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Upgrading/replacing ATI x1400 on Dell Inspiron 9400 notebook

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April 18, 2006 10:27:27 PM

Hopefully someone can help me on this subject.

Since Dell decided to pull the old switcharoo from the Nvidia 7800 to ATi Radeon x1400 on the Inspiron 9400 laptops, I have been considering still ordering one even though the x1400 is an inferior chip. The price point for the 9400 laptop w/ 2.16 Dual core proc, 2GB RAM and all the other trimmings beats the pricing on the XPS stuff and I am not ready to shell out over $4K for the XPS 1710 even though it looks like it totally kicks butt. The 9400 seems to be strong all around except for the crappy video options.

I have been searching around the web but cannot find an answer about switching out video cards on Dell systems. Since that laptop model comes stock with the even crappier Intel graphics, I assume that the x1400 plugs into the mobo via some sort of PC Express slot and I highly doubt that Dell would have retooled the entire Inspiron 9400 mobo to work only with that x1400 card module. Does anyone know what kind of options would I have to upgrade the x1400?

I would love to go Nvidia but I am not really sure how that MXM vs AXIM works and when I called Dell tech support, they were clueless as usual and couldn't give me an answer... other than telling me about voiding the warrenty or some crap like that.

Any expertise on this would be greatly appreciated and I apologize if this has been covered on another thread.

Thx mucho

Grog
a b U Graphics card
April 18, 2006 11:31:54 PM

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Since Dell decided to pull the old switcharoo from the Nvidia 7800 to ATi Radeon x1400 on the Inspiron 9400 laptops,


Actually the full switcharoo, like you mention, is the base has been dropped to GMA950. Now that's truely crappy! 8O

Quote:
The 9400 seems to be strong all around except for the crappy video options.


Yes they were great too, especially with the free GF7800 upgrade, remember that the GF6800 was the old base, not the GF7800. Still great at the core components like you say though.
They have completely replaced the 9400 though with the E170, since they are focusing the XPS on gaming and the E on 'entertainment', where obviously the GMA and X1400's multimedia prowess is being leveraged.

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Since that laptop model comes stock with the even crappier Intel graphics, I assume that the x1400 plugs into the mobo via some sort of PC Express slot


Yes an AXIOM slot, although....

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and I highly doubt that Dell would have retooled the entire Inspiron 9400 mobo to work only with that x1400 card module.


Why not? Not only that but they retooled their previous nV and ATi solutions so that the only way to upgrade was with a Dell designed replacement part. I don't doubt for a second that this card doesn't have some special notch somewhere on it to keep you from doing a cheap upgrade to and Mobility X1600 from someone else.

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Does anyone know what kind of options would I have to upgrade the x1400?


Likely whatever Dell let's you, and right now they don't offer X1600s or X1800s. I suspect the X1600 will fit, but that the X1800 and future X1900 likely use a larger footprint than would be allowed by the space in the laptop, even if it weren't a proprietary solution, and as so many reviewers have said the MRX1600 can be passively cooled, whereas the MRX1800 needs either a fan or heatpipe specifically for it. Unlike the X1400 will come with what's needed for the X1800 to function normally.

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I would love to go Nvidia but I am not really sure how that MXM vs AXIM works and when I called Dell tech support, they were clueless as usual and couldn't give me an answer... other than telling me about voiding the warrenty or some crap like that.


Axiom and MXM do not co-exist, their interfaces were specifically made to not support each other's cards.

Basically you are at the mercy of Del's decisions regarding the interface. Dell CAN (like Alienware and Voodo first did) make their replacement path proprietary, and thus means you can only use Dell based AXIOM solutions (which right now tops out at the X1400). But if you're lucky and the X1K series is different than their previous solutions and you can use any AXIOM solution, then the trouble will be finding the part for cheap. It will likely cost you $200-300 easily IMO. Isn't it just worth paying that much more for a solution by another company? Like Gateway? DuoCore + GF7600 or GF7800 for under $1500US, or one of the smaller boutique solutions where you could get duo core + an X1800 or GF7800 or a variety of other components. Dell really isn't the only company out there. The 9400 with the free GF7800 upgrade was a SWEET deal (my friend got the GF6800 upgrade on the 9300 a few months before), but now it seems they don't want to have something competing with their XPS series so that deal is gone.

Quote:
Any expertise on this would be greatly appreciated and I apologize if this has been covered on another thread.


No problem, this question is never fully covered.
a b U Graphics card
April 19, 2006 12:35:23 AM

Laptops with decent graphics (i.e, suitable for gaming with modern titles) are jsut too darn expensive IMO...

I love laptops for travel (work, e-mail, surfing, movies in hotle room, etc..), but if planning on a system for FEAR, you can build a good smallform around a 7900GT or 1800XT, *AND* have a decent laptop with a 1.4-1.5G Celeron-M (for $400-ish on sale!), and have $1000 to spare vs. just buying a laptop that is good for FEAR....
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April 19, 2006 4:28:21 AM

Thank you so very much GreatGrapeApe, your answers and insight were exactly what I needed!!

