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Dell XPS M170 Question on Firewire Chipset

Long story short, my MOTU 896 Original died last month and the company no longer repairs them. It worked great with my Sony GRX560 laptop for 7 years.
I replaced the 896 with a mk3 Hybrid model, but for some reason, it's incompatible with the Sony laptop and the hardware isn't detected (though it installed fine with my desktop studio PC). As such, I am looking into a suitable laptop for mobile concert recording with this new MOTU mk3 unit.
I'm looking at a Dell XPS M170, but the seller cannot identify if the IEEE1394 port is powered by a Texas Instruments chip of the Ricoh that some Dells are reported to have. Unlike my desktop, which clearly shows Texas Instruments Host Controller in the Device Manager, his just says OHCI Host Controller.

Does anyone know if this particular model has the geniune TI chip, or some other? MOTU will not run on a non-TI FW port, so I'm told and the company does not support technical issues on non-TI based ports, so I want to make sure before I buy this used laptop.


n_w95482
Premium
join:2005-08-03
Ukiah, CA

According to an lspci query for that laptop, it uses a Ricoh chipset. I have an Inspiron E1705 (aka 9400, basically the generation/sister model after that XPS) and it uses a Ricoh chip as well. Did they mention any TI-based FW ExpressCards? Here's one that specifically mentions MOTU.
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KI6RIT



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said by n_w95482:

According to an lspci query for that laptop, it uses a Ricoh chipset. I have an Inspiron E1705 (aka 9400, basically the generation/sister model after that XPS) and it uses a Ricoh chip as well. Did they mention any TI-based FW ExpressCards?

No, they didn't. Adding FW via an add on card just adds another layer of unreliability. My old setup was 100% reliable. I recorded countless numbers of live events with it and never, ever had a skip or lockup or other failure. I'm almost thinking about returning the 896 mk3 and finding a still working used 896 Original on eBay because it works with my Sony GRX560.

The Ricoh chipset is problematic. There's a thread where someone tried using the laptop with an M-Audio external DAC and was having dropouts, pops, squeals, etc. Then he hooked it to his wife's PC, which was loaded with crap software and hadn't been defragged, and it worked without a hiccup (TI FW port). Frankly, I don't know why anyone would build a laptop in 2010 with a non-TI FW chip, given that mid to high end audio gear doesn't work with non-TI FW ports. I remember this was also true with DV video cameras. I had a PC back in 2001 that had a non-TI chip and I could not get it to capture DV at all. That's when I received an education about the whole TI vs other brands for FW ports.

At any rate, the laptop I'm looking at has no bids, but seems like a nice unit. The possibility is that I could use the USB capability of the 896mk3 Hybrid if the FW doesn't work reliably. If I can get it for under $400, it might be still worth doing. Thanks for confirming what chip is used.


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Final question: does this laptop have an expresscard 34 port? Seller does not seem to understand the question when I asked. He said it has a PC Card Reader cage. If I'm to use an external solution, it's the ExpressCard 34 FW card.


n_w95482
Premium
join:2005-08-03
Ukiah, CA

It appears it has a PCMCIA slot, no ExpressCard. The only time I've used the FW port on my E1705 was with my external hard drive, and it appeared to work properly with it.

I'm not sure if you're aware since you mentioned a 2010 timeframe with laptops, but the M170 is from 2005. It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a newer laptop with a FW port.
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KI6RIT



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said by n_w95482:

It appears it has a PCMCIA slot, no ExpressCard. The only time I've used the FW port on my E1705 was with my external hard drive, and it appeared to work properly with it.

I'm not sure if you're aware since you mentioned a 2010 timeframe with laptops, but the M170 is from 2005. It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a newer laptop with a FW port.

Thanks for your comments. I've pretty much ruled out the M170.. now I'm looking at the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 with the UXGA display. Firewire is becoming rare as hen's teeth. But it's a requirement for professional audio DAW equipment. I may one day be forced to Mac just to keep doing this kind of work!


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Another seller finally checked the Device Manager... it's a Ricoh firewire chip. Why is it all these various laptop brands have defective FW chipsets? Does no one use anything but a Sony VIAO laptop with TI chipset for audio and video work?
The vast majority of troubles with DAW software trace back to non-TI chips in the FW port. Skips, pops, squeals, crashes while recording or playing audio to external devices like MOTU, M-Audio, etc.
This is making it very difficult to find a suitable replacement for my aging Sony GRX560.