AMDs professional mobile GPUs (FirePro M Series) use the same hardware as their gaming equivalent (Mobility Radeon HD Series)
The difference lies in the VBIOS and in the specialized driver. This allows to simply change a 6970m into a FirePro M8900 by simply flashing the appropriate VBIOS and installing the corresponding driver:
(UPDATE: This also works with the 6990m, see the update at the end of the post)
The advantage of the FirePro card lies in the better CAD and DCC performance, optimized OpenGL support, OpenCL features and AMD Eyefinity technology.
In short: The card gets optimized for professional applications instead of games. A 6970m is very well capable of CAD work and a M8900 can still play games, but their performance is optimized for other tasks, and this can make quite a difference. A game uses a GPU differently than CAD software. For example you don't need a high frame rate when designing something with CAD software, but it's crucial that the rendering of your work is accurate and detailed.
So if you have a 6970m and need to use professional software once in a while you might want to give this a try. I haven't installed any CAD software on my system at the moment, but the driver seems to work properly, haven't seen any issues so far.The procedure doesn't take long, you only need to flash the VBIOS, uninstall your gaming driver and install the professional one.
You can use the M8900 driver of the Dell Precision M6600 workstation, you'll find it at the Dell drivers page. Maybe you find a more recent driver on the AMD homepage.
Here are some screenshots of the Catalyst Pro Control Center, you'll probably notice some features which aren't available with the Radeon HD cards:
I've done this with my Sapphire 6970m, it'll definitely work with the Dell 6970m as well and it's save to assume that this is true for the Clevo/Eurocom version too.
Since there are some changes in hardware IDs you'll need to force the flash.
This should work just as well when your system has a FirePro M8900 and you want to optimize the gaming performance - simply flash the 6970m VBIOS and install the regular driver and you're done.
The Dell 6970m VBIOS can be found in this post.
Also a big thanks to @Star Forge for providing the VBIOS of the FirePro M8900!!
Here's a 3dMark Vantage run with after applying the soft mod to the 6970m, everything at stock, also in the CPCC. Not too bad imo, same pretty much the same as the stock run I did when I got the 6970m in April.
Would be interesting to see some gaming comparisions... but I haven't installed any games atm.
EDIT: For M17x r3 users: You need to modify the driver, otherwise it won't install here the instruction, a big thanks goes to @devillucifer for investigating this problem and finding a solution.
When I come around to do so I'll post a link to a modified driver so you don't have to modify them yourself.
Detailed guide for flashing the VBIOS:
This also works with the 6990m. Note that the M8900 VBIOS has the same clock speeds as the 6970m, so the 6990m is actually underclocked with this VBIOS. You can easily overclock it with software or modify the clocks of the VBIOS before flashing, so that you're back at 6990m speeds. But even at standard clocks the 6990m performs better than the M8900 or 6970m, the card has 120 additional shaders which will bring a little performance boost as you can see in the screenshot below, I about 1000 points more on the GPU score compared to the 6970m flashed with the M8900 VBIOS (at the same clocks).
DOWNLOAD FOR AMD FIREPRO M8900.ZIP HERE:
IMPORTANT: The 6970m is not officially supported by Dell. Upgrading to this card may void your warranty. The 6970m is a powerful card, it will draw more power and produce more heat. This card can significantly improve the performance of your system, however, the long-term effects of running this card in a M15x are currently unknown, but it works great so far.
Cards that are known to work:
The card Dell uses in the M17x R3: This has only been tested for a short while so far, but it seems to work perfectly fine. Credits go to Rogue-OP and iloveb00bs, the first guys who tried to put a 6970m in a M15x.
-DP/HDMI works, confirmed by Strigae, fan control works
It seems you need to install the M17x R3 drivers first before you can get the official AMD drivers. I guess installing for example the modded 11.4 will work as well.
Dell Part nr. is: V9XKH.Good luck when ordering one from Dell, depending on where you live and what kind of rep you get on the phone they might not want to sell you the card as it isn’t officially available for your system. Call again in this case, or if you know someone with a M17x R3 let him order the card for you.
6970m from MXM-upgrade.com: Works great, but no fan control. The fans are constantly at a high speed, but not completely at full full speed. For now you’ll need to manually control the fans with HWinfo32.
-DP/HDMI works. Sound through HDMI works when you install the Dell 6970m vbios and the M17x R3 HDMI audio driver. Here are the instructions for this. Card can now be ordered for the M15x from mxm-upgrade.
Clevo (and resellers) 6970m: The card from Clevo and resellers (Eurocom etc.) works as well, but make sure you get a version of the card which has holes for the back plate! Some of these cards have the screw holes for mounting the heatsink soldered on which makes it impossible to use the Dell backplate, and since Clevo uses slightly smaller screws than Dell you can’t simply put your heatsink on such a card. Contact your dealer in advance to make sure you get a card which doesn’t have the screw holes soldered to the PCB, otherwise you’ll have to remove it (which is difficult) or use some smaller screws on the heatsink.
For all these cards the heatsink of the M15x fits perfectly. No modification needed.
Cards from other vendors / manufacturers may work as well. If you got a different 6970m running in your M15x let me know and I’ll upgrade the list.
