Alienware 14 spreading it's wings thread ;)

Discussion in 'Alienware 14 and M14x' started by MrMogwai, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. MrMogwai

    MrMogwai Notebook Evangelist

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    @Raidriar, @Mr. Fox , @Khenglish , @Prema
    SO.
    The thing is, I'm trying to restore and actually exceed the capabilities of the AW14 with GT 750M. I've already received plenty of support and information on the matter from Mr. Fox and Khenglish (thank you kindly once again).

    I've already done the typical electrical work that is in general branch of my trade, which is resolving electrical shorts, small issues of that sort ( I ussually work with 12VDC/230/400VDC), fixed AlienFX shorts, full cleaning, restoring cooling, fixing battery issue, which was bizarre, it never charged past 27%, but after a couple of full drains it's inching towards proper capacity, and now it's time to do a think-tank on how to resolve compatibility issues, both BIOS and vBIOS related.

    The idea is to do a BGA swap of the GT 750M to a GTX 960M while upgrading mere 1GB of vRAM to at least 2GB (maybe 4GB). Now, here are the things that come to play - we are assuming that same grid BGA should work with the same pinout (hard to say "pin" in relation to a ball of solder), but there are some things to consider:

    1. What kind of vBIOS should be used? A standard 960M MXM? A variant of a BGA version from another laptop? Or some sort of a hybrid?
    2. What do we do with the BIOS? Has anyone managed to unlock the AW14 BIOS? Is it possible to use an unlocked A12 from, say, Ranger, and would that do the trick?
    3. Is there any other way to override Optimus on any system? The AW 14 has the I/D GFX button that is taunting me, while not doing anything...
    4. I've spent a couple evenings sifting through all the BGA grids on NVIDIA chips, 960M seems legit, and I have a suspicion that 965M might fit, but maybe I'm missing something? Maybe there is another chip? The machine (at least mine) is eDP only, so in theory if there is such a chip, maybe even a Pascal card would be fitted in?

    Are there any other suggestions?

    I could use all the help I can get, and if we succeed with this one we can make a tutorial on how to squeeze some adequate performance from this undernourished machine. Sure, AW13 already fullfills that role, but not to any great degree, and it's full BGA, while this one can have swappable elements. My estimate of the cost is around 150-200$ tops, including a chip and reballing job.

    All contributions are welcome, I hope together we can transcend the AW14 stigma ;)
     
  2. Raidriar

    Raidriar ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

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    As far as I know the maxwell die/package layout is incompatible with Kepler so this isn’t going to work. Khenglish would know better
     
  3. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    I think the pin layout will be different.

    Maybe going from 750m to something like 780m or 770m? Or some of the quadro variants of kepler

    Although I'd be concerned with the power delivery lol
     
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  4. MrMogwai

    MrMogwai Notebook Evangelist

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    Within each generation same layouts/grids show up all the time. You think that the pinout would be different? As in different lanes do different stuff?
    Here are examples of GT 750M:
    https://cdn.videocardz.net/cache/ac40e9df788a22149c9e36016cd225d7-1200x900.jpg
    GTX 960M:
    https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTZAKDhl0wUERc6KOkKcXxd-SGreWgaR0LtZQ&usqp=CAU
    and I've just found GTX 1050M:
    https://www.hklrf.com/05chanpin/img/201810111515395.jpg
    So there is a third contestant ;)

    One could assume that if they have a similar ball layout it would be compatible, except like Khenglish pointed out, incompatibilities emerge when using different bus width and VRAM generation - GDDR5 won't work with GDDR3 card, and so on.
    Given the standardisation of MXM, for example, which are basically a pieces of the motherboard cut out with a normalized layout of components. I don't think that they produce more than 2-3 PCBs for MXM for each generation with basic BGA layouts and keep it at that - even though it's not a still widely supported standard, logic (and company savings) suggest that it actually is being recycled from generation to generation, since same stencils are used, like in the examples above, for more than 4 generations (from GTX 7XX to 10XX). I really wish to come out with a constructive discussion here and with experience sharing, since it can benefit everyone - maybe we can break the circle of BGA supremacy with some nifty experiments of our own? We've done (you guys definitely more than me) some crazy stuff with our machines, breaking the End of Life support being one thing, and maybe we can overcome another barrier, being back-compat with BGA upgrades to stick it into the face of BGA spamming OEMs?
     
  5. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    As you said, if you want to do 700 series to 900 series, you need to make sure GDDR type is same and the BUS is also the same width.

    I am not sure how you will be able to inject vBIOS in the BIOS, but should be possible.
     
  6. MrMogwai

    MrMogwai Notebook Evangelist

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    I've considered that. The stencil is different, it's the same as 970M. One other model that had this one was 870M, but as Khenglish pointed out, it has 192bit memory bus. That's what undercuts us here. Quadros are a legit idea, but this stencil has only M2000M.
    Other chips that can be done is GTX965M, and maybe something else, further investigation is required :)
     
  7. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
  8. MrMogwai

    MrMogwai Notebook Evangelist

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    The vBIOS is on a separate chip, just like on a normal card. In this case, there is a Winbond chip that can be overwritten.
    The bus is 128bit and it's GDDR5, but only 1GB, I'm swapping it to 4GB.
     
  9. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    I guess I should answer your original questions asked

    1) 960M MXM vBIOS can work I believe...if you can find a AW 15 R1 960m dump that might be even better

    2) You need unlocked BIOS to be able to access hidden settings: https://www.bios-mods.com/forum/Thread-REQUEST-Dell-Alienware-14-2013-Unlock-Advanced-Options

    NOTE: Only SG and IGPU will work since the GPU is wired through the iGPU. SG is already default and will be fine. Don't know any features you'd really need from this for this project.

    3) No. You can only use iGPU or SG. This was tested by me on M14xR2, I think AW 14 behaves same way.

    4) Look at my edited post above. It sounds like 750M to 960M should be compatible.
     
  10. MrMogwai

    MrMogwai Notebook Evangelist

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    I've seen the thread about @EepoSaurus concerning the GPU upgrade and the post about the 960M, it was one of my motivators on going forward with it :) I do wish to know how it ended though ;)

    I'll need a little help with the unlock, could I ask to explain it to me? What am I supposed to edit in the bios dump? I'm willing to do it myself to understand it for the future, so what exactly am i supposed to modify? just add the branches given in the thread you've posted?
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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