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Handhelds Hardware Hacking Portables Sony Television Wireless Networking Build Hardware

When You Really, Really Want to Upgrade a Tiny Notebook 104

Posted by timothy
from the faint-of-heart-attack dept.
Benz145 writes "The famous Sony VAIO UX UMPC may have been cancelled a few years back by Sony, but the community at Micro PC Talk won't let it die. Modder Anh has carefully removed the relatively slow 1.33Ghz Core Solo CPU and installed a much faster Intel Core 2 Duo U7700 (a process which involves reballing the entire CPU). On top of this, he managed to install an incredibly small 4-port USB hub into the unit which allowed for the further instillation of a Huawei E172 modem for 3G data/voice/SMS, a GPS receiver, and a Pinnacle HD TV receiver. All of this was done without modifying the device's tiny external case. Great high-res pictures of the motherboard with the modded hardware can be seen through the link."
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When You Really, Really Want to Upgrade a Tiny Notebook

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  • Looks like hi-res does not mean the same thing for everyone...
  • Micro PC Talk? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:09PM (#33878780) Homepage Journal

    Then why link at umpcportal.com instead of linking directly to the story at micropctalk.com?

  • That is badass! I wish something like this could be done with the MacBook Air. I'm in love with mine - unfortunately, Apple hasn't updated it in forever. If there was a service out there to help folks with MBAs, I'm sure there would be a long line of people.

    Heck, I'm even willing to shell out 5k for a powerful MBA, but oh well.

    • Re:MacBook Air (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:28PM (#33878892)

      I'm even willing to shell out 5k

      That's an excellent start when it comes to wishing for products from Apple.

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:30PM (#33878898) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunately, most MBAs are beyond hope. Sure, in our polite society we like to shuffle them along, giving them middle management positions and places in government bureaucracy, but we have yet to understand the fundamental problem that drives people towards getting an MBA.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      According to the Mac Buyer's Guide [macrumors.com], it's way overdue too (days since update: 492).

    • by Dayofswords (1548243) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:34PM (#33878924)

      Who cares about updates to the Macbook Air?

      All that matters is that it can fit in a manila envelope.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Provocateur (133110)

        The envelop, though could be upgraded to linen stock, or even one with internal impact resistant bubblewrap, which even features more air.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

      That is badass! I wish something like this could be done with the MacBook Air. I'm in love with mine - unfortunately, Apple hasn't updated it in forever. If there was a service out there to help folks with MBAs, I'm sure there would be a long line of people.

      I think there is probably more involved than switching out the processor. You'd have to replace the current with another one that would be okay with existing cooling/power requirements. Otherwise you'd melt something. I suspect that's why they went with a 1.33GHz Core 2 Duo as opposed to a more powerful processor. I think Apple last updated the MBA mid 2009 but it was only a processor upgrade from 1.6 GHz to 1.83 GHz and 1.83 GHz to 2.13 GHz.

      • by CFD339 (795926)

        Could be, but core i3, core i5 both should draw less power and produce less heat. Not sure how wildly different the pinout, voltages, and chipsets are though. I think with the newer core i3 and core i5 they got rid of the external memory controller -- so probably that means it falls into the category of major PIA for a do it at home job -- but a new motherboard should be able to be made to fit that machine.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by UnknowingFool (672806)
          The original 1.2 GHz Core Solo (I think it was the Core Solo U1400) drew 6W TDP. The new Core 2 Duo U770 draws 10W. The lowest wattage Core i3 or i5 draws 18W. It's probably safe to assume the tripling the power requirement is a bit risky. As for the socketing, the original and new processor use the BGA479 whereas the ultra low wattage Core i3 and i5 use uPGA-989. So there would definitely be some work in socketing.
        • Re:MacBook Air (Score:4, Informative)

          by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:01AM (#33880640) Homepage

          I think with the newer core i3 and core i5 they got rid of the external memory controller
          Indeed the MCH (northbridge) is gone and most of what was previously part of it is now in the processor with the physical layer for the video now in the PCH (roughly equivilent to the old southbridge/ICH). Further the memory type is DDR3 (the majority of core 2 systems used DDR2). Fitting an i series to a core 2 motherboard or vice-versa is just not going to happen.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I think there is probably more involved than switching out the processor. You'd have to replace the current with another one that would be okay with existing cooling/power requirements. Otherwise you'd melt something. I suspect that's why they went with a 1.33GHz Core 2 Duo as opposed to a more powerful processor. I think Apple last updated the MBA mid 2009 but it was only a processor upgrade from 1.6 GHz to 1.83 GHz and 1.83 GHz to 2.13 GHz.

