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Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

W500/510/520 and W700/710 series specific matters only
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Zastrix
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Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2019 1:39 pm
Location: Novi Sad, Serbia

Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#1 Post by Zastrix » Sat Dec 28, 2019 1:52 pm

I've googled in the last few days that the W701 only accepts 4 GPUs because of a BIOS whitelist, the Quadro FX 2800m and 3800m and 2 others which are mostly for dev purposes and are weaker than the first two ones (some Intel and AMD, I think they're integrated but I don't know!).

I have a 2800m version of the W701 model and I would like to try and increase the GPU performance. I don't really need to upgrade it internally as I am quite happy even with the 2800m GPU as for now (of course, if I could, I would). I'd basically be happy with just upgrading it temporary via an external GPU of some sort.

I saw that one can connect an external GPU via the express card slot. I also (after some googling) found out that the DVD slot is actually called an ultra-bay and that there actually are some ultra-bay GPUs.

So my real question is: Is there a chance to connect a GPU with one of the methods: ExpressCard, Ultra-Bay and/or maybe the dock which can take in a GPU?

I mean I am mostly just asking this if the BIOS whitelist applies for this just like how it applies for the MxM3 slot. (By the way, I plan to use an external display so it's not a problem if it doesn't work with the internal one)

Edit:

I mean, if there are any other solutions, do tell!
Unit: 2542W1W ThinkPad W701
Display: WUXGA 1920x1200
CPU: i7-Q720, 8 threads @ 1.6GHz
GPU: FX 2800M
RAM: 12GB DD3 @ 1333MHz
ROM: 122GB SSD + 500GB HDD
OS: Manjaro Linux x86_64
Kernel: 4.19.107-1-MANJARO

ThreeIguanasPerSecond
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Location: Washington, Illinois
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Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#2 Post by ThreeIguanasPerSecond » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:31 am

ExpressCard, yes. Ultrabay, no. that Ultrabay GPU is not meant for a Serial Ultrabay Enhanced, i'm guessing that it's from a IdeaPad Y500? if it is, you can't use it. the Ultrabay which the Y500 is using is some sort of an Ultrabay with a PCIe interface. the Serial Ultrabay Enhanced doesn't have a PCIe interface, only SATA. so even if you could fit the Y500's Ultrabay GPU into your W701, it wouldn't work.

doubt any of the docks that isn't a W700 Mini Dock will work, the size of the W701 itself is a huge problem...

ok, this will definitely not work in any of the ThinkPad's Ultrabays. i've checked out the Ultrabay GPU meant for the IdeaPad Y400, Y410p, Y500, and the Y510p. any Ultrabay GPU meant for these machines use a TE Connectivity 2199022-1 connector, which doesn't fit with the latest Serial Ultrabays. after all, they use a MicroSATA connector and not that strange TE Connectivity 2199022-1 connector.

one last thing that i'd like to note is that the Ultrabay GPUs has an MXM 3.0 interface on their connector, at least according to what i can see from the schematics.
Last edited by ThreeIguanasPerSecond on Sat Jan 04, 2020 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Zastrix
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2019 1:39 pm
Location: Novi Sad, Serbia

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#3 Post by Zastrix » Sun Dec 29, 2019 8:22 am

Thanks for the detailed answer! I totally understand about UltraBay so I won't delve any further into it. As for the Express card, did you perhaps try it out in practice because I don't want to spend money on a GPU and the adaptor if it turns out that the BIOS makes a huge fuss out of it. I know that a lot of laptops can use it but, again, I'm not sure if the W701 supports it.
Unit: 2542W1W ThinkPad W701
Display: WUXGA 1920x1200
CPU: i7-Q720, 8 threads @ 1.6GHz
GPU: FX 2800M
RAM: 12GB DD3 @ 1333MHz
ROM: 122GB SSD + 500GB HDD
OS: Manjaro Linux x86_64
Kernel: 4.19.107-1-MANJARO

FryPpy
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Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#4 Post by FryPpy » Sun Dec 29, 2019 8:48 am

Zastrix wrote:
Sat Dec 28, 2019 1:52 pm
... the Quadro FX 2800m and 3800m and 2 others which are mostly for dev purposes and are weaker than the first two ones (some Intel and AMD, I think they're integrated but I don't know!).
Interesting findings. I haven't find any info about AMD GPU for W701 in 5 minutes, so any hints will be very appreciated.
As i know there was no intel discrete GPUs for a very long time and Clarksfield CPUs (4 core 1st gen mobile i7) have no GPU inside. The only way to get intel GPU - using Arrandale CPU but it is 2 core CPU with maximum 8 Gb mem.

