Recently, a friend of mine gave me a free notebook for operating system testing. Well, actually I traded in two DDR-II sticks for it, but that’s still almost free. It’s an older HP/Compaq nx6310 in its low-end configuration with an i940GML chipset, Pentium-M based Celeron M430, a crappy hard drive, 2GB RAM (already upgraded from 512MB) and a DVD±RW burner. The worst part of that laptop was probably the terrible XGA (1024×768) TN+Film LCD panel. The thing came without WiFi too. The antennas were there with properly sealed plugs, but the WiFi module itself was missing in its PCIe mini slot. So I flashed in a nice [hacked Mod BIOS] from [MyDigitalLife] based on the latest Core 2 capable BIOS version F.0E to remove the WiFi card whitelist from the SLIC 2.1 enabled BIOS and plugged in a full-height 4965AGN card from Intel! Then gave it a Crucial m500 SSD which works miracles despite the slow-bandwidth SATA/1.5Gbps interface, and an Intel Core Duo T2450 processor for its Socket M, which is the fastest possible option for this book.
The CPU will only work with a single core on the i940GML chipset/cheapset, and only FSB533 chips will do, as I couldn’t find a way to program the clock generator for the front side bus. Still, given the clock speed of 2GHz and the 2MB L2 cache this is still the best option here, unless you need 64-Bit x86, for which a Core 2 Duo T5300 with 1.73GHz would be available.
If you know which modified BIOS to flash, the WiFi upgrade is very easy, and the CPU upgrade can also be done very quickly and conveniently, which is really nice. But then comes the LCD panel. The ugliest of the ugly in the already pretty ugly field of TN+Film panels with a very coarse grain look and limited space on screen due to the XGA 1024×768 resolution on 15″. An SXGA+ (1400×1050) WVA panel upgrade option identified by the HP part number 413679-001 exists though, which can replace this lower spec one going by the number 413677-001. Just make sure you also get the SXGA+ LVDS cable, as the default LVDS display cable will only work with the XGA screen! Plugging the XGA cable into the SXGA+ panel will yield nothing but an erratic white screen with horizontal lines. I learned that the hard way… Here’s the cables:
nx6310 LVDS display cables, left: SXGA+, right: XGA
So I got the panel and an extra SXGA+ cable from eBay UK, and started with the disassembly, which can be tricky for the first time, as some parts like the display bezel can be prone to breaking. Also, besides a Phillips screwdriver, you will need a size T10 torx screwdriver for this. I would suggest consulting the nx6310s [HP service manual] for display assembly removal. It doesn’t cover everything, only the replacing of an entire display assembly, not the panel in it specifically, but it’s still very helpful. Just don’t disconnect the WiFi antenna cables as they’re asking for, and mind that the switch cover removal sequence is wrong; There is no “LED board cable” to remove for this machine, you can skip that. So let’s assume you followed that manual already for removal of the keyboard and switch cover, and let’s continue from there:
HP nx6310 with keyboard and switch cover removed
The copper plate near the middle, just left of the internal memory slot covers the chipset, to the lower left we can see the CPU hotplate from which a heatpipe transfers heat to the cooler/radiator on the top left. All of that is easy to remove and reassemble if you want to replace the processor too. On the display bezel you can already see some screws being visible. All of the screws facing you on the display frame are covered by rubber seals, remove them all. There are also four thin film seals on the sides of the display assembly, two on each side. Get rid of them too.
Now remove all screws on the display assembly and tilt the whole display as far back as possible. Try to stick a flat screwdriver between the two plastic halves (front/back) at the bottom and push the front bezel off the back. Be careful, as the front bezel is especially prone to breaking. The first attempt should be made near the hinges, as it’s easiest and safest there. Then, it might be better not to try and stick the screwdriver in at a 90° angle. Try to do it at a steeper angle, between 20-40°, and push it in a few millimeters deep! Try to lift it up not from the side, but from beneath the bezel frame using leverage. You’ll push against the metal frame of the LCD panel below. There is no electronics there you can damage, so this should be safe. Just work slowly and carefully.
Also, double-check whether you removed all the side screws, or you may break some plastic holders of the front bezel by trying to lift it off with the screws still in place! When you’re at the top side, slide the locking mechanism while pushing the bezel off, or it’ll block you.
