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A step by step guide to build a ThinkPad X61/X61s with IPS screen

October 14, 2011

X6x series of ThinkPad is ideal for on-the-go users who need an ultrathin, ultralight notebook. However, all X6x laptops are officially shipped with normal TN LCD panels, which are notorious for dull cold colours, narrow viewing angles and poor contrast levels. Fortunately, there are a few models of 12.1″ XGA and SXGA+ IPS (Flexview) panels which fit ThinkPad X6x well. The following picture shows an X61 laptop with original TN panel (left) and a modified X60 (right) with IPS panel. Spot the difference! Note top left is the original sample picture.


Fig 1


Installing an IPS panel into an X6x laptop is not a straightforward task. One main problem is that the IPS panel has a completely different LCD cable/pin definition than the original LCD panel; i.e. you can not simply swap the two LCD panels. You need a convert cable which connects the original LCD cable and the IPS panel with correct cable/pin definition.


Apart from the cable problem, such a screen DIY project requires skills of disassembling laptop screen and also modifying LCD parts. It is not as easy as upgrading memory modules. Here I provide a Step-by-Step guide to help those who want to build their own X6x with IPS screen. Good luck!


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Step 1: Preparation

First of all, you need a ThinkPad X6x laptop. X61 is recommended (X61 with T8300 is better and X61 with T9300 is the best), but X61s/X60/X60s are also fine. For those who have X60s/X61s, you need to found out if your thinkpad has a so-called ultralight screen. If it does, there is a little more trouble. I will come to that point and advice you later.


Now you need to find a 12.1″ IPS panel. You might be curious about what the IPS panels were originally made for, given X6x has no IPS option. Well, indeed these IPS panels were made for some ThinkPads. They are actually X6x’s siblings — X60 Tablet and X61 Tablet! However, to make things a little more complicated, not all panels in X60/X61 Tablet are IPS and not all IPS panels are suitable for the upgrade. You need to check the panel model number to identify a true IPS panel. There are three common IPS panels found in X60/X61 Tablet:


  • HV121X03-100, XGA resolution (1024×768)

  • HV121P01-100, SXGA+ resolution (1400×1050)

  • HV121P01-101, SXGA+ resolution (1400×1050)


Given these panels are made for ThinkPad tablet, obviously they cannot be used directly in any X6x. That is why we will do some modifications in Step 4 below. Also the 3rd model cannot be used for this project as it has a glass layer tightly glued on top of the panel – it is almost impossible to get rid of it without breaking/scratching the panel. You should open your eyes to the top two models only (Update: the 3rd model is also useable if you can find one without the glass layer). The best source of these panels is ebay. However, I must warn you that some dishonest sellers may send you a wrong model. Double and even triple check the model number with them before you place an order.

As explained above, you also need a special convert cable to connect the IPS panel with the LCD cable . You can either get one from my ebay shop or, if you are confidence in your soldering skills and have plenty of time, make one by yourself.


You also need a set of handy tools (knife, screw drivers and pincers). Get a tool set of good quality (certaily not something from a pound shop) to avoid turning your DIY project into a nightmare.

Although I am going to give you a detailed guide, it is always helpful to have the official Hardware Maintenance Manual to refer to sometimes.

Finally, you need hours of time, space and a cup of coffee. If you have kids, wife/husband, girlfriend/boyfriend or boring mates, do send them away by all means.


Is everything ready? Let’s rock and roll!

Step 2: Flash BIOS

This step is for those who want to upgrade to IPS screen with SXGA+ resolution. If you have an IPS screen with XGA resolution, you can safely ignore this step and jump to Step 3.

None of Lenovo’s official X6x BIOS supports SXGA+ resolution. Fortunately, a few geniuses have done an excellent job to inject the code necessary for X6x to recognise SXGA+ resolution into the BIOS. Before you start to crack the hardware, it is better to update the BIOS beforehand so that you can test the SXGA+ screen during the mod.

For some reason, I can not upload all BIOS files here. You may either look here or contact me if you need help with the BIOS update. I am not going to teach you how to flash BIOS, but here I provide some safe tips for you to avoid turning your X6x into a black brick.



  1. Before flashing BIOS, you need to make sure that the laptop has BOTH a charged battery installed and AC attached. You also need to remove any supervisor/harddrive/power on password(s) in BIOS.

  2. Flash BIOS under 32-bit Windows XP. If you don’t have XP system, I suggest you get a hard drive and install one from scratch.

  3. Close all programs (especially antivirus/antispy softwares) before you update BIOS.

  4. Update to the latest official BIOS before flashing the modified BIOS. Keep the official BIOS in the hard drive.

  5. During flashing the modified BIOS, do NOT interfere before it finishes. If something goes wrong, DO NOT shutdown/turn off power; instead, flash the official BIOS immediately if the system is still alive.

