Dell Studio 155x Wireless / Networking Options

Today I’m going to start a discussion regarding the late-model (1555/1557/1558) Dell Studio laptops and their wireless and networking options. This started when I ordered a Dell Wireless 5620 card for a Studio 1558 computer I had purchased. This is the combined mobile broadband / GPS card intended for the Studio 155x systems.

I was quite surprised when I opened the access panel on the bottom of the computer to install the card and discovered that there were no antenna cables for it in there, despite the service manual saying there would be.

As I continued to investigate, I found a number of places where the service manual was flat-out wrong, and a bewildering array of Dell part numbers. Let’s get one thing out of the way – the “Service Manual” that Dell makes available on their web site is NOT the manual that their techs use. Their internal manual has a lot more information and goes into things in a lot more depth than the customer service manual. Dell doesn’t make their internal manual available to the public, but you might have some luck with search terms like “Dell Certified Systems Expert” or “Dell Foundations 2009 Portables”.

Anyway, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. That will be Bluetooth. The customer service manual claims that there are 3 mini-PCI Express sockets underneath the bottom cover. That is only true for some systems. On both of my 1558’s there was a soldered-in chip where the manual says the Bluetooth socket is located. I am not sure what that chip is (it is under a heat sink). It isn’t the ATI graphics chip as that is next to the CPU and handled by the main system heat sink and fan:

Mini-PCI Express Sockets

That’s OK, because that card needs an external bluetooth antenna, which your system probably doesn’t have. Fortunately, there is a second Bluetooth socket on the other side of the motherboard. That socket takes a Wireless 365 bluetooth card that doesn’t need an external antenna:

Alternate Bluetooth location

Unfortunately, getting to this location involves a near-complete disassembly of the laptop. For the gruesome details, look at the service manual in the link above.

The first picture in this article shows an Intel Ultimate-N 6300 MIMO (3-antenna) WiFi card and the Wireless 5620 card installed in the card bay. Careful observers may have noticed that the 6300 card doesn’t have a Dell part number on it. That’s because I purchased a generic retail card, not the Dell one, as I could get it for a better price that way. Installing the cards is the easy part. If you didn’t order your computer with the 5620 option, you won’t have the antennas you need. When I asked Dell why they sold a card that couldn’t be used, they just sort of mumbled “dunno”. I don’t understand why they did this – it created a huge assortment of part numbers for them to inventory (aside from making upgrades harder). The Studio 155x was available in at least seven different lid colors. Each of those has at least three possible antenna configurations – WiFi only, WiFi + mobile broadband, and WiFi + mobile broadband + Bluetooth. That creates 21 different part numbers to stock instead of 7 if they built the systems with all the antennas.

Dell won’t sell you a replacement lid (even if you could figure out the correct part number) because it isn’t considered a customer-replacable part. So it is off to eBay, where I discovered that sellers had no idea what options the lids they were selling included. I received flat-out incorrect answers from a number of sellers I’ve found to be reliable in the past.

The next part of this article could be called “A Field Guide to Studio 155x Lids”. It will teach you what to look for in an eBay auction, as well as how to tell if a lid is really new as the seller says. Later on I’ll tell you the part numbers for the most common lid and bezel to help your searches.

This sequence of four photographs shows the four corners of the inside of a Studio 155x lid. I’ll start at the top left and proceed clockwise. This first picture shows you the WiFi antenna. It will have 2 wires, a black and a white, that connect to the WiFi card in the base. This particular antenna also includes one of the mobile broadband antennas which is black with a gray stripe. Note that this is one particular style of lid – others can have silver-colored foil instead of the copper you see here, may have black circuit boards instead of green ones, and may have different markings. The important thing is whether or not there is an antenna at each location, not what it looks like:

Top Left

Next is the antenna at the top right. If your lid has this antenna, it supports mobile broadband. This antenna has one wire, gray with a white stripe:

Top Right

Now we have the bottom right antenna. If your lid has this antenna, it supports Bluetooth. This antenna has one wire, which is blue:

Bottom Right

Last is the bottom left. This is the MIMO (3rd) antenna for WiFi. All lids have this. The antenna has one wire, gray:

Bottom Left

Now that you know how to tell what antennas are included on a lid, I’ll show you how to tell if it is new or used. New lids will have clear plastic caps on all antenna wires (anywhere from 3 to 6, depending on what antennas are installed):

Caps on antenna wires

Caps on antenna wires

If your lid doesn’t have all the caps installed, it is almost certainly a used lid. Next, the antenna wires and the wire from the power switch will be taped near the middle of the lid with masking tape:

Tape on inside of new lid

The outside of a new lid will also have a piece of protective clear plastic on it, with 6 cutouts for 6 pieces of masking tape:

Tape and protective cover on outside of new lid

One thing to be careful of is sellers who mark their listings “Photograph may not be the actual item”, or who list the condition as “New – Other”. I’ve found lots of New – Other listings which were actually parts stripped off of systems.