I can test my W701 with extGPU later today.... but it will be funny;)

Zastrix
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Dec 28, 2019 1:39 pm
Location: Novi Sad, Serbia

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#5 Post by Zastrix » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:41 am

FryPpy wrote:
Sun Dec 29, 2019 8:48 am
Interesting findings. I haven't find any info about AMD GPU for W701 in 5 minutes, so any hints will be very appreciated.
I did find a thread on the forums a few days ago but there might be a chance I interpreted it wrongly! I tried to find it again and no luck with the search on my end as well so I can't be certain!

I will be waiting for the status with the express card, it'd be awesome if it works as it would totally eliminate the need of getting a desktop PC anytime soon!

Just to declare for everyone: I don't plan to really use that GPU exclusively for games. Sure I'll play some games as it's my only laptop/PC but the biggest reason is for the GPU computations for Machine Learning (which I plan to start soon) as it is really slow to do on the CPU and GPU is always recommended for that.

Also it's way easier, better and most cost-efficient this way as the GPU will be out in the open (easier to cool down) and this thinkpads' specs aren't really bad as well (i7-Q720 with an SSD and HDD with 12GB of DD3 RAM) for a really low price ($220).
Unit: 2542W1W ThinkPad W701
Display: WUXGA 1920x1200
CPU: i7-Q720, 8 threads @ 1.6GHz
GPU: FX 2800M
RAM: 12GB DD3 @ 1333MHz
ROM: 122GB SSD + 500GB HDD
OS: Manjaro Linux x86_64
Kernel: 4.19.107-1-MANJARO

unixed
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Location: Oxford, UK

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#6 Post by unixed » Sun Dec 29, 2019 5:23 pm

There are four NVIDIA VBIOSes, two each for the FX 2800M and FX 3800M, and no others.

These are the VBIOS version numbers, one of them will correspond to your NVIDIA graphics card when you check it from your OS:
62.92.A0.00.09
62.92.A0.00.0A
62.92.B5.00.0C
62.92.B5.00.0D

Here is the informative post mentioning the AMD card, which unfortunately is a red herring.

FryPpy
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Location: Moscow, Russia

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#7 Post by FryPpy » Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:47 am

Why i have asked about AMD - i have one FirePro M7820 from 8740w (W701 cousine from HP) on hand and it may be funny to insert it into W701. Bad things that HP have 2 different heatsinks - one for both NVidia MXM and another AMD MXM. So AMD may require some heatsink mod... if vBIOS could accept it :(
Zastrix wrote:
Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:41 am
Just to declare for everyone: I don't plan to really use that GPU exclusively for games. Sure I'll play some games as it's my only laptop/PC but the biggest reason is for the GPU computations for Machine Learning (which I plan to start soon) as it is really slow to do on the CPU and GPU is always recommended for that.
So my findings today. I have tested W701 with 940XM and FX 2800M with 2 external GPU:
- GTX 960
and RX 570
Clean install of W7 pro x64 + Ubuntu 16.x.x from life DVD (just to check;)

Not the best, but i have these cards on hand. I have tested RX 570 with Ext GPU with Thinkpad X201 before and it definitely worked. GTX it definitely worked on desktop. ExtGPU have 216w PSU and it is sufficient for both GPUs.

First of all i have planed to build dual NVidia setup 2800M + GTX 960... BUT it have 2 problems...
1. 2800M have Lenovo defined identifications (VEN&DEV) so it need Lenovo custom drivers or patched inf files from original NVidia driver package. But Lenovo custom drivers can't start GTX... so I CAN'T start both. 2800M remains as standard VGA adapter for both experiments.
2. After installing NVidia drivers GTX shows that it is working fine but there is nothing on external screen... i have disabled 2800M (without drivers) in device manager... and nothing. Detailed investigation shows that there are no screens connected to GTX??!! but i have connected 2: HDMI + VGA throught DVI->VGA adapter but GPU reported that nothing is connected to it....
3. To test computability i have launched xmrig... and it haven't find any CUDA devices (maybe i have forget to install something?).... on 940XM it shows 470 H/s (in Linux it can more for sure;) that is on par with dual core i7 from T420... Indeed Clarksfield CPU have no AES instructions and frequency not so astonishing. Even mobile Core 2 quad have better base frequency.
4. Linux have started and... showed Ubuntu logo on console framebuffer on both screens... but when time come to start XWindows server (Linux GUI desktop service) it have crashed... but on 2800M alone it started and worked normally...

