Thinkpad T25 Gets Less Retro With Hardware Swap

For many, the Thinkpad T25 was something of a dream come true. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the venerable business-oriented laptop that hackers love so much, it featured a design inspired by “retro” Thinkpads of yore, but with modern hardware inside. Unfortunately, as it was more fan service than a serious revitalization of classic Thinkpad design, the T25 was only ever available in a single hardware configuration.

[kitsunyan] liked the look and feel of the T25, but in 2019 was already feeling a bit let down by the hardware. The screen wasn’t up to snuff, and while the CPU is an i7, it only has dual cores. To make sure the T25 is still viable down the road, it seemed the only option was to try to transplant the hardware from one of the current Thinkpad models into the anniversary chassis. It certainly wasn’t easy, but given the fact that the T25 was more of a redress than a completely new product to begin with, everything came together a lot better than you might expect.

A custom mount installed in the T25

To help put things into perspective, the T25 is basically a modified version of the T470. Last year, Lenovo replaced the T470 with the new T480 that has just the sort of hardware improvements that [kitsunyan] wanted. The T480 was more of a refresh than a complete revamp, so the actual chassis of the machine didn’t change much compared with its predecessor. That being the case, it seemed like it should be possible to transplant the newer T480 components into the T470 derived T25. Got all that straight?

[kitsunyan] was able to put this theory to the test when the opportunity to connect a T25 keyboard to the newer T480 presented itself. Since the 7-row keyboard on the anniversary edition was one of its biggest selling points, seeing if it would work on another machine was kind of a big deal. It didn’t fit physically, and some of the keys didn’t work as expected, but it at least had the same connector and didn’t let out the magic smoke. It represented the first tiny step of a much larger journey.

In the end, it took a lot of trimming, gluing, hacking, and fiddling to get all the new hardware from the T480 to fit into the T25. But if you’re brave enough, the process has been detailed exquisitely by [kitsunyan]. Not only are the part numbers listed for everything you need to order, but there’s plenty of pictures to help illustrate the modifications that need to be made to all the clips, brackets, and assorted widgets that go into a modern laptop.

While we’re very impressed by this project, we can’t say it comes as a complete surprise. We’re well aware of the incredible lengths Thinkpad aficionados will go to keep their machines running into the 21st century. But don’t just take our word for it, you too can join the ranks of the Thinkpad elite.

[Thanks to Pierre for the tip.]

14 thoughts on “Thinkpad T25 Gets Less Retro With Hardware Swap

  1. As far as laptop design goes, IMO, there are thinkpads, apple, and lots of inferior products. That being said, I’m on my second Lenovo Yoga, which is pretty good too (1st gen seemed more solid build wise than gen 3 that I have now) so “perhaps” that’s a bit of an overstatement.

    I hear good things about the surface too, though that might be a controversial opinion here.

    1. I’d add Dell to the list of good laptop design people, at least for their latitude and XPS lines. I’ve recently switched from an XPS 13 to a 2015 macbook pro (work laptops) and for an expensive laptop the macbook’s kinda… disappointing. Between huge bezels, keyboard woes (flex, needing to hammer), and a multi-window system beaten by windows, it could be better. Apparently in a week or two I’ll be switching to the 2018 macbook pro with the super-low travel keyboard so we’ll see how that goes.

  2. I’m still using a thinkpad X220t as my daily laptop, it’s a really nice machine but I do sometimes find it lacking, mainly in terms of the screen – is there any kind of similar hack for the older thinkpad seires?

  3. I find the T23 to be the ultimate thinkpad. It was the last of the pentium M machines, the successor the T30 had a pentium 4M processor, but ran much hotter and slower, and dropped the nice slim chassis of the T23.

    1. The T23 was a Pentium 3 based model along with its predecessors T20, T21, and T22 (which were all basically the same except for processor, memory amount, and drive size, the T23 was a bit different than the T20-22’s and I think the first Thinkpad to offer internal WLAN if I recall correctly).

      The T40 series was the first to offer Pentium M chips (which itself was basically a modified Pentium 3, as the original Pentium 3’s couldn’t go over a certain clock speed until Intel’s Israeli team found a way to do it without the inefficient Pentium 4 Netburst architecture).

  4. I don’t care about thin, I have a crappy alt android based OS tablet if I need that.(gimmie all of those FOSS drivers and a fully open & standard BIOS like bootloader so I can have native GNU-Linux!!)
    I am from the luggable Compaq generation, give me a damn desktop CPU and GPU make it open and hackable, gimmie a bank of GPIOs and maybe an internal bank of standardized ribbon USB ports for me to shtup in some gadgets if there is any extra space at all, maybe some antenna bulkhead holes with rubber plugs.
    Now give me a good welded or milled Al, Mg, or Ti alloy, if done right even tubular stainless, frame and take all power supply business off to a nice modular replaceable daughterboard with overvolt, reverse polarity, and mil spec high voltage spike protection.
    As most HAD this is a ccol hack but can we just be able to buy the stuff we all seem to want from an ethical company and get a hardware warranty?
    Where is that invisible hand of capitalism to fulfil a market’s needs? (Sorry buds, the invisi-hand follows incentives and game theory, incentives mostly exchange between shareholders, creditors, and top gold-para execs, they are even trying to pick the pocket of skilled engineers.)

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