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March 22, 2015

Upgrading Clevo P150SM from GTX 770m to GTX 980m


About a month ago I decided to upgrade my Clevo P150SM's GPU from my old Nvidia GTX 770m 3GB to a 980m 8GB. After a bit of research that turned up no information to weather or not I would be able to actually get a 980m working in my P150SM which does not have BIOS support for new Maxwell cards. I decided to go ahead and buy one anyway and decided to re-sell it if it was incompatible. I bought my card from Mythlogic for $675, if you would like to buy an MXM card just email them requesting one. My card happened to come with a heatsink although the original 770m heatsink is compatible with the 980m if you add some extra thermal pads where the extra VRM is.



Physically installing MXM cards is pretty straight forward, if you have ever installed laptop RAM and a CPU cooler this should be a walk in the park. After removing the bottom cover of the notebook, unscrew the 4 silver screws from the GPU block and the 3 screws from the memory and VRM portion of the heatsink and lift off the heatsink. There will be 2 screws holding the card in place (I needed a wrench for one of them) unscrew these and the card should pop up and you can pull it out. Repeat this process in reverse to install your new card. 


After physically installing the card I found that it was not detected in my BIOS, my 980m showed up as "VGA Unknown." However this shouldn't be a problem, if you boot into Windows and go to device manager you should see the 980m named something along the line on "Microsoft Basic Display Renderer" under the display adapters section. You may not see it in device manager, I had trouble with this but re-installing a fresh copy of Windows fixed the issue. If you try to install the Nvidia GeForce drivers it WILL fail at this point, a modified driver is required to get the the card up and running. I have created a detailed tutorial on how to modify your drivers here: How to Modify NVIDIA Notebook Driver .INF files If you need help doing this I suggest going to the Tech-Inferno Forums. Assuming you have correctly modified your driver you need to boot Windows with driver signature enforcement disabled and install your modified driver. Here is a link to a thread where you can download a modified driver for P15xSM and P17xSM notebooks for 980m and 970m GPUs if you don't feel like modifying your own driver. http://forum.techinferno.com/clevo/3119-%5Bbios-vbios-mods%5D-prema-mod-stock-241.html#post123723

Possible Complications and Things To Consider

Your system may not have a new enough EC & BIOS to run a 980m, I am using this BIOS from Prema Mod: https://biosmods.wordpress.com/p150sm/

Cooling may be an issue, I was having trouble keeping my card below 80c until I made some significant hardware mods. This should not be an issue for most because you can buy a P150SMA stock with a 980m and they are just fine, I ended up having a crappy bent heatsink.

Power can also be an issue, I have a 180w power supply which will pull anywhere from 220 to 300 watts of power from the wall when gaming with my 980m overclocked. I would not recommend using a 180w power supply as you run the risk of damaging the power supply and possibly your laptop, not to mention the fire hazard that comes with running a power supply out of spec.

Throttling was an issue for me, my card randomly down-clocked itself and I needed to use a custom overclocking BIOS from Prema Mod to fix the issue: https://biosmods.wordpress.com/mxm-vbios/

3D Mark Fire Strike Overclocked Score

I was able to get my 980m up to 1.44 GHz which is fast enough to get a graphics score of 12155 in 3D Mark Fire Strike which is on par with a desktop GTX 980: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/5947854
  1. If anyone else is attempting this, there's another thread over on PCWorld which you might find relevant. Linking here to aid discoverability: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2923779/how-to-upgrade-graphics-in-a-laptop.html

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  2. Thanks Pete for linking that article, it is packed with lots of helpful information, although it features a P150EM the process is basically identical. This article is definitely worth checking out for anyone who is reading this one!

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  3. Happy to help! Did you have any luck finding a compatible uprated power supply at all?

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  4. Unfortunately I have not found a PSU that wouldn't require some sort of modification to work with a P150SM. However my 180 watt Chicony PSU that came with mine is able to supply about 280 watts with no issues so far. (anything over that the PSU will turn off after about 20 minutes of load but its ok for short bursts up to about 310 watts) It would be fairly trivial to splice the wires and replace the connector on a higher wattage power supply with the one from the 180 watt Chicony, as long as the voltage is the same it should work.

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  5. Did my upgrade over the weekend, and after a few hairy moments I can deem it a success :) In addition to this article and the one I linked previously I also found this video from eurocom useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMmQ6FH_IRY&list=PLSpHQT9pSLfm276wKepllbrRuDtPxHZsv&index=1

    Sadly my power brick doesn't seem to be able to handle peak output from the new card, although I've got it to work now by rate limiting my CPU using the power balanced setting in windows which leaves most game performance mostly unchanged. I've got an alternative brick at work I can try but otherwise I'm planning to follow these steps and mod a 240w supply: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/htwingnuts-sager-np8250-clevo-p157sm-review.722048/page-5#post-9268337

    Thanks again for your help, and maybe someone will find my inputs useful too one day :)

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  6. Tried to order one lately, here's the chat log XD:
    "
    Chat session started at 22:18:09
    Please be patient while you are being connected with an operator ...
    You are now chatting with One Smart Nerd
    talal:hi
    One Smart Nerd:Hi, how can I help you?
    talal:I would like to have some info and pricing of an nvidia 980m gpu MXM module
    talal:do u sell them as a kit or independent?
    One Smart Nerd:The price is $725 plus shipping
    One Smart Nerd:Full kit
    talal:what about the module alone without heatsink or the full kit?
    One Smart Nerd:The price is for the full kit, that is how we sell them.
    talal:I've been referred from a blog site: http://null-bin.blogspot.com/2015/03/upgrading-clevo-p150sm-from-gtx-770m-to.html 6+ months old post, the blogger suggested the price to me as 675 which is really appealing
    talal:i think ill stick to amazon XD, anyways thank you
    One Smart Nerd:You're welcome."

