When Dell Built a Netbook Using an X86 Modular System

Just like with touchscreen cell phones packed with innovative and sophisticated features that everyone overlooks, there are areas that laptop makers previously ventured into but dared not touch anymore. On Twitter, [Kiwa] talks about a fascinating attempt by Dell to manufacture laptops with user-replaceable CPU + RAM modules. In 2008, Dell released the Inspiron Mini 1210, with its processor, chipset, and RAM soldered to a separate board in an “extended SODIMM” form factor – much like pre-CM4 Raspberry Pi compute modules! Apparently different versions of these “processor boards” existed for their Inspiron Mini line, with varying amounts of RAM and CPU power. With replacement CPU + RAM modules always sold online, these Dell netbooks are, to our knowledge, the only x86 netbooks with upgradeable processors.

You can try grabbing one of those replacement laptops or processor modules these days, if you like tinkering around with old tech – and you don’t mind having a poor experience even on Linux, thanks to the notorious lack of openness of the Poulsbo chipset. Unfortunately, Dell has given up on the concept of x86-module system boards altogether, and laptops have become less and less modular as we progress – we haven’t had socket processors since the third generation of Intel mobile cards, and even the RAM is soldered. to the motherboard more and more often. In theory, the “CPU daughter board” approach could improve manufacturing efficiencies and costs, allowing a larger, simpler board to be used for the motherboard and having only the high layered CPU board. . However, we can only assume that it was not profitable enough overall, even with all the theoretical advantages. Or, maybe, Google style, someone deleted this project internally due to some broken metrics.

If you think about it, a laptop motherboard is a single board computer; However, this is clearly not sufficient for our goals of scalability and repairability. If you’re looking to make your own way and upgrade your laptop regardless of the manufacturer’s intentions, here’s an old but impressive story about how to replace the soldered-in processor on the original Asus EEE, and a more recent one. on upgrading soldered RAM in a Dell XPS ultrabook. And if you’re looking for the goodness of backcalculation, Following [Kiwa] on Twitter is a must-see – the last time you saw the restoration and remodeling of a live blog from a Kaypro someone threw on the sidewalk.

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