The ThinkPad X61s Could Might As Well Be the Best Looking ThinkPad I’d Ever Own

This article is a transcript of a video that you can watch by clicking the thumbnail below. Hence, certain statements may not make sense in this text form, and watching the video instead is recommended.


One of the ThinkPads near the start of my adventures was a square-ish T61p with a 4:3 screen. As impressive as I found it, the power-to-weight ratio made it appear impractical. But for every T-series model, there’s always an X-series counterpart, and that’s where the X61s comes into picture.

The Reason to Pursue

So we’re not talking about the X61, which is the regular machine, but this video is about my X61s, the slightly slimmer variant that is very similar with minimal compromises. When I mentioned the power-to-weight ratio, it was just a made-up term of mine to express how much computing power the machine has for every pound of weight you have to carry. Looking for the lightest possible and yet the most similar, the X61s fits just right.

Initial State and Impressions

The example I purchased was in a pretty good condition including the original extended battery that held charge for a reasonably long time. There was a low-capacity SSD and only 4GBs of RAM. There were a few good things about this deal though. Firstly, this machine was already upgraded with the Middleton BIOS upgrade that unlocks a lot more potential of the hardware. The other is that an Ultrabase X6 dock was also included in the sale. We’ll have a look at the dock soon.


My restoration was pretty standard:

  1. As the Middleton BIOS upgrade was already performed by the seller, I just added a 256GBs SSD (that would now run at higher speeds) with new rails, and doubled the RAM to 8GBs. Don’t ask me how much I paid for the DDR2 memory in 2023.
  2. Replacing the thermal paste wasn’t much different than the X220. One additional thing that I did here was cleaning the CPU fan. It made some noise when I received it, and unfortunately it still does after all the cleaning. I guess I can live with that.
  3. If you would’ve seen a pattern with me and extended batteries, I ordered a smaller one that fits flush with the chassis.
  4. Then I made an arguably useless upgrade by changing the stock “X-series” logos with “IBM ThinkPad” logos. It does make a huge difference in visuals after the upgrade.
  5. Please ignore these red-colored hinges, as this is just some pinstriping tape I’ve wrapped around the regular-looking silver hinges, from a stupid idea that came out of a Reddit post about how Chat-GPT thinks ThinkPads look like.
  6. The Ultrabase X6 dock just needed a bit of cleaning, and everything worked right as it should.

My Review

If you’re not into ThinkPads, this machine might look pretty similar to the X220. If you look closer though, there are major differences. The biggest is obviously the screen aspect ratio that makes the machine taller in comparison. Also note the gap between the lid and the base that is just separated by the two hinges and a ribbon cable for the screen. If you thought the keyboard on the X220 covered the entire width of the machine, you’d be wrong; look at this keyboard layout, where the keys are almost about to spill over from the two sides.

The ThinkLight on this machine is so dim, that it’s almost non-existent. Similar is the case with the screen brightness, as at times it appears unusable, while otherwise seems sufficiently bright.

One interesting realization I had after setting this machine up according to my regular software setup is that this thing doesn’t have an integrated webcam. Oh, and you should definitely have noticed how there’s no trackpad, which if you’re someone interested in a machine like this, you wouldn't need one anyway.

There’s only a single audio speaker that’s pretty soft as well. You’d not expect modern ports on this machine, but you get three USB ports on a machine this small, a full-size ethernet port, an SD card reader, an expansion slot (which was a thing back then), and a few other ports. One thing I love about the layout is the placement of the charging port, which is to the right of the machine and easily approachable while connecting the charger. I love how these machines do also have a Wi-Fi kill switch, which is something the W530 had as well.

This machine is also very easily upgradeable and serviceable. The hardware does show age now, and with its mid-tier Core-2 Duo CPU (out of the three that were available on this model), you’re limited to super lightweight computing. According to my experience, it does take a little while after startup to become usable even with a lightweight operating system like Void Linux, so patience is key.

I’m sure there’s more to talk about this machine, but let’s move on to the Ultrabase X6 dock. This thing adds a lot more to the subnotebook. There’s obviously the DVD drive that you can replace with something else, two separate pairs of USB ports, a telephone line next to the ethernet port, a pair of audio input and output ports, and a few that we may never be able to use today. I think these two are speakers, but I’m not sure and please let me know if they are.

I find it very interesting for how you can dock and undock the machine on this thing. Placing the machine on the dock is relatively simple. You just place it in the right way, and it latches itself in. Removing it though, takes a couple of steps. You start by requesting a release by pressing this button on the side. When things are ready, you may go ahead and pull this lever that lifts the machine up a little, and then you can pull if off from there. Super cool!


So the ThinkPad X61s might not be the most usable machine today, and there are several reasons to stop me from taking it with me outside. The CPU isn’t capable enough to handle most of what you’d expect from a computer in 2024, and even with that less computing power, the battery consumption is relatively high, so you won’t be able to use it for long away from a charging outlet.

Regardless, with its timeless and compact design, this may be the best-looking ThinkPad I’d ever own.


That's all that I have for this video. Thanks for watching it till the end, may the maker watch over you, see you in the next video! And yes, "Free Palestine!".