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  7. Hi,
    I'm looking to upgrade my GPU from the 770m to the 980m in the exact same laptop as yourself, but I really want to avoid updating the BIOS - I'm sure something somehow will go wrong.

    I'm running a BIOS American Megatrends 4.6.5 (NOV 13) and was wondering if you'd know if that would see the 980m or not?
    Would the 100w TDP be a problem in the Clevo? I'm not looking at overclocking it at all, just getting better graphics than my 770m can deliver.
    Last thing, about the nvidia driver. What's the point in changing the inf file etc? I don't quite understand the modded driver spiel and why would it be necessary?

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    1. That BIOS should work but either way you should be willing to update it yourself if it ends up not working.

      You will always need a modified driver for sure for the 980m to work at all. The default inf files do not contain the specific hardware ID combination of your laptop with a 980m since it was never sold with a 980m. The driver will check to make sure you have a matching hardware ID and will refuse to install since there isnt one in the default inf. Modding the driver is adding a custom hardware ID and device name to the inf so that the driver will find a matching hardware ID in the inf file and allow you to install the driver.

      The 980m has a 125w+ TDP which is fine with the standard Clevo P150SM and 180w PSU as long as you are not overclocking the GPU and/or CPU. You will probably wish to flash a modified vBIOS for the card to prevent power throttling though as it can reduce performance due to the card trying to stay under the 125w TDP.

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    2. Thanks very much for your reply, really helped! It does lead me to some further questions if you don't mind...
      Do updates effect the modified driver? Do you have to disable NVidia updates?
      I've not found any good guides to flashing the vBIOS, any recommendations?
      Under the throttled performance, does the card suffer any significant damage/performance loss?
      I realise I'm quizzing you a fair bit here, any help at all is really appreciated =]

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    3. Yes, when using a modified driver you will no longer receive driver updates from NVIDIA, you will have to manually download and modify each driver version you wish to install. It is usually also recommended that you totally remove the old driver each time you wish upgrade driver version.

      As for the vBIOS flash process, it is very easy if you happen to be using the Prema Mod vBIOS. This vBIOS comes with a simple .bat script which you run from within your Windows instillation, it will guide you through the process. Alternatively you can always use NVFlash from within DOS.

      The card will not physically be damaged from thermal/power limit throttling, you will just see a great reduction in performance, clock speeds can drop as low as 500MHz when thermal throttling which will result in about half the performance of normal. (The Clevo P150SM cooling system should be good enough to keep it above 1000MHz though) You may drop to around 850MHz if running into the stock power limit in certain games.

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  8. I've got a Clevo P150SM, but mine came with a Radeon 8970m installed. Any idea if it's possible to upgrade it to the Nvidia 980m? I assume the heat sink would be different?

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    1. Yes you can swap between AMD/NVIDIA cards and the process is the same :) You will need modified NVIDIA display drivers though to use a 980m in a P150SM. I made and uploaded a few pre-modified INF files here so you do not have to modify yourself if you are okay with using the older driver version that I have made the INF mods for. https://null-bin.blogspot.com/p/nvidia.html The heatsink will probably be different but many 980m MXM module can be ordered with heatsink for P150SM. I recommend to buy from RJTech or Mythlogic if you are in the US.

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  9. Hello, I have a P157SM with the GTX 770M and I am also looking to upgrade my GPU to 980 or higher. I also want to add a new stick of ram since I only have 8GB atm. Is the process still the same for a P157SM?

    Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Yes the P157 and P150 are very similar, they only really differ in terms of the case. You should be able to run a GTX 980m (980m only, not 980) GTX 10 series also will not work as the MXM cards are different sizes.

      Just keep in mind you will need to modify Nvidia drivers yourself if you are using Windows if you decide to change the GPU.

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  10. I have the P150sm-a. Wonderful machine I've had it for years and its still going strong and dont regret one thing about it, IMO its the perfect laptop. I did all the cooling mods to great success. Crazy how crippled/restricted the airflow was! After some work with a dremel and a repaster my temps went down dramatically! Anyway, Im reading that some have been installing instal a custom gtx 1060 GPU in this machine with minor mods. Any opinions? Im sure your 980m is doing fine but a 1060 may use less power.

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    1. The 1060 will need to draw its power from the MXM slot and not from an external connector like the Clevo 1070/1080s, the MXM pinout also would have to be the same, you also will have to get an eDP display working from the P150SM board. I would try to get an eDP display to work with the P150SM board first, there is an eDP connector but I don't know if you can actually run a display from it. The GTX 10 series will not work with LVDS displays. Optimus might also be an issue, I don't think the 1060 supports optimus (I didn't check though) If you want to try it yourself I would have some sort of backup plan to sell the card if it doesn't work out for you. MXM cards hold value a little better than desktop cards, I sold my 980m after about a year of use for more than I bought it for. As for power, I have tested a P775DM3-G with a GTX 1080 and 7700k and it still used less power than my P150SM with 980m (unlocked power limit) and 4700MQ so I don't think power will be an issue, you can probably get away with the 180w power supply.

      Also what did you mean by "custom" GTX 1060

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