Monday, June 8, 2015

Various laptop operations

I had these pictures lying around, they might be of help to someone. So, in no particular order:

  • MSI GT60 2PC mini-review, inside photo and getting the Windows 8 key from BIOS
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 SMA socket repair
  • Random Toshiba laptop reflow attempt

MSI GT60 2PC Dominator 3K mini-review

The laptop is one hell of a beast, giving a lot of desktop machines on the market a run for their money.

Unfortunately they decided a 1TB HDD is fast enough - taking minutes to boot on a 'clean' system. They also make sure to bundle some adware so that it would not boot too fast.

Top-left: original HDD and subwoofer grill.
Bottom right: fan with shared heatpipe between the CPU and GPU heatsinks
Center: two empty SODIMM RAM slots. Not sure where the original 8GB is, could not find it.
Bottom left, mostly out of picture: caddy for the second hard-drive.

When installing a clean Windows use the RW Utility to read the original laptop key:

The 220 DPI density is ridiculous (2880x1620 / 15.5") making even simple tasks complicated:

Overall, it's a good replacement for the 'old' Dell XPS 720:

  • the CPU (i7 4810) is at least 30% faster than the old one (i7 2470). The old one would barely go above 2.6 Ghz in Turbo mode while this one goes up to 3.5 Ghz
  • the GPU (GTX 870) is probably two times better than the old one (GTX 555) and it now supports Optimus (the Dell XPS was a 3D model for which they disabled it)
  • suspend/resume times are almost instant now
  • a tad lighter and with a stronger build
  • fan is quieter and does not pick up so much dust
  • the power plug and SPDIF cable make positive connections whereas on the Dell they kept falling out
Not so good:
  • 15" screen is visibly smaller than 17"
  • Dynaudio sound on MSI worse than the JBL on Dell
  • USB3 ports do not work properly - requiring hacking the drivers to get them half working
  • most of the ports are on the side, towards the front - rather than in the back
  • cannot disable battery charging - this feature would allow one to keep a battery charged at 40%, extending the life significantly, especially under warm/hot conditions

Dell XPS 702x vent grill after each 2 weeks

On the other hand, I'm glad I don't have to do this every two weeks:

Intel Centrino 6230 SMA replacement

While taking apart my Dell XPS for cleaning a few years back I broke an SMA connector off the network card. In the picture below (after repair) is the one at the bottom:

The card uses two antennas for diversity and also for Bluetooth. I've used the laptop without the additional antenna for almost two years with no major issues except: WiFi signal was 20-30% weaker and Bluetooth would only work next to the laptop. I would guess it was a security feature.

Found the connector on Pollin for ~1E so decided to try and retrofit that in. Also, a network card like this costs 10-20E, so the loss would have been minimal if the card was ruined.

Time to show off my 60E Lidl microscope:

The trace is visibly lifted from the pad, so it had to be fixed as well.

The connector was soldered down on the two side pads and only a small connection was made to the ripped track - I thought this way there would be less tension on the track.

Glad to say this repair turned out just fine and will probably last for the lifetime of the laptop. The connector is held down really well in place while the old one was not soldered properly.

Toshiba laptop reflow attempt

This is a random Toshiba laptop that has left a friend of mine. It seems like the video card has died, though no way of knowing for sure.

The southbridge could also have been a source of trouble:

A cutout of aluminium foil was made for the GPU and Southbridge, with some place for the temperature probe:

The foil was kept in place with bottles, another thin level of foil was placed over the chip with bits of solder on it.
The melting of the solder would indicate that we are getting close to reflow temperature.

Unfortunately there was no success (back in 2013).

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