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Sniping 101 - XBM Guide by S0da

Sniping 101 - XBM Guide by S0da

Patch Updates

Patch 22/09/2020 - Line update has hit. Skill % for Sniping, LRTS and True Sniping went down in exchange for more lines which gives a small net gain of % overall. After playing around with it, I'd say nothing's changed. If you weren't capping then, you won't be now. However, depending on how much you overcapped on True Sniping, it may be worth using as a burst skill now. The delay reduction to Bolt Rupture is useless to me because I don't use it, but I believe those who do will feel it because it's quite significant.
Patch 11/11/2020 - New V is here! After a few test runs, I feel that this skill has burst equal to or even higher than True Sniping in the 7 shots. It has definitely helped in bossing because bind/burst rotations have become a lot cleaner as of last week in our weeklies.


Hi, I'm S0da, a xbm main in Aquila. My IGN's really xCutieBow12x but I don't quite want to call myself Cutie and neither do my buddies. lol. I'm not the strongest xbm in the server but I have mained this class for a long time, starting off as a pure dex sniper which makes no sense at all in 2020.
Not many people main this class to the end because it has a line problem so once you start capping on your skills, you can't progress any further. This issue is about to be resolved in a future patch where they will be reducing the skill % and increasing the line counts. However, for 99% of the population out there including myself, this is hardly an issue at all because hitting damage cap even on a character like xbm is not an easy feat and you get to enjoy a very good mid-lategame bossing with reasonably low funding.

Pros and Cons

  • Long ranged = safety from a lot of boss melee attacks
  • Split Arrow is great
  • Decent mobility if you know how to control Schutike Eisen and Double Jump
  • Some team utility with real SE that can also be boosted with hyper
  • Easy to fund for mid game because of a lot of in-built IED
  • Simple to play, no need to learn 9000 different combos/animation cancels/etc...
  • Split Arrow is really great
  • Slow as fuck. Near unplayable without any speed boosts, I even grind on green pot. You will never ever cap speed on your own. Resolved once you have access to DSI and green pot.
  • Linestory hates us. As a trade off for big % skills, they hit less times. This is not an issue unless you're about f55+ and consistently capping 10b lines, which still makes you more than qualified for hboss parties, only that you might have trouble soloing.
  • Weak vertical range when Split Arrow is down
  • Simple playstyle can be boring
  • Limited anvil options for cosmetics


