T25 frankenpad

Last updated: 23 September 2020.

Background

The ThinkPad 25th anniversary (T25) is the only modern ‘Lenovo’ laptop with a classic 7-row keyboard. As such, it’s considered an enthusiast machine and a highly-sought after laptop by collectors. Unfortunately, the T25 is fairly lacking as the machine only has a dual-core 7th gen chip (i7-7600u). The T480, which shares a similar chassis as the T25, has in comparison a quad-core chip (i7-8650u) and a much more powerful GPU (MX150).

A brilliant hacker has managed to hack the T480 motherboard with the T25 chassis and keyboard, aptly naming it as the T25 frankenpad. This article describes the parts and steps involved as well as more information on the machine.

Please refer to the shop page for the pricings for parts and kit.

Parts involved

As the main article linked above already has all the relevant information on the parts, I’ll build on the original article. Please refer to the T480, T25 and T470 HMM for more info. Please refer to the FRU lookup (T480, T25, T470) for more information on different FRUs for all these machines.

T480 > T25 frankenpad

Palm rest (01HX686)

The palm rest (keyboard deck) is the original T25 part.

There’s a hole for the fingerprint reader (01AX699). The FPR FRU consists of 3 parts, the FPR, FPR IO shield and FPR cable. Almost the entire 2017 lineup of ThinkPads have the same FPR and FPR cable. (X1C5, T470, T460s, T470p, P50, P70). However, the IO shield for the FPR will only be compatible with the one from the T470.

Keyboard (01HW487)

The keyboard does not come with the power button, power button module (01HX689 or 01AV233) and the power button module cable (01HX688 or 01AV232). The power button module and cable are separate. The physical plastic power button (01HX690) itself can be transplanted from an X220 7-row classic keyboad.

M.2 bracket (01HX691)

The M.2 bracket is another difficult to source part but the original bracket can be easily modded for the frankenpad. There is no need to purchase a T25 specific M.2 bracket if you aren’t picky since it’s inside the chassis. There is also no easy way to install a full 2.5” drive unfortunately unless you plan to cut more of the palm rest.

The compatible M.2 adapters for the T480 (01AX994) are also used in the T470 and X270 etc.

Other parts

This part is not 100% necessary. The original T480 IO bracket (01YR515) cannot fit the new keyboard deck properly, so either the keyboard deck needs to be cut to fit the bracket or the bracket has to be cut. The initial implementation was to cut the chassis, but cutting the bracket is easier and simpler than risk damaging the keyboard deck even further.

  • The only hinge needed is the left hinge from the T470 (01AX952 or 01AX953). The right hinge is the same on all 3 machines (T480, T470, T25) and can be reused.
  • The X1C6 and X1C5 touchpad is fully interchangeable with the T25 touchpad. Too many FRUs to list so just search ‘synaptics’ in the FRU lookup for these 2 machines.

Conclusion

The conversion can be simplified and made easier as there are really only 4 parts needed for this that are difficult to acquire: palm rest (keyboard deck), keyboard, keyboard power module and cable. The rest of the parts can all be sourced from other machines which are widely available.

T25 > T25 frankenpad

A lot less parts are needed for this mod. In short, the motherboard, IO shield (01YR515) and bottom chassis (01YR485) are required.

3D Print

The original 3D bracket is great, but a few aspects can be redesigned. I’ve redesigned the 3D brackets with a much better hook and better support. The last picture is an aluminium print and although it’s super strong, there’s no easy way to mount it.

The main threaded inserts on the motherboard bracket have been updated to support brass M2 threaded inserts (1.5mm height, 3.5mm external diameter). After printing, simply place the inserts on the screw hole and use a soldering iron to heat up the mount so it melts into the plastic for adhesion. This bracket is mainly for securing the motherboard onto the chassis, so a tight and strong mount is not needed. A threaded insert is chosen over a printed thread as threaded inserts are stronger and M2 printed threads are more difficult to print for most conventional home printers.