The part numbers you probably want are W855P (sometimes written 0W855P) and W440J. The W855P part is a lid with every possible antenna installed, in the “Black Chain-link” color (which seems to be the most popular color). The W440J is the black bezel that snaps on the inside of the cover. You’re almost certainly going to damage at least one of the latch tabs on your old bezel when you take the display apart, so you may as well order a new one with the lid and just use that. Part number 06DV9 is an interchangeable part number for the bezel.

If, for some reason, you want the part number for some other combination of color and antenna (like Plum Purple w/ mobile broadband but no Bluetooth), add a comment to this entry and I’ll post it.

The next 155x article will be the highly-anticipated tutorial on replacing a 720p display with the 1080p one.


6 Responses to “Dell Studio 155x Wireless / Networking Options

  • 1
    matt
    December 21st, 2010 02:18

    I receive a Dell Studio 15 (1558) laptop a couple of weeks ago. When I ordered, the only option for mobile broadband was WiMax while I need AT&T HSPA. Dell has gotten weird about not offering all the options depending on which config your start with, so I just figured I would add the PCI express card myself.

    I was very disappointed to discover the the connector for the WWAN card slot is physically missing from the motherboard inside my new laptop. I also noticed the lack of necessary antenna wires but that’s not as big a deal of the missing connector. The solder points are there on the motherboard.

    Do some Dell execs think WiMax is the big new thing and the combined WiFi/WiMax cards make the old WWAN slot obsolete?

    Really disappointed I bought this laptop now. My over 3 year old Inspiron 15 has the mobile broadband, it has a Pause/Scroll-lock key on the keyboard, the multimedia keys don’t require me to press the Fn key (don’t get me started on the reverse of requiring the Fn key to use the Fn keys, this rant goes back to my IBM PCjr keyboard days), it has an LED for HDD activiy, and due to upgrades it has the same 4GB RAM/500GB HDD as my new Studio 1558. It just has a slower processor.

    Is there a visible part number for your motherboard?

  • 2
    Terry Kennedy
    December 21st, 2010 02:32

    @matt – Dell is just flushing out their remaining inventory of Studio systems and the ones left have practically no choice of options – only one CPU type, only integrated graphics, and so forth. The config choices used to be a lot better. You might be better off returning the 1558 for 100% refund under their 30-day Total Satisfaction Return Policy and selecting a different system.

    The part number for my motherboard won’t help you, as it has ATI add-on graphics, while a system purchased from Dell recently will have integrated graphics. The 2 1558’s I have (i7-740QM and i5-450M) both claim their motherboard is an 874P6. That’s a system with ATI HD 5470 graphics, and if your system has integrated graphics you will probably need a new display cable (part number varies depending on display resolution) and perhaps even a new display panel.

    I got one of the last available ones with the better CPU and ATI 1080p graphics. I had to add 8GB memory, Blu-ray burner, Bluetooth, Wireless 5620, better WiFi card (6300), backlit keyboard, and a SSD. It is now one killer system, though. I’m very disappointed that Dell discontinued the Studio systems as I think they’re better looking than their other notebooks. The “replacement” is the Inspiron R-series, but those only have NVIDIA graphics and don’t have the choice of options that the Studio used to. The lack of a HDD activity indicator is the only real drawback I see on my 1558. I think that’s because Dell got burned with the touch control panel / indicators in the 153x models (it took them well over a year to have new firmware to fix that touch control panel, and that firmware still isn’t officially available).

    One thing I can help you with, though – one of the BIOS setup options is whether the Fn keys are Fn or multimedia when the Fn key isn’t pressed. This setting should also be available in QuickSet (access from Control Panel / Windows Mobility Center).

  • 3
    Terry’s Random Ramblings » Dell Studio 155x 1080p Screen Upgrade
    December 23rd, 2010 14:21

    […] you have a lid without the wireless broadband or Bluetooth antennas (see earlier post), this would be a good time to change lids since you’re going to have the system apart […]

  • 4
    NS90
    March 20th, 2011 01:11

    Hi,
    Just wondering if you know the part number number for the black lid (without the pattern), with all antennas?

  • 5
    Terry Kennedy
    March 20th, 2011 02:39

    @NS90 – I’m not certain, but I believe it is W393J. Since black chainlink was the default lid color, not many were sold in matte black.

  • 6
    RNH
    January 5th, 2014 19:46

    Quick question (for a three+ year old thread) – did you actually get a 365 card for Bluetooth – if so, did you ever get it working with Windows 7? I bought one off of eBay and was unable to find a driver that it would work with for Windows 7 (even tried ones from other manufacturers that supposedly fixed the same issue for others). I don’t have another laptop to try and verify the card is okay, but it does seem to be drawing power and getting into the initial stages of working, but the driver never, ever loads completely.

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