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CPU upgrade x10


zzattack
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Been a while since the last update, but I'm happy to report that my process has become reliable at last. Last few builds have worked right out of the box, so I'm gonna look into offloading a first few soon.

Not quite sure of pricing yet and what kind of 'packages' to go with. I'm leaning towards the following:

- RAM upgrade to 128MB is always included, no opt-out

- Caps always replaced, no opt-out

- Optional openxenium, else TSOP

- Case+DVD+HDD can be included for the price of shipping.

 

Input/suggestions are welcomed too! 

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2 hours ago, zzattack said:

Been a while since the last update, but I'm happy to report that my process has become reliable at last. Last few builds have worked right out of the box, so I'm gonna look into offloading a first few soon.

Not quite sure of pricing yet and what kind of 'packages' to go with. I'm leaning towards the following:

- RAM upgrade to 128MB is always included, no opt-out

- Caps always replaced, no opt-out

- Optional openxenium, else TSOP

- Case+DVD+HDD can be included for the price of shipping.

 

Input/suggestions are welcomed too! 

Sounds interesting.  I assume we would send you our board for re-work?

what kind of $$$ do you think it will likely be?

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Considering that the cost of shipping a board over to me would likely exceed the price of finding a decent used console locally, I will primarily be offering boards that I sourced myself.

For pricing, I'm thinking to sell them for €235 + shipping at cost. So that's for an upgraded xbox motherboard with Tualatin CPU at 1.4 GHz/512/133, RAM upgraded to 128MB, fresh capacitors and cleaned console shell. For transparency: parts total about €135 and I'd like to make €100 off of the labor involved.

Because of the weight of the HDD/DVD drive, it might be preferable not to include them since their added shipping cost exceeds their value, so those are optional.

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Slight update: I've been looking into cooling approaches. These CPUs run much hotter than the original despite the lower vcore, and the original heatsink mounting solution cannot be used since a) the heatsink is too high to fit under the HDD caddy, and b) the interposer protrudes over the mounting holes for the original bracket.

For a first quick experiment I used an angle grinder to cut the fins of the original heat sink so it would fit under the caddy, and used "electrolube thermal bonding system" since I had that available to secure the heat sink onto the CPU. Results were catastrophic since the console would shut off after about 10 minutes due to overheating.

Next I inquired with n64freak for advice and he actually suggested an improved version of basically the same idea. He uses a commonly available and slightly lower replacement, with better quality thermal glue. I've since obtained the same heat sink and purchased the (supposedly) best thermal adhesive I could find. Additionally I sanded the heat spreader on the CPU with up to 2000 grit, with the end result looking like very smooth copper. The flatter the better, as while thermal compounds do transfer heat, direct metal-on-metal contact is much better still. Result: temps between 60-65°C at 20% fan speed while running games for over an hour in 30°C ambient. This matches reports of temps on Trusty boards as well as n64's own experience, so problem solved.

 

Additionally I verified the working of the clock reduction circuit. After debugging the circuit from begin to end, I realized the STPCLK signal was fed a 32.768MHz signal, whereas that should've been a 32.768KHz one... This causes the CPU to nearly halt since it can't stop/resume the CPU clocks that quickly. Easy to fix, hardest is sourcing a suitable replacement. The original solder pads are spaced ridiculously far apart because the part was larger than anything currently for sale. Hopefully the part I found fits properly, and if so I will initiate stress tests before offering the first couple of boards for sale.

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Bit of an update as I'm wrapping up the first units for sale.

The lower heat sinks I got are rather wide and count 30 fins while we only have space for 9. So I got a suitable cutting disk for this miniature bench-top table saw that's been sitting idle in the garage for maybe 8 years. Gotta go slow, but the result is tight.

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The black anodized finish looks pretty slick I think. After attaching to the board:

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Lastly, I decided on using a small screw terminal for optionally wiring the switch for the clock reduction circuit. This should leave the option of installing the switch very accessible to anyone.

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I intend to offer the first 3 units for sale tomorrow, and more will follow in the coming weeks. 

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Another update about thermals and wrapping up the first few boxes..

I've been evaluating different solutions for temperature management. Attaching the heatsinks using thermal adhesive provides acceptable results. It's also very simple and cheap. But it is also quite permanent, barring extreme dedication to remove it without causing damage.

Less obvious to realize is a screw-mount solution, but if feasible it should be able to maintain similar or better temperatures, with the additional benefit of serviceability. I've toyed around by modifying the chosen heatsink slightly and came up with what I think is a good solution. I want to evaluate adding tension to the top-left corner using a zip-tie so further reduce possible tilting and guarantee tighter contact overall.

