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#1 2015-06-28 09:20:11

iMic
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From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
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MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

I've had a MacBook Pro in storage for a couple of years now with Logic Board damage. It's a Late 2011 model with a Core i7 "Sandy Bridge" 2.4GHz and an AMD Radeon 6770M 1GB, the same GPU that became rather famous recently when thousands of them started to all drop dead at once.

IMG_3976.jpg


This machine was damaged when it was only three months old, when the owner accidentally tipped a glass of red wine into the keyboard. The LVDS connector burned up so the internal LCD has no backlight, although the panel itself is fine as the damage is confined to the Logic Board.

IMG_3888.jpg


Considering the decent hardware specs I had considered having the board reworked and repaired, but I've encountered a number of hurdles doing so. I ordered a replacement LVDS connector through AliExpress, only to have the supplier send me a completely different connector and then attempt to shift the blame onto me for ordering the wrong one, despite matching the part numbers and pictures against their listing.

Then the widespread GPU failures started to come to light, and although mine was fine having been used for only three months when new, I started to question whether it was worth sinking money into a machine that had known problems. Then the battery started to fail because it hadn't been used for so long.

So instead I've been occasionally using the machine for games. I stand the machine on end to help extract hot air from the case, running an aggressive fan profile and in some cases remove the lower case to open the intakes up.

IMG_4393sml.jpg


However I've considered converting the machine into a desktop console permanently. Something like a modern Commodore 64.

c64_1.jpg


The finished machine would be a headless system, with a built-in keyboard and trackpad, connected to an external display via DisplayPort. Game controllers would be connected to one of the two built-in USB ports, with the option of connecting a 4-port USB hub "breakout box" for 4-player multiplayer games. I already have the parts to build such a system.

Removing the display assembly would remove the restriction on the intake and exhaust that is the clutch cover. I would need to reposition the wireless network and bluetooth antennas, but that doesn't seem like a massive issue.

I could also consider machining the bottom case to have intake ports for the rear enclosure fans.


The OS could be a customised version of OS X Mavericks running OpenEmu. Games could be loaded into the system via USB or network. The aim would be to enable the machine to run all console in emulation from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Nintendo GameCube (including Nintendo 64, once newer video emulation drivers are available), and have a separate Windows system for some limited Windows based titles.

Screen_Shot_2015_06_28_at_6_35_58_pm.png

Connecting an external drive for media playback could also be a viable option as the machine has a built-in Apple Remote IR receiver.


This seems like the best possible solution for repurposing a damaged machine. There are only a couple of drawbacks. The machine would no longer be a notebook machine and no longer have any hope of being repaired, which is a shame, because then it loses a great deal of portability. Although one could argue it's already at this point. (Besides, it's still portable enough, just toss it in a case with a power adapter, video cable and controllers.)

The other drawback is that Apple computers require a battery in place for the machine to run at full speed. Disconnecting the internal battery causes the CPU and GPU to throttle heavily. The machine still has a functional battery, but in the event the battery fails, it will need to be replaced as running the machine from the power adapter alone isn't sufficient. I suppose that will be a fact I have to live with and accept however because no Apple notebook will be any different.


Thoughts?


~ iMic.


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#2 2015-06-28 16:06:14

markyb
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From: Bedford, OH USA (216)
Registered: 2014-05-16
Posts: 182
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Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

I have thought about basically this same thing with my 2008 MacBook. I have a PS3's case and nothing inside of it, so the MacBook logic board was going to go in there with a USB hub, some extension cables for the Mini-DVI and firewire, and different DVD player that I can fit to the opening for the PS3 blu-ray.

I say go for it. I would like to see what you come up with.
Not being portable anymore doesn't really sound like an issue, unless you plan on using this as your sole laptop for years to come.


http://markyb.applefool.com for a list of my computers, my blog, and some random resources.

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#3 2015-06-28 18:42:08

bbraun
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Registered: 2014-05-29
Posts: 1,064
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Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

I have the same machine with the same type of damage.  I end up using it as a kind of headless macmini test machine for work.
With yours, does the display work, there's just no backlight?  That's the case with mine, and there have been times when I've needed to actually use the internal display to get to a bootable state, using a flashlight to illuminate just enough of the screen to fumble my way through the boot process and get an external display to be brought up.  I thought about removing the display entirely, but it concerns me to remove that option as a fallback.  On the other hand, the primary drawback of using a clamshell macbook pro as a mac mini is not having easy access to the power button, and needing to open the internal display to get to it (which then activates the internal display, and all the subsequent activities that involves).