As of a not so recent patch, all skills will be maxed now so you can no longer fuck up your character skill build, so just max everything. As a general rule of thumb for xbm and all future mules, skill priorities are:
  1. 1 point in attack skills
  2. 1 point in all damage passives/buffs
  3. 1 point in mobility skill
  4. max damage passives/buffs
  5. max attack skill
  6. max everything else
I will be referring the skills using their MapleSEA names, and only go through more important skills in detail.
1st Job
ARROW BLOW - 1st job mobbing skill, nothing important
DOUBLE JUMP - Your standard non-mage flash jump. High jump available by pressing up twice while in the air, very useful in some bosses.
CRITICAL SHOT - Passive free stats
ARCHERY MASTERY - Passive free stats
2nd Job
IRON ARROW - 2nd job mobbing skill that's a weak version of your final mobbing skill. This skill doesn't track mobs, and is purely horizontal so you'd ideally want maps that don't rely on hitting multiple platforms with 1 skill (because you won't).
DISTANCING SENSE - This is is the skill that defines your job and your entire character concept. Range increases your damage, which gives you an incentive to stay as far away from the boss as possible which is just good practice in general for ranged characters anyway because it makes you learn to kite the boss (and use your melee pt members as decoys). The FD gain is huge, so do not ignore it and learn to position yourself in bossing. We will be getting a visual indicator for the range in a future patch.
NET THROWING - A backstep with a cooldown. Useful to kite bosses to maintain your distance. You'll live without it though if you're lazy to use it like me (no keyboard space too)
CROSSBOW BOOSTER - Standard Booster with +2 speed, keep this on.
SOUL ARROW - Free inventory slots, no arrows. Also an Att buff, keep this on.
CROSSBOW MASTERY - Standard Weapon Mastery passive
FINAL ATTACK: CROSSBOW - Free passive damage, except half the time you are too far to proc it anyway. Still free damage with no trade-offs, so don't think about it.
PHYSICAL TRAINING - Free passive stats
3rd Job
BOLT RUPTURE - 3rd job mobbing skill, some people still continue using it even after 5th job because it has better vertical range than Piercing Arrow. There are a number of issues with this though.
  1. As a 3rd job skill, the damage is very low. As a F51 xbm, I cannot even reliably 1 shot mobs with it at Moonbridge without cores, and that's with AF bonus. Might be less of an issue with earlier regions because the mobs don't scale as quickly at lower levels.
  2. Waste of cores, and waste of slots, although you could argue to take out your burst V-skills for grinding. Then again, you also want them for Flame Wolf... it's still a waste of cores and you don't need it.
  3. Keyboard space - don't take 2 mobbing skills when you only need one.
  4. Avian Awakening takes care of Split Arrow downtime well enough.
  5. Piercing Arrow is getting a mobbing buff in the future.
DRAGON'S BREATH - Viable as an alternative 3rd job mobbing skill, has low damage though. No other uses. Stick to Bolt Rupture.
FROSTPREY - Free damage, keep it on. Also keep it on to use Avian Awakening in 5th job.
SCHUTIKE EISEN - Become spiderman. It puts you behind the target, so it's useful to get behind a boss. Can be used mid-air to pull you back up to a platform if you have a target to hook to. Can also be used on your puppet so you can plant it as a hook point to improve your rotations around the map (usually for mobbing there will be mobs to hook though).
Additional Mechanics: You can also block super knockbacks with a well-timed cast.
PAIN KILLER - All Cure Pot with a 300s cooldown. Yikes. 1 second status immunity can be used to block some stuff, but Hero's Will does it better. Keyboard space issue too but you can use both.
EXTREME ARCHERY - Free damage, keep it on.
MORTAL BLOW - Free passive damage
DAMAGE REVERSING - Free passive shield. Doesn't work on bosses but makes you a bit tankier vs mobs
EVASION BOOST - Doesn't work in bosses, and when you cap crit even the guaranteed crit is useless.
MARKSMANSHIP - Passive free stats
4th Job
PIERCING ARROW - Your final mobbing skill that you will use forever. It has a decently long range but does not track targets. Meaning it's totally possible to shoot over the head of some small mobs. Not really an issue with most of the common training maps anyway, you'll prefer long shaped maps over tall ones. It also has a damage increasing mechanic per mob pierced, which has a niche use in NLucid p1 if you're attempting a solo because that bitch will summon golems that block Sniping, and unlike HLucid, NLucid golems do not despawn. You can use this during Schutike Eisen cast time
SNIPING - Your bossing skill. Single target skill with a massive 730% multiplier but only hits 5 lines. More in-built IED which is nice, but 100% crit rate is only good for the early game. This will also be your pseudo mobbing skill in 5th job because of its target tracking, you use it to proc Split Arrow on far away platforms and you don't even have to aim properly. Has a cooldown until you take the hyper for it.
ARROW ILLUSION - Puppet skill, doesn't work on most bosses except Lotus P2 because most bosses don't aggro on it. I have learnt from our senpai Ivangold in GMS that there is a specific method of aggro-ing nearly any boss with this skill. I will explain it further once I have mastered it myself.
Puppet vs Will P3
Other uses: Useful as a hook point for Schutike Eisen by holding the down key while casting.