Things to do before swapping the cards:
Download the drivers. This modded 11.5 should work, click on “MobilityMod Windows 7/Vista” in the linked thread. Also get GPU-Z for monitoring your video card and verifying it, Trixx, for under- and overclocking and in case you haven’t got a Dell card also HWinfo32 (I recommend getting it anyway since it is a great system monitoring tool) Make sure you have thermal paste, maybe some new thermal pads as well as something to clean the heatsink (e.g. isoproply alcohol) and some cloths around. I also highly recommend using a grounded ESD-mat and a wristband. Know what you’re doing. You need to partially disassemble your machine to get to the GPU. Prepare yourself thoroughly, check out my little guide. In case you need more information, there’s also the M15x service manual, as well as the teardown video. It can be helpful to write down all the steps in advance when you’re doing this for the first time.
The upgrading procedure:
Then (after reassembling your system), boot, install the drivers and reboot. Make sure the fans are running. Open GPU-Z and verify your card and the clocks. It should look more or less like this. Default 3D clocks are 680/900MHz (core/memory) and 150/100MHz when idling. Make sure PowerPlay is enabled in the Catalyst Control Center. Also make sure Stealth Mode is deactivated.
Check your temperatures. Idle temps should be 40-50°C, but this also depends on your ambient temperature . While gaming or doing something similar GPU-intense the system will run significantly hotter, 70-80°C, maybe a bit higher.
Note: By lifting the back of your system a bit (for example with a book) you can improve the airflow in the system. This can really help lowering the temps.
The back plate problem:
The retention bracket of the 6970m has a different size than the regular M15x cards (260m, 5850m etc.)When your card doesn’t come with this x-plate you need to take the one you have on your old GPU, but this one won’t fit properly. Nevertheless it works, even if it covers some resistors on the back of the card. Make sure you’re not shorting anything. Usually the back plate has an insulating black plastic pad on it, this will work. However, if your x-plate doesn’t have this pad on it, you must cover it with some thin, insulating tape.
Here you can see the problem, in the first picture I marked the are which gets covered by the backplate and in the second picture the highlighted area shows where the plate should be.
The space beneath the card becomes pretty tight, but it works. My advice is contacting your dealer before buying the card and asking whether he can provide the correct x-plate. (In case he tells you that you should use the one from your old card tell him it has a different size.)
The power draw of the card is probably about 75-100W. I run this card together with an i7 920xm in my M15x and it works fine. Nevertheless you need to be careful, as the PSU of the M15x is only rated 150W. When doing some 3dM11 runs with both GPU and CPU overclocked I measured about 160-170W current draw from my system during the combined test. You really need to be careful when running this card, especially when you have an extreme processor (920/940xm). Pushing both GPU and CPU can (and will) bring the PSU to its limits (and above).
Some numbers about the power draw when playing games, everything on stocks:
Black Ops Zombies (everything on max): ~ 130-140W
Portal 2 (everything on max): ~110-125W
Medal of Honor (everything on max) ~140-150W
Crysis 2 (set to “Hardcore) ~ 140-150W
The device I use for measuring the power draw has an accuracy of about ± 10W.
Fan control: In case you have a card which makes your fans running at a high speed all the time you will need to use HWinfo32 to automatically (or if you prefer, manually) control the fan speed.
It’s possible to create a fan control look-up table and let HWinfo32 automatically control the fan speed by temperature.
1. Click on the fan symbol2. Click on “Custom Auto” 3. Choose the temperature sensor diode which you want to use as reference.4. Set the desired speeds/temperatures according to your needs.
Do this for both GPU and CPU, ignore GPU2 fan. I recommend using the hottest GPU diode (usually MemIO).A big thanks to Mumak, the developer of this fantastic tool. Here you can find the official Alienware fan control thread in case you find a bug or need to know more.
Warning: Adjusting the fan speed can be dangerous!! Always keep an eye on your temps and never forget to adjust the values before doing something CPU or GPU intense (in case you control them manually)
Possible problems and solutions:
Unable to install drivers. Solution: Try a different driver. Also contact your vendor, maybe he knows a specific one that works. Idle clocks are 250/900 instead of 100/150. Solution: Check your display settings and make sure only your internal notebook monitor is selected. 250/900 are the idle clocks when you’re connected to an external monitor (or when your display settings are got messed up, probably driver related) The GPU temps are crazy high! Solution: Repaste. You probably did a bad job with the thermal paste. Also make sure your system is dust-free and that the heatsink sits properly and is making contact (also check the pads where the memory modules touch the heatsink). While idling the GPU clocks change from 2d to 3d clocks and back all couple of seconds. Solution: This behaviour can be caused by the M17x r3 6970m driver (A00). Get the latest AMD driver and you should be fine. If you have this problem with a different driver try another driver version.
I have been stupid enough to flash my MXM card with a bios with the wrong ID.
I'm not sure why this happened as i modified a allready working 6990M bios and only turned down the core clock from 715 to 680. Somehow doing this changed the ID and I now have ATIFlash stating "no adapter found".
I've read a article made by a user on this forum by the username svl7 - Recovering a notebook GPU from a bad flash
Hopefyllu this user is still active as I would really want to know what programmer he used, and where he got it.
Or let me buy a working chip with the M8900 680/900 Hynix bios on it.
Also read some post about shorting Pin 1 to 8 to bypass the flashchip, but that did not work. May be this is just for desktop cards.
Really hope @svl7 sees this or maybe someone who knows him can relay this message.
In advanced, thanks!
Liquidqtip, the dude running on Intel HD3000 because of stupidity...
Got my backplates in today from EVGA, they are $20 each so the cost isn't too bad and they have pads on the back of them so they actually assist with memory cooling. I touched the back of them after a gaming session and they did get pretty toasty so that tells me they are working. Just make sure you have good circulation in the case to keep air flowing over them to remove the heat build up. My system still needs additional fans for optimal cooling. Here's some pics: