Monday, December 18, 2017

repairing thinkpad t400s hinge

Recently I notice one side of the screen of my Thinkpad T400s bulges out. Upon closer examination I realize the bezel has separated from the LCD screen cover. I know if left unattended to, the stress will eventually break the LCD display, in addition to causing damage to the LCD display cover.

A few days ago when a used display bezel arrived I proceed to investigate. I would be surprised to realize the problem is more severe than I anticipated. This notebook is 9 years old, and is one of the last series of T series Thinkpad before Lenovo decided to bastardize the best keypad in the industry. The company decided a few years ago to abandon the Thinkpad's hallmark workhorse keypad and move to the "island" key design. I will never buy another Lenovo because of this.

the alloy cast bracket of the left hinge has fractures from extreme stress

 the right hinge bracket is intact

while waiting to find a replacement hinge I tried to alleviate the stress on the left hinge by lubricating the hinge to reduce the friction; it would turn out the cavity that I spray does not lead to the hinge's shaft and the bushing

fortunately I was able to find a pair of hinges at very reasonable price; I also found out there are two different hinges; one for normal screen that I have, and one for touch screen models

a pair of brand new hinges; as there are many for sale on eBay obviously this is a very common failure; these hinges must have at least 2 pound-foot of torque each

time to get it fix right once; the plastic screen bezel is also damage from the stress of the failed hinge

the screen bezel removed

I am very fortunate that I can replace the hinge without having to get into the inside of the notebook computer; there are two screws (at the red arrows) securing the hinge to the base chassis

I also have to carefully maneuver the steel lever arm from the the slot of the LCD screen cover

here the failed left hinge is removed (left); you can see the broken bits of the cast alloy bracket

more over one of the two rivets that securing the steel lever arm has sheared off

On some older T series Thinkpads the torque of the hinges can be adjusted. However with ever thinner and lighter models the adjustment mechanism has long been eliminated.

I also bought a used screen bezel as one of the plastic locking tabs is broken off. I cannot find the one for my T400S at a reasonable price. I bought one for T420S instead. They are identical with the exception of the model number silk screen legend.

You can tell that they are identical from the plastic molding part markings

If you ever work on one of these T series Thinkpads you will appreciate how well made they are. It took some care and patience to install the bezel so all the locking plastic tabs engage. If one is broken or does not engage, that whole side will bulge out. Every locking tab has a job to do, and they all have to function.

I resume the notebook from hibernation, and all is well now.

To prolong the life of this notebook that I love, I am going to upgrade to a 256GB SSD. Back in 2008 when I bought this Thinkpad the SSD option was very expensive. Additionally the maximum size was only 128GB. I have one ordered from Amazon and should arrive after Christmas. I consider buying a used T420s which is the last of the two spindle compact T series that has the classic Thinkpad keyboard. My reservation is the odds of finding one that has little wear and tear like mine. Most of these are purchased by businesses so most have been heavily used or abused.

I went to Rob's place today. Rob also has a R53 Mini Cooper S. We chatted for a long time. He gave me this cheeky Mini labels for the toggle switch bank. I didn't get one with my Mini.

Here are some examples of what people do with them.

In case you wonder why would a car company do this. Back in around 2004 MINI employed very clever and creative marketing campaigns. They received many awards in these years. Each owner receive some memorabilia with the Mini that they purchased. This fund toggle switch stickers are one of the many memorabilia.

Update 2017.12.19:
I mentioned that I am thinking of finding a used T420s in good condition. At the time I only know that T420s is the last of this series with the well liked "traditional" Thinkpad keypad. Today I looked up its features and specs. I will not want one over my T400s. All you need to see are the two side by side.

T400s with 1440x900 16x10 aspect ratio screen

T420s with 1600x900 16x9 aspect ratio screen

Given a choice of these two screen to pick, most people would pick the one with the higher resolution - hence the T420s is a definitive winner. To me this is another major step of downfall of Lenovo not appreciate their loyal T series (business product line) customer base. What good is 1600x900 for a 14" screen if yo decrease the vertical real estate? Dell has been selling the most LCD displays for businesses, Wall Street trading firms, and majority of government, law enforcement, military, space, engineering and the list goes on. Guess what all these entities want? Not your much hyped full HD 1920x1080 16:9 screens. They will pay a significant premium for 1920x1200 16:10 aspect ratio screens. If you need me to explain further, you will not get it.

Suffice to say all the desktop screens that I have ever bought are Dell 1920x1200 16:10 aspect ratio.

Back to the T4XXs series. Look closely the unused vertical apace between the two photos above. Why the hell will Lenovo sacrifice the most important aspect of a light weight laptop by going to 16:9 aspect ratio when the original T400s of this series was designed for a 16:10 aspect ratio screen? Users who paid a premium for this series do not care about resolution beyond what is adequate. They care about productivity. An in professional world, departing from 4:3 aspect ratio was tragic enough and 16:10 was a bad enough compromise. Think most documents, specs, and paper if you wonder where I come from.

OK. So this only leave T410s as the only possible replacement for my T400s. Between the two, they are 1 or 2 years apart and the differences are minimal.

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