disappeared from that customized version, and those who took this model complained of minor conflicts with the audio quality or the operation of the fans.
The aspect ratio of the screens has been changing progressively. The 4: 3 screens of the ThinkPad were followed by the 16: 9 widescreen formats, but in recent times we are seeing a return to formats such as 3: 2, which is situated somewhere in between.
Even so, that first project ended up being the first of a truly amazing activity that has caused the old ThinkPads to take on new life thanks to this group of users.
Among the modified models are the ThinkPad X220 and X230, now converted to the X320 and X330 and that curiously are a kind of ‘frankenbuild’ in which the screens are the Infinity Display of the Dell XPS 13.
The latest models to be part of this unique catalog are the ThinkPad X210 and T70, which come from the mythical X201 and T60 and that obviously win many good features. They have recently released an even more modern version of the X61 that they call X63 directly
The 51nb group has its meeting point on the Facebook page , and that is where we can find news and information about each of these models and their state of development. Users interested in purchasing one of these models can request information at the email address of this community, firstname.lastname@example.org, and although there is no traditional online store, there is more information on this website .
Orders seem to go slowly and on the Facebook page there are comments in which it seems clear that contacting this community and getting one of these models is more complicated than many would want.
Although it is possible to buy them already built, this user bought the necessary components to assemble everything himself. The result, of course, is surprising. Source: Geoff Greer.
Still there is someone who has achieved it and has been delighted with the result. This is the case of Geoff Greer , who told in his blog how he already bought a ThinkPad X62 in 2017 and now he made the leap to the X210 , which takes advantage of the X201’s chassis to integrate all kinds of last generation components.
Thus, the team has a 12.6-inch screen with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,920 pixels and 450 nits of brightness to which the frames have also been trimmed to maintain the 3: 2 aspect ratio used.
We also have a Core i7-8550U, 2 DDR4 slots where you can insert up to 32 GB of memory, 2 mini PCIe slots for things like Bluetooth or LTE cards, an M.2 NVMe slot, a 2.5-inch SATA bay , a mini DisplayPort port and another VGA, 3 USB 3.1 ports (not USB-C), card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, microphone and headphone jack and even switch for WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.
There are people repairing the NES, the Spectrum and the Atari 2600, among other clasicazos of the «retro» world
The equipment has the option for a normal 55 Wh battery or an 80 Wh extended battery. With the first counted as after an upgrade of the Linux kernel with which he works achieves an autonomy of 6 hours (10 with the extended), and the ease of access to all components allows you to expand some as RAM or storage without problems.
His experience is an example that although the equipment is not entirely perfect, it retains all the charm of the original ThinkPad with its keyboard, its chassis and its design, but it does adapt to the new times. A fantastic idea that we may begin to see more and more in other similar initiatives.