        Actually, it's a bit simpler. The MBA just doesn't have enough spa

        • Actually, it's a bit simpler. The MBA just doesn't have enough space. The Core2Duo used in the MBA has an nVidia chipset, so you could get a decent GPU out of it. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros with the Core i3/i5/i7s have an Intel chipset, with the processor also having Intel graphics on it. This means Apple has to fit on a second nVidia chip onto the board in order to have better graphics capability (which is used by OS X for a lot of things - OpenCL, window compositing, accelleration, etc).

          I'm sure Apple would've stuck an i3 into the MBA if they could, but the i3 CPU + Intel chipset + nVidia GPU just took too much space on the main board. So instead, they kept the old Core2Duo+nVidia chipset which saves a chip and gives you decent graphics still.

          True the Core i3, i5, i7 mobile models have integrated graphics but the use of these new models negates the need for a northbridge and southbridge. It would however take more engineering than a socket change. I suspect this is probably why they haven't updated in over a year. Also the power tradeoff is another problem. Using the integrated GPU would save on some power but keeping two GPUs running drains more power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That is badass! I wish something like this could be done with the MacBook Air. I'm in love with mine - unfortunately, Apple hasn't updated it in forever. If there was a service out there to help folks with MBAs, I'm sure there would be a long line of people.

      Heck, I'm even willing to shell out 5k for a powerful MBA, but oh well.

      Ye gods! Apple came out with the 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo Mac Book Air on June 8, 2009. "Forever" is 16 months for you? What kind of culture hath Apple wrought?!!? Oh, right...

      • This [macrumors.com] is the kind of culture they've wrought, where updates typically come annually. After all, if processors double transistor count every 2 years, surely Apple isn't too profligate in updating annually?

        (I'll assume GP is an original MBA owner and hasn't noticed processor bumps, or is merely pining for the ability to self-upgrade. In the latter case, you know what you were getting into when you got an Apple, boyo.)

        • Re:MacBook Air (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Beale (676138) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @04:32AM (#33880542)

          In the latter case, you know what you were getting into when you got an Apple, boyo.

          Or, to be honest, when you bought a laptop.

          • non-sense

            i have a completely stripped thinkpad t43 on my desk at home (currently painting the plastic shell white, so all the gubbins are out of their home), its ram has already been upgraded from the default 512mb to 2gb, i could change out the cpu (a 1,86 GHz one) to a 2,26 GHz one. I can replace the combo-drive with a dvd burner / sata drive, i could upgrade the hdd to a larger one, the wifi card to a 802.11n model

            laptops might not have the same upgradability as your average joe desktop, but most non-app

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by petermgreen (876956)

          In the latter case, you know what you were getting into when you got an Apple, boyo
          s/apple/thin and light laptop/

          socketing processors takes up vertical space which in the trend of making laptops thinner is at a huge premium. a few millimetres doesn't sound like much but when the whole laptop is only a couple of centimeters thick it's significant.

          Replacing a BGA processor is possible as this article shows but getting the chips can be tricky (though interestingly farnell were promoting intel atom chips on thi

        • Daddy? Can I have an MBA of my very own for Christmas? I promise to keep him fed and optimized!

    • Following the success of iPad, Macbook Air will be discontinued. Instead, Apple will release an ARM netbook running OSX for the rest of us. Something OEMs have been discouraged from doing as Windows7 requires x86. Stealing thunder from ChromeOS.

      multi-core A4 CPU, touchscreen, keyboard and trackpad, OSX-lite for ARM. iOS apps via the store will be available via a compatibility layer.

      All the OSX-ARM hardware drivers are available for Darwin courtesy of iOS. OSX apps can be recompiled via universal binaries.

      Th

    • I don't know what the sales figures are(or even if Steve cares, he took the iPod mini out back and shot it when it was a literal best-seller and flash RAM was still pretty pricey just so he could replace it with something smaller...); but I'd be unsurprised if its the end of the line for the MacBook Air.