Time for some pictures.

Lapping the CPU IHS, this seems to have slightly beneficial results:

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For the screw-mount solution of the CPU heatsink, I've dremeled away a bit of the edge fins so make room for a spring-tightening screw. Not the prettiest, but effective nonetheless:

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More later on my plans with the boxes. I want to approach the project more professionally than I have until now, and this has some implications, both on pricing, availability and quality.

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When writing my previous post I didn't have time to address the other 2 things I've been looking in to: 1) securing the GPU heatsink, and 2) sales.

Let's start with the simple one. For now I've found 3 ways to attach the GPU heatsink. The first is by retaining the original plastic bracket, cutting away the part that's now blocked by the interposer. It works, but there's some tension between the interposer and bracket, slightly deforming it. It's also pulled down in only 2 spots, which isn't ideal either. But the clamp is still effective, so it's a viable option.

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Second way is the same as one of the CPU options: using thermal adhesive. Simple, effective, sufficient but also unserviceable. Probably better than using the bracket though. No picture because there's nothing to see :)

The last method I'm evaluating is by using a clamping bracket that slides over the heatsink, and will reuse the screw holes present in the case for securing the motherboard itself. By far the cheapest method of having something produced in a cheap and timely manner is by cutting a PCB to that shape, so I've ordered a bunch at 2.4mm thick FR4. I hope it's sturdy enough to properly clamp it. At least the printed-to-scale paper cutout fits fine.

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The other topic I want to address is about "sales". Although I've been doing console mods for a decade, it feels I've never been particularly good at commercializing my efforts. It's never been a priority to me, my focus was usually geared toward being able to move on to the next interesting project. And that has been sufficient before: I'd take on a project such as creating or building an open-source (hardware) project. PCBs and parts are always much more efficient to purchase as a larger batch than singles, so I'd generally buy enough for 5 or 10 runs, mod my own console, and offer 4-9 of them for just-above cost but enough to recuperate the cost of my own mod. A self-sustaining kind of hobby, that idea.

Initially I wanted to follow a similar approach with this project, but I'm reconsidering that, for reasons I'll divulge. First off, I really underestimated the amount of time one of these conversions takes. It's a long list of activities starting with acquisition of parts, cleaning the console, rinsing + ultrasonic, drying, softmodding, converting to TSOP, RAM upgrade, recapping undoing clock cap damage, cleaning optical drive belt, tuning laser if it reads poorly, removing the CPU, cleaning the board, reballing the interposer, soldering the interposer, BGA xray inspection, soldering the interposer components, soldering the (optional) clock reduction circuitry on the interposer, undervolting the CPU, cutting the heatsink, and finally stress testing for >24h. When all goes well, without distractions or setbacks, it takes 4.5.5 hours from start to finish. I'm okay with doing that once or twice without the expectation of financial compensation, but I now realize that after the 3rd, it turns from hobby into serious labor.

That realization also prompted me to rethink what kind of monetary incentive I'd like to pursue when continuing this work. One factor to take into account is the amount of investments I've already made or committed to thus far. After tallying up, the counter sits at over €4k. Truthfully, that has been an eye opener today, since I hadn't properly kept track of it. It should be noted that this number includes the parts for roughly 20 builds, but also the xray device (~€1000) + CPU test setup (~€150). That to me another indicator showing the project has progressed from hobby territory to something more serious.

Furthermore, I looked at the equipment used during those 4-5 hours per conversion, and found that no hobbyist can reasonably be expected to carry even a subset of the tools employed. There have been some workshop pictures early on in this thread for those interested. After some reflecting on the many, many months of wages I've pumped into building the lab over the years, I lost the sense of obligation to offer services necessitating the use of such machinery at the aforementioned "hobbyist rates".

Next, no matter the quality of work, we are dealing with (soon) 20+ year old parts operating well outside their originally intended specifications/environment. There's a real part of risk there, even if everything initially passes stress tests. If I want to professionalize this service, this is something to think about ahead of any unforeseen drawbacks. 

 

Thus far I haven't written anything tangible yet in terms of where I'm going with this, so let's get to that. In short: I want to find a good balance where I can professionally and sustainably offer this CPU upgrade as a service, without losing interest due to lack of compensation, without getting swamped in work (there's been SO much interest!), while covering potential risks. At the same time, I very much do enjoy working on videogame consoles. It very much is a hobby, and I do not ever want people to feel "ripped off" when there is no other choice to buy from (hint hint aliexpress Nintendo switch modchip sellers profiting off my firmware).

