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Alienware 18 Virgin - Advice Please

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I've been an enthusiast 'build your own tower system' guy for my entire computing life (going back to the 486 days) so I can relate to the power user crowd. HOWEVER, I've been out of the scene for the last 5 years due to kids (those pesky kids!) and just now trying to get back into it with a big cheese AW system. Trouble is, on top of my general rustiness, this hardcore laptop realm is entirely foreign to me and I'm looking for the easiest and best things I can do to squeeze a bit more performance out of my system when it gets here. I'm not looking to have flames shooting out of the vents or get it to a point where I'm tweaking and benching more than actually using the thing but you know, just a little more horsepower under the hood without blowing it to pieces. This is what I have coming, supposed to be here by 8/2 (ordered 7/12):

Alienware 18 BTX

Win 7 Home Premium x64

512GB SSD & 750GB HD

i7-4900MQ

16GB DDR3L 1600

780M SLI

Hoping this rig will last me at least 5 years as far as high-end gaming goes. Also I'll be running in a dual monitor setup with a Dell U2410 via DisplayPort.

From what I've read so far, a vbios mod seems like a must for the GPU boost but what if anything should I (try to) do with the CPU, RAM and any other software or hardware settings?

My goal when playing games is maximum visual quality @ 1920x12 res @ steady 60 fps, otherwise I'm ok with throttling most everything back for day to day stuff (though I do a good bit of DVD ripping and recoding so want max performance for that too).

One benefit of having to wait so damn long for the system to arrive (what gives Dell?) is that I have ample time to get prepared for this new way of life and suss out surprises (like building a WIn7 bootable USB3 stick and a DOS one for flashing and such). Anywho thanks in advance all and maybe by the end of this I'll have my 5 posts so I can download all the cool stuff from this forum! :untroubled:

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I myself would settle with a nice vBIOS for OC, increase the multi on the CPU and getting some OC-able RAM like kingston hyper X.

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It seems like 780M custom vbios is still being developed in the community? I believe there's a GPU vbios flashing guide here somewhere I can use but what is the best utility to do the actual overclocking, maybe Nvidia Inspector?

Similarly, what's the best utility for increasing the CPU multi and has anyone gotten a decent boost out of a 4900MQ?

Do you also need a custom mobo bios to tweak for performance RAM like the Hyper-X?

I believe the AW 18 has triple copper heatpipes for all GPU and CPU so hoping for some good leeway in the heat department.

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You should make it just like it says in the manual. With the utility NfFlash

greeting

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You won't need any BIOS mods for the Plug n Play hyper X as far as I know as they are plug n play.

Sorry for the comment about raising the multi on the CPU as it's not possible, I missread and thought it was the XM version. Still a good CPU though :D

As for the overclocking of the GPU I would recommend MSI afterburner which is my personal favorite.

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So the core multiplier on anything but the MX/XM CPU's is locked and overclocking my CPU in that case means messing with the turbo settings and bus clocks? Is Intel XTU the best for that or is it strictly a BIOS settings thing? I see an old thread about the MX18 BIOS so I'll go read over that, seems like a lot of will still apply to the 18. That MSI utility looks awesome, so you can mess with the core and memory clocks out of the box but need a vbios patch to play with voltage? Memory will have to wait as I doubt I'll get any play out of this standard Hyundai 1600 stuff that shipped with it.

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The Ivy 37XXQM/38XXQM and Haswell 4800MQ/4900MQ (and maybe 4700MQ) have partially unlocked multipliers and locked TDP limits. You can squeeze an extra 400MHz from them. The only CPU family capable of meaningful overclocking are the Extreme (XM/MX) models. The hidden Sandy and Ivy BIOS menus have been exposed by our awesome friend @svl7 and necessary changes can be made in the BIOS and/or XTU.

The new 18 with Haswell chipset has very few BIOS settings available and it remains to be seen if it can eventually be flashed with modded firmware. Right now it is not possible, but that could change. Until then, XTU will be the primary tool for Haswell. @unclewebb is working on a release of ThrottleStop for Haswell and it will include some adjustments similar to XTU. Neither XTU nor ThrottleStop will allow adjustments of locked registers. The Core Current Limit is a very important setting that needs to be adjustable. Right now it is locked at a low maximum value that cannot be changed. It needs to be adjustable up to 112.000A at the bare minimum and it is capped at 32.000A until Alienware releases an updated BIOS. Until they release an update (which will probably will fairly soon) there is no advantage to having the 4930MX CPU because it cannot be utilized any more than the MQ models. All Haswell processors are crippled right now because the Core Current Limit is too low and maximum turbo boost ratio cannot be maintained under load on any of them. As soon as they release a BIOS with appropriate maximum limits set (or preferably uncapped up to Intel's design limit of 1024.000A) this will be adjustable with XTU like Ivy Bridge. Once that happens, the 4930MX will completely annihilate the MQ processors with a stable OC in the 4.8GHz or higher range.

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Man that post was tasty, thank you, it's no wonder the premium for the Extreme CPU's is so high. So if I got this right, with Haswell non-extreme CPU's, we shouldn't expect to get more than ~400MHz extra but even so, don't get hopeful until this current limit in the BIOS is fixed, after which XTU will be the main tool (with ThrottleStop later on), then down the road it could allow for creation of a modded BIOS to further open things up? On the GPU front, looks like Nvidia Inspector or MSI Afterburner is all I need, along with the vbios patch. What is considered a safe temp for CPU and GPU on these AW 18's? I'm probably gonna have to repaste with quality goo, seems most everyone has been very disappointed with the job Dell's minions did with the stock paste.

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Because of the core current limit does this mean the 3840 currently has more potential then the 4800mq due to the fact it can hold the plus 400 oc?

