M18x R1 Tear Down Video: Ivy Bridge CPU Heatsink and 7970M CrossFire Upgrade

Discussion in 'Alienware 18 and M18x' started by Mr. Fox, May 31, 2012.

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  1. Mr. Fox

    Mr. Fox Undefiled BGA-Hating Elitist

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    M18x R1 GPU Upgrade - GTX 580M SLI to 7970M CrossFire
    Parts List:
    • (2) 747M2 AMD Wimbledon XT 7970m
    • (2) 3PVGK Support Plate
    • (1) 8J8TM Heat Sink Assy, Right
    • (1) V4NXK Heat Sink Assy, Left
    • (1) RYVMN AMD CrossFireX Bridge Cable
    Optional Parts:
    • (1) 0MXJ5 Heat Sink Assy, CPU QC XE M18XR2
    • Aftermarket Thermal Pads
    • Aftermarket Thermal Paste
    Tools Needed:
    Hardware Installation
    Rather than providing a series of photos (which you can get from the service manual) I decided a video would be more useful for newbies. I hope I'm right about that. The narration did not work out, so enjoy the music. :D My hope is for those that are apprehensive about dismantling their system, watching me do it will be proof enough that it is easy to do. The entire upgrade, going slow because I was recording it, took about an hour and 10 minutes. Had I not been messing with the camera, it would have been probably 40 to 45 minutes.

    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/32eTtv6QRnc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/32eTtv6QRnc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='640' height='480' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>


    For more teardown videos, please visit Alienwareservices - YouTube.

    Below are photos of the parts installed.



    Below are photos comparing the AMD heat sinks to the NVIDIA heat sinks. If you are considering upgrading to 7970M from an NVIDIA GPU, you will need to purchase heat sinks. The heats sinks for the 6970M/6990M will fit, although they are not quite as beefy as the heat sink designed for the 7970M. Also provided is a comparison of the QM CPU heat sink (single-pipe) to the XM CPU heat sink designed for the M18x R2 (triple-pipe). This part is a direct fit.



    The installation was easy and without complication. I took a few extra steps that anyone considering the upgrade may want to consider:

    &#8226; Remove all traces of old GPU drivers (uninstall, DriverSweeper, CCleaner Registry Tool, manually delete folders)
    &#8226; Remove CMOS (coin cell) battery and reset to BIOS defaults before first boot
    &#8226; Remove HWiNFO64 and obtain new 7970M compatible version*

    Despite removing the CMOS battery and resetting BIOS defaults, the first boot threw a 5-beep error code, but corrected after a hard reset. The Insyde BIOS seems to have a "memory" that is tough to clear sometimes. If this occurs, stay calm, power down and, if necessary, pull the CMOS battery a second time.

    Although I had plenty of IC Diamond and TX-4 paste on hand, I elected to install the heat sinks using only the Dell/Alienware Thermal Interface Material (TIM) that is pre-applied to the CPU and GPU heat sinks. My 580M GPUs still have the stock TIM and have always run cool. I wanted to give the CPU TIM a shot to see if it is equally effective. The stock TIM is more durable than aftermarket paste. So far, the CPU and both GPUs are running very nice temps.

    Initial Performance Testing
    To get a good head-to-head comparison for myself, I completed a 3DMark11 run with the 2920XM set at stock Dell Level 3 overclock and the 580M SLI at stock clocks and voltage just prior to the teardown. After installing the 7970M CrossFire, I reset the BIOS the same CPU settings and completed a 3DMark11 run at stock GPU settings. The CPU heat sink is doing a great job as well. (Take note of the before and after CPU temps as well.)

