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Help upgrading Sony Vaio F graphics card.

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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January 6, 2012 6:24:34 PM

Hey all,

I have the current Sony Vaio F series (http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product...) and was considering upgrading the card. I have the GT 540m currently in it and wanted to upgrade it. I know its glued in there but just wanted to make sure that a GTX 560m will fit in my laptop before I invest $250 on it. Thanks all!

Intel Core i7
6GB Ram
640 gb 7200 HDD
Nvidia GT 540m
Blu Ray disc drive
Windows 7 HOME
January 6, 2012 6:35:41 PM

You cannot change the video card on that laptop. On that note, 99 percent of laptop will not allow this. I think Alienware did something like this once though--anyone?

Nor can you just buy a 560m to slop into that.

Also, really hoping this is just a troll thread.
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January 6, 2012 6:51:25 PM

Not a troll. When i purchased the laptop from Sony they told me it is upgradable but it is gluded in the slot and they said if you do plan to upgrade get it professionally done. And u can buy the card sepperate . Ebay my friend.

Also sorry but im not use to upgrading laptops. I usually do desktops
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January 6, 2012 6:57:10 PM

Sony told you that? This is not a feature of your laptop, scraping out glue and replacing the graphics GPU with a new one sounds like it's going to cause a lot of problems, if you ask me.

Also, I guarantee anyone who "professionally" does this will not warranty any damage done, and your warranty from Sony will be voided.
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August 18, 2012 12:06:02 AM

digitalzom-b said:
You cannot change the video card on that laptop. On that note, 99 percent of laptop will not allow this. I think Alienware did something like this once though--anyone?

Nor can you just buy a 560m to slop into that.

Also, really hoping this is just a troll thread.


Laptops with upgradable graphics might be more common than you hink. (However, the particular laptop in question is probably not one of them).

The vast majority of laptops (and over 90% of desktops, for that matter) employ what's known as "integrated graphics". They use the GPU that's built into the motherboard (such as the GMA 3000 core that accompanies Intel's 946GZ chipset). Instead of having dedicated video memory, it shares the system RAM with the CPU. (Yeah, I know I'm probably not telling you anything new here. I'm just being overly explanative for the sake of any less savy readers. And I'm not a troll.)

On a desktop system, you can just buy a new video card (of the appropriate slot type), stick it in, and start using it (provided that can find and have installed a driver that can support it with your particular motherboard). It bypasses the motherboard GPU and has it's own builtin RAM for graphics.

But some laptops employ "discrete graphics"; that is, they have the GPU on a daughterboard separate from the motherboard. That I've seen, just about all major laptop manufacturers offer models with that option, and have for at least a decade or so.

In my experience, a laptop motherboard designed for both will have space for an adapter slot, but on models that use integrated graphics, the slot is typically not installed and the pin holes are soldered over. Thus, they manufacture two slightly different versions of each motherboard: one without the slot, and one possessing the slot but having the MB GPU disabled. (Okay, sometimes it's not actually a card slot, but rather, pins onto which the card's contacts are hard soldered.)

Usually (perhaps always, from my observations), when a manufacture offers a choice of GPU in a product series, the base models will all have the unslotted version of the motherboard (and use the integrated graphics) while the other models have the slot for a discrete graphics card.

However, sometimes the GPU on discrete graphics laptop models cannot be upgraded or replaced (outside of the factory) because, instead of being inserted into a friction slot for easy removal, the daughtercard is either epoxied in place or directly soldered to the adapter. (Such may be the case with the original poster's Vaio F-series. A couple of not-entirely-reliable mentions on the Web imply that, but I haven't cracked open my own Vaio F-series to confirm it.)

I've had mid-range Dell, Toshiba, and Acer laptops where the discrete GPU card can be easily removed and replaced. However, actually swapping it out for a better one is a different matter because, unlike with a desktop system, it's not simply a matter of getting the right driver and slot type (assuming BIOS support, that is).