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#4 2015-06-28 21:50:07

iMic
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From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
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Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

bbraun wrote:

With yours, does the display work, there's just no backlight? That's the case with mine, and there have been times when I've needed to actually use the internal display to get to a bootable state, using a flashlight to illuminate just enough of the screen to fumble my way through the boot process and get an external display to be brought up.

That's exactly what happens, a video image but no backlight. I've disconnected the internal LVDS cable to force the machine to always use the external, but when it was connected I could shine a light over the display and make out a faint desktop.

Disconnecting the internal LVDS cable disables the internal display entirely, and the Mac behaves as though the external video connection is the only output, defaulting to it even during startup. A drawback of this however is that external video always uses the dedicated GPU - the Intel graphics will never be used.

bbraun wrote:

On the other hand, the primary drawback of using a clamshell macbook pro as a mac mini is not having easy access to the power button, and needing to open the internal display to get to it (which then activates the internal display, and all the subsequent activities that involves).

That's another common headache and the main reason I'm considering removing the display housing. As I said above, because I have the internal display cable connected it always uses the external video connection, so all the internal display is doing now is acting as an obstruction over the keyboard, trackpad and power button.


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#5 2015-06-28 22:38:06

cc333
Member
From: North S.F. Bay Area, CA
Registered: 2014-05-23
Posts: 562

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

Apple has recently initiated a repair program for these models, so if the GPU does eventually go out (and it probably will), you can get a brand new board for it, and then it'll function properly. Maybe?

On the other hand, if you simply remove the top lid (which evidently is virtually useless with the logic board in its current state), you can always put it back if/when the opportunity arises to get the logic board repaired/replaced by Apple (if they'll do it, given the other damage).

Just something to consider before you hack it beyond recognition.

c


Main Macs: Early '09 Mac Pro, Mid '12 MacBook Pro 13"
Secondary Macs: Early '08 Mac Pro, Mid '12 MacBook Pro 15"
Playthings: Mac SE/30, 3.0 GHz Mavericks-based HackServe, Many others....
Desired: Lisa, Kanga PowerBook G3, Apple IIc, Apple II, Spare parts, etc.

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#6 2015-06-29 22:46:27

mcdermd
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From: Corvallis, OR
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 931
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Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

Okay, I'll be the wet blanket - why not just homebrew a Wii to run the emulators on an actual TV with an actual controller? That's what we do in my house so the kids can play NES, SNES, N64 games. Heck, you can even load the ROMs from a samba share. An OpenEmu console seems like such a lowly assignment for a MacBook Pro. I'd fix the LVDS and use it till the wheels fall off.


Daily Drivers: 27" iMac 2.8 GHz Quad-Core i7 (Late 2009), 21.5" iMac 2.7GHz Quad-Core i5 (Late 2013), 11" Macbook Air 1.6 GHz i5 (Mid-2011)
See the restored heroes here.

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#7 2015-07-01 08:08:47

iMic
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From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
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Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

mcdermd wrote:

Okay, I'll be the wet blanket - why not just homebrew a Wii to run the emulators on an actual TV with an actual controller? That's what we do in my house so the kids can play NES, SNES, N64 games. Heck, you can even load the ROMs from a samba share. An OpenEmu console seems like such a lowly assignment for a MacBook Pro. I'd fix the LVDS and use it till the wheels fall off.

Mostly because I already have the MacBook Pro, but don't already have a spare Nintendo Wii, nor can I afford to spend anything at this point in time so I'm repurposing all of my existing hardware whenever possible.

As for the MacBook Pro, I haven't been able to find a repairer willing or able to take on the replacement of the LVDS connector unless I supply the parts myself. Finding and purchasing the replacement connector hasn't worked out. The cost to have it desoldered and replaced alone is fairly steep. The cost to have the logic board replaced by the Genius Bar is $1055 AUD, and now it needs a battery as well.

I suppose I could sell the MacBook Pro as-is and purchase a second-hand Wii console to modify.

At the moment I've just finished playing Luigi's Mansion on the MacBook Pro in Dolphin 4.0 (OpenGL), it does stress the Core i7 and Radeon 6770M out but with a different fan profile it doesn't even come close to overheating. I haven't modified the machine though, just removed the bottom case to improve airflow. It can still be reassembled.