  6. Don’t be afraid of flashing non-official BIOS. But you should know what you are doing before you proceed.



Step 3: Remove the original TN panel


You can refer to the official Hardware Maintenance Manual for how to disassemble your laptop and remove the original LCD panel. Here is the order to remove the parts:


  1. Battery

  2. Keyboard

  3. Upper case (i.e. palmrest)

  4. LCD assembly (Although it is possible to do the mod without detaching the LCD assembly, it is still recommended to detach it from the base)

  5. Front LCD bezel

  6. Inverter card

  7. Bluetooth daughter card (some models may not have it)

  8. Hinges and LCD panel


Step 4: Modify the IPS panel

As I mentioned in Step 1 that IPS panels were originally made from X60/X61 Tablet, you need to take the panel out of the LCD assembly. I am not going to spend time on this topic. You can either follow the official X60/X61 Tablet Hardware Maintenance Manual or the excellent video made by Jeremy Powlus. If you already have a bare bone IPS panel, you can ignore this step and continue to Step 5. Now I suppose you have an X60/X61 tablet screen assembly in hand. We are going to modify it to let it fit in X6x.

First, we don’t need the transparent front glass (plastic?) plate with which the tablet pen comes into contact. This plate is attached to the metal LCD frame by four strips of sticky black foam. You can follow Jeremy Powlus’s video from 7:30 to remove this plate. You should be very careful not to scratch the LCD surface or bend the LCD.

Second, we don’t need the digitizer layer which is attached to the back of the LCD. Note this layer is either silver (Multitouch) or brown (Pen touch) with a small piece of circuit board on the left. You can follow Jeremy Powlus’s video from 10:30 to remove the digitizer. Note that on the top of LCD back there is another horizontal green circuit board which we will keep. You should be very careful not to press this circuit board in this step.

Third, we need to remove the 9 small โ€œearsโ€ with screw holes on the left and right edges of the LCD. Some ears are plastic, so you can simply cut/break them off. As for the other metal ears, I suggest that you should carefully bend them towards the back of the LCD (see Fig 2). You should be very careful not to twist the metal LCD frame or damage the circuit board (which has two ears) in this step.

Now we should have an IPS panel ready to install. However, it will not fit in well because the top of the metal LCD frame is about 1mm thicker than the orginal panel’s frame (see Fig 3). If we try to install it now, there will be two gaps left between the front bezel and the screen cover on the top (see Fig 4). Besides, the screen latch may be stuck a little. We are going to deal with this issue in next step. Note this step is optional, because it is very dangerous and it is only for the purists who want to take the risk.

Fig 2: Top: original panel with 9 ears; Bottom: ears removed.


Fig 3
Fig 4

[This step is not recommended, as it may cause uneven backlight] Fourth, we will modify the metal LCD frame. The frame is clippped on the LCD, so we can peel it off. PLEASE DO IT WITH EXTREME CARE and always hold the other parts of the LCD together — without the frame, the LCD can easily fall apart! Once the frame is taken off, remove its top to make it a ‘U’ shape frame and install it back to hold the LCD. Now there is a new problem, light leaking from the top. The solution is simple: use a strip of black glue tape to cover the top edge that was originally covered by the removed metal frame. Again, you should be very careful not to damage the circuit board in this step.

Step 5: install the IPS panel (I am currently working on this section)

The orignal TN panel was held by two hinges if you remeber when disassembling the screen. However, the IPS panel does not have necessary screw holes to be held by the hinges again. Therefore, there is really no need to try to bind them together before laying them back into the LCD cover. A easy way of installing the IPS panel is

  • install the two hinges back first (screw them with the screen cover as they were, see Fig 5)
  • lay the IPS panel in between the hinges

Trust me, this way will save your life. LoL

Fig 5

Before you lay the IPS panel, you need to connect it with the original LCD cable using the convert cable. This is the trickiest step of all. However, there is also an easy way to save your life.

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From → ThinkPad DIY

14 Comments
  1. Tony Cronin permalink

    Really looking forward to this.

  2. This is awesome, I hope you’ll finish this so I can go ahead and upgrade my broken panel ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’m confused now. Been looking for a HV121P01-100, they all seem to be 16:9 aspect ratio 1400×1050. I’m thinking about upgrading my slightly broken LCD (1400×1050 4:3) in my x60 tablet.
    Is that possible to get a IPS panel with that resolution and aspect ration?

  4. Alex permalink

    Great article!

    I was wondering in what order should I buy my parts to make sure I end up with the correct set?
    Buy the panel first and the modified cable after? What is no more cable is available? :-/
    Would be great if someone could post a video on how to proceed the mod…
    Thanks!

  5. Great post! I was about to buy a new thinkpad but there is none which fits my needs…. So I am thinking about modding my X61 ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you will finish your post. Thank you!

  6. flyingdutchman permalink

    Is there possibility to working touch screen?

    • It is not possible to add touch function to a non-tablet X6x laptop, because physically lcd with digitiser is way too much for the screen case.

  7. Are you still writing this? Do you still sell those converter cables on eBay? I recently acquired an x61, might try to mod it soon.

  8. sl510 permalink

    Hello,

    I would replace the panel in my Thinkpad SL510 with an IPS FullHD panel from HP. I have already replaced the display cable wtih an FullHD-compatible one.

    Do you think it would be possible to get it work with your convert cable?

    Thanks in advance for your hints.

    Kind regards,

    sl510

  9. Michael permalink

    Can you please update this? Thanks!

  10. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like
    to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

  11. petrov permalink

    Concerning the convert cable: All four LVDS channels (0,1,2 and clock) must use twisted pairs wires, also the clock twisted pair must be ground shielded.

  12. chris permalink

    are you going to finish this wirteup? im really looking forward to it

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