Back notes. One day i have planed to install W7 on Thinkpad Helix 2... I know that Lenovo officially not supported W7 even on Helix 1 (but it works fine on H1;)... Main path was to install W7 x64 on 5'th gen notebook with BIOS with CSM module (i have used CF-MX4 for this) in CSM mode (CSM needed to launch basic VGA driver before normal intel driver have been installed), install intel VGA driver and switch it to full UEFI, grab disk image with Acronis or clonezilla and transfer it to Helix 2. And it worked.... partially. Windows is starting on Helix 2, windows logo is glowing on screen, startup sound is chimed but no desktop.... After tuning RDP connection i have connected to Helix 2 desktop and noticed that Intel GPU driver is working Ok (in device manager) but it not sees any display connected to it... neither internal LCD nor DP connected external monitor... But W8 and Linux works fine in this situation...
if some one knows how to tell W7 that something is connected to GPU in these 2 situations (Helix2 and W701) please tell me

Partial conclusion - may be W8 can start GXT and use it properly.

But at this point i was completely disappointed. I have read instructions from ExtGDC adapter and it states that on common notebooks before using ExtGDC user should switch GPU from "discrete" or "optimus" to "internal GPU ONLY" BUT W701 have no intel GPU at all... so may be it is no go...

BUT SHOW MUST GO ON.
Popped in RX 570... W7 installed drivers and black square on external screen...
Started Linux... 2 screens show Ubuntu logo on console as before... some screen flickering... and 2 screens shows 2 independant desktops!!!! WOW.
I haven't tested OpenCL computability on RX 570 because it was already late at night....

One remark. Gaming on EXT GPU is very questionably afford. On first gen core-i either ExpressCard slot or mini PCI ex socket on mother board is only single lane gen 1 PCIe. It can only 2.5 GT/s. Modern GPU with more than 2GB VRAM will wait more than 7 seconds to fill it's VRAM. In games not full VRAM is filled from host (CPU) to GPU but numerous HiDef textures must be loaded to GPU before rendering scene and ExpressCard becomes bottleneck for it. In GpComputing some of the VRAM can be algorithm's scratchpad and can be loaded only once before may iterations started so it can be acceptable use case to use ExtGPU on single lane PCIe.
Last edited by FryPpy on Mon Dec 30, 2019 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

unixed
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Location: Oxford, UK

Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#8 Post by unixed » Mon Dec 30, 2019 1:27 pm

Well done. It is not (currently) how I use my W701 or others, so I can only proffer some vague recollections.

There are some ways of getting a better than x1 PCIe connection that the eGPU crowd know about.
The "DIY eGPU experiences" thread on notebookreview.com would be a good place to start. From memory searching for "x2" (utilize 2 mPCIe slots) and "x1E" might yield results.

Over on 51nb.com, someone posted how to use an external GPU to good effect on the internal display. It might be easier finding that since I recall RMSMajestic posting in that thread, probably the OP, but it was one of the commenters who used this ploy, i.e. he preferred his FX 2800M + eGPU to the FX 3800M + vBIOS mod, the subject of the thread.

FryPpy
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Re: Question about W701 GPU upgrade-ability

#9 Post by FryPpy » Mon Dec 30, 2019 2:12 pm

unixed wrote:
Mon Dec 30, 2019 1:27 pm
From memory searching for "x2" (utilize 2 mPCIe slots) and "x1E" might yield results.
Best way is to use m.2 slot (for nvme device) on mother board with 4x lanes. This can be obtained from hardware staring from Core-i 5-6 gen - so PCIe will be gen2 or more;) and it can provide some throughput for gaming.
Building custom PCB and ton of cables to connect ExtGPU with MXM slot is either way. But it definitely ruins notebook portability. And i don't know any such adapters.

I know, that interconnection of internal (intel) and external GPU is possible (i haven't touched it myself) but AFAIK minimum - Win 10 (in windows world) is required.

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