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Jul 012013
 

nvidiaNvidia 320.49 WHQL drivers released for Windows Vista, 7, & 8.

Release Summary
This is the launch driver for the newly released GeForce GTX 760.
GeForce 320.49 drivers includes several fixes for issues reported with 320.18 drivers. Refer to the release notes for a full list of fixed issues.

Download
64-Bit
32-Bit
Release Notes

The newest Linux driver is 319.32 and was posted last week.

Feb 172013
 

alienware

*** UPDATE July 2014: I no longer have this laptop. I gave it to my college bound nephew. ***

I’ve been debating on whether to get a new desktop or laptop. That quandary has come to an end.
I’ve purchased an Alienware M14X R2.

This article includes:

-How I installed the Operating Systems.

-Hardware upgrades I made.

-Benchmarks (Windows 7 & Windows 8).

-Where I found info, tips, and tweaks for the laptop.

-Downloads.

-more.

In truth, I have written this article as much for myself as anyone else. Still, I hope someone finds it interesting or useful.

 

Specs (via HWiNFO64):
Computer:            Alienware M14xR2
CPU:                          Intel Core i7-3740QM (Ivy Bridge-MB SV, E1)
2700 MHz (27.00×100.0) @ 1398 MHz (14.00×99.9)
Motherboard:    Alienware M14xR2
Chipset:                 Intel HM77 (Panther Point)
Memory:               16384 MBytes @ 798 MHz, 11.0-11-11-28
– 8192 MB PC12800 DDR3 SDRAM – Samsung M471B1G73CB0-CK0
– 8192 MB PC12800 DDR3 SDRAM – Samsung M471B1G73CB0-CK0
Graphics:              Intel Ivy Bridge-MB GT2 – Integrated Graphics Controller [E1/L1/N0/P0] [DELL]
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Ivy Bridge GT2), 2112 KB
Drive:                      SSD – Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series, 250.1 GB, Serial ATA 6Gb/s
Drive:                      HD – WDC WD5000BPKT-75PK4T0, 488.4 GB, Serial ATA 3Gb/s ***see below
Drive:                     MSATA – M4-CT256M4SSD3, 250.1 GB, Serial ATA 6Gb/s
Sound:                   Intel Panther Point PCH – High Definition Audio Controller [C1]
Network:              Atheros AR8151 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (L1c)
Network:              Atheros Communications AR5BWB222 Wireless Network Adapter
OS:                            Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (x64)
Microsoft Windows 8 Professional (x64)
Waiting on openSUSE 12.3 (due in March)

th_alienwareM14Xr2

 

The goal with this machine is to have a real no-compromises computer for work at home, on-the-go, and in-the-lazy-boy.

For me this means multiple OS’s, multiple running Virtual Machines, as well as the usual office, multimedia, and games.

I also wanted a laptop that was sturdy. I just feel like I’m gonna break 80% of the laptops on the market.

At home the laptop sits on a cooler, and is connected to a 22″ wide screen. It shares a keyboard and mouse with my other computer via a KVM.

Right-now the main OS is Windows 7 although my hope is that openSUSE 12.3 will replace it as the main OS when it is released in March.

Alienware M14x R2 Review: Better Than The Original at NotebookReview

Alienware M14x R2 Review at LaptopMag

Alienware m14x R2 at PCMag

 

Testing It Out

After unboxing the M14X I took it for a spin to check out how it worked. I did this with the knowledge I was going to wipe the main drive. Once I was satisfied with the performance I shut it down and prepared for my upgrades and reinstall.

Preparation

After ordering the little alien I started hunting down the tips and tweaks. There are 2 good forums:  Alienware M14x Forum at NotebookReview.com and Alienware Owners Club. Between the threads there and downloading the necessary drivers I wasa ready to go

Hardware Upgrades

1 – Main Hard Drive to SSD. The machine came with a 500GB WD Black which I swapped out for a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro.

2 – 64GB MSATA to 256GB MSATA . A 64GB MSATA drive was included, I swapped in a Crucial 256GB MSATA.

3 – DVD to HD. I yanked out the DVD and added the aforementioned 500GB WD Black as storage. Instructions can be found here. I had originally tried an old SSD but came upon the disappearing drive problem discussed in the thread. It seems the channel is SATA 1 only and some drives don’t like that. Frankly I’m a little disappointed with the performance of this channel though it was never intended to have anything but a DVD drive hooked to it. Once SSD prices drop I may upsize the main SSD or mSATA and pull the hard drive.

Benchmarks are further down in this article.

 

Why I Always Reinstall

I could have done the easy thing and just imaged the drive over to the SSD but that ain’t my way.  Besides, Alienware provides a full honest-to-goodness reinstall DVD.

Alienware computers come with a neat little backup program called Alienware Respawn. Of course I find such things completely useless as well as a terrible use of my drive space and partition table.