Based on your info, I definately won't be getting a Inspi 9400. It really does have nice specs but the ATi x1400 video does appear to be a dead end and even if they do upgrade to the x1600 in the future, that is just more money I have to shell out and compaired to the NV cards, they just don't compete right now.

For my needs, I prefer a more 3D power than the x1400 can provide. If I am gonna shell out that much money, I might as well get something close to "top of the line" as possible.

The only reason I am going with Dell was that I get a really good corporate discount with them. :lol:  I know there are other good vendors out there but I have been ordering Laptops/PC's/Servers and dealing with Dell support for the past 8 yrs and I have gotten pretty good about bypassing alot of the crap that others seen to always get hit with.

I totally agree with mdd1963 that the top of the line gaming laptops are just way too expensive but I travel around quite a bit and I do like to game while on the road and humping around a SFF w/monitor & accessories is just not feasible for me.

Now that I am leaning towards an XPS ... do I go for the 7900GTX or settle for the 7900GS. :twisted:

Grog
a b U Graphics card
April 19, 2006 5:19:35 AM

Quote:
Thank you so very much GreatGrapeApe, your answers and insight were exactly what I needed!!


Glad I could help.

Something to consider is look at this setup for $1500 like I said;
http://www.gateway.com/products/gconfig/prodhmseries.as...

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The only reason I am going with Dell was that I get a really good corporate discount with them. :lol: 


That's what drew me to my first and probably last Dell laptop. I might have considered the 9300/9400 during it's good times, but now nothing is looking good with them anymore, regardless of discount (our 15% doesn't make up for the feature gap and high cost of extras).

There's far better solutions out there like Acer, Asus, and a bunch of individual companies. But since you have a good rapport with them, try and leverage the knowledge of what's out there when dealing with them, because really you want one of those 9400s with the GF7800 the ba$$turdz just took it away from you.

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I totally agree with mdd1963 that the top of the line gaming laptops are just way too expensive


But you don't need top of the line to be playable. Oblivion is easily the toughest new game out there, and my PM 1.73GHZ laptop with 2GB DDR2 and MRX700 plays it fine. Not a single game out there I can't play.

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Now that I am leaning towards an XPS ... do I go for the 7900GTX or settle for the 7900GS. :twisted:


The question is whether it's worth the extra coin for you. Remember to consider the extra graphics power will make it playable a little longer, but the difference is also usually the equivalent of a spare battery.
Only you know which is more valuable, or whether you want both, and don't mind paying for it. Personally I'm of the GF7600/X1700 ilk where I want power, but value and battery life as well, and would prefer the 2nd battery instead.
April 26, 2006 6:27:26 AM

This is another reason why a "little knowledge" can be dangerous when asking for help.

You can now, indeed, order the E1705/9400 with not only a 7800 Go, but Audigy as well. Prices have also come down, provided you find the right Dell link. I ordered an E1705 last week when they were only offering the X1400, and it arrived this morning. It's going right back for the 7800.

I also spoke with a tech specialist who informed me that on the E1705, the GPU IS discreet and replaceable. The cost for a 7800 Go unit is $320, far more than the $40 price difference during purchase. Plus, prices have decreased.

That makes the E1705 one of the most sh*t-hot performers for price aound.
April 26, 2006 11:17:52 PM

if you want dell go to small business area and get the inspirion 9400 and you can get dual core cpu and also the geforce 7800 graphics option.i just did mock up of 2.0 ghz duo core,xp pro,17 " wide uxga true life screen, 120 gb hd,1 gb memory,dual layer dvdrw,7800 graphics, 9cell battery,intel pro wireless with bluetooth all for about $1600 usd. there are other discounts sometimes that could drop this price some.and you could opt for less hard drive or xp home or lesser screen or less cpu,to save if thats too much.this is about the same as e1705 series or they have 6400 thats same as e1505 which is what i have. its a nice laptop and i got a great deal,but i dont use it for gaming. i have a 4600x2 7800gtx sli rig for that. hope this helps you out
a b U Graphics card
April 27, 2006 5:53:30 PM

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This is another reason why a "little knowledge" can be dangerous when asking for help.

You can now, indeed, order the E1705/9400 with not only a 7800 Go, but Audigy as well.


At the time you could not. Things change, but at the time of posting that was not the case, and so seriously stick your comment deep down where it belongs. Tomorrow HP may offer a Duo core SLI rig for $5, but that doesn't change the current state of things.
So stick the smug BS n00b!

As for the Audigy, the PCMCIA 2ZS is still a better choice IMO, but for someone llooking for basic EAX functionality without all the good pro features it'll do. And for $25 I'd rather spend twice as much for a solution I can put in my current and future laptops. If it were a free upgrade that's another story.

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That makes the E1705 one of the most sh*t-hot performers for price aound.


Yeah, finally Dell once again has a good entry in that area, over a week ago when this thread started they only offered the two extremes. And had he bought either solution at the time and not had the option of returning it, he would've been stuck because Dell still doesn't offer an X1800/1900 solution, and that MXM card you're talking about would fit in the AXIOM slot. Maybe if you'd read the thread and looked at the dates perhaps you'd have figured those two considerations Jacka$$!
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