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Modding Improving my KSP machine

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Journeyer, 4 Mar 2014.

  1. Journeyer

    Journeyer Minimodder

    Joined:
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    After getting hopelessly addicted to Kerbal Space Program it quickly became apparent to me that the game (at least for me) is best played on the couch rather than in front of the desktop (also my dekstop is partially disassembled due to work finally continuing on my PC-desk desk). Thus the only real option would be to play it on a laptop. Now, if you are unfamiliar With KSP I suggest you head on over here first, and then go here to buy it and never see daylight again.

    I reappropriated the missus' old laptop after I got her a brand New HP 9470 (which is quite a sexy machine btw) and found that it could still hold its own despite being six years old now.

    This is the laptop I'll be working with:

    [​IMG]

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    It's an aging HP 8530w, and I must say that it is a very well made laptop. When it was new it was equipped with an Intel Core2Duo P8600 running at 2.4Ghz, an Nvidia Geforce Quadro 770M and 4Gb RAM. This proved quite capable of running KSP at decent enough settings at 1280*800 which was the maximum resolution on the screen this laptop was delivered with. It also had a bog standard mechanical drive that I swapped for an SSD a few months ago.

    The first thing I did in order to KSP-ify the machine was to upgrade the LCD panel. After studying the service manual I learned that these machines were also sold equipped with Nice WUXGA panels, and a bit of googling later I found a proper 1920*1200 WUXGA panel here at a very reasonable price. Unfortunately I forgot to get decent photos of the process of swapping the panels (quite fiddly), but I did and it worked splendidly.

    Here are the original settings for screen resolution:

    [​IMG]

    And after swapping the panels:

    [​IMG]

    This of course did have quite an impact on in-game performance, which sparked the next round of upgrades planned for what has now become my KSP-laptop.

    Studying the service manual also taught me what other specifications this machine was originally available in, and I realised I needed to swap the CPU, the cooling system and the graphics card. It would also be nice, but not critical, to double the amount of RAM.

    I wanted to get as much performance out of this machine as I could, so I opted for the beefiest CPU I could find that would work in this laptop. So without further ado I present to you the venerable Intel Core2 Quad Extreme QX9300 (I do apologise for the quality of some of these photos - apparently I do not have a very stable hand for taking photographs).

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    But, I am getting a bit Ahead of myself. In order to swap the CPU I need to disassemble the laptop, and by that I mean strip it completely because the beefier CPU also comes with beefier power requirements. This meant I had to swap the motherboard as well, and I found the motherboard I needed on eBay at $25. At this point some of you might wonder why I did not just go get a new laptop (as did the missus by the way), and to you I say: because that's not as much fun!

    Taking the computer apart we start by removing the battery to get at the screws underneath which hold the touch-panel in place. Next pry off the touch-panel above the keyboard, unscrew all screws at the bottom (quite a lot of very small torx screws) and pop off the keyboard to expose the machine's innards.

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    Now I needed to remove the top panel, and in order to be able to do that I first needed to remove the screen. The screen is fastened to the machine via six screws hidden behind rubber screw covers underneath the hinges. Having done that the top cover should be easily popped off had it not been for the fact that it too was held in Place by another four screws hidden underneath rubber screw covers at the bottom of the machine which I did not spot during my process of removing all screws. Eventually though, I was able to finally get the top cover off, and no matter how many times I take a laptop apart I am still amazed at how neat, tailored and compact everything is. You will notice that I have also removed the SSD and the DVD-RW at this point. Also visible at the top is the missus' New HP 9470m that I used for checking the service manual - some of those screws are very well hidden!

    [​IMG]

    Now that the guts were finally properly exposed I could start swapping parts. I removed the cooling system, the WLAN card, the Bluetooth card and disconnected all those flimsy ribbon cables (which are a pain to reinstall). In the Picture below I have exposed the CPU and GPU, and I have placed an ellipse around the reason for the motherboard swap. Only two VRM modules on this Board, and while sufficient for the P8600 will not do for the QX9300.

    [​IMG]

    Only a couple more screws, and I was able to pull out the old motherboard.
    I apologise in advance for the following picture. I wanted to get a nice comparison shot of the two motherboards, and out of four pictures taken this was the best one. Still, the picture do show the difference - albeit in a blurry fashion. Three VRM modules on the New Board, whereas the old only has two - and that is (as far as I can tell) the only difference.

    [​IMG]

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    With the old motherboard out, the New one went in quickly and easily. I also promptly reinstalled the graphics card and the WLAN card. Furthermore, while trying to fit the New cooler and cooling fan I ran into a problem. They simply would not fit in the chassis, so I kerbalised it a bit and cut out a section of the chassis in order to accomodate the beefier coolers. This was quickly done with a hacksaw, and a nice side-effect is that this should also help improve airflow.

    [​IMG]

    During the process of reassembly I forgot to take Pictures when I installed the CPU, the New cooling system and the top cover. However, when I did reinstall the top cover I found that it too had to be modified a bit in order to accomodate the New parts. A small section had to be cut away so that it would fit on top of the New cooler, but I did make it fit and I was able to reinstall it.

    [​IMG]

    And in the end, I got the computer back together again, albeit in a more kerbal fashion I suppose. In the same way as the top cover wouldn't quite fit on top of the new cooler, nor did the keyboard. Luckily the screws were long enough to allow me to simply place the keyboard on top while still being able to secure it in place.

    [​IMG]

    Booting up for the first time after the swap resultet in this (accompanied by a little bit of swearing), however this was a problem that was easily fixed by setting SATA to AHCPI in BIOS.

    [​IMG]

    The only problem now is that With extended KSP sessions I will brush against the exposed cooler and recoil in surprise as I burn my finger (usually my pinky).

    Next up, a couple before/after screenshots from the WEI:

    This is pre-swap:

    [​IMG]

    This is post-swap but pre-rerun:

    [​IMG]

    And finally post-swap post-rerun:

    [​IMG]

    It is apparent that the thing holding the computer back now is the graphics card. Not many options there for a faster MXM-II card, but I will swap the Quadro 770M for a GT 9650M which is the fastest MXM-II card available. That, however, is for the next time as I have yet to purchase it.

    The end result however is a machine that is quite capable of running KSP at good settings at 1920*1200 with good framerates. And I did have a blast doing it. :D

    Thanks for reading, and until next time; take care.
     

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