Upgrade guide for the MSI GX660 with a HD6970

By Kris Verbeeck

I'll tell you a bit of secret. I love this machine. For obvious reasons, I get the chance to work with a lot of notebooks, and at the moment, this is pretty much my favourite 15 incher. Aiming for the same demographics as the AW m15x, I prefer this one by a mile. It's less in-your-face even though the LED ligting does add some bling. The design is off the mainstream path, which you would expect from a premium product, but it does that by avoiding straight lines, always an angle in it. Soft touch, not thicker than it should be for such a beast with two HDD slots. But the most awasome part is the sound. Again, I have worked with and services a load of machines over the years but this one beats them all and the amazing part: both in volume and quality. From the first time you hear the Windows chime you know: they nailed this!

Yes, I'd had kept it if the customer would have forgotten he send it to us. Then again, what are the chances?

The reason why Joeri shipped us his machine are less pleasant. He was one of the first customers of our HD6970 and reported partial success fast. However, he also reported funky lines all over his screen, which points to a crooked MXM module. So, we shipped him a new one. Much to our surprise, he again reported issues. He was able to game to his hearts content but then he needed a portable airco to blow over his notebook. Perhaps not what he had in mind. Rather than to keep sending cards, we decided he's send in the machine for us to have a look. After a nightmare with the Dutch postal services, we got a hold of the machine. Off course, as such things go, we plugged in a new card and it was smooth sailing since then.

Morale of the story: buy your cards from a reputable source. It increases your chances not to end up with something that fell off the back of a truck. In addition, your ass is covered in case something is wrong with the merchendise, even if it happens twice.

Always a great moment, even if you're not allowed to keep it.
Pretty...
Unplug the battery and the PSU.
The hood can be easily removed. A few screws and it goes off. A single, powerfull fan cools both the CPU and GPU. This model has 3 heatpipes for the MXM module, we understand some GX660s only have two. How much that would set back the thermal story is difficult to predict.
There;s only one fan in there, but that one is rated at almost 4W. Pretty powerfull stuff!
Out with the "old"....
Clean the heatsink, plug in the new card and dot the core with the supplied thermal paste.
Much to my surpise, the card fitted right away. No interference, almost as if it was made for it! Off course, what I forgot was that Joeri already did the mod for the first two cards. Very modest changes, but very much required nonetheless. Remove all the heatpads from the heatsink first ( to make sure no metal scrap sticks to them) and then go at it with a Dremel cutting wheel. If you don't have one, you could probably just drill a large hole there.

We installed the latest ATI mobility drivers and were good to go. Oddly, though, the card ran at a core frequency of 400MHz while it should run at 680. In other words: the card was stuck in a low power mode. This tends to point to a discrepancy between the power modes of different cards from different manufacturers or some handshaking that didn't pan out as either the card or the system suspected. So, we released RBEand tuned the 400MHz clock to 680. Oddly, this got the clock to be stuck at a measily 100MHz. We disabled and enabled ATI powerplay and that did the trick: full potential!

Just to make sure, we tested both the VGA and HDMI output: both put out a perfect 1920*1200!

The machine scored 12k in 3Dmark06 and 3k in 3DMark11. Pretty s weet! In 06, it ran up to about 85 degrees, which is fine. 11 made it sweat a bit more: 96 degrees! The reason: in 3Dmark11 there's a combined GPU/CPU test that gives both a run for their money. With one fan for both, you explore the limits of the machine. While 96 degrees is not a failure, it is pretty hot. Real life temperatures will depend a bit on the game but it's something to keep an eye on for sure. And we highly recomend a decent notebook cooler. With the machine blowing out hot air on two corners near the air intake, a supply of fresh air should do a world of good...

The below link may only be used for the MSI GX660 notebook. If it is used for any other platform, we reserve the right to refuse returns or warranty. You will have to rework the heatsink to fit the card.