SHARP EYES - Party buff, free damage. Keep it on
ILLUSION STEP - Free stats. Keep it on, it will become a passive in a future patch.
MAPLE WARRIOR - Free stats. Keep it on. Used to activate Maple World Goddess Blessing aka Super MW.
MARKSMAN BOOST - Free stats.
HERO'S WILL - The cleanse is useless, the 3s status immunity can be used to block certain things like Lucid Bomb or the dojo F52 Spider bind if cast pre-emptively. 3s is a very short window though, so it is hard to use.
ADDITIONAL BOLT - Passive free upgrade to Distance Sensing, so practice your positioning.
LAST MAN STANDING - Free damage on bosses (except probably Lucid if golems count as units)
WEAKNESS FINDING - Passive free upgrade to Distance Sensing (adds IED to long distance attacking)
Hyper Actives
BULL'S EYE - Bursting buff that gives damage, IED, crit rate and crit damage. The crit rate bonus also feeds into Critical Reinforce if you're capped so these should be used together.
LONG RANGE TRUE SHOT (LRTS) - A long range mobbing skill that has a cd too long for a mobbing skill. Has a much better vertical range than Piercing or Charged Arrow.
EPIC ADVENTURE - 10% damage burst buff that can be stacked with other explorers in your party, which is usually another guaranteed 10% because most lategame parties try to have at least a bishop and kanna.
Hyper Passive
Note: The only time Piercing hypers might be useful is for clearing golems in a NLucid solo, otherwise always take the SE ones. Sniping hypers are all mandatory.
Sharp Eyes: Persist - Duration increase, nice but not important
Sharp Eyes: Ignore Guard - 5% IED to your SE (take)
Sharp Eyes: Critical Rate - 5% Crit rate to your SE (take)
Piercing: Reinforce - Mobbing skill, don't need if you one shot
Piercing: Extra Target - Not needed because mobs rarely clump together that tightly
Piercing: Bonus Attack - Mobbing skill, don't need if you one shot
Sniping: Cooldown Reduction - Mandatory, makes Sniping spammable
Sniping: Reinforce - Mandatory because bossing needs damage
Sniping: Boss Rush - Mandatory because bossing needs damage
5th Job (Skill priorities)
5th job skilling order is not set in stone, because it totally depends on what you want to do with your character. I had the privilege of free carries all the way to NLucid, so damage was not an issue for me, it was surviving and grinding levels to access the next boss. As such, it may surprise you all to know the first skill I maxed was actually Decent Holy Symbol. Level 1 Split Arrow was strong enough to 1 shot mobs and level 1 True Sniping had the same cd/duration as level 30 for the iframe which is the main reason I use the skill.
DHS > Split Arrow > Critical Reinforce > True Sniping > Avian Awakening > Super MW > Charged Arrow > Guided Arrow > Everything else as they come and just save shards
I levelled my 2 tricores whenever I happened to open a correct one, but I only crafted skill cores. In hindsight, if Super MW existed back then, I would've maxed it first over Avian Awakening. Decents (apart from DHS) are good at level 1, they are needed but they do not need to be levelled. Level them last. I won't say too much about the 4th V that's coming since I haven't tried it, but as another burst buff on an already high burst character, I would max it before Super MW.
Split Arrow > True Sniping > DSI > Tricores x2 > DHS > Rope Connect > Avian Awakening > Crit Reinforce > Super MW > Charged Arrow > remaining decents/guided arrow/purple core/2nd set of tricores at your own discretion.
Slots are difficult to come by at low levels but on the bright side, you can switch out stuff depending on what you're doing. For grinding you'd want:
Split Arrow > DSI > DHS > Tricores x2 > Avian Awakening > Rope Connect (you'll have enough slots by Lach)
For bossing:
Split Arrow > DSI > True Sniping > Tricores x2 > Rope Connect (for some bosses) > Burst buffs that you can fit in.
5th Job skills
NEW: PIERCING CATRIDGE - 7 shots, just like True Sniping except it has a much lower cooldown, much faster application and lets you move. Huge burst damage and syncs with Split Arrow in cooldowns. The buff lasts for 1 minute for you to fire 7 shots, so you could cast it early and fire at last second for the cd to be up sooner but it's pointless because you want it sync'd with Split Arrow anyway. SPLIT ARROW - The one skill that makes playing XBM totally worth it. It turns your crossbow into a shotgun for 60 seconds. And because it works off your existing skills (Piercing Arrow and Snipe) means it also takes its massive range from Snipe and turns it into a long range, targetted mobbing skill. On top of that, the additional spray damage is stacked on top of your original Snipe damage, which means in bossing you also gained an additional 5 lines hitting over 1000% per line. A huge burst steroid... except for some reason Distance Sensing doesn't work on it. Even so, it's easily still the most powerful skill in the xbm kit.
TRUE SNIPING - After you learn this skill you can no longer score less than perfect for Fritto's Eagle Hunt. It makes you invulnerable for 12 seconds and lets you click on a mob/boss up to 7 times for massive damage. Your first experience with damage capped lines is guaranteed to come from this skill. I prefer to use it for the iframe, but if you are confident you don't need an iframe for the next 3 minutes, feel free to use it for bursting. The final point about this skill is that it ignores cancel att and damage reflect, which can prove useful for early PB solo-ing and dojo F50.
CHARGED ARROW - I personally find this skill meh. It's good to alternate with Long Range True Shot as a mobbing skill that you tap but that's about it. The charging mechanic is used in bossing which you basically just hold down the entire time and let it fire itself at the end. For bosses that move around a lot, it tends to miss a fair bit unless you release it earlier in which it won't auto recharge unless you manually press it again after the cd (if the "Skill on cooldown" message comes up, holding down the key won't charge the skill even when it actually goes off cd, unlike just holding it and letting it release itself).
CRITICAL REINFORCE - The first of the bossing skills you should max out after Split Arrow. It gives a massive amount of crit damage for 30 seconds coming from your crit rate, and can go past 100%. Meaning any extra source of crit rate (including bullseye) turns into crit damage for a retarded amount of damage.
AVIAN AWAKENING - Another bossing skill that is also a mobbing skill. This is used together with Piercing when your Split Arrow is on cooldown. Learning the bird's attack pattern takes time getting used to but when you are familiar with it, you can get a feel of how to trigger it on mobs of your choice. Note that it only attacks when you do, unlike the original bird. Schutike Eisen triggers it too, which I will show how to use in the mobbing section.
GUIDED ARROW - Nothing to say about this except that it's a filler skill that gives free damage if you have the slot. Pretty much 100% up time too.
Common Skills
MAPLE WORLD GODDESS BLESSING (Super MW) - A decent burst skill only gated by it's massive 3 minute cooldown. I use it to sync time with Seed rings cooldowns.
DECENT COMBAT ORDERS - Optional, but will give your SE +1% crit rate and +1% crit damage, on top of many small bonuses across your 4th job passives. They add up but it's not big on the priority list.
ROPE CONNECT - Very very useful mobility skill. Keep it on 90% of the time, except for Damien and Dojo. It's a bit more accurate than your double jump where it counts, and can sometimes save you when you miss a jump.
DECENT HOLY SYMBOL - Drop rate for a greedy mofo like myself. I maxed this first and went grinding. Again, don't follow what I say blindly, level skills that you need. I don't need massive burst damage for mobs, so I opt for drop rate and exp but if you do a lot of early bossing you will want more burst damage to go with your bind.
ERDA NOVA - This is your only bind, and it has a shitty cooldown. I personally use a Lucid Earring for solo (they stack but I only need 1 short cd bind) but before I got it, I had to get used to bursting without binding. This somewhat works for xbm because you can move while you attack (smoother the more attack speed you have). The 10s of bind I got every 5 minutes was some bonus damage. When you start HBossing in party, this only has use in Dojo because you will get yelled at if you mess up your kanna's stomp bind with your shitty Erda bind.
DECENT ADVANCED BLESSING - Optional, really really meh unless you really got nothing else to fill in, small wa buff.
MANDATORY: Snipe/Piercing Arrow/Long Range True Shot
OPTIONAL (level 250+ with bought slots): Final Attack/Frostprey/Schutike Eisen