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    3DMark11 (no GPU OC - Tessellation Off) | 3DMark11 (no GPU OC - Tessellation On)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Side-by-Side: Detailed Results - 3DMark11 Tessellation Off versus On

    Stock Vantage Run
    [​IMG]

    Heaven 3.0 Benchmark - Tessellation Off versus On
    [​IMG]

    Additional Information
    Official AMD Radeon&#8482; HD 7970M Series GPU Feature Summary

    *New version of HWiNFO64 needed:
    HWiNFO64 v3.96-1640
    HWiNFO64 Settings for 7970M GPU:


    (Thanks to Mumak and svl7 for this new version and settings for 7970M compatibility.)
    Windows Registry Tweaks
    To enable overclocking and improve CrossFire functionality, it is necessary to change all of the EnableCrossFireAutoLink DWORD values to 1 and all of the EnableULPS DWORD values to 0 in the registry. (There are more than 20 keys for each of the above in my registry. Some DWORD values need to be changed, and some do not.)

    [​IMG]
    Afterburner AMD Overclocking Tweak
    Are your Afterburner sliders already as far as they can go to the right with no more room to slide? (See before and after examples below.) If so, this MSI Afterburner tweak should fix that for you. You will need to edit the MSIAfterburner.cfg file in notepad to change this:
    to this?​
    Before -and- After
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    The AMD Radeon HD 7970M is so powerful that I can sustain a 3DMark11 frame rate as good or better than what I was getting with GTX 580M SLI even while capturing full frame audio and video of the benchmark. There is still about a 20% drop in frame rate due to the overhead, but still awesome FPS while recording. Here is an example of 1080p screen capture of 3DMark11 32bit. Feel free to change the resolution and go full screen if your internet connection is up to the task. Just for fun, I ran the 3DMark11 demo as a lead-in before the benching begins.

    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/K03mTK3Jexo?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/K03mTK3Jexo?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='853' height='480' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    I have been asked by forum members, so here's a Battlefield 3 clip showing how well the game plays with 7970M CrossFire... Without any GPU overclocking and everything set on "ultra" the gameplay is in the 100 FPS range. Even while screen recording, it's consistently 75+ FPS.

    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/nGlIqLoaYTc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/nGlIqLoaYTc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='853' height='480' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    Below is a TessMark run showing how well the 7970M handles tessellation. (Compare the results to your 6900M series video cards.)

    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Y0geyxaxenc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Y0geyxaxenc?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='853' height='480' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/fERwXiw9-UA?version=3&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/fERwXiw9-UA?version=3&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='853' height='480' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2015
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  2. Mr. Fox

    Mr. Fox Undefiled BGA-Hating Elitist

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    7970M Updates
    For those considering 7970M CrossFire for a new M18x R2 or as an upgrade to their M18x R1, think carefully and read up on the issues in our forum before taking the leap. You may want to consider GTX 680M SLI instead, as 7970M CrossFire still has issues and performance results are very inconsistent.

    Best (but not great) driver for 7970M: [Download Catalyst 12.7b hotfix]

    New (not awesome) 7970M vBIOS: [Download vBIOS 118]

    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/pI_p3SAgkek?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width='560' height='315' allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true">

    Edit 07/22/2012:



    UPDATE 08/05/2012
    In addition to the Catalyst 12.7b hotfix driver, I have been testing a tweak that worked well when I was having behavior issues with the 6970M and 6990M graphics cards. It has been a couple of weeks now and I am ready to share with the forum since it is working so well for me. If you are having issues with your 7970M CrossFire setup, this might help. This addresses some issues relating to the integrity of AMD Catalyst drivers and AMD PowerPlay malfunction.

    In a nutshell, here is the tweak:

    • Turn off Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR)
    • Set 2D core to stock 3D speed (850Mhz)
    • Set 2D memory to stock 3D speed (1200Mhz)
    • Set 2D voltage to stock 3D voltage (1.05v)

    This has cured most of my instability and gaming performance issues with 7970M CrossFire and I believe I have isolated the unresolved issues to a problem with vRAM on at least one of my GPUs. I was having significant issues with my screen going black in DirectX 11 games and benchmarks. 3DMark11 was constantly going black and freezing when loading Test 1. Below is run of 3DMark11 with this tweak implemented and no GPU overclock.

