Hybrid M17x: use R3 parts in a R4 motheboard

Discussion in 'Alienware 17 and M17x' started by veyeki6063, Nov 23, 2021.

  1. veyeki6063

    veyeki6063 Newbie

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    Hello all,

    I have a M17x R3 since 2011, specs are the following:

    Intel i7-2820QM
    Chipset HM67 Sandy Bridge
    Nvidia GTX 680M
    17.3in WideFHD (1920 x 1080) WLED LCD
    16 GB RAM DDR3-1600
    240W power supply

    I upgraded the RAM and the VGA in 2014 (original was a radeon HD6990, i think).

    Now I am considering options for another upgrade. I see these options are very limited (basically GTX 780M + i7 2970XM). I have read in this forum that the R4 motherboard is far more upgradeable (GTX 1060, 980M... etc), my understanding is this is because it is based on Ivy Bridge architecture instead of Sandy Bridege, so I came up with an idea: why not upgrade the motherboard instead of the VGA/processor?

    I have seen videos of the R4 tear down and disassembly process, it looks like the same drill as with R3. The R4 motherboard size and shape is apparently the same as the R3 motherboard. Also both chassis look the same, so it would fit perfectly. However, this could only be profitable if I can reuse most of the R3 parts in the R4 motherboard.

    Particularly:
    1. Obviously, I need an Ivy Bridge processor but, can I reuse the Sandy Bridge processor heatsink with an Ivy Bridge processor?
    2. One of my main concerns is the R3 display assembly, is it compatible with the R4 motherboard?
    3. Rest of the parts (optical drive, speakers, RAM modules, lights and buttons, wireless mini-card, bluetooth card, keyboard, cables, cords... etc). My guess is they are the same for both R3 and R4, is it right?
    4. Shall I need another battery pack?

    Thanks for reading.
    Regards.
     
  2. toastofman

    toastofman Notebook Guru

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    1: Heatsinks between the two are the same Dell part number, from what I can tell. (Dell P/N 0650RY) You don't need to change it.

    2: With a GPU of that age, it is most likely an LVDS panel. The R4 came with a 120hz panel that was on eDP and it is primarily the most upgradable one (more steps to route the signal through integrated graphics and such on the 60hz LVDS panel). I say that because all the more modern MXM gpus are in the eDP format. If your old system is set up for LVDS, and the new motherboard can be set up with LVDS, the panel should work just fine.

    3: I'd suggest looking up parts on eBay for specific pictures of them and visible model numbers for both the R3 and R4, see if you can corroborate the Dell P/Ns somewhere else, and see if they match. If they LOOK the same and the Dell P/Ns match, you are probably good to go.

    4: A quick lookup finds a battery (type BTYVOY1) listed as compatible with the R3 and the R4. The actual Dell P/N seems to be different between the batteries for the R3 and R4, but the physical shape, connectors, and capacity is the same for the R3 and R4.
     
  3. Khenglish

    Khenglish Notebook Deity

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    You don't need an Ivy Bridge processor. You can reuse your 2960xm in an R4. I'm not sure what you're gaining by the R3 to R4 switch. I am unaware of the R4 having any improved compatibility over the R3. Where are you seeing that it does?
     
  4. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    You can use same display but the "Alienware" text light uses a different connector so it won't light up.

    You can use same processor perfectly fine.

    Same with battery.

    You can even reuse heatsinks.

    R3 MB supports up to 780M/880M max.

    R4 MB supports up to 1070 in SG (60Hz) or PEG (120Hz). It can also support whatever GPU is available in the future. For instance, I have RTX 3000 working in M18xR2, so you should be able to also run RTX 3000 in SG (60Hz) on a R4 motherboard.
     
  5. Maxware79

    Maxware79 Alienware died in 2014

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    Really? I had no idea about this one. Seems strange that they would change this insignificant part between models. I'm going to have to check the M18x R1 and R2 I have to see
     
  6. Maxware79

    Maxware79 Alienware died in 2014

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    Technically the keyboards are different but it's still not 100% known about full compatibility. The R4 keyboards have a green ribbon cable and the R3's have a blue one (I think I'm getting that right). I have heard stories that putting the other one in will work for a period of time but then everything goes screwy. I can confirm that they will work between models but I haven't tested them to see how they go long term. Maybe the people saying they had issues just had faulty replacements.
    The R4 also supports up to 2133ghz DDR3L memory and has the mSata SSD slot.
     