How the laptop came:

m14xoriginaldriveconfig

How it is now:

(I realize the OS partitions are large but I my plan was for the SSD drive to be OS’s only and to divide the drive into thirds.)

m14x_mydriveconfig

 

WOW!  (It’s sad that I’m excited that these are included.)

aw_dvds

Reinstalling Windows 7

The actual Windows 7 installation was a breeze. I put the reinstall disk on USB and did a clean install. Next came the drivers. Most of these I got from Dell except for Intel Chipset, Intel RST, Nvdia. Those 3 where installed first and in the mentioned order. Finally I tweaked Windows 7 and then did a backup via Acronis True Image.

Installing Windows 8

I wasn’t going to spend the money to install Windows 8 since I’ve got it on the laptop as a VM but then I remembered the Windows 8 Upgrade Offer. For $15 I figured what-the-hell. Install was smooth and Dell has the drivers for it. Again,  I tweaked Windows 8 and then did a backup via Acronis True Image.

EasyBCD

EasyBCD  is what I use to manage multi-booting. It’s free for non-commercial use.

 

Benchmarks

Windows 7 and 8 are setup as I use them (no “test setup”). Tweaks from my tweak guides. No pagefile.

In no way should any of these benchmarks be considered definitive.

With the exception of a few of the drive benchmarks these tests were one run only.

 

Drive Benchmarks

Bottom line to the disk benchmarks is:

-The Intel RST drivers are faster than the Microsoft AHCI drivers.

-Windows 7 is slightly faster than Windows 8 in these tests.

 

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark

All 3 drives under Windows 7.

CrystalDiskMark, Run Under Windows 7
Samsung 840 SSD (before RST Drivers updated) Crucial mSATA WD Hard Drive
———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 515.862 MB/s
Sequential Write : 490.065 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 447.054 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 465.298 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 30.814 MB/s [ 7522.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 57.314 MB/s [ 13992.7 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 403.543 MB/s [ 98521.2 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 366.384 MB/s [ 89449.3 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 32.1% (25.7/80.0 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/10 15:29:20
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 495.390 MB/s
Sequential Write : 259.004 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 354.414 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 263.749 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 21.351 MB/s [ 5212.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 57.541 MB/s [ 14048.1 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 190.358 MB/s [ 46474.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 226.134 MB/s [ 55208.4 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [E: 33.3% (79.5/238.5 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/10 15:34:54
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 119.988 MB/s
Sequential Write : 117.382 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 46.374 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 67.869 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 0.660 MB/s [ 161.0 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 1.204 MB/s [ 294.0 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 1.814 MB/s [ 442.9 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 1.334 MB/s [ 325.6 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [G: 0.3% (1.6/465.8 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/10 15:41:04
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

 

Intel RST Drivers vs. Microsoft AHCI Drivers under Windows 7

CrystalDiskMark, Samsung 840 Pro SSD, Run Under Windows 7
Intel RST Drivers (old) iaStorA.sys 11.6.0.1030 (01 September, 2012) Intel RST Drivers (new) iaStorA.sys 11.7.0.1013 (19 November, 2012) Microsoft AHCI
———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 515.862 MB/s
Sequential Write : 490.065 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 447.054 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 465.298 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 30.814 MB/s [ 7522.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 57.314 MB/s [ 13992.7 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 403.543 MB/s [ 98521.2 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 366.384 MB/s [ 89449.3 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 32.1% (25.7/80.0 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/10 15:29:20
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 518.242 MB/s
Sequential Write : 488.240 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 449.065 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 471.877 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 30.601 MB/s [ 7470.9 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 58.738 MB/s [ 14340.2 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 403.518 MB/s [ 98515.2 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 365.807 MB/s [ 89308.3 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 52.0% (41.6/80.0 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/11 11:36:21
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 519.440 MB/s
Sequential Write : 485.377 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 462.120 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 467.618 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 29.387 MB/s [ 7174.5 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 53.243 MB/s [ 12998.8 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 273.916 MB/s [ 66874.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 263.147 MB/s [ 64244.9 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 52.0% (41.6/80.0 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2013/02/11 11:14:19
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

 

Intel RST Drivers vs. Microsoft AHCI Drivers under Windows 8

Windows 8 – CrystalDiskMark – Samsung 840 Pro SSD, Alienware m14X R2
Intel RST Drivers Microsoft ACHI Drivers
———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 516.286 MB/s
Sequential Write : 478.365 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 445.422 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 456.585 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 28.176 MB/s [ 6878.9 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 53.723 MB/s [ 13116.1 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 406.240 MB/s [ 99179.6 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 352.353 MB/s [ 86023.6 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 38.6% (30.9/80.0 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2013/02/11 10:14:46
OS : Windows 8 Professional [6.2 Build 9200] (x64)

———————————————————————–
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
———————————————————————–
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]Sequential Read : 501.231 MB/s
Sequential Write : 466.034 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 443.897 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 450.063 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 27.438 MB/s [ 6698.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 51.409 MB/s [ 12551.1 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 404.579 MB/s [ 98774.2 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 288.641 MB/s [ 70469.0 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 38.6% (30.9/80.0 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2013/02/11 10:25:05
OS : Windows 8 Professional [6.2 Build 9200] (x64)

 

AS SSD

as_ssd

aw_asssd

 

 Multimedia Benchmarks

Handbrake

handbrake

Convert 3.04GB, HD, .MP4 movie to .MKV. Preset = Regular, Normal.

