This is a guide for some of the more unorthodox things you can do with your Getac S400 G2 if you don’t care too much about voiding the warranty.
Whats the S400?
The Getac 400 is a semi-rugged laptop. Semi-rugged means it can survive some medium levels of abuse but it still has vents and fans, so you can’t throw it into a lake. Semi ruggeds like the Panasonic Toughbook CF-53 and the Getac S400 typically cost about twice the price of a similar spec normal laptop. In contrast a fully rugged will be totally sealed from any dust or water and will usually have a metal body which the CPU will use as a giant heatsink (since there’s no air vents), the problem is that a fully rugged typically costs four times as much as a high end laptop.
Semi-rugged and fully rugged laptops are normally provided to high abuse but technical environments, such as the oil industry, emergency services and military. The catch is that as part of all the certifying and approval, spare parts are expensive compared to normal laptops.
This is where this guide comes in. If you’re an individual who has managed to grab an S400 cheaply (such as an ex display model or similar) and enjoy tinkering with things, this guide is aimed at helping answer some of the questions you might have.
There’s a good review of the Getac S400 on the ruggedpcreview site but note that it’s for the older G1 socket version. There’s also a slight mistake in the description of how the back can be removed (read my notes for a couple of gotchas).
What’s the difference between the S400 and the S400G2?
I want to upgrade my hard disk but the cost for a Getac hard disk is too high.
The official Getac certified hard disk enclosures aren’t really priced at the individual market.
Assuming you don’t care about the warranty, open the hard disk panel on the back of the laptop and take out the caddy. You need to prise apart the two halves of the hard disk carrier by putting pressure on the retaining lugs. Then put in your standard 2.5″ laptop hard disk and reseal it and replace it.
I’ve tested the 120GB and 250GB Samsung SSD drives with the G2. If you want to use the encryption built into the Samsung SSD drives, go into the Bios and find the option for the hard disk password. It’s not very well explained by Samsung, but this will apparently encrypt the disk. Existing data wont be damaged so there’s something clever going on – I’d like more technical details about how this works but it’s very poorly documented the last time I tried to find details.
What’s the Maximum RAM it can handle?
The official stats say 8GB RAM is the maximum.
For the G2 I used 2x 4GB DDR3 SODIMM (204 pin) 1333Mhz PC3 10600 [Amazon link].
Note that the G2 socket processors can address 32GB RAM as opposed to the G1′s 8GB. It might be that (unofficially) the S400 G2 can talk to more than 8GB of RAM, or it might be a limitation of the Getac motherboard, but I don’t have the larger SODIMMS about to test this.
Just take the small panel off on the back and (obviously, with the laptop off) fit the new ram. If you don’t have 8GB showing in the bios when you boot then it’s a seating issue. Turn the laptop back off and remove/reseat the RAM properly.
What’s the fastest Processor it can Handle?
The official options for the G2 are the i3-3120M 2.5GHz and the i5-3320M 2.6GHz but an i5-3380M will work.
Limits on laptops are normally down to
* what can the physical socket/architecture support
* What heat can the laptop cope with
* What restrictions has the manufacturer put in the BIOS
The later is because they might have locked it to only certain specific CPU types to prevent support cases related to people tampering and modifying. Happily this isn’t the case with the Getac G2, at least using the R1.04.070520 Bios.
Normally, the G2 socket can support the following processors.
- Core i5-3210M 2.5 3MB/35W
- Core i5-3230M 2.6 3MB/35W
- Core i5-3320M 2.6 3MB/35W [Getac option]
- Core i5-3340M 2.7 3MB/35W
- Core i5-3360M 2.8 3MB/35W
- Core i5-3380M 2.9 3MB/35W
Note that they are all 35 Watt maximum power draw (and hence heat output) so there’s no danger of overheating. There’s no i7 option for the G2 socket, so any choice is a two core CPU with the maximum speed processor the socket supports being a i5-3380M. I’ve tested the i5-3380M – it works great with the R1.04.070520 bios and I’m typing on a 3380M S400G2 now. Obviously Getac support are going to spit out their coffee and start showing you the door if you take such a laptop in for warranty work.
Use some decent thermal paste. It costs pretty much nothing from ebay.
I’ve not listed the i3 Options as you’re probably upgrading from an i3 so will be looking at the i5 range. The i3 in the Getac is a really great CPU so don’t be in any rush, however the i5 for the same clock speed offers a few improvements that might be of interest depending on the work you do, notably the vPro extensions, AES acceleration and Trusted Execution.
Help! I was tinkering and now the screen lights up but no Bios shows…
You had the back off and now the screen doesn’t work? This is easy to fix, don’t panic. Grab a cup of tea and here’s how to fix it.
