Replacing T430 screen with a better one

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Revision as of 05:53, 25 December 2013 by Ajkula66 (Talk | contribs) (The one of T440p/T440s)

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Thinkpad T430 laptops (as well as T430s, T420 and T420s) are equipped with awful screens. No matter if the screen is HD (1366x768) or HD+ (1600x900) and no matter if the screen manufacturer is LG, Samsung or AUO: every screen has been reported to show awful viewing angles, poor colors and weak brightness.
The subject of upgrading the screens of these laptops has been long discussed on forums, notably on Notebook Review Forum at the thread "X1 display on a T430?" and on ThinkPad-Forum at the thread "T420/T430 auf FHD-Panel umrüsten (wie Alienware 14" FHD matt) ... Gibt's schon Infos?". More than one screen has been considered as candidate for the replacement, nevertheless at this time (November 2013) it seems that only the X1 screen has been successfully installed.
At this time the principal aim of this article is to describe the successful installation of the X1 screen on my T430. Nevertheless, thanks to similarities between T430, T430s, T420 and T420s the information hereby presented could be applied to these other models too. Moreover, I've summarized some information available about one other panel considered as replacement so far. The article itself is written in order to be improved with future discoveries on the subject: any future contribution will be welcome!

Hint:
Before starting to buy expensive parts (the LCD panel) and before starting to dismantle the computer, I advise anyone interested in doing this mod to first work on extending the LCD cable, because no plain solution to this problem has been perfected yet.


Candidates

The one of X1 Carbon

X1 Carbon HD+ LCD panel
FRU 04X17561
manufact. code LP140WD2(TL)(E2)
approx. cost2 € 45 + € 40 shipping to EU + € 30 import taxes (laptopscreen.com)
suppliers - Lenovo
- laptopscreen.com (USA)

The HD+ display mounted on X1 Carbon is a 14 inches TN screen made by LG. This screen has been praised by reviewers3: it features good viewing angles, rich colors and high brightness. An interesting comparison between this screen and one of the awful screens mounted on T430 has been published by Laptop Reviews: "Thinkpad X1 Carbon screen comparison to other Thinkpads".
Talking about compatibility, this screen has the right connector (40-pin LVDS) and the right dimensions to fit perfectly in the T430. Besides, it can't be screwed (the original is screwed) and, most important, its connector is on the wrong side (on the right instead of left). In the following solutions for these problems will be presented.
The X1 screen can be purchased straight from Lenovo or from third parts for quite less money.

The one of T440p/T440s

T440p and T440s feature excellent IPS/AHVA panels (1920x1080, Full-HD), that by definition should be superior also to the screen mounted on X1 Carbon. They've been reported to have same dimensions but completely different connectors (eDP instead of LVDS). No consistent solution to this problem seems to have been put forward.

Removing the old screen

Removing the old screen just take five minutes. After having disconnected the power cord and battery, remove the bezel by pulling it from the interior edge (the edge that is in direct contact with the screen) using your nails. That's may be not one's natural approach, but Lenovo advised so, and doing the contrary is terribly difficult. Once the bezel has been removed, just unscrew the panel (it is fixed by four standard Phillips screws), and place it upside down on the keyboard. From this position you can now easily disconnect the LCD cable. Now, you will be probably tempted by finally crashing that awful screen onto the wall, but wait: keep it, in order not to invalidate the warranty. It's indeed my opinion that, if you swap back the original screen, you won't leave any significant trace of your hacking.

Swapping the LCD cable (if necessary)

T430 HD+ LCD cable
FRU 04W6867 or 04W68684
approx. cost2 € 35 incl. shipping to EU (think_2009)
suppliers - Lenovo
- twin-bears on ebay (EU)
- think_2009 on Skype (China)
- laptoppartstore.weebly.com (USA)

If your screen is HD (1366x768) then your LCD cable is HD as well. In order to make an HD+ panel work in your T430 (the panel of X1 Carbon is HD+), you have to substitute also the LCD cable with an HD+ LCD cable. This isn't a trivial task: to do so it is necessary to remove, among the others, the keyboard and the keyboard bezel assembly. If you're a bit practical with this sort of things, it would take approximately 40 minutes. If this would be your first time opening something, maybe you should ask someone to help.
Instruction for replacing the LCD cable can be found on Lenovo website: "LCD panel and LCD cable removal and installation - ThinkPad T430 and T430i". As one proceed it'll be clear that some minor parts which are requested to be removed can actually be left unmoved (e.g. speaker assembly, LCD unit and integrated camera).
The HD+ LCD cable works both with HD+ and HD panels.

Extending the LCD cable

The cable connector of X1 Carbon panel is in the wrong position: on the right instead of left. In order to connect the panel to the LCD cable is therefore necessary an extension (sometimes "converter cable" or "extender cable").
One can think about it for one night long, but, by using the standard type of "left to right" extension, there's actually just one possible arrangement that allows not to irreversibly remove parts of the back shell: see the following schema.

If you don't want to irreversibly remove parts of the back shell, this is the only possible arrangement that allows to connect the screen with the LCD cable using a standard "left to right" LCD cable extension. Representation not to scale.

In order to fit in this arrangement, the extension cable must be longer than 16.7cm. Beware that the extensions sold to fit in 15.6in displays are usually long just 16cm.
Unfortunately, the most spread model of extension cable with sufficient length has been proved unfit for this application. By this time, the only model that has been proved fit isn't easy to find and requires a difficult modification. Nevertheless, another not widespread model would probably work without requiring difficult modifications. The three models hereby introduced and their installation will be described in the following.

A simple solution that doesn't work

The most common model of extension cable seems perfect for the job: the only necessary modification is a small cut (see picture). Unfortunately, such model has been proved not to work on the long run: the tight bend next to the male connector has the effect of deteriorating the soldering between the connector and the cable itself.

The most common model of extension cable.

A complicated solution that works

LCD cable extension
approx. cost2 € 3 + € 2 shipping to EU (screenaid)
suppliers - screenaid on ebay (USA) (here the auction)

A cable extension that can't be affected by the problem of soldering deterioration, is a cable extension where the male connector isn't soldered. Such a cable extension exists, but unfortunately can't be bent near the male connector because it's reinforced with two rigid layers made of plastic (see picture). Nevertheless, these plastic layers can be unglued with about forty minutes of pure fight.
Having considered these difficulties, I would not recommend this solution, although it works fine (I'm using my modified T430 from a couple of month and it's working perfectly).

A model of cable extension where the male connector isn't soldered. Unfortunately, in order to fold it near the male connector, it is necessary to remove two plastic layers that are very well glued to the cable.

A simple solution that should work

Searching the internet I found some pictures depicting a cable extension where the vertical segment near the male connector is longer than standard (see picture). Unfortunately I couldn't find where to buy this model, but I'm pretty sure that its form factor, by allowing to fold the cable far from the connector, would enable not to damage the soldering, without requiring important modifications.

This model of extension cable would probably fit our requirements without any particular modification.

Placing the new screen

Although X1 Carbon LCD panel isn't fitted with screw holes, placing it in the T430 body is quite straightforward. This new panel have indeed dimensions perfectly equal to the original and, once in its place, it is vertically sustained by the original vertical supports. The screen can be supported horizontally too by adding shims on its left (I've used folded cardboard), see the picture. Thin shims are necessary on the back of the screen too.

Everthing is in its place, just the panel is still lying on the keyboard upside down, ready to be placed in its final position.

Finally, the screen will be locked in its position by the screen bezel. While re-assembling the bezel, start from the lower side and pay attention to correctly fasten the three hooks present in the center part of this side (it is difficult, but if you don't do it you'll end up with a big hump).


FOOTNOTES [Δ]