Since this is a service, I want to offer some flexibility too. Therefore, I am going to offer these on a website with a small configurator. Some parts will be made removable (i.e. RAM upgrade), some parts will be made optional (i.e. open-xenium addition).

Finally, I want to charge a price that is satisfactory to me, while people do remain willing to pay for it without the sense of being taken advantage of. I hope to have found that price level after careful consideration: the base price will be €350 + shipping.

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Thanks for the update and good luck with your service! The price target is too high for me but i guess others are willing to pay that amount of money for their hobby.

Keep in mind that the rarity is a factor for the big intrest if you are planing to sell more.

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Just dumping a progress picture, will get through it all, eventually..

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On the acquisition front, the last batch of 4 xboxes purchased were advertised as good working condition, but in reality came with a bunch of non-disclosed issues: 3x non-functioning dvd drives (1x tray doesn't open, 2x won't read discs), 2x clock cap damage, 1x missing HDD (seriously!?). I'm not even gonna bother contacting the sellers since a) I barely know for sure which console came from which seller, b) it's all fairly easy to fix, and c) they've all come across so illiterate and hostile in their communication I halfway expect them to reply with threats if I'd merely suggest they sold me less than was advertised. Powering through.

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On 7/28/2022 at 12:19 PM, Brutez said:

Thanks for the update and good luck with your service! The price target is too high for me but i guess others are willing to pay that amount of money for their hobby.

Keep in mind that the rarity is a factor for the big intrest if you are planing to sell more.

€350 + shipping is super cheap.  These can go for 1k+ on evilbay

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They're traded at very low volume so estimating their value is hard. But the point about rarity has some merit. When I'm dumping 20 at a time, it's clear I'm not expecting all, or even any of them to fetch top dollar.

That said, I've carefully deliberated the price point at which I want to offer them fully kitted with recap + clock reduction circuitry + 128MB upgrade and cleaned shell + dvd drive + hdd. I'm not exactly sure how much deduction is feasible when it's just the bare "motherboard with upgraded CPU" and none of the rest. But it does save a lot of time. And it allows me to discard non-working parts instead of fixing them. On the other hand, if everyone ends up buying just the board because it's cheapest and they'll either not care for or do the other upgrades themselves, then I'll have a ton of cases to discard of, which is also not ideal. I'll decide on that soon, once I get some e-commerce thingie going on a website. I think it'll be around €275 for the bare upgraded board, and it'll save a fair bit on shipping too probably.

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10 hours ago, zzattack said:

On the acquisition front, the last batch of 4 xboxes purchased were advertised as good working condition, but in reality came with a bunch of non-disclosed issues:………... I'm not even gonna bother contacting the sellers since ….they've all come across so illiterate and hostile in their communication I halfway expect them to reply with threats if I'd merely suggest they sold me less than was advertised.

Why is this the default now on eBay, and not just for buying OG Xboxes.  
Buyers claiming fowl to eBay because you wouldn't hand deliver their noway ever going to be couriered item they bought for £20, at your expense halfway across the country.

Deciding that next day delivery is not fast enough and claiming non delivery so eBay issue a refund at your expense leaving you out of pocket and minus an item. Sorry my tele-porter is waiting on a service engineer.

 Listing items as mint inbox and when it arrives its anything but.

I have a friend who sculpts and sells on the internet. He saw that a seller was straight up selling casts of his work, which is fairly individual. He bought one to make sure and then filed to eBay that it was fraud.  Each of his sculpts is numbered so the copy had the same number pressed into it. He knew who the purchaser was and that it matched the sellers details. eBay tried to claim he was the one copying, and would not entertain pulling the listings.   He has now completely given up on eBay both buying and selling.

Edited by big F
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18 hours ago, Donnie-Burger said:

€350 + shipping is super cheap.  These can go for 1k+ on evilbay

Yes, it is still a good Deal for others. And it is super cool that this CPU upgrade is a thing again.

It is just a bit too expansive for me for just collecting it.

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Picked up a 1.4 GHz xbox @zzattack. It was a 45 min drive for me and although shipping is cheaper with current gas prices it was still nice to meat a forum member in person.

First of all , super impressed with his lab. Equipment I could only dream about, but honestly I wouldn’t know how to use half of it anyway ;).

The upgrade itself was nicely done. Haven’t been in the opportunity to properly test the new XBOX myself. Now have to make a plan on how to turn into the ultimate XBOX. New case (crystal), openxenium modchip, 2 bioses with a 733 Mhz version on the 2nd bank, SSD (probably 2 TB) loaded wit a shitload of patched games both 720p and of course 1400 mhz where possible and an ogx360. It’s a long term project, in the meantime I can give some love to my 1.6 XBOX.

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