Chinese enthusiasts are serving global Thinkpad fans by making modern motherboards that fit in classic chassis from the Golden Age of the Thinkpad
The first thing to go was the beloved, clacky, positive-action keyboards, replaced by Macbook-style chiclet keyboards that wore out much faster, but at least the keyboards were easily swapped out when they started to falter. Then came new submicro designs that made swapping keyboards into a one-hour procedure that had to be performed by a professional who would have to virtually totally disassemble the computer.
The same forces made drive-swaps harder and harder. I used to order a Thinkpad with the smallest, cheapest drive available and then throw it away on arrival and replace it with a third-party, 1TB SSD. Now I just order the Thinkpads with 1TB SSDs and pay a premium for them (these custom options can add weeks to the build/delivery time, too) — thankfully, the price-gap on Lenovo’s 1TB SSDs and third party drives has narrowed.
And now, the Thinkpad X-series systems have eliminated their Ethernet ports and require users to carry (and not lose or break) a dongle to use wired internet.
51NB, a group of Chinese enthusiasts buy up classic, pre-Lenovo Thinkpad chassis and manufacturers new motherboards for them with modern CPUs and other hardware. They started with a run of Thinkpad «X62» system (X61s with a new motherboard) and then branched out into Thinkpad «X210″s — an X201 with a Core i7 8550u (4 cores, turbo boost up to 4GHz); 2× DDR4 SODIMM slots; 2× mini PCI Express slots; an M.2 NVMe slot; a 3.5” SATA bay; a 12.6 inch, 2880×1920, 450 nits, wide gamut display; Mini DisplayPort & VGA out; 3× USB 3.1 ports; an SD reader and gigabit Ethernet (no dongle required!).