The myth of the repairable Thinkpad

I’d been a loyal Thinkpad customer for years because they’re supposedly repairable, and parts are easy to come by.

My latest purchase was a brand new X1 Carbon 6th gen. Aside from a bit of drift on the trackpoint, I was happy with it until I broke the left mouse-key. “No big deal!” I thought, I’ll just buy a new mouse key. That’s when I learned nobody sells mouse keys. “No big deal!” I thought, I’ll just buy a new keyboard. That’s when I learned of the trial I must go through to install a new keyboard. After removing/unscrewing every. single. piece. of the laptop to get to the keyboard, from the LAN to the heatsink to the CPU itself, I was finally able to begin unscrewing this:

Look at all those screws!! And that’s after an hour of work to get to that point. In total, it was a 3 hour job to replace the keyboard, and that includes the time I spent re-applying thermal paste to the CPU.

I don’t want to blame Lenovo for this as it may have just been a bad part, but the trackpoint didn’t work. That meant I had to do it all over again. On my 2nd keyboard attempt, I replaced the entire bezel to save a bit of time. I checked and double-checked Lenovo’s compatibility list to make sure I got the right one (1YR573). After a 2 hour installation, I have a laptop that randomly mutes the speakers.

I was about to give up and buy a simpler T-series when my sister forwarded me a link to Framework. I fell in love, and I’m looking forward to a machine that has plentiful and easy replacement parts!

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I feel your pain, not ideal. I wouldn’t call the ThinkPads unrepairable, just not trivial to repair. Unfortunately, after seeing this, I actually ended up feeling more optimistic about laptop repair prospects, as I’ve seen and experienced some horror stories that don’t even compare. At least you had parts available and didn’t have to deal with glue! I guess that’s a testament to how bad the situation is around repairability more broadly.

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On more recent X1 Carbons, the keyboard is permanently attached to the keyboard bezel: https://download.lenovo.com/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/x1_yoga_gen5_x1_carbon_gen8_hmm_en.pdf

Though, it seems at least the touchpad buttons are attached to a touchpad module rather than the keyboard. The gradual year by year moves away from ThinkPads being repairable is part of what drove us to build a repairable notebook as our first product!

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You are my hero. I have watched with borderline horror at how the Thinkpad line has been dismantled and the name used to sell more laptops, while being a shadow of its former self.

If the case itself could be black, you will have created the near perfect replacement to the Thinkpad line. (Well also if you can get us a trackpoint like nub. :wink:)

Very excited about pre-orders opening up!!

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You’re lucky you had screws at all. I recently replaced a keyboard for a 13" HP Envy laptop, and as with this, had to take literally every component out from the back before getting to the keyboard. The keyboard had just as many screws as this X1, except they weren’t screws all, but melted plastic rivets. Had to cut off every one with a knife while trying not to damage anything else. Then after replacing use hot glue to re-secure the new keyboard.

HP technically doesn’t even sell the keyboard separately, and instead the repair procedure is to replace the entire enclosure with an “integrated” keyboard. Except it costs almost as much as the laptop is worth to order it.

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