Use Your Thinkpad X1 Tablet’s Keyboard Standalone

The 3D-printed adapter shown assembled, with the USB cable's wires going into cable channels on the adapter and magnets slotted into the adapter's openings

Some hacks are implemented well enough that they can imitate involved and bespoke parts with barely any tools. [CodeName X]’s Thinkpad X1 Tablet Keyboard to USB adapter is one such hack – it let’s one reuse, with nothing more than a 3D printed part and a spare USB cable, a keyboard intended for the Thinkpad X1 Tablet (2016 or 2017).

The issue is, this keyboard connects through pogo pins and holds onto the tablet by magnets, so naturally, you’d expect reusing it to involve a custom PCB. Do not fret – our hacker’s take on this only needs aluminum foil and two small circular magnets, pressing the foil into the pins with the help of the printed part, having the USB cable pins make contact with the foil pads thanks to nicely laid out wire channels in the adapter. If you want to learn more, just watch the video embedded below.

Of course, this kind of adapter will apply to other similar keyboards too — there’s no shortage of tablets from last decade that had snap-on magnetic keyboards. But watch out; some will need 3.3V, and quite a few of them will use I2C-HID, which would require a MCU-equipped adapter like this wonderful Wacom rebuild did. Not to worry, as we’ve shown you the ropes of I2C-HID hacking.

7 thoughts on “Use Your Thinkpad X1 Tablet’s Keyboard Standalone

  1. There’s no pinout, just the photo in the header of this article. But standard USB colors seem to be RED=5V, BLACK=GND, White=Data- and Green=Data+ .. although I’ve seen some places on the web which swap white and green; and apparently in Europe/China there’s an alternate color system with a blue wire.

    1. As long as your layout gripes are nothing more than I wish key X was actually key Y it really isn’t a problem at all – just map the keys the way you want them to be and it works. Really the reason to turn down a mod like this is if the keyboard feels awful to use, and this is a thinkpad, surely they have not fallen so far as to make a bad keyboard yet!?!

  2. The only reason I would do this is if I had a use case that really required a super thin keyboard. Even then, I’d probably spend more time trying to avoid this. I have a thinkpad as my work laptop. When I travel for work, I bring a keyboard and mouse so I can actually type out documents and such. I even bring my keyboard into meetings. I can’t stand those flat keyboards. The only flat keyboard I bought on purpose, was a tiny folding one for my Steam Deck for those rare times I need a keyboard to type in a command in the terminal. When it’s folded, it fits inside the space at the back of the Deck.

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