How to fix the Dell XPS m1330 keyboard bulge
(image above was distorted for effect — the bulge is NOT like this, haha)
So, you just spent probably more than $1000 on your fancy new Dell XPS m1330 and expected perfection! I know I did. However, you open the box to find that you have a bulging keyboard! Needless to say you are quite upset (again, I know I was). This reminded me of when I bought my first m1210, it had an even worse bulge in the keyboard, and it turned out to be the cause of the touchpad cable being improperly routed under some plastic of the chassis. So I googled for people who have had their m1330’s come with a bulging keyboard too, and I found others post about it from notebookreview.com. I have also since ordered 3, my roommate has also ordered 3, and ALL of them have had the bulging keyboard.
BUT you are in luck! Assuming you still want to keep the laptop (it’s a great laptop sans this keyboard issue), there is a way to fix it! Turns out, it’s another cabling issue and I’m here to show you how. Granted, even after this fix there still seems to be a SLIGHT bulge, to which I think is due to the the case itself which would be hard to fix (I explain this later), but it’s MUCH better after fixing the WiFi cable — good enough to finally be happy with it. So here we go:
For those who want to just quickly know exactly what the problem is and do it RIGHT NOW, the issue is with the WiFi cable and the tubing is in — it seems to be too thick and inflexible to sit flat like it should
As you can see, the WiFi cable is sitting slightly above, and off, the chassis, which is the main source of the keyboard bulge. CAREFULLY cutting away that black tubing encasing the wire, and pressing down the metal tabs a bit, is basically what we’re going to do here.
First off, I wanted to make sure that the keyboard itself wasn’t curved or anything, and once removed from the laptop, you can tell the keyboard is just fine, no bumps or curves – perfectly flat:
What you are going to want to do first is remove the: battery, hinge covers, center control (power and media buttons) cover, and then the keyboard. Dell has a good service manual doing this, or of course, you can follow with the rest of the tutorial below.
To remove the control panel, you have to pry away from three of the clips, located approximately where the 3 x’s are in the picture. When you are removing the panel, think of the green dotted line as being a fake axis, and then when you are detaching it from the 3 clips, rotate it the panel up towards the screen. Just be careful not to pull the panel too far away from the computer once it’s free – there is a very delicate cable connected to it, and you only have a few inches of play (as long as you don’t rip the panel off, haha, you should be just fine).
With the control panel loose, remove the two screws holding the keyboard in, then slightly put the keyboard towards the screen until loose, and then pull it back away from you and remove the cable (see below for how).
To remove the keyboard cable, pull up on the bar (bottom two arrows) to release it — imagine the green dotted line is an axis, and you just pull up the plastic bar there to release the cable. Also, to release the control panel cable, carefully push out the tabs on either side of the cable (top 2 red arrows). Now we’re ready to mess with the offending WiFi cable.
What I found to be the issues were that the black tubing encasing (red) the WiFi wire is thick and inflexible, therefore not doing to well in the turns and keeping things flat. Also, bending the metal tabs (green) down a bit more couldn’t hurt. So lets get to removing that tubing!
You could probably get the black tubing off without doing this, but I found it much easier to cut the tubing while having more slack in the WiFi cable. Therefore, I unhooked the cables from the WiFi card and pulled them through on the other side. Remove the 5 screws pictured above, and then simply pull off the three cables connected to the wifi card. Keep in mind the ordering of the cables (black, grey if you have it, white).
With a box cutter, xacto knife, small scissors, or whatever, cut/peel away the black tubing while being careful NOT to cut the wires! I went ahead and removed all the black tubing I could see on the wifi cable.
Now, with all the black tubing removed, start to put the wires back under the metal tabs. Make sure they stay flat, one next to the other, as to not create any bumps (especially around the curve!). I used some tape to keep the wires in place. Make sure you route the cables to the right of the guide (red) and make sure they remain flat and seperate as you route them back through the laptop to the wifi card (and of course plug them back into the card). Lastly, push down the metal tabs a bit to further be sure the cables stay down and flat (I used the eraser side of a pencil as to help not slip when pressing down rather hard).
Now it’s time to put everything back together. Everything is pretty straight forward — put the cables back on the wifi card, screw back on the underside covers, re-plug the keyboard and control panel wires, slide the keyboard back and screw it in, pop back on the control panel and hinge covers, replace the control panel screws and battery! The only things you want to be mindful of is making sure you get the keyboard under the keyboard tabs (one each side, see picture above), and putting the control panel back on the opposite way you took it off — have it ‘vertical’, then rotate it down back towards the laptop (as opposed to rotating it towards the screen when you were taking it off)
Put everything back together (in reverse order of the guide) and you are done! Now you should now (hopefully) have a flatter keyboard! Now, when I did this, I think there was still a SLIGHT bulging, but it was noticeably better. However, as I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not sure if this is the ONLY source of bulging…
With the keyboard off, you can see the metal sheet overlaying the dvd drive (in green). If you press down on it, you can press it down about a millimeter or two. I’m not sure if there’s enough resistance in that metal to be pushing up on the keyboard at all, but it’s something to think about. I’m on the fence about whether to say it is, or isn’t, an extra source of bulging, but it would be too much work to try to permanently bend a bit downwards. I fear this would involve fully dismantling the case, removing the dvd drive, then pressing down hard enough to bend it a little bit — more work and risk than I’m willing to put into this. However, doing the WiFi cable fix DID solve most (if not all?) of the keyboard bulge, so those who love the M1330 enough to come to terms with it’s imperfection, you can now try to make it more perfect!
On a side note, my roommate bought this recently from Dell Home Outlet, and he was a bit pissed that the keyboard was bulging — after spending about $1000, he (we) thought that it would’ve been a bit better quality. So he called dell, told them the issue, and they set out to send him a replacement. The dell tech said that it is known that some come with a bulge, and some don’t, and that they would send him a replacement in hopes that it would be better. After waiting a few days for the replacement, I went to try to fix it, did, but then realized that since the replacement was already ordered, we HAD to send this one back. But then the replacement(s) were of the wrong specifications, and a whole bunch more issues, and that’s a whole different story. But each of the replacements he received also had the keyboard bulge, so what I’m thinking is this: every (at least most) m1330 has this issue, it’s just that most people don’t notice or don’t care. The bulge is somewhat subtle, so unless you are relatively picky (is that the word I’m looking for?) perhaps you won’t notice. But all of the 7 m1330’s that have come through my place, all 7 of them had a keyboard bulge. You decide.
Good luck to those who try to follow this guide and fix it themselves (please be careful of course, you don’t want to slip and rip a cable or scratch something important — this guide is provided for fun, so any damage caused by you following this is your own fault, haha).