  7. veyeki6063

    veyeki6063 Newbie

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    Many thanks to all of you for your feedback, things are much clearer for me now.

    Thanks for the tip on the Ivy Bridge processor, now I see on the R4 specs that in fact both i7 2n and 3rd are supported. This is an unexpected bonus.

    Regarding the display assy, I am sure it is a LVDS 60 Hz. There are lots of stickers with Dell P/Ns: 0H4T5C is for the frame subassy, 8VCV1F is for the LCD panel and 00FKCP I think is the P/N for the complete display assy.

    Sorry, I'm not sure if I understood well your infos regarding LVDS vs eDP displays. If I understood well, LVDS are 60 Hz displays whereas eDP are 120 Hz. How is this related to the GPU connected? I have been using my 680M in the R3 MB + LVDS display. The only issue has been switchable graphics didn't worked anymore in Windows, I had to change it manually in the BIOS (SG for HD 300 graphics and PEG for 680M). But, since the display is LVDS, I guess the 680M was working at 60 Hz when PEG option in the BIOS, is that right?


    Yes, I noticed the mSata port in a dissasembly video I saw. I was now aware of this because it does not appear in the R4 service manual, looks like Dell reused the R3 MB photos for this manual...


    I think it would it be necessary to upgrade the power supply (current is 240W) to run 980M, 1070 or RTX 3000 on a R4 MB? Is that right?

    My understanding is R3 MB is limited to 880M/2960XM whereas R4 supports even 1070 (at least, that is what I've read in this forum). I never knew the reason for this, I suppose it is because R3 is Sandy-Bridge-based whereas R4 is Ivy-Bridge-based. It is the only difference I see, since both systems seem quite similar for me. In any case, I have using the R3 with a 680M during the past years and, if you know how to mod the Nvidia drivers, it is still a very good combination with acceptable performance (for my standards). I was playing Doom Eternal some months ago (just needed modding the Nvidia 445.75 drivers) with fair enough performance for my standards. That's outstanding for a rig bought 10 years ago.
     
  8. toastofman

    toastofman Notebook Guru

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    On these PARTICULAR models of laptops, as in, the Alienware M17x R3 and R4 and these models only, you can say that rule applies. If the laptop is in factory spec, meaning it doesn't have some sort of crazy panel swap, yes. A 60hz panel is LVDS, and the 120hz panel is eDP. I want to be explicit that this rule you have made -ONLY- applies to these 2 models. With literally any other model of laptop, disregard this rule!


    240W is OK for the 980m and the 1070, from all I have read. Some people do the power trick and get a 330W brick, but others swear up and down that the 1070 won't tap out a 240W.

    As for the bolded, it isn't that simple. The R4 DID come with a 60hz LVDS panel, but it also came with a 120hz eDP panel. The reason this distinction is important is because this is the difference you aren't seeing. It's all about the MXM GPU you are trying to stuff into the laptop: Some output with only an LVDS signal, some output with only an eDP signal, and some can output with both. Some MXM GPUs can be changed to output to a different output-standard if (and only if) a vBIOS exists for said MXM GPU from a laptop that is known to have the different output-standard in a factory configuration. If not, which seems to be the case for the Pascal GTX 10X0 cards, they must be installed on an eDP panel!

    Now the fun part: Some GPUs are not found in any panel/motherboard configuration in any output-standard other than eDP, starting with most notably the Pascal (GTX 10X0) GPU series. This is the main problem. If the MXM GPU outputs to eDP and the laptop is configured for LVDS, some motherboards can route the display signal through the CPU's integrated graphics with some laptop voodoo, using the MXM GPU as a graphics accelerator, and if I understand it correctly it has something to do with Nvidia Optimus support at the motherboard level.
     
  9. ssj92

    ssj92 Neutron Star

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    240w is fine. Single GPU works with 240w.

    As for display, LVDS is 60Hz and in SG mode you can run whatever GPU you want. You can try finding a cheap 3820QM/3840QM just to get a tiny bit more performance and it can OC a bit as well.
     
  10. Khenglish

    Khenglish Notebook Deity

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    240W is ok for a 980m as long as you leave it at the default power limit and don't overclock the CPU a lot. You'll need a 330W if ya really wanna push things though, especially if you wanna keep using the sandy bridge CPU. While almost as fast as ivy bridge, they use a lot more power.

    ssj92 is correct, the R4 does have more GPU support. The issue is more that it's an updated platform with a updated BIOS, and not that it uses Ivy Bridge.
     
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