Windows 7:
Start 11:01:49
End 11:24:08
Total – 0:22:19

Windows 8:
Start 10:27:23
End 10:48:52
Total – 0:21:29

Lame Encoder

laneenc

 

Encoding the entire Boston debut album 37:44 min.

Setting “–preset fast standard”

m14x_lameenc

 

 

Synthetic Benchmarks

 

PCMark07

pcmark

Could not get this test to run on Windows 8. Known bug, see here.

Windows 7 (online link:  http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/565394 )

pcmarkwin7

 

3DMARK
3dmark

I used the new 3DMARK. 1 run only, Cloud Gate benchmark, default settings.

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8

aw_3dmark_1

 

PassMark Performance Test 8.0

passmark_1

passmark2

 

Gaming Benchmarks

 

Final Fantasy XIV

ff14bench

Scores:

Windows 7 – 3448

Windows 8 = 3442

 

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0

unigineheaven4

unigineheaven4_78

 

Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0

valleybench

valleybench_2

 

Files

The following files I’ve uploaded to Dropbox:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/bb5y47i3xz9ut1c/ztT_xjY9Sk

If you have issues downloading them or need something else the contact me.

AlienKaret_Pack_font.zip

Alienware_Steel_Start_Orb_by_TheEnd1984.zip

Alienware_walls.zip

AW_User_Pictures.zip

awM14Xr2_manuals.zip

Default Pictures.zip

Dell Webcam Central 2.01.18__.zip

OEM_Logos_Background.zip

TweakHound_Alienware_Win7_StartButton.zip

TweakHound_Alienware_Win8_StartButton.zip

TweakHoundAlienwareFilesReadme.txt

Windows 7 Start Orb Changer.zip

 

My Own Alienware Start Orb

I dig the Alienware look and there are several start orbs around but the only one I liked was Alienware Steel Start Orb by TheEnd1984.

Still, for me it was missing something. I decided to give it the appearance of red glowing eyes on rollover.

I created one for Windows 7 and one for Start8 (for Windows 8). See the downloads above to get them.

alien_orb4start8

 

Drivers from part manufacturer.
These are often newer than the Dell drivers, however compatibility isn’t ensured.

Sound Blaster Recon3Di Drivers

Realtek RTS5209 Card Reader Drivers (be sure to pick correct card mine=PCIE RTS5208/RTS5209)

Intel Chipset Drivers

Intel USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller Driver (NOT needed for Windows 8 which has native USB 3.0 support.)

Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver

Intel HD Graphics Driver (3rd Generation Intel Core Processors with Intel HD Graphics 4000/2500)

Nvidia Drivers

Killer Wireless-N1202 (Cannot extract file. No option not to install the Network Manager which isn’t needed. I’m using Dell download, extracted, “update drivers”)

Atheros AR8151 (Ehternet)

 

 

Bookmarks
Links I saved for use now or possibly later.
AlienFX Lite (Linux + Windows AlienFX tool)
Alienware M14x Disassembly HD 1080p NewVelo – YouTube
Correct set-up of games on NVIDIA Optimus Driver | Dell
*Guide* How to install a secondary hard drive on your M14x w/ Pics!
ALIENWARE-M14X-R2-Product Support|us
Drivers & Downloads | Dell United States
HOW TO: Restore the Alienware ‘Look and Feel’ after a clean install of Windows 7
Alienware desktop customization themes and wallpaper collections
alienwarewalls
[HD] Tutorial – How to install a second Hard drive on your Alienware M14X – YouTube
nVidia Optimus Technology | Dell
Alienware Windows Customizations – Restore Alienware’s Look & Feel
M14x Laptop Ultimate performance guide – Alienware Arena Forums
[HD] Alienware M14X – Nebula Red with Soft Touch Finish – How to Overclock CPU.wmv – YouTube
M14x Owners
Amazon.com: JacobsParts® 9.5mm SATA Optical Bay Hard Drive Caddy Adapter: Computers & Accessories

 

Thoughts and Conclusion

Pros:

Overall I’m very happy with this laptop.

-It’s style and lighting is truly Geeky.

-Performance is fantastic.

-It’s size makes it convenient to haul around.

-I like the 3 external USB ports(2-3.0, 1-powered 2.0) and HMDI port.

Cons:

-The glossy screen is a bit annoying, I may have to do something about it.

Notes:

I’ve no plans to overclock this for a while (although I may tweak a few things).

 

My unsolicited advice to Dell / Alienware on the next version  of this laptop.

– Ditch the DVD drive and add a 2nd full-speed SATA channel.

-Offer a choice of glossy or matte LCD screen.

-Although a single video card is plenty for me, some folks want dual cards. The removal to the DVD drive could give you the room for this.

-Cooling could be improved a little. Toward that end, I would like to see the size of the “feet” extended to about 1/5 to 1/4 inch or 5-6mm to allow for more air flow. If not all the feet at least the back 2.

 

-END-