Now, with the bezel gone, you’ll see a small white tube on the lower side of the panel. That’s the high-voltage AC inverter board that powers the CCFL lamp for lighting up the display panel. Disconnect both cables attached to it, and just put it away somewhere for now:
The inverter board disconnected
Also, remove the display cable itself. You can just pull it out, it won’t be too hard, so you can’t really damage the cable. Its beneath the now-removed switch cover, in the area where you’d find the power button:
nx6310 with the old XGA cable still attached
After bezel removal, there will be four additional screws that hold the panel frame and the rear cover together, one in each corner of the display assembly, facing you directly. Remove them, and let the rear cover slide away carefully. Don’t use force here, or you may damage the WiFi antennas:
The panel and the rear cover separating
The two cables taped to the rear cover are the WiFi antennas, just leave them alone. Pull the display cable plug out of the LVDS socket carefully, and remove the tapes, then just gently pull the cable out. You may want to remove and save the tapes for later if your SXGA+ doesn’t have its own. Now, there are two frames holding the panel. Tilt the panel so that it stands 90° upright to prevent it from just falling out during the next step. The two frames are screwed to the panel with four small screws on each side. Remove all the screws, then pull out the panel.
Put the new SXGA+ panel in, screw it to the frames, plug in and attach the new LVDS cable and it should look a bit like this:
New panel and cable installed
To make the rear assembly feel stronger to the touch and make the cover less flexible, you might also put some filler material between rear cover and panel, as the new one might be a bit thinner. I used some light foam for that, but you can also just skip that part. Just screw everything back together in reverse order, reconnect the inverter board and push it into its seat in the reattached rear cover below the panel in the middle and don’t forget to attach the new LVDS cable to the system board too:
The new SXGA+ capable LVDS cable attached
Now, finally: A side-by-side comparison:
nx6310 with XGA panel
nx6310 with SXGA+ panel
Note that the colors look strangely whiteish for the SXGA+ when compared to the XGA. In real life, the white-shift is actually worse for the XGA, no idea why it looks like that on the photograph. Something with the polarization filters on the panels maybe?! Well, frankly, it’s still rather bad with the SXGA+, but not as bad as before. Also, the color space of those two photographs don’t match (again…) because I’m lazy and can’t handle my camera. Oh well. But the new panel is brighter now, which is a nice bonus, and as you can see, there is more space available on the desktop. Since the dpi are now higher, it also looks much more crisp and sharp, and it’s more matte than before, so reflections are reduced and you can work better in bright conditions. Overall, its a sound improvement!
On those pictures you can see FreeBSD 10 UNIX running a terminal emulator window and a Windows XP Pro VirtualBox machine on both panels. All windows were kept at the exact same dimensions, so you can assess the resolution difference properly.
I would also like to add that before learning about the cables, I went on a crazy journey to flash the EDID EEPROM of the panel in an attempt to get it to work, which finally went ok using a hex editor and some [hacked script] for [edid-rw] on Debian 7 Linux, because those panels don’t speak the DDC protocol required by other tools for Windows and DOS. In the end, I managed to write a new vendor string and some other strings to the EDID EEPROM firmware of the panel, which now shows it being manufactured by QDS (QUANTA computer) instead of APP (Apple). Well, just forget about all that. Certain Lenovo Thinkpad upgrade paths might require you to flash the displays’ EDID EEPROM, but this one here doesn’t! It’s all just about the cable.
Now I gotta say, the “free notebook” ain’t so free anymore when it comes to money invested (CPU, WiFi, and LVDS cable were below or around 10€ each, but the SSD was 70€ and the panel 55€ or so), but I’m still quite pleased with my work enhancing the “crappy” book. I’ll also keep FreeBSD for now, I strangely kinda like it after testing a few others natively, like Haiku OS or OpenBSD UNIX 5.6, just for fun. But yeah, with 1400×1050 and an SSD, this is thing feels pretty nice!
I hope this may help somebody other than me, because the EDID flashing suggested by some people leads nowhere for these HP series, and many sellers on ebay just sell you the panel for already SXGA+ equipped books without any mention of the cable, let alone an included cable! So if you can’t get your upgrade to work, the cable is probably why!
PS.: OpenBSD 5.6, you’re damn cool, especially with OpenJDK/Java now being back again! But sadly, I still need wine, so I’ll have to turn the other way again.