Pimp My Type and Pimp My Electrolyte

A few weeks ago I ordered a backlit keyboard and spare battery for my ThinkPad. I came home this weekend to see that my mom picked them up from IT Xchange (thanks Mom).

So instead of going out and having fun or spending time with my family, I spent Friday night installing computer parts and playing with lights on my keyboard.

This IS how it works, right?

Ordering

I ordered a 9-cell battery similar to what I had right now, the “70++”, Lenovo P/N 0A36303. It is sold on Lenovo.ca for $160 (link), but IT Xchange quoted me for $85. I think that’s a steal because theirs is a genuine Lenovo part and I’d be gouged almost 80 bucks if I ordered on Lenovo’s website. If you’re not familiar with me, I am not very impressed with how Lenovo does things.

The keyboard, P/N 04Y0528 (substitute to 04W3063), was much more expensive at $135. I did some looking before I ordered and found a few sites that offered the 3063, but they had long lead times or even seemed suspicious; one didn’t even have a price on it! I decided to go with IT Xchange for this part because the keyboard is a critical component and that’s something I can definitely trust them with.

I am somewhat annoyed though that it costs this much because I distinctly remember that a backlit keyboard was only $40 more than the non- at the time of buying this thing. I didn’t get it because that would’ve pushed the cost over my budget, but goddammit I should’ve gone for it.

Battery

The battery is a hefty one. I noticed a few minor differences in the labelling between the old and new one, namely that the new one had an ever-so-slightly lower maximum charge rating. The battery label is also labelled “Li-Ion20” instead of “-00” like on the old one and on their website. I plugged it in and looked at some of the battery’s information, and it turns out it was made one year ago in November. Unfortunately, the battery is still a bit loose in the bay. This is disappointing because the W530 has been out for two and a half years now, and they still haven’t bothered to tighten up the tolerances.

I also observed that the lock slider on the new battery is much more effective than the old one. It stays rigidly in place and solidly locks the battery in the bay when inserted. The old one would slide to a position somewhere in the middle of the mechanism, keeping me worried that the already-loose battery would pop out. I am relieved that that has not happened to date. Yet.

Knock on wood.

My old battery had been through several catastrophic crashes related to the power system and it was constantly charged around 100% (even with Lenovo Power Manager playing with the thresholds). I was curious to see if its capacity was less than a fresh one. I started from a 100% charge and l them discharge to 97% while idling at the desktop; the screen was at brightness level “10” out of 15, the backlight was off, and the computer was idle for at least 2 minutes before I took the reading from Lenovo Power Manager. The results are in:

  • Old: 5 hr 7 min
  • New: 6 hr 3 min

This is a significant result as under the same conditions, the new battery can provide power for around 20% longer than the old one. When running Chrome and other programs, this projection begins to drop, but right now I’m on the new battery with 95% juice leftand 5 hr 21 min to go. This is pretty good if I were on the GO bus from Square One to Waterloo, as the normal route is over 1.5 hrs. With even just the new battery, I should be able to easily watch anime for the entire trip and still have an hour and a half of light/regular usage when I get there. But since I have two, I can just throw the other one in and keep watching if there’s a traffic jam and we end up taking 2 or 3 hours like that one time last fall.

Keyboard

The keyboard on the other hand was a refurbished unit and a little different from what I expected. First, the material used for the keys was completely different from the old one; the new one feels softer on the key surfaces, and with a little more friction to them as well. The membrane key action is also stiffer than the non-backlit keyboard. It takes a little more force to press each key, but the difference is not significant. I did some quick typing tests online and consistently clocked in at over 100 words per minute (corrected for typos), which is my usual speed on any decent keyboard.

I swapped the Trackpad nub with the one from my old one as the refurbished one was kind of worn out. I was surprised at how little I used the Trackpad as it’s in pristine condition; I know a guy who can play Command and Conquer using only the nub!

I also had to straighten out a slightly bent part of the bezel, but hey it works now.

Get bent.

I studied materials and manufacturing just for this moment.

The new keyboard also has a different, rubbery plastic backing as opposed to the thin plastic film on the old one. Both have draining holes for any liquids that spill on the keyboard, but the new one feels a lot more resistant.

I'm going black and never going back.

They almost look like cats… with FPCBs sticking out of them.

But the most important thing is the backlight on the keyboard. Here’s a picture of my computer in the dark:

You’re probably wondering why I took this photo.

And here’s a picture with the backlight to maximum:

Now that's better.

OHHHH NOW IT MAKES SENSE!!!!1!!1

It can even turn on the LED at the top of the screen if you still need it!

Bottom-up and top-down photoeconomics.

One thing that should be noted that the LEDs for the mute, mic, and power buttons weren’t working on the old keyboard after I had my motherboard replaced. I had initially thought that it was a problem with the keyboard, but the LEDs on the new keyboard don’t work either. It could be a BIOS issue, but I’m too afraid to mess with that for the time being.

Conclusion

The new parts I got work well and meet/exceed my expectations. On a scale of 1 to swag, this laptop is swagger.

Thanks to IT Xchange again for their timely service.