    AMD Radeon HD 7970M CrossFire benchmark result - Intel Core i7-2920XM Processor,Alienware M18xR1 score: P10336 3DMarks

    [​IMG]






    STANDARD WARNING​
    Third party BIOS Modifications, vBIOS Modifications and other system level tweaks (including fan control) can potentially cause damage to your system. Be aware of this before blindly flashing/installing anything. If you brick your system or cause damage, chances are very high that your warranty will be useless. Know what you are doing, as you alone are responsible for your actions.

    This is not a fix that Alienware or AMD can endorse, and you assume all risk if you break something by not doing it correctly. If you are incapable of performing these steps, or reverting to your previous settings without assistance from others, it would be best to not perform them.
    Turning Off TDR:


    • Launch Regedit
    • Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers
    • Add a new DWORD named TdrLevel
    • Set the DWORD value to 0 (zero)
    • Close Registry Editor and reboot Windows

    Code:
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\GraphicsDrivers]
    "DxgKrnlVersion"=dword:00002005
    "UseXPModel"=dword:00000000
    "TdrLevel"=dword:00000000
    To undo the changes and restore TDR functionality, simply delete the registry key you added.

    Dell vBIOS Changes:

    (The following is offered as information only, and no tutorial on vBIOS flashing is being provided in this post.)

    Save your vBIOS using GPU-Z and use vBIOS Patcher to set the 2D core, memory and voltage to match the 3D values. If you have the newest vBIOS (version name/number ends with 118) the vBIOS Patcher will not work. I am including a link (below) to my modded vBIOS for anyone that wants to use it instead of modding their own. A word of caution... DO NOT flash your vBIOS within Windows using ATIWinFlash. Use ATIFlash in DOS and a bootable USB thumb drive. Assistance with vBIOS flashing using ATIFlash is available numerous places on the web.

    Dell 7970M vBIOS 017a

    I hope this helps some of you that are experiencing sub-par results with 7970M CrossFire.


    <src="http: www.youtube.com="" embed="" 5siohns8y2a?rel="0&quot;" frameborder='0' allowfullscreen=""></src="http:>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2015
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  3. steviejones133

    steviejones133 Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Very nice Brother Fox!!! +rep!!

    I knew it was just a matter of time before you turned "red" again LOL - those scores make the 580m Sli seem like really old tech :(

    I will await your findings on various games and how they are performing. Is that 12.5 Beta you are running? - with what CAP?
     
  4. Mr. Fox

    Mr. Fox Undefiled BGA-Hating Elitist

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    Yes, 12.5 Beta. No CAPS installed yet. I have about 2 hours to sleep before getting ready for work, LOL. Maybe tomorrow.

    I haven't turned red, though. I'm just enjoying the fastest GPU beasts available at this moment in time, which happen to come from the red team. Red and green are both Christmas colors, and we all love Christmas. It's not a matter of if, but when, NVIDIA releases a 7970M killer. That's just life in the performance computing jungle, LOL.
     
  5. steviejones133

    steviejones133 Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Cool. Get some rest after your hard work !!
     
  6. DarkSkies

    DarkSkies Notebook Evangelist

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    Oh you are upgrading? I thought you were waiting for 680m. Well documented project, though. Good job. What pads did you use and how thick were they? Phobya XTs offer 7W/mk.
     
  7. homank76

    homank76 Alienware/Dell Enthusiast

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    Someone needs to update their signature now.

    Great post. How much you looking for the 580's?
     
  8. Speedy Gonzalez

    Speedy Gonzalez Xtreme Notebook Speeder!

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    congrats Mr Fox I will like to know your findings playing games with crossfire enabled what kind of performance you see vs single card.
     
  9. Juscallmesteve

    Juscallmesteve Notebook Consultant

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    I have a question about your MSI afterburner.
    You settings slider are at about 50% and its 850/1200
    Mine the sliders are maxed out and at 850/1200
    [​IMG]
     
  10. bumbo2

    bumbo2 Notebook Deity

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    Wait a minute!!! That's cool brother Fox! Excellent work.
     
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