Inner Ability

First Line: 1 Attack Speed (Mandatory)
2nd and 3rd line: Any combination of 21 Att/20 Crit rate/10% Boss damage can work. Don't be so hasty to roll off 21 Att and 10% BD just because you didn't get 20% Crit, you can cap crit without phantom link and union space, you can definitely do without a 20% crit IA. And obviously, don't roll off a good stat just because it is not the max value, you can easily fix it with Chaos Circulator or just settle. 15% crit, 18 att, 9% BD area all perfectly acceptable.
Experimental: Now the above is the setup most xbm will use. I wasn't so lucky and settled for a 37% buff duration second line, which is theoretically not good because I don't really have that many buffs. However I found that I quite enjoyed having 100% uptime mihile link for permastance and 17 seconds of TnC for bursting, plus my bossing pt loves my 8 minute SE. The convenience felt worth for the damage trade-off. Don't be afraid to try off meta, min-maxing isn't everything.


General Tips
The most important part of bossing will always be: Keeping your distance.
The boss has COVID19, so stay the fk away from him. And for most part for moving bosses, you want to stay away from your team as well and the bs has to find some middle ground to hit both you and your other pt with prayer (sorry Owl). This is so that the boss will tend to be too occupied with your melee attackers to attack you with knockbacks (Lotus/Will) coz he's busy knocking back your pt members. This not only keeps you safer but also increases your damage output from Distance Sensing.
In a solo, you will want to be kiting the boss. It's not hard, just create distance, hit a few times until the boss is close then create more distance. Flash Jump/Net Throwing/Schutike Eisen, your choice. Schutike Eisen puts you behind a boss which is usually a safer location to be. Puppet specifically aggros Lotus B2, making it an effectively free phase. When bursting, you will have to burst without bind sometimes because Erda Nova's cooldown is shit, it just means you have to be on the move while attacking.
Schutike Eisen can also block super knockbacks
True Sniping is an iframe, not a burst skill unless you know that burst will make a difference in killing off problem phases like Lucid P1 and Lotus P1 before more lives are lost.
Stance is very important, which is why I love my 37% buff even though unconventional. Getting booped by a bullet into a 90% hp web or getting pushed into dragon fire/Lotus p1 laser a few times will make you feel that way too.

