More stupid hardware Ideas – Thinkpad Edition

Not sure what it is about winter that makes me want to tinker more than normal. To follow up my previous post, I think I found some cheap Vita’s and Wii’s at a used electronics store close to my house. So I think that might potentially be an option for working with those consoles. Especially the Wii, it’s like 5$, and junky Vita’s were $50, which brings down the price of admission. But the more I see of the Vita UI, the less I like it. So buying some super cheap wii’s to play around with might be an option.

Though in this post I was specifically thinking about playing around with old Thinkpads. And the reason for that is that I’ve been using one of the original Zenbooks from several years ago, and I simply hasn’t had any reason to upgrade. The screen is a 13.3″ full hd matte IPS screen (with really bad screen bleed), 4GB ddr3 ram, 128GB SSD, and nothing is upgrade-able. So spec-wise there’s nothing exciting going on. The problem is that there’s no reason to upgrade, as the most important reason I would upgrade is for a 1440p or 4k screen. And what might come as a surprise is that I actually prefer 1440p as it allows for more stuff to fit on the screen without impacting battery life too much.

Now the problem is that the laptop market doe not seem to want to move passed the fullHD barrier. More and more cheap computers are getting fullHD screens, but as many premium computers are getting high resolution screens. And the ones that do are generally not in the thin-and-light department, or have some other defect (most notably Mac-style arrow keys). Or are otherwise ungodly expensive. Like specifically the three computers that I’ve thought, “yeah, I could go for that”, are the LG Gram, which being around $1,000 and stuck at fullhd resolution seems stupid, a customized Thinkpad Carbon X1 (except those hit $2,000 or more in pricing), and the 12 inch Mac. Which being a Mac has the stupid arrow keys.

And then another thing is that I would like to get an AMD laptop. And all of those seemed to be capped at 1080p, even though if anything they could actually take advantage of the extra pixels. And when microsoft finally came out with the AMD Surface 3, and it had the stupid Mac style keys. I mean at this point there’s barely anything in the laptop department that can’t be covered by the $200 Pinebook Pro. usb-c charging, 1080p screen, thin and light, and then the other specs don’t need to be amazing, mostly reasonable.

So that’s made me think that in terms of laptops, if there’s nothing new or exciting to buy, then I might look at old laptops and see what I can tinker around with. And what I’m really tempted to do is get into the old thinkpad seriers. There’s the X220, X230 and X240, and it’s hard to decide on one. As the X220 and X230 can both be flashed with coreboot, which would be fun to play around with. But then the X240 looks like it can be upgraded with a 1080p IPS screen. So what I would be really tempted to do is get several thinkpads and upgrade and customize them for different reasons.

Like I could get a x220 flash it with coreboot and then use it for reactos. Or get a x230, and then see if I could get macOS working on it (for fun), and then maybe see if it would would with an external GPU through the pcie slot. And then for the x240, while it can’t be flashed with coreboot, I would like to replace the screen with and 1080p IPS display and then put debian and xfce on it and customize xfce to use an IrixOS-like theme. Though then again I’d also like to get the Pinebook Pro to play around with that. One thinkpad would be cheap and fun to play around with, but several devices would probably start to add up to the point where it would be better to save towards something more practical. Which generally comes back to why I haven’t upgraded from Zenbook.

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