Dell Precision M6600 vs M6400 Hardware (Overview & Disassembly)


So here’s my long overdue hardware review / disassembly “guide” of the Dell Precision M6600… (Thanks, Dell for the exchange upgrade covered under your wonderful warranty!)

DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for what you do with your own machine. Also, any “guidance” herein is merely suggestions and is in no way an official disassembly instructions from Dell. When writing this, I assume that you have working knowledge on laptop repair. You’ve been warned.

My apologies if some of these pictures are blurry – I was in a hurry to get my new M6600 up and running so I wasn’t as careful as I could have been to get better quality pictures.

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Dell Precision M6600 (and BIOS Update A06)


Over the summer, I acquired an exchange upgrade from my Dell Precision M6400 to an M6600. I got a chance to disassemble and replace the mainboard in this new system, but didn’t get around to posting photos and comments I had about the new hardware. (Post a comment below if you want the pictures.)

My experiences with the M6600 were not without headaches. Issues ranged from a keyboard that locks up if the backlit was on during boot to drives not waking up when the computer resumed from S3 standby due to the Free Fall Sensor not waking up with the system.

Well, Dell decided it was a real problem with the BIOS and Embedded Controller and released a BIOS (uEFI firmware to be correct) update to the system on 02 OCT 2011. Here’s the official changelog:

Fixes/Enhancements
------------------
1. Addressed some express cards fail to be detected issue.
2. Addressed Hard Drives encryption issue in ATA mode.
3. Addressed some keyboard with USB Hub not accessible during POST.
4. Fixed issue where disabling webcam stops microphone from working.
5 . Fixed issue where battery temperature sensor throttling CPU at high temperature when external power.
6. Fixed issue where Video memory size limited to 256MB in WinXp.
7. Fixed issue where Free Fall Sensor protection doesn't work after resuming from S3.
8. Fixed issue where TPM measurements were not correct when authenticating via PBA.
9. Updated Intel ME Firmware to 7.1.20.1119.
10. Updated to the 1.3.76 version of the Intel PXE OROM.
11. Added support for the new Nvidia graphic optimus keys.
12. Update Intle SandyBridge Client PPM Reference Code to version 1.4.0.
13. Update Intel Microcode patch to version P_12.
14. Fix Turbo Boost function abnormal.

Note:
1. Please note that if the A02 or before A02 BIOS is currently installed on your system,
you must first update to A03 BIOS and then flash to the latest A-rev BIOS.

I have updated to this latest revision from A04 and it has been buttery smooth, even fixing a SSD stuttering issue that seemed to plague my everyday usage of the laptop.

Link: ftp://ftp.us.dell.com/bios/M6600A06.exe

A few more notes about the Dell M6600 hardware:
– The graphics card is MXM
– The “BIOS” is actually uEFI with BIOS extension.
– There are about 4 unlabeled screws underneath and a flimsy plastic snap you need to remove to service the system. Improperly removing these will destroy your chassis.

Cheers.

-> UPDATE

M6600 A06 Firmware Package Contains the following firmware revisions:
– System BIOS: A06
– Embedded Controller: X23
– Gigabit Ethernet: 0.D.3
– Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– GT1 Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– GT2 Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– Legacy RAID OROM: 10.1.0.1008
– Intel AntiTheft: 3.0.0.18
– Intel Management Engine Update: 7.1.20.1119
– ACPI OS Support: 0.0.0.1

nVidia Optimus Giving You The Blues?


With a new burst of laptops this year, there is a good handful of them that now come with nVidia Optimus.

What is this technology? In a nutshell, nVidia Optimus is a technology currently for laptops that allows the use of both the onboard Intel GPU and the nVidia GPU simultaneously, depending on the processing needs of the running applications. When an application needs advanced hardware acceleration, it powers up the nVidia GPU from a “sleep” state. This dynamic use of the nVidia GPU allows for lower power consumption (and thus better battery life) because most of the productivity applications or the even the windows interface itself does not need the full power of an nVidia GPU.

There are a few “gotchas” to this technology, however. The first is that you must be running Windows 7 ™ with supported drivers in order to take advantage of this. If you aren’t, then you might be stuck using the Intel GPU, depending on how your system manufacturer routed the video on your motherboard. The second is that some applications don’t automatically run with the nVidia GPU. You might need to manually configure the application to run using the higher power GPU. The final one that I am aware of is that the use of currently available GPU monitoring software or widgets can severely impede hardware performance.

The typical GPU monitoring applications that cause some hardware quirks are the ones that periodically poll the GPU to obtain its temperature, clock speed, load, memory usage, etc. So far, it has caused the following:

    On the Dell XPS 17 (L702X), non-3D edition, running a GPU monitoring app or widget caused the fan to switch on (at high speed) and off. This in turn caused the CPU & GPU temperatures to go on a roller coaster ride, going sky high then back down, inverse to the fan’s state.
    On my Dell Precision M6600, running a GPU monitoring app or widget reduced my battery life by 40 some minutes!

This is all happening because the monitoring app causes the driver to wake up the GPU in order to poll for its status. So users, beware!

Have any other weird issues related to nVidia Optimus? Post a comment below.

Fix that slow BIOS Power-On-Self-Test! (Dell Laptops)


I installed 16GB of ram into my Precision M6400 the other day and it things ran perfectly fine, until I had to force an ACPI shutdown by holding the power button.

When I turned it back on, the progress bar on the BIOS’s POST (power on self test) screen (big dell logo) got stuck at about 80% and started crawling for about 15 minutes before it moved on with the boot process. In my case, it was to ask for a biometric verification. But since it took so long to start up, I went to go do something else. By the time I got back, the laptop had turned itself off again because no credentials were provided to continue the boot process. So I turned it on again and had to wait out the full 15 minutes.

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