Thursday, June 30, 2016

M14x R2: Overclock Locked CPU & 16GB RAM @ 2133MHz

The Alienware M14x R2 laptop was (and still is) a great laptop. It had some good options and was great for either gaming or daily work activities. But some things that most people were (and are) unaware of about the laptop, which can make it great, have never seemed to be truly revealed. While this laptop is getting older, it can still provide a lot of power, if you know how to unlock it...



M14x R2
The Alienware M14x R1 came in with an Intel Sandy Bridge CPU with a NVIDIA GT 555M graphics card. Later on, the M14x R2 came with an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU with a NVIDIA GT 650M graphics card. The biggest upgrade obviously being a GPU (as the M14x R3 was said to have a weaker GPU than the R2), and the move to Ivy Bridge allowed for the jump to PCI Express 3.0.

The screen resolution was either 1366x768 (720p+) or 1600x900 (900p), which was 14" in size (hence the name M14x). It normally came with 6GB DDR3L RAM with a voltage of 1.35v, but it can take 1.5v.

My M14x R2
I did not get my M14x R2 until years after it had been discontinued. My father had seen my M17x R2 and decided he wanted an Alienware laptop. He had me purchase one on his behalf. Once he finally received it, he tried it for a few days before moving back to his older laptop. Recently, he gave it to me, and it is practically in new condition!

The specs on mine are almost as good as they could get when bought. It came with a i7 3840QM, a GT 650M 2GB GDDR5, and a 900p screen. There was a HDD instead of SSD, but I have since installed a M.SATA Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD. It also had 6GB (2GB+4GB) 1600MHz RAM, which I changed to 16GB 2133MHz RAM.

The only issue that this laptop has is the trackpad has you accidentally moving the cursor around at times because your hand will touch it while typing. It had another mouse issue, which was the main issue my father had with it, but I was able to disable this in the Windows settings.

As for the graphics card, there were supposedly different variants. There was a GT 650 1GB GDDR5 and a GT 650 2GB DDR3 version available. Thankfully, when my was bought, it had the best version, which was th GT 650 2GB GDDR5 variant. While that sounds great, it is not a powerful graphics card. It can be pushed to do better (with an "unlocked" BIOS), but it falls short of the options of today. And even though the CPU is upgradeable, the GPU is not. It is soldered in. However, it can still play most modern games on medium or low settings.


Possible to OC Locked CPU?
The 3840QM is a great i7 Ivy Bridge CPU. It has a stock clock of 2.8GHz with a turbo up to 3.8GHz. In comparison, the unlocked 3920XM has a stock clock of 2.9GHz with a turbo up to 3.8GHz, and the unlocked 3940XM has a stock clock of 3.0GHz with a turbo up to 3.9GHz.

Essentially, my 3840QM will run as fast as a 3920XM (in terms of turbo) when it needs to, and almost matches the 3940XM. If I were to replace the 3840QM with either Extreme Edition CPU (XM) it would still cost me at least $300, if not more. That is far too much for the little gains I will get from a XM CPU. I may be able to push an XM to around 4.2GHz safely, but it still does not seem like a great idea economically.

While I was researching about my CPU recently, I came across a couple articles about overclocking the 3840QM. One gave very little information and was just someone asking if it was possible, with a response that it was not. But the other had very useful information. Someone stated and showed that they were able to overclock their 3840QM up to 4.0GHz! That is impressive just for the speed, but even more impressive knowing that this CPU has a locked multiplier and should not have any way to do so!

So, I decided to try this for myself and see what I could. I did several tests and watched my clocks for differences. In the end, yes, I was able to push my 3840QM to a turbo of just over 4.0GHz!!! (3.99GHz consistent!)

I have since read that the Ivy Bridge era did allow for these overclocks, but no generation after has been allowed to do so.

Overclocking Locked CPU
This will require you to download ThrottleStop. ThrottleStop 6.00 is the last stable version released, however, if you search the TechInferno thread on ThrottleStop, you can find an active ThrottleStop 8.00 Beta version. It is unnecessary to use the newest beta version, as it does not add anything that we will need.