While the slot specifications and card sizes conform to industry-wide, rather than proprietary, standards, there have been about a dozen different standard slot configurations for mobile GPUs over the years. Thus, there is little guarantee that anyone makes your desired graphics card in a version that fits your slot.

Obviously, space is also an issue. There is often no room in a laptop to install a graphics card that is physically larger than the one the laptop was designed for. That is rarely an issue with desktop systems (unless you have a low-profile system or are looking at a giant 3D gaming card with huge builtin fans).

But, in my view, the biggest barrier to offering graphics upgrades for a laptop versus for a desktop is the fact that the heatsink must be designed not only to suit the graphics card's particular chip layout, but also must be designed for that specific laptop's motherboard layout. (Unlike with desktop systems, there is not room in a notebook for a graphics card to have its own cooling fan, and, therefore, the heat must be hardpiped to the system fan. Since the location and physical geometry of the system fan tends to be different on every laptop series and since the heat ducting bar is always built into the heatsink itself, laptop GPU heatsinks must be specific to both the graphics card and the laptop model.)

Thus, I believe the need for a specialized heatsink that is specific to each graphics card & laptop combination is really what prevents manufacturers from being able to offer aftermarket upgrade options.

Now, if the heat pipe was a part distinct from the heatsink itself, this would no longer be an issue. If only they could develop some standard attachment/reattachment method (I'm not sure how they are bonded, but I wonder if the high-end silver-impregnated thermal grease could provide sufficient conductivity with a screw-down connection) and a standard for what angle the heatpipe has to be at, then each graphics card would only need one heatsink design that would be compatible with every laptop possessing a standards-compliant heat pipe. Sure, such upgrades would be nominally a service technician operation. . .but then, so is a CPU upgrade, and this would be no more technical than that. With the heatsink-design barrier eliminated, third-party manufacturers could easily start offering better-than-stock graphics card upgrades.


When I purchased my Dell laptop, I saw that the model series had many graphics options available, so I got the base model on the assumption that I could save a couple hundred bucks now and then upgrade the card to one of the others in the future. It was only later that I learned that the motherboard of the base model did not support such upgrading.

Years later, when the original motherboard became damaged, I replaced it with one from the discrete graphics models. I ran it with an ATI Radeon card for awhile, the later upgraded it again with a Nvidia GeForce card. That second card, having a different chip layout from the first, required buying another heatsink that was designed specifically for using that card in that particular laptop.

You're right, though, that one can't just buy a laptop graphics card upgrade off the shelf. They are not distributed through regular retail channels like desktop cards, but must be acquired through a service center (or parts specialist) as replacement parts (or purchased used through eBay or somesuch). Sure, buying them that way is not particularly difficult. However, since they are intended as replacement parts, that means that your upgrade options are pretty much limited to only those cards that the laptop manufacturer offered as preinstalled options.

So, when you hear that Nvidia has released a laptop version of some new blazing fast card and you're wondering if you can use it to breathe some life into your 3-year-old-but-supposedly-upgradable notebook, the answer is "no". No major manufacturer is going to make a model-specific version of a video card and heatsink outside of what the laptop manufacturer pre-installs in new systems.

That realization was a big disappointment to me. I had originally thought that getting a model with discrete graphics would be a way of "future proofing" my laptop. It certainly works that way on desktops. I have installed brand-new graphics cards featuring just-released GPUs into desktops that had been discontinued seven years earlier. Makes sense that I can expect to do the same for a laptop if it has a removable card, right? But no. . .whatever cards were available in the top-of-the-line configuration of your laptop is about the best you can ever hope to upgrade it to. If your laptop is from a series that went out of production four years ago, your options for improving the video hardware will almost surely be at least four years old.

However, there are rare instances where a third party offers newer card/heatsink combos that have been modified to work with select popular laptops, even though they were never originally or officially supported by the OEM system. Also, often a more powerful version of a video card is physically similar enough to its predecessors that the heatsink will be compatible, but there's no guarantee that the motherboard won't refuse to recognize it.
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