After literally weeks of waiting my Intel T9300 has finally arrived. Honestly, my performance on this laptop has been adequate for my usage needs, so I’m not sure there was any real necessity to upgrade my CPU on this machine. But an approximately 60% performance improvement (based on the Passmark website averages for the Intel T3200 & T9300 CPUs) for just $24 seemed too good to pass up. When the CPU finally did arrive it came in the thinnest box I’ve ever received. I was a bit worried that the CPU would have some bent pins. Fortunately the CPU was not damaged.
From the research I did before hand I found that the T9300 was the best value for performance increase available for the Dell Inspiron 1525. In the past I have always found that CPUs that are a few steps down from the very best are usually the best value for money. For example, the Intel T9500 is only about 8% better than the T9300, but the going price on these right now is $46! Almost double the cost for a negligible performance increase.
My first step was to install the Passmark PerformanceTest 7.0 test suite to test the system. I did a trial run of the CPU testing suite expecting to achieve results similar to the averages posted on the Passmark site. In the past systems I have tested have been very close to the averages as shown on their site. So when I saw the following results I wasn’t at all surprised. The Passmark site average for the Intel T3200 is just 1046 – so a 1012 is pretty close to the average. However, if you look at the CPU usage graph at the top of the screenshot below you’ll see the CPU at 59%. After I noticed that I realized that one core was already running at 100% so I killed the process causing the issue and reran the test.
To my surprise the cpumark score was in the high 1580s. I was pretty shocked so I tested the system again twice and each time the score was within a few points. This number was 50% better than the average. I was only hoping to achieve a score of about 1680 with the new CPU and seeing how high the score was already I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be much benefit to the upgrade. Regardless, I have the chip and I’m certainly going to install the thing.
Doing the work:
To replace the CPU on the Inspiron 1525 I needed to remove the large access panel on the bottom of the laptop. Once removed there also is access to the RAM slots as well as the wlan, wwan & uwb slots.
With the access cover off I then removed the CPU/GPU heatsink assembly. There are five numbered screws on the assembly. I would assume one is supposed to screw them in numerical order. So with that in mind I unscrewed them in the reverse order. Here is a view with the heatsink removed:
The CPUs look pretty similar but the T9300 has a larger die. Switching the chips out was pretty simple. There is a lock on the CPU socket that needs to be turned with a flat screwdriver to release the CPU. Then the installed chip can be easily lifted right out of the socket.
With the new chip in I was excited to boot the system. Unfortunately the machine would only turn on for a few seconds, the screen didn’t even light up. I was a little worried that the chip was bad, but then I realized I probably should have updated the BIOS. Of course, I had to switch back to the original chip to get the computer to boot again. What was worse was that there doesn’t appear to be a non-Windows BIOS update program for this particular machine. So I was forced to boot an old laptop HDD that still had Windows 7 installed so I could run the Dell BIOS update. I was on revision A16, and there was only one newer update, A17. Luckily the BIOS flashed properly. I rebooted the system to give a little test for stability and then proceeded to switch out the processor once again. This time, success! I hit the setup key to enter the BIOS and it seemed to freeze up the computer. It turned out it was just doing something, very, very slowly.
Worth the 24 bucks?:
Now for the performance test. Given the higher performance numbers that this machine generated on the old chip, I was at least hopeful of similarly better performance for the new chip. But I didn’t rule out the possibility that I would only see the performance number that the Passmark site shows. After a few minutes of waiting and wow!
With the T9300 installed the machine pulled Cpumark score in the 2380s. Which is a 50% performance increase over the T3200 chip. I’m not sure what the discrepancy is for the superior performance of this particular Dell laptop. I may have turned off any power saving features in the BIOS, however I don’t recall doing so. It may also be because I have openSUSE linux installed. My speculation here is that Linux may be able to use the system more efficiently. Though that seems unlikely as well. When I have used the Passmark software in the past I have achieved very similar results to the averages. Usually a few percentage points above average but not too much. I generally attribute that to the motherboard or performance features in the BIOS.
The comparison between the chips is very interesting. In some areas the T9300 is twice as fast as the T3200. However in other areas the T9300 only out performs the T3200 by about 20%.
The upgrade worked great and I am very happy with the performance of the machine. In my original article about this Dell Inspiron 1525 I figured that this laptop cost me about $91 including an estimated cost of parts I had on hand as well as parts I purchased including this Intel T9300 processor. With this CPU upgrade my performance is still about 30% lower than the i5-460M in our other laptop. But since my actual cost was only $40 out of pocket I really can’t complain.
The Next Day:
So after writing up this article I started to feel more and more like how could these numbers be so skewed compared to the averages on the Passmark test site. The next thing I did was install the Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0. When I ran the CPU again I came up with a result of approximately 2030 on each of 3 occasions. This seems to be a rather large difference between versions. Now I was curious how the old T3200 would perform. So I ended up reinstalling the T3200 and rerunning the CPU tests. On three tests I averaged out at 1360, which is 30% faster than the average. The T9300 test results of 2030 are roughly 20% faster than the site average.
The interesting thing about both versions of PerformanceTest is that the T9300 outperforms the T3200 by about 50% overall in each version. So, although the numbers were different between versions, they did effectively come up with the same results.
Though it was a pain to switch back and forth to the old CPU the information it provided was worth the effort. I’m still very happy with the upgrade!