- You turn on the power button
- Laptop status lights come on, LCD backlight comes on, no text on the screen
- Connecting up a monitor to the SVGA output, hey I can see everything fine
Here’s what happened:
When you took the back off, one of two things happened. Either you didn’t loosen the external SVGA connector nuts and tugging on the case caused this connector to tug on the motherboard or you didn’t undo the two screws on the back of the case that surface mount above the SVGA connector and that tugged on the motherboard. Either way, when you attempted to lift the back case off, a small white connector was tugged partially lose on the back of the motherboard. It’s hard to spot but just a matter of pushing it back home again.
To fix it:
- Take the back cover off
- Take the CPU heatsink and fan off
- Don’t undo anything else, just get a torch and look under the motherboard
- Push the white connector back into place
- Put everything back
- breath again, it’s all ok.
My Bluetooth device is being a right pain…
Er, yeah it might not be the Bluetooth device. If you’re in MS Windows, go to device manager and checkout the Bluetooth driver. If it’s the Windows one from years ago then click to uninstall/remove the Bluetooth device.
Go to the Intel site and download the latest Bluetooth driver, let it install and reboot.
Don’t download the official Getac Bluetooth drivers, they’re a mess (three types of Bluetooth driver, with no explanations) and out of date.
There’s only 3 USB ports on the S400 G2, so I went with a Bluetooth mouse and headset.
According to Getac support, your authorised local Getac service centre should be able to upgrade some of the modular features, like 4G, Bluetooth and discrete VGA. When I first asked a Getac reseller in the UK however, they we’re not aware this was possible, stating only the RAM could be upgraded after purchase.
GPS / WWLAN / 4G LTE
I haven’t seen it fitted but I believe the GPS, Gobi WWLAN and/or 3G/4G options are handled by one mini PCI-E card. The sim card fits in next to where the battery is, so I believe the PCI-E minicard fits beneath the protective cover in that corner.
With 4G being released, there’s a lot of 3G cards going cheap on ebay but one of the problems might be that even if you get it, since you didn’t have the WWLAN option (because if you did you wouldn’t be attempting to fit it) you might not have an antenna available as I believe the antenna is an option that’s built into the monitor housing. I need to look at this further,
You can of course use an external adaptor via USB but that’s not a challenge worth writing about :o)
I don’t know anything about the GeForce GT 730M option at this time. It plugs in next to the CPU but I’m unsure of the heatsink/fan arrangement – I suspect a different combined heatsink is used. I’ll alter this post if I find out details.
I don’t currently know if the board can support any alternatives to the GT730M.
If you are buying an S400 from new, I’d go for the Nvidia graphics option as aftermarket cards appear to be fairly rare and expensive (compared to the PC desktop components market) so it will be harder to upgrade later.
I wanted another monitor but I wanted it to be light and portable. I went with the Lenovo Thinkvision LT1421 14″ portable monitor which works over USB (just one cable, feeding off the USB port by the power supply) and doesn’t appear to cause any CPU load or cause ghosting effects which are the two main concerns people tend to have with USB monitors. It roughly matches the rectangular outline of the S400 and it comes with a protective case.
Sadly I find the support (as an individual) very hit and miss, which is a shame because I love the hardware. I suspect corporations might have better/dedicated support agents assigned.
Starting with the website, if you compare the Getac S400 G2 downloads page to similar offerings from HP, you’ll notice HP have changelogs describing why a newer driver or bios is available – what’s been fixed and what has changed. With Getac it’s just the file, with no details.
Raising a support ticket, I got a response where it looked like a link had been stripped from the persons reply, e.g. “please download from . Reply back if there’s any issues.” But the mail came from a noreply@ address and the web interface at the time didn’t have any option for replying on support tickets (I notified their web team so this might be fixed now).
Raising a ticket to ask about the newer bios for the S400 and the differences between the three Bluetooth options, there was no reply.
I’m not sure if Getac support is based in one location. My experiences have included one person who had very good written English, which I suspect was someone in the US (and addressed the query well) but my contact since then has always been in broken English, with at least one signature stating it was from an office in Taiwan.
Did you know…
- Press function-escape for the pretty keyboard backlight
- Press the special bulb strikethrough button when you hear Russian helicopters overhead, it turns off the screen and every other light, including hard disk activity lights, power indicator, keyboard backlight and caps lock etc. Press it again to stop panicing that you just crashed the laptop.
- Don’t forget you can expand with a PCMCIA card or a ExpressCard/54
I want to do some REAL customisation….
For extra engineering work, talk to people like this who add external GPS ports and similar to the Getac range.