      Intel's newer processors don't work, by design, with Nvidia's chipsets, and Apple is really hyping the GPU acceleration for their OSX-running products. This means that there really aren't any huge upgrade
      • You can still have nVidia video, just not motherboard chipsets as I understand it. My recent Core i7-720QM laptop has nVidia graphics.

        • That is correct, Intel has done nothing to cripple PCIe on their parts(except some of the newer Atoms which, whether as a cost saving measure or to keep people from attaching capable GPUs only have a few external lanes available), so any discrete GPU will work just fine.

          Trouble is, on a board the size of the Macbook Air's, and with a battery to match, a discrete graphics chip(plus some RAM for it) is going to be a real layout/power/thermal trick.

          By using the Nvidia chipset, with integrated GPU, Apple
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      That is badass! I wish something like this could be done with the MacBook Air. I'm in love with mine

      Oh, you're the guy who bought one.

      Pictures or it didn't really happen.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:33PM (#33878922)
    Just fucking wow.

    This is some cool hardware hacking, and for all the right reasons. He just wanted to see if he could.

    I tip my hat to the man.

    _
  • What is "reballed" as in "reballing the CPU"? I am assuming it's repackaging the CPU or something, but I'm not sure. I read the article but that didn't offer much more insight than the summary.

    • Re:Reballed? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:43PM (#33878994) Homepage Journal

      What is "reballed" as in "reballing the CPU"? I am assuming it's repackaging the CPU or something, but I'm not sure. I read the article but that didn't offer much more insight than the summary.

      BGA or "Ball Grid Array" chips don't have a standard socket and are attached to the board using literal balls of solder that melt when the whole thing is put in a re-flow oven. The chip is then soldered to the board. A good video on reballing a CPU is here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97nxZwHG5bA [youtube.com]

      • Ok, thanks! I'm not sure if I want to try that myself

      • Re:Reballed? (Score:5, Informative)

        by steveha (103154) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:20PM (#33879414) Homepage

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97nxZwHG5bA [youtube.com]

        I just watched that video. The BGA reballing process appears to be:

        0) Remove all the old solder. First he melted it with a soldering iron and got a ball of solder, which he rolled off. Then he applied a solder wick (with the soldering iron to heat it) and scrubbed gently all over the chip package surface. Finally he wiped the chip package with a cloth soaked in some liquid (a solvent I'd guess).

        1) Paint the chip package with some sort of goop.

        2) Put a shield on the chip package. This shield has holes that match where the new solder balls must go.

        3) Apply some sort of metal powder from a jar. The powder appears to be solder balls, each one just the right size to fit through the holes in the shield. He gently wiped the powder this way and that until there was one solder ball per hole (more or less). Then he took a pair of needle tweezers and carefully moved one ball at a time until there was exactly one solder ball per hole, with no holes empty.

        4) Apply heat from a heat gun. Clearly this was to melt the solder balls and make them attach to the chip package.

        5) Pop the shield off, and hold up the reballed BGA to the camera so we can see its perfection.

        I guess the rest of the process is to very carefully drop the chip package where you want it to go, and convince the solder to melt. How do you do that? You mentioned a "reflow oven"? I Googled that, and there are lots of different ovens out there. I even saw a page for using an ordinary toaster oven [instructables.com] for the purpose.

        Looks like pretty finicky work to do by hand, but not completely impossible.

        steveha

        • by Cylix (55374) *

          You could do it with a towel and a hair dryer if you really wanted it to.

          In fact, I've repaired an xbox 360 using the towel and the units own heat. In my case, I was not replacing the processor, but rather I needed to melt the solder once again.

        • Re:Reballed? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Cylix (55374) * on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:50PM (#33879514) Homepage Journal

          The key part in the begining was to apply a flux for lifting.

          This protected the board and assisted in thermal spread.

          Likely he was removing that with the solvent because it wouldn't be too helpful to have that on and attempt to re-attache to the surface.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          0: Heat shield the board, heat the the chip (~500+F), remove the chip from board. Apply rosin (makes solder flow better + protects from oxidization) and solder wick to clean the board and/or chip.

          1: Apply Rosin paste to chip, apply stencil to chip, then apply either solder dust or solder paste to chip.

          2: Remove stencil.

          3: Place chip on level surface and heat for ~10 mins to the melting point of the solder. Because metals are magnetic, the solder will flow around and form a ball on the contact.

