*OFFICIAL* Alienware m17 Owner's Lounge

Discussion in '2015+ Alienware 13 / 15 / 17' started by ssj92, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. etern4l

    etern4l Notebook Virtuoso

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    I've been under the alure of AGA for a while. Upon closer inspection it's less than ideal though:

    * Too small, only fits certain cards, won't work with the current game changer 3080.
    * The presence of AGA support means that 4 PCIe lanes are sacrificed in the affected laptop, such that the onboard dGPU only gets 8 or even 4 PCIe lanes depending on the AW model.
    * Well, proprietary
    * No hot swapping

    So, if one wishes to accelerate internal display, it is the best option, but for use with external displays TB3 enclosures are more competitive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
  2. ijozic

    ijozic Notebook Deity

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    Not sure if 3080 FE would fit due to extra fan in front, but definitely some variants of compatible length should (and apparently, there's more space there than the official 10.50"). IIRC, some AGA owners already got their hands on some 3080 cards and they fit, but they don't seem to be recognized at the moment and seem to require an update of the AGA software.

    The reduced number of lanes for the onboard GPU doesn't effect performance in practice so it's a moot point.

    From what I've seen in various reviews, TB3 solutions normally show 25% or more loss compared to the same card running in a desktop, while it's less than 5% for the AGA. That for me makes it a no-go for any TB3 solution and limits my laptop.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
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  3. etern4l

    etern4l Notebook Virtuoso

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    With internal monitor perhaps. The gap between the AGA and TB3, should be much smaller with an external monitor. There are some awesome external water-cooled eGPU enclosures, bro @Papusan will def know more.

    As for whether 8x vs 16x makes a difference, it depends on the application:

    https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Titan-X-Performance-PCI-E-3-0-x8-vs-x16-851/
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  4. ijozic

    ijozic Notebook Deity

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    Just to be clear, I was referring to reviews with external monitors used as that's how I plan to use mine.

    I'd be very glad to be proven wrong (as then I wouldn't have to limit myself to AW laptops) so perhaps you have a link to some TB3 enclosure review showing performance in games with a relatively insignificant performance hit compared to the same card on the desktop?

    By relatively insignificant I mean something in range of what your x8/x16 performance difference link showed.

    Though, for example, in 3dMark tests here, Area 51m beat a similar Eurocom config despite the x8 limitiation.

    https://www.notebookcheck.net/Alienware-Area-51m-i9-9900K-RTX-2080-Laptop-Review.414667.0.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  5. ijozic

    ijozic Notebook Deity

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    Related to the topic of TB3 eGPU performance cuts.. I remember seeing a test on Macbook which showed insignificant performance loss, so I suspected it's down to the TB3 controller implemementation.

    Apparently, the Ice-Lake-U has it integrated on SoC which results in better bandwidth apparently. So, perhaps there's hope for TB3 solutions yet.

    https://www.notebookcheck.net/eGPU-...than-Comet-Lake-H-processors-do.498840.0.html
     
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  6. etern4l

    etern4l Notebook Virtuoso

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    Sorry I tried to find that review and failed. I think it was about a guy running a shunt-modded 2080 Ti in a Gigabyte GameBox or something like that. In the other hand, the presence of an AGA Port means one could attach two eGPUs, which could be useful in some applications.
     
  7. Gumwars

    Gumwars Notebook Consultant

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    Some thoughts on your responses:
    • The AGA lid is not necessary for operation. It can be left open or removed altogether. I have an MSI Duke 1080ti in mine that is too tall for the enclosure and it works fine. A worthwhile modification would be to swap out the PSU, not for power delivery but because the stock one is rather noisy. The 3000 series GPUs are another issue altogether, I don't believe they work at all and this isn't due to size constraints. Yes, it appears that as it currently stands, the AGA is not supported past the 2080ti or RTX Titan.
    • If you're using the AGA, the onboard GPU is disabled. I've noticed that both can be kept active if you're using Linux and I've also noted that Nvidia's control center does allow the dGPU to be used for PhysX while the AGA is in use. As far as PCIe bandwidth, I'm not sure what else you're doing with other attached hardware that this would be an issue.
    • It is proprietary, but with a purpose. As @ijozic pointed out, the TB3 controller plays a significant role in how well the eGPU is handled. Dell's approach is a dedicated 4x PCIe connection, which isn't 16x, it is more than enough for anything you'll be doing with it and usually outperforms most other TB3 eGPUs on the market.
    • The older Alienware laptops required a full reboot to use the AGA. The newer ones (my M17, for example) can hotswap the AGA.
    Actually, I highly recommend you don't accelerate the internal display while using the AGA. This does affect bandwidth between the AGA and laptop as it needs to backfeed from the AGA to the internal display. There are many benchmarks available showing a noticeable hit to performance when using the AGA in this fashion. Output to an external monitor is the way to go. As far as competitiveness, you could get an Aorus enclosure with a GPU prepackaged, but I think price-wise you're in the same ballpark. As @MNColdMidwest was undecided as of last contact, at the price point all this gear would ring up, it might be more cost-effective to have a good gaming desktop system and a cheap laptop for mobile stuff rather than trying to get a one-size-fits-all solution. If they're set on getting a laptop, then I would agree that there are other solutions other than the Alienware approach (Aero 15 or Razer come to mind) that are equally competitive. I still believe the AGA is the superior eGPU, but it's splitting hairs.
     
  8. MNColdMidwest

    MNColdMidwest Notebook Enthusiast

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    If I didn't already have most of the parts or had access to stuff at a very reduced price, I would recommend investing in a newer m17r3 as it has better cooling and faster cpu.

    The AGA was something that I liked using as on the go, I can boot into ubuntu and use a smaller model to train with. But now that I finished horse trading and have my hands on a 1080 Ti (11GB) the models I use are normal size.

    For gaming, there is not a whole lot of difference between the 1070 and 1080 Ti when using the laptop display... Maybe an extra 8fps? I have not done a ton of testing/measuring. But using it with an external display is very noticeable.


    --
    2015 Alienware 17 R3
     
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  9. etern4l

    etern4l Notebook Virtuoso

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    m17 R3? Would be tempted if not for the soldered RAM and inverted mobo.
    Sure, one can operate the AGA with an open lid, drill holes, replace the PSU etc. Doesn't mean any of that is desirable.

    The internal dGPU is still present in the newer AW systems with the AGA active, albeit not as a display adapter.

    Only applications requiring a lot of PCIe bandwidth will show benefit on the AGA. Many applications won't when the eGPU is working with an external display, which is how eGPUs are best used (I never claimed otherwise). For me, the unique advantage of an AGA-equipped system is just the ability to have 3 dGPUs in the system (internal+AGA+TB3), but that's obviously very niche.
     
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  10. Gumwars

    Gumwars Notebook Consultant

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    Out of curiosity, has anyone tried an M.2 SSD larger than 1TB in their M17 R1? The specs say 1 TB is the biggest the MB will accept, was wondering if anyone has put that to the test.
     
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