GPU upgrade options: Alienware 17 R1 (Dec 2013)

Discussion in 'Alienware 17 and M17x' started by sspiff, Apr 29, 2021.

  1. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    Hi,

    I recently had the good fortune to be able to buy an Alienware 17 R1 from Dec 2013 for 1 symbolic euro.

    This is the first time I've had an Alienware device, and the first (and judging by the evolution in laptops, probably last) MXM equiped laptop I've owned.

    The model I have is equiped with a 60Hz display, a GTX 770M and a 180W power supply. From what I've read online, all of these are bad things when trying to upgrade.

    I don't intend to spend a fortune on displays, heatsinks and power supplies, and I don't intend to get the dremel out and go mental on a heatsink for modifications.

    What are my options for a step up in the graphics department? I was looking at a GTX 1060, as that's reasonably close to the 75W TDP of the current GPU and what my current heatsink is capable of handling (80W for the GTX 1060).
     
  2. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    Last edited: Apr 29, 2021
  3. Reciever

    Reciever D! For Dragon!

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    Pascal works best of 120hz display mostly because it doesnt support LVDS (which is how the 60hz panel functions) but to get around that you can use SG mode which is like the modern day Optimus, but you do lose some performance and may experience input lag in games on the internal panel. Every configuration seems to handle it differently but this can be bypassed by using the 120hz eDP panel or possibly by using an external screen (i.e. standard monitor)

    Not sure if the 2060 has been tried yet, or if MXM modules are available for it. The 1060/1070 have both been proven to work.

    The standard "Dell" 1070 should work fine as well but you will need to replace the AC adapter, if you are looking for the simplest path forward I would endorse your current line of thought with the 1060.

    Cutting into the chassis is only needed when using the MSI 1070, all other iterations dont need that. The only reason it seems more commonplace is because the MSI 1070 is the best built GPU from a component standpoint, however it of course doesnt mean you should or even need to get it.

    Most annoying part is sourcing a known functioning card, sometimes it can prove difficult, other times it works the first go around. Just make sure you can get your money back in case you get a lemon.
     
    Ashtrix and sspiff like this.
  4. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have a few follow up questions.

    1. I have been using a Optimus-based laptop for a long time, and it never really bothered me. Would this "SG" graphics mode be worse than "standard" Optimus? Does anyone know how it is different? I'm mostly going to be using this laptop with my 2 external displays at home (not exactly a road warrior type of laptop anyway).
    2. With regards to the 120Hz panel, do I need to find a panel specifically for the Alienware 17? Are there options where I could also upgrade the resolution (to say, 2560x1440)?

    I've also seen stores selling the GP106M advertised as working for the AW17R1. This is a Nvidia Tesla MXM card made for compute/mining based on the same chip as the GTX 1060. I could not find a lot of info on this, other than @drystxx who seems to have succeeded in installing one in an Alienware 17: http://forum.notebookreview.com/thr...s-lounge-thread.721578/page-661#post-11081765
     
  5. Reciever

    Reciever D! For Dragon!

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    Optimus is different on all machines, some its fine and seamless and others it creates input lag to the panel and/or terrible screen tearing. I personally despise it as it renders my machine borderline paperweight, what people perceive and hose the machines behave with Optimus are entirely individualistic. My bias is that I personally despise Optimus, so take that into account.

    Optimus is simply Intel HD actually powering the screen, while the GPU does work through the same pipeline, instead of having it going straight to the screen, which would be PEG mode or dGPU generally speaking. It introduces a middle man, which is an extra variable to account for. This can likely (and I believe this to be correct) bypassed by using external monitors iirc.

    There is no known 1440p panel that works in the Ranger, you are welcome to test, but that would be on you. Only a few panels have been tested to work that I am personally aware of, the stock OEM option (TruLife display) and the N173HHE-G32 but the later requires some modding to retrofit.

    Those GP106M cards will only work in SG / Optimus mode only, also you will be stuck with older drivers as that card requires other people to mod the driver, beyond what already needs to be modded to function under the typical 1060 MXM scenario. You are welcome to try, especially if you get your hands on one for cheap but remember its not a 1060, its a GP106M MXM component. It may not work in all games, you will be stuck with old drivers, and iirc the NVENC is disabled as well. Its function is quite limited, and where it does function you wont know until individually testing your work/home use case.
     
  6. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    Does the GP106M require more than just a device ID mod in the driver? I don't intend to upgrade the display (as I mostly will be working with external displays, it's just wasted money for me), so Optimus on the internal display won't bother me much.

    The cost for a GTX 1060 MXM seems to be ~$300 whereas a GP106M is around half the price at $150.

    I don't mind modding the driver each time I upgrade, but I do want to get newer drivers from time to time.

    My daily driver is a Quadro P3200 Max-Q at the moment, so which also isn't a GeForce card but works great for gaming. I'm wondering if the GP106M would do any worse as far as game compatibility goes.
     
  7. Reciever

    Reciever D! For Dragon!

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    Yes, not a mod that many know how to do. There is a pre-modded driver that will allow function but its not being updated to my knowledge, this may be in addition to the INF mod that is normally needed for "unsupported" GPU's to function.

    If you TDP mod the 1060 to 100w it might beat out the P3200 Max-Q, not as well read as I used to be on Pascal. P3200 looks to be a beefier GPU but as a Quadro its less "dynamic" as consistency is the main attraction of quadro's so they might come out to similar performance. This is supposition though, not entirely sure.

    As for compatibility it probably will be less, as its really intended for one purpose, mining.
     
  8. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    I guess I'll get a GTX 1060. Will this work with my GTX 770M heat sink? Is $300 a normal price for these cards?
     
  9. Tenoroon

    Tenoroon Notebook Evangelist

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    300 is a normal price for the Dell 1060's, and it should work with the stock 2 pipe heatsink you probably have. The only issue with the Dell 10 series cards is they tend to use a 3mm X-bracket while the older 700 and 800 series cards that were originally used in the Ranger used a 5mm X-bracket. You cannot screw down the heatsink with a 3mm X-bracket, so you may need to buy a 5mm one.

    And As Receiver said, be ready to vigorously test the 1060 if you end up getting one as they tend to be hit or miss. I personally tried one of the Dell 1070's but the laptop would shut down if it used around 110 watts of power, and it seemed the die was chipped. I'm not saying don't buy one, but just be ready to test it, and be ready to return it as the warranties are quite short.

    Here's a link to a 5mm X-bracket:
    https://www.aliexpress.com/i/4001074792149.html
     
  10. sspiff

    sspiff Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the feedback!

    That's another 30 bucks on top of the card. We're almost halfway the cost of a used Alienware with a GTX 1060 from the factory now.

    I'm not 100% sure about this but I believe they were used in some Tesla cars for self driving AI as well.
     
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