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#8 2015-07-01 14:54:05

cc333
Member
From: North S.F. Bay Area, CA
Registered: 2014-05-23
Posts: 562

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

Didn't most unibody 15" MBPs use a similar LVDS connector? If so, maybe you can find a dead logic board from a different model for fairly cheap and harvest its connector.

Just a thought....

c


Main Macs: Early '09 Mac Pro, Mid '12 MacBook Pro 13"
Secondary Macs: Early '08 Mac Pro, Mid '12 MacBook Pro 15"
Playthings: Mac SE/30, 3.0 GHz Mavericks-based HackServe, Many others....
Desired: Lisa, Kanga PowerBook G3, Apple IIc, Apple II, Spare parts, etc.

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#9 2015-07-01 15:54:08

iMic
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From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
Website

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

The connector is a few dollars at best, the solder work is the expensive part. One place - the only place I found - quoted $260 provided the pads on the Logic Board could be cleaned up. Any work requiring a jumper wire would increase the price, as would a blown backlight fuse. A standard soldering iron won't cut it here, my tools don't output the required heat for newer boards and the pins are extremely small, so some kind of magnification would be required.

Logic Boards for this model are expensive and in high demand because the GPUs fail so often. A Mid 2012 Logic Board would make a better replacement but none of my contacts were able to tell me if they're directly compatible - apparently there are some differences with the video connector. I'm not sure what those differences are. iFixit sells the Late 2011 boards for $499 US and the Mid 2012 boards for $349-$399 US, all prices without shipping or currency conversion to AUD.

If I could save this machine I would - it would be a better machine than any I've owned before. Truthfully though, I can't afford to fix it. Not at those prices. Logic Board repairs are costly unless you have someone already in the know. Almost nobody does rework here, and used parts seem to be harder to come by (especially with the 2011 - once again, GPU failures).


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#10 2015-07-01 17:05:54

mcdermd
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From: Corvallis, OR
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 931
Website

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

Well, I know I have personally replaced the LVDS connector on a 27" iMac and the HDD connector on a plastic unibody MacBook (both of which were ripped) so it's not something that's impossible for the hobbyist to tackle.


Daily Drivers: 27" iMac 2.8 GHz Quad-Core i7 (Late 2009), 21.5" iMac 2.7GHz Quad-Core i5 (Late 2013), 11" Macbook Air 1.6 GHz i5 (Mid-2011)
See the restored heroes here.

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#11 2015-07-19 15:44:45

iMic
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From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
Website

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

I'll likely continue with this project for one reason - I found a Logic Board for the damaged machine, so the Logic Board that came out of that system is now sitting unused. If I toss it into a spare enclosure and use it headless as I planned, then the good components in the machine, including the screen, keyboard, trackpad, etc can all be used with the new board so they don't go to waste.

The downside is that the new board has no sound - argh! So close.


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#12 2016-06-24 03:20:52

LarBob
Member
Registered: 2016-06-22
Posts: 19

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

You could send it to Rossmann Repair. He knows what he's doing. He's in NY, but you can ship it to him.

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#13 2016-06-24 06:37:21

iMic
Administrator
From: Adelaide, Australia
Registered: 2014-05-12
Posts: 877
Website

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

That was the plan. It's no secret around here that I'm a fan of Louis and his work. I started learning to repair boards from his videos and have since moved on to more extensive repairs over time.

Eventually I was able to have the board replaced. That machine has since been repaired and is actually about to be sold, once I find a new owner for it.

But I still have the damaged board. I'm rather confident I could replace the LVDS connector myself now, and if I can source the correct connector I'll get this one fixed too. Not sure what machine to install it in to, if any, or whether to continue with modifying it into a new enclosure.


Resident Professor of Alternative Methodology
Faculty of Macintosh Restorations & Modifications - "It works, let's fix it!"

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#14 2016-06-24 07:49:01

volvo242gt
Member
From: Duvall, WA
Registered: 2014-05-22
Posts: 402
Website

Re: MacBook Pro (Core i7) Game Console / Media System Conversion

Hmmm, hack it into an A1261 chassis...  Yes, it'll take a lot of work (likely more work than David's hack), but then you'll have the fastest old school MBP system out there.

-J


68K: Q650 48/1.2G/CD
modern: Mac Pro 2.8GHz 8-core 6GB/500G/DVD-RW, A1150 MBP 2GHz CD, 2GB/80G/DVD-RW
Pre-Mac: ][+, //e
other: iPhone 6s 128GB Space Gray

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