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My 18 has a 4700mq. Kind of regretting that decision. What can I do to squeeze more performance out of it? Anything at all?

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I stayed far away from the 4700MQ due to the dinky L3 cache but otherwise I'm sure you can overclock it just like any other non-Extreme Haswell, I think most people can get to 4 GHz at turbo without much problem, even beyond if yer hardcore. However the present BIOS for the 18 has a CPU (electrical) current flaw as noted above so I'm not even going to bother trying to OC until that's resolved. Right now I only get 3.1 GHz max on all cores due to this BIOS crap, what a joke!

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I get 3.09 in a stress test. I can play with multipliers in XTU but I can't adjust core clock or anything. I should have got the 4800mq.

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I don't see much point of getting the 4800MQ or 4900MQ. Stick with 4700MQ, or get the 4930MX. Go big or go home. The performance increment is negligible. In fact, at stock clock, and stock BIOS, the 4700MQ will probably bench better than the 4800/4900MQ.

4700MQ and 4800MQ won't hit 4.0GHz, since the multiplier are locked. The most you can get from 4800MQ is 3.9GHz. I didn't check on the 4700MQ. Went from 4700MQ to 4800MQ to 4930MX.

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Some folks want a guaranteed minimum performance which is why the 4800 and 4900 exist I suppose. My budget was maxed with a 4900 so that's as big as I could go, the 4930 would have put the price of my machine into the silly zone (instead of just the crazy zone). Also in a weird move by Intel, the 4930 actually has a couple LESS features than the non-extreme processors. I didn't realize turbo multipliers were locked on the non-extreme Haswell's, so is fiddling with base clock our only option to go higher?

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4900MQ has 2MB more cache, believe it or not but that can make quite a difference in certain situations.

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Now I'm confused again. For Haswell, Intel confirmed that all core and turbo multipliers were disabled for non-extreme CPU's which leads me to believe only base clock tweaking is available for OC. However in the AW 18 BIOS I can change the core ratio settings for all 4 cores and see in Windows that the cores are actually hitting the higher speeds (via CPU-Z). Of course under load I throttle immediately down to 3.1 and even 2.6 GHz (laff) but I know that's a separate BIOS issue affecting everyone. Anyway the BIOS will not however let me change the base clock at all, no matter what I set it to or what ratio, it always reverts back to 100. I hope someone creates a Haswell overclock guide just for us Alienware 14/17/18 people as I can't figure out who's doing what now.

So for Haswell non-extreme, will we or won't we (eventually) have access to that 'free' ~400 MHz headroom that the Ivy Bridge people enjoyed? Does Intel XTU override this BIOS stuff in software and allow changes to BCLK and the turbo multi's? I know even bothering with OC'ing right now is pointless but I'd just like to understand these concepts a bit better.

post-15261-14494995952974_thumb.jpg

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I've since learned that the current BIOS locks BCLK at 100 so we can't OC that way period (not with XTU, nothing) which is extremely lame since Haswell specifically introduced step-down clocks specifically to allow raising BCLK. It seems with the 'OC LV 1' preset in the BIOS (the only one you get with a 4900MQ) they are actually allowing a partial unlock of the core multipliers via BIOS so I guess that explains that. So with 4 cores pumping the most I can get is 4.2 GHz on each which isn't shabby and certainly something to shoot for as soon as they ever fix this locked down BIOS situation.

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I stayed far away from the 4700MQ due to the dinky L3 cache but otherwise I'm sure you can overclock it just like any other non-Extreme Haswell, I think most people can get to 4 GHz at turbo without much problem, even beyond if yer hardcore. However the present BIOS for the 18 has a CPU (electrical) current flaw as noted above so I'm not even going to bother trying to OC until that's resolved. Right now I only get 3.1 GHz max on all cores due to this BIOS crap, what a joke!

Hi all,

First sorry for my bad english :/

I have a question about your post, could you explain me about the current flaw on the AW 18" ? Or link a topic who talk about that ?

I search on google and TI forum but i cant't found anything...

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Sure, basically the BIOS on the AW 18, at least as of A02, has many options hidden or locked and is preventing the system from running properly at the rated turbo speeds, often throttling well BELOW in fact, which you can verify with most any CPU utility. There are workarounds available that can restore much of that lost performance but the expectation is that Dell/Alienware will eventually release a proper BIOS, such as exists with their Ivy Bridge systems.

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Ok, i was thinking you talk about problem with the bios..."electrical flaw"

I have modified the bios (A02) to get the "+2 additional coefficients" (4700mq), increase "PWR limit" and "Long duration Time Window" like this :post-15931-1449499601914_thumb.jpg

After reboot, i launch XTU (latest) and apply this settings :

post-15931-14494996019783_thumb.jpg

Finally the CPU stop throttle in charge (OCCT and Cinebench), how you can see on this screens :

post-15931-14494996020694_thumb.jpg

My AW is running fine like this but three users had problem, few days after, their AW won't post, black screen (of death)...Their AW was running top since a morning it wont post.

One of them have the A00 bios, other don't know for the moment.

Dell had change the motherboard for one of them, the other are waiting for...

Do you (or other) know if there is a problem with OC'ing by the bios ? With the settings ? Users had problems here ?

I can open a new post if you don't want i explain here, i can link the topic i have done too :)

Thanks all for help or info !

post-15931-14494996020386_thumb.jpg

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No, OC via the BIOS isn't known to cause hardware failures, at least so far. Everyone who OC's is doing it basically the way you showed above, by enabling the basic OC options in the BIOS then using XTU to get access to some settings that are otherwise hidden in the AW BIOS. As you noted above, you can at least get the CPU to operate at its rated turbo speed without throttling down. For advanced overclocking though, us normal users simply must have a proper BIOS from Alienware so we're all in a holding pattern until then.

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