I’ve had a Lenovo T430 for many years and for most of those years it’s been sat gathering dust. Until I remember I have it, re-install some flavour of Linux on it and then promptly forget all about it again.
Since working from home and recently moving house I’ve been less inclined to stay in my office after work to tinker with various projects, I just feel a bit yucky. Instead I’ve picked ol’ dusty back up again and have started using it on the sofa whilst watching TV. Only this time I’ve picked Fedora Workstation.
What I like about the T430 is that it is built like a tank, the touchpad isn’t atrocious like some laptops and the keyboard is alright to type on as well. The only problem is, it’s just old. It has a pretty nasty 1366 x 768 TN panel which means any UI design work involving colours turns out awful and my particular model is an just an i5-3320M. I did throw an SSD in it some years ago which brought it back to a usable state though.
Some people would just go out and buy a new laptop, and I thought about that as well. Something larger than a 14″ screen would have been nice. Instead I did some googling and came across several threads on Reddit talking about all the possible upgrades you can do with the T430. It turns out you can actually do quite a lot, and so there began my journey…
Firstly, I want to shout out this amazing article that really goes to town on what’s possible, you should definitely check it out. And without further ado, here’s the upgrades I carried out:
- Replaced the i5-3320M with an i7-3632QM from eBay (£77.99 + £7.50 for some thermal compound). This stays with the 35W TDP. It does run a little hotter but not so much that I need to worry about extra cooling.
- Replaced the 2 x 4GB of RAM with 2 x 8GB of Crucial DDR3L 1866Mhz from Amazon (£59.29)
- Modded the BIOS with 1vyrain to unlock BIOS features like disabling Intel ME and removing the Wi-Fi whitelist
- Replaced the WiFI card with an Wi-Fi 6 AX3000H from eBay. This requires the BIOS mod above (£27.59)
- Replaced the 6-cell battery with a genuine OEM 9-cell battery from eBay. My current one was very worn out. (£58.50)
- Replaced the TN panel with a Genuine Innolux N140HCE-EN1 Rev.C2 from eBay. It was supposed to have 2 dead pixels but I can’t see them at all, probably because the PPI is so high! (£79.99)
- LCD controller board kit to support that new panel. From AliExpress (£34.94)
- Genuine 90W charger from eBay. I found that my 65W charger wasn’t charging when the laptop was on, seems to be a common issue once upgrading the CPU. (£19.39)
So in total that cost £365.19, quite steep. I might’ve been able to pick up a 2nd hand laptop for that with similar/better specs, but boy did I have fun doing it.
In terms of best bang for buck upgrade, I would definitely say that was the 1080p IPS panel. I’m amazed I put up with that awful TN panel for so long.