The Doghouse: PSU in the Dell Alienware Graphics Amplifier

Here's the deal with the Dell Alienware Graphics Amplifier:
  • It's an external unit that connects to recent Alienware gaming laptops.
  • If you mostly need graphics at home, it lets you upgrade the laptop GPU with a stronger desktop GPU.
  • This way, you can upgrade your GPU ($500 - $1,000) without replacing the whole laptop ($2,000 - $5,000).
  • You can still travel with the laptop (who does that during Covid 😁) and use its GPU, which is fine on occasion.
Excellent deal. Great idea. But, practical problems:
  • Dell suggested the GeForce RTX 2080 Super as a compatible card. After I put the two together, it worked but the power supply in the Amplifier produced an obnoxious buzzing sound. It sounded like a tractor. It was so loud, my wife across the house was worrying that our fridge broke down.
  • The noise reacted immediately to power use – it didn't build up or taper down. Could be a choke or a capacitor.
  • I contacted Dell Support on July 23. They didn't reply until July 28. The reply was to contact a different department.
  • In the meanwhile I had researched the issue and found this was a common complaint. The PSU is 460W. Meanwhile the User Guide for the RTX 2080 S requires at least 650W. In practice, the card should only draw 265W, but if the PSU is 460W it doesn't mean it delivers 265W over the PCIe cables. Or maybe it's just cheap and commonly faulty.
The issue is so common that you can find multiple videos about replacing the PSU in the Amplifier.

It turns out the replacement is not so tough. The main issue is finding a PSU that has the power outlet in the correct location to align with the hole in the Amplifier housing. I could not find the Antec VP600P in the video, so I went with Corsair CX650M based on a forum recommendation.

I can recommend the CX650M over the CX650 because the semi-modular form has fewer unnecessary cables.

All in all, the replacement was easy and the added cost is about $100 including shipping. (I paid a bit more, $130.)

It's truly disappointing that the Amplifier ships with such a cheap and dysfunctional PSU. For shame.

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