Thursday, October 06, 2011

modding: adding 3G to my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet

Its been about a week or so with my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet (TPT) and I must say that I am digging it.  The Pen/Stylus works pretty decent minus the lack of apps and Honeycomb is a nice upgrade from using Gingerbread on my previous Android tablet (Galaxy Tab).  However, one thing that I really missed on my ThinkPad Tablet when traveling was built-in 3G data.  I still believe that mobile internet on tablets is still the killer app.  Today, we'll take a look at the guts of my ThinkPad Tablet and how one can add a 3G to it.  Keep reading for the photos, notes and links!

After realizing that the TPT had a sim card slot, I initially believed that all I needed was a sim card with a data plan.  However after some testing and reading up I found that Lenovo made the TPT's 3G ready by including the Sim Card reader and 3G antenna and spot for the PCI-e WWAN modem.  The only thing lacking was the actual 3G modem itself.

Over on the Lenovo forum boards (original thread here), several brave early owners decided to try out a Gobi 3000 WWAN PCI-e modem card (Model# 0A36185, amazon link here) in the TPT and found that it worked beautifully with their AT&T sim card and TPT.  The models confirmed so far are the 1838 and 1839 series, they all have the necessary sim card slot, antenna built-in; they only require putting in a wan modem. :)

After ordering up a Gobi 3000 card (these are the same cards used in the Lenovo Thinkpad X220 and T420 series), I took the plunge and ripped apart my TPT.

Opening up the TPT is pretty easy, just need to remove the 4 buttons (they snap off) and then the 2 screws underneath.

Be sure to then push the power shutoff button located between the SD Card reader and Sim slot.

Next up, you will want to use a plastic case opening device (a screw driver or metal piece will most likely scratch it) to seperate the tablet in half.  There are tabs that push in, be careful though since you don't want to ding it up. The best mod is one that doesn't look like it's been modded. :)

Once opened, all you have to do is located the PCI-e slot and put your card in and then hook up the antenna plugs to the card.

Note, you may want to power up your TPT before you close it up to be sure it recognizes the card.  Once you have the card installed and TPT powered up, go to Settings > Wireless and Mobile Network > Mobile Network Settings and then hit the Activate Device button at the bottom. Then choose your carrier (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and other are the options in the USA).  Once you choose the carrier, the TPT will install the appropriate WWAN driver for Android and once done, reboot your device.

Once you verify that your data works (given you have a AT&T Sim Card w/data sources, Verizon/Sprint i'm not sure since i do not user either), just snap together your tablet and the screws back in and snap on the buttons.

NOTE: be sure to make sure the LCD/Touchscreen cable is connected; it comes unhooked pretty easy once you open up the TPT.