The first thing to be done will be to enter the BIOS. Once inside, find the option for turbo and disable it. The next steps all relate Throttlestop:
  1. Open Throttlestop.
  2. Check "Clock Modulation".
  3. Check "Chipset Clock Modulation".
  4. Check "Set Multiplier".
  5. Check "C1E".
  6. Uncheck all other boxes.
  7. Under "Set Multiplier", ensure that it is at the highest multiplier setting, or has a "T" next to the number.
  8. Click "TPL".
  9. Change the cores to all run at "42".
  10. Click "OK".
  11. Click "Turn On".
Note: For whatever reason, I found that "42" was the multiplier number required to hit 3.99GHz consistently. Anything higher would do the same.

If you want to test the validity of the frequency achieved, try running a benchmark like Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility (IXTU) that tells you the maximum speed it hits. You can also use ROG Benchmark that will show its own CPU stat, or keep Throttlestop open and watch what frequency the CPU hits.

Running 2133MHz RAM!
While Ivy Bridge does support 2133MHz, that does not mean it is always achievable for other laptops. Factors can be the RAM itself, the motherboard, etc. Just because a CPU can do something does not mean it will. For example, Ivy Bridge can run up to 32GB of RAM, but that is impossible for an Alienware M14x R2 to achieve due to its motherboard.

Many forums discussing this very laptop claimed it was not possible to run RAM at 2133MHz, but I know this to be untrue since I have done so. I will explain how I did this so others can emulate it.

To do this, I bought a pair of 8GB Kingston HyperX Impact Black DDR3L RAM @2133MHz. If installed immediately, you may not be able to post. Install one stick and set the RAM settings in the BIOS to run at 1866MHz. This will allow you to post while using both (or one) sticks of RAM:
  1. Download IXTU.
  2. Open IXTU.
  3. Change to the "Advanced Tuning > All Controls" tab.
  4. Scroll until you see settings for Memory, DIMM or RAM controls.*
  5. If you hover over each timing setting of the memory, you will see the recommended values for that timing setting. Record the recommended values.
  6. Change to manual/custom timing settings for the RAM.
  7. Input all recommended values of the memory timings recorded in step 5.
  8. Save the timing settings.
  9. IXTU should prompt you with a reboot, select "Yes".
  10. Upon reboot, the laptop may not fully boot and get stuck. If it does, give it a minute before doing a hard shutdown (press and hold the power button).
  11. When you boot back up into Windows, open IXTU again.
  12. The recommended values should now be inputted, but you may have a value(s) that is not sticking. If not, you are done. If so, continue on...
  13. Note the setting(s) that is not sticking and turn off the laptop.
  14. Boot into the BIOS.
  15. Go to the RAM timing settings.
  16. Change the timing setting(s).
  17. Save the BIOS.
  18. Reboot. If the laptop does not boot up fully, wait a minute before shutting it down.
  19. Reboot the laptop.
  20. When you boot back up into Windows, open IXTU again.
  21. All the recommended values should now be showing. If not, repeat steps 14-20  again.
*If you do not have any memory options, then your laptop does not support this. This should only be true if you are using this tutorial for a laptop other than an Alienware M14x R2.

This is the process I went through in order to get 2133MHz RAM to be recognized and work properly. It will work, and enable the fastest RAM available for Ivy Bridge. But if you do not check the timings, you will either get the RAM speed pulled down to something slower, or if you have not changed all the timings to the proper values, you could cause instability.

Hard Shutdown
These are a couple of secrets people are unaware of. It is very possible to run locked Ivy Bridge processors at higher speeds than their turbo, and you can get the best RAM available for this generation!

To be able to do this, and on a laptop no less, is an amazing feat. With a setup like this, what would be the point of upgrading when this is just as powerful now as it was when it was first introduced?

2 comments:

  1. Great Info.

    Good job.

    Kushal Lakhani
    Blog Owner
    http://kushal9049.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is the most definitive post I have ever seen about M14x R2, other than on techinferno and notebookcheck forums.

    I have a few questions.

    So will I be able to achieve the same with 3630QM, which I have on my M14x R2? Or should I opt for an upgrade to 3840QM or 3920XM?
    I am getting a deal at $150 for one.

    Also all of the above CPUs seem to support upto 1600MHz as per details on Intels's Ark website including the 3630QM, so by tinkering a little I may achieve frequencies past 1600Mhz, right?
    (Also getting a good deal for two 8GB sticks, same like your HyperX Impact but 1866Mhz CL9.)

    ReplyDelete