WARNING: Do not use too much strength to tighten the motherboard onto the bracket. The threaded inserts are held by plastic and they can break easily. The bracket is designed for ensuring the motherboard stays in place, not to secure the board. Only minimal torque is needed.

The main bottom chassis hook has also been updated to resemble and work as a better hook. The original design had no actual hook so the bottom chassis might not be secured tightly to the keyboard deck. The updated hook should work a lot better and reduce/eliminate any gaps that may appear.

A new T480 bottom chassis is highly recommended as used ones might be slightly bent which may affect how big/small the gap between the palm rest and the bottom chassis.

If you have access to an industrial printer, print with polycarbonate at the highest settings should give you the best bracket. Any epoxy would work to secure the bracket onto the keyboard deck but make sure everything’s adjusted properly before installing the bracket.

Compatible displays

There are 3 display cables available for the T480: 30pin eDP (01YR501), 30pin eDP + touch (01YR502) and 40pin eDP (01YR503). FHD panels use the 30pin eDP while higher resolutions use the 40pin cable.

The panels chosen below does not come with screw mounts but custom 14″ display mounts can be installed on the panels (shown above) instead of relying on 3D printed brackets.

A list of the best displays are listed below for the T480. This includes a 120Hz panel. The stock panels are not listed below.

DisplaySpecificationsInformation
BOE NV140QUM-N53
4K HDR panel of the X1C7
4K60 HDRReview
Requires 14″ panel mounts
Uses 40pin eDP cable
N140HCG-GQ2
T490 low power FHD panel
1080pReview
Requires 14″ panel mounts
Uses 30pin eDP cable
B140QAN02.0
2K HDR panel of the X1C6
2K60 HDRReview
Requires 14″ panel mounts
Uses 40pin eDP cable
M140NVF7 R0
HP 840 G5 privacy filter panel
1080p
120Hz
700nit
Review
Requires 14″ panel mounts
Uses 40pin eDP cable
Verified to work by community member

Cooling assembly

The T480 comes with 2 variants of fans, a dGPU variant with 2 heatpipes and an iGPU variant with 1 heatpipe. Using the dGPU heatpipe on iGPU machines will result in better cooling.

ThinkPad stickers

The stock T480 TP stickers can be replaced with the T25 stickers easily as they are the same dimension.

Magnesium lid (01AX955)

There exists a magnesium variant of the T480 display lid instead of the usual plastic. It’s a bit stronger and lighter than the stock lid.

The magnesium lid has to be modified in order to fit the 4K60 panel and a few other panels. The screen bezel also has to be compatible with magnesium lid. The screen bezel is actually a 2 part design, the inner bezel and a stick on outer bezel. The inner bezel is the same for both the IR camera (01YR491) and ThinkShutter (01YR490) variants and it’s the outer bezel that differs between the IR/ThinkShutter variants.

BIOS (skyra1n) and EC

Keyboard and emedded controller (EC)

As the keyboard has been replaced, the fn keys will not be mapped correctly. Please refer to the original page for more info.

Recently, the famous korean hacker leokim managed to hack the EC of the T480 motherboard and patch the keyboard. Unfortuntately all his works are closed-source and he does not respond to PMs. Dumping the EEPROM of the EC don’t seem to be too difficult but decrypting and reverse engineering the dump is where it’s difficult. Perhaps somebody with leokim’s modified T25 could dump the EC and distribute it to the rest of the community.

skyra1n

A bunch of super smart people managed to unlock the advanced menu for the T480 and made instructions for patching it. It’s super simple to use and unlocks a whole world of performance tweaks. For updated information, please follow the /r/tp subreddit or join their discord.

The modded BIOS will remove the whitelist and enable any M.2 2242 USB cards including this 4-port USB port adapter. A small wireless mice receiver or a thumbdrive can be soldered on this slot.

Quick start guide

uefipatch bios.img patch.txt -o new_bios.img
  • Write the new firmware onto the laptop and pray that it works.

8 thoughts on “T25 frankenpad”

    1. Planning to push out a DIY kit soon. I’ve already prepped all the materials but too busy with other projects to launch this one currently

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