          4: Cool.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)

          I guess the rest of the process is to very carefully drop the chip package where you want it to go, and convince the solder to melt. How do you do that? You mentioned a "reflow oven"? I Googled that, and there are lots of different ovens out there.

          If you're using old-fashioned lead/tin solder you don't have to be all that careful about the alignment: if you have 10% overlap between the ball and the solderpad on most all the pads, the capillary action of the solder will cause the bga to self-align. (I do this on a regular basis with smaller but similar chips.) Now, if you're using modern no-lead solder it's more difficult. With a BGA you can do an okay job of alignment with a boom microscope set at an angle so you can see under the edge of the chip

    • by olsmeister (1488789) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:46PM (#33879008)
      Well, I googled it, and - whoops! NSFW! NSFW!!!
    • by treeves (963993)
      Google "Ball Grid Array" and see if that doesn't answer your question.
  • I see no full size photos.

    what I do see are crummy, not well focused pictures.

    good effort on the mod, but it does seem a bit pointless if that kind of extreme soldering is involved. probably very unreliable, too, and totally unfixable if it ends up being flakey.

    the ability to do rework is much harder than people think. things can work for a while and then crap out due to a bad solder joint that was hard to find.

    I would not trust this long-term.

    • by Chris Tucker (302549) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:51PM (#33879034) Homepage

      We apologize that this was not a Serious and Constructive article about the Serious and Constructive uses of Serious and Constructive computers.

      We humbly suggest that if you are keenly interested in Serious and Constructive uses for Serious and Constructive computers, that you seek out Serious and Constructive forums.

      Those of us that appreciate what is known as a "cool hack", on the other hand, will not miss you one little bit.

      "I would not trust this long-term."

      As it's not YOUR computer, it's not your worry, is it?

      • by whoop (194)

        "I would not trust this long-term."

        As it's not YOUR computer, it's not your worry, is it?

        Yes, this is a grave concern to Slashdotters everywhere. We here believe there can be only one of anything in the universe. If we allow this technology to continue, there will only be tiny PCs in the world with a bunch of crap soldered in.

        KDE vs Gnome? No, use twm. Vi vs Emacs? No, use cat. Tivo vs MythTV? No, don't watch TV. Ipod vs Zune? No, torrent it. Android vs Iphone? No, use just a plain phone, dammit! Xbox360 vs PS3? No, give me PC games.

        Now, recite it 500 times, "There can be only one,

  • by yoblin (692322)
    Why would you need to reball the CPU to install a new one? Doesn't that just reinforce the existing connections?
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:42PM (#33878978)

    Let's suspend the "Redundant" mod for this particular occasion. This is really, really beautiful work, and if a bunch of Slashdotters offer Anh all kinds of applause for this mod, he deserves every bit of it.

  • All of this was done without modifying the device's tiny external case.

    Yes, but did he have to modify the device's internal case? That would be impressive if he didn't.

  • What exactly is it that they are instilling with that 4 port USB hub?
    • by NoMaster (142776)

      They're instilling it with the sacred and revered ability to generate lots of "A USB device has requested more power than the hub can provide. Windows cannot enable the device. Remove the device and restart your computer" error messages.

      (It's an unpowered hub by the looks of it; best not plug in anything that wants more than the default 100mA...)

      • On the actual forum threads, they were discussing locations to steal +5v power for the new USB peripherals. Apparently there was some Japan-only daughtercard offering whose connector cable was still present on international models that had a line, as well as some motherboard locations. That only solves the power problem, of course, not the "Windows sees an unpowered hub with 2 amps worth of devices hanging off of it" problem; but a substantial percentage of cheap 'n cheerful unpowered hubs lie horribly abou
  • I'd guess he's going to need added ventilation, especially with a 3G modem and more powerful CPU. I'm not convinced this thing is stable or has anywhere near decent battery life.
  • "...further instillation of a Huawei E172 modem for 3G.."

    Instillation is... "the introduction of a liquid (by pouring or injection) drop by drop"
    I never thought of connecting a modem like that.
  • what the hell guys. (Score:3, Informative)

    by trum4n (982031) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:21PM (#33879422)
    this is like 2 years old.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Chrisq (894406)

      this is like 2 years old.

      You like 2 year olds! Where's the report button....

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