BiS bossing ring (if no BoD anyway)
Boss Specific Tips
It's impossible to write up a strategy that works for all bosses, because bosses are just different and interact with different parts of your kit. I will only be going through xbm specific mechanics, most other boss mechanics are similar for all characters, so go look up the particular boss guide if you need. I can only speak of my experience with solo-ing up to NDamien, and how I boss in a 6 man pt for HBosses.
Chaos Queen
The easiest boss for you, the only time you should even remotely have trouble is her Seductive face. Sniping far far outranges any of her attacks and she moves slowly, so you can easily do a low range solo once you have enough damage. The only issue is killing the mirror spawned by Seductive face fast enough, which can be a problem with Sniping's single target nature (and can get blocked by the spawned hearts). To do a quick burst on the mirror through all obstacles, prep charged arrow and release it at the same time as a LRTS aimed at the Mirror, both of them will get through the hearts or the Queen herself. Alternately if you're really desperate, pop it with True Sniping. For Angry face, Schutike Eisen is a quick way to get behind her before fireball.
Chaos Von Bon
Solo Demonstration
There really is no variation to soloing this boss whether with xbm or any other character, except your range advantage (you should never be in range to get stunned). You can jump over the sperm bullets (crouching makes you vulnerable to earthquake unless you know how to predict it to react in time) with double jump, and that's about it. Schutike Eisen lets you get behind him but you will usually bang into a bullet on the way so I would avoid using that.
Chaos Pierre
Another boss where xbm's range advantage and single target attacks come in handy. DPSing him in P1 is simply kiting, and using Schutike Eisen to get behind him when you reach the wall (double jump works too). I personally turn off the bird because it autoattacks during wrong hat to heal him.
If you aren't skipping P2 because you lack the damage to do so, you have to slowly dps them one by one with sniping. Do not turn on bird, do not use split arrow. Adjust both their hp 1 by 1 and when both are low, suicide, buff up and start bursting. Time their re-split and use True Sniping just before to block a re-hat so you get another round of burst for free.
Chaos Vellum
This boss is about positioning to abuse the boss aggro (during solo anyway, you can't predict who he's aggro-ing in a pt clear). Take small steps and dodge at the edge of the rings (tail only, heads have a wider range than indicated by the circles) so that you don't get tails all over the map, keep in mind that the tail will always try to hit you. Start off with long range and slowly walk (while attacking) towards him as the tails start appearing behind you.
Hard Magnus (Magnus in general)
This boss is basically everything XBM doesn't want to fight. Honestly, get carried or wait until you can burst. If you're a real masochist, you can bring in a Krrr ring and use death to stall for cooldowns (even so, this boss is very difficult to deal with without a bind, and Erda bind is shit).
The aura around Magnus means you have to be in close range with him or else you get poisoned to death (and do no damage to him while you're at it). But being in close range with him basically also cancels your Distance Sensing and you lose a ton of damage either way, meaning you're already going in with quite a big damage handicap. The worst part is that the aura gets smaller and he gets crazier, meaning you lose even more damage just when you need it most to burst him. No real advice for this one, I skipped it until I was strong enough to burst 30% off in 1 Erda bind.
First NLotus Solo
Note that this was before the stance update that made every mob knockback, now you must have Mihile link. Up jump can dodge knockback if you're on a platform. For NLotus, you can tank 1 tick of the lightning if you're quick and stall with the air with a high jump sometimes but it's very risky. Schutike Eisen is a quick way of getting behind him (which is usually the safest place to be) and in P2, he's stupid enough to aggro on your puppet, which a WB main was kind enough to tell me. The lightning floor can be cancelled with a bind if timed right.
This boss is very hard to solo with on XBM purely due to the lack of a low cd bind. You will be chasing him around and he will be flying around, and you don't have reliable ways of hitting him in the air. The sword also makes it hard to clear brands, and True Sniping does not let you NPC chat the altar but an easy solution is to equip a Krrr ring when you want to clear a brand (note that it has a 3 minute cd). His dash has a 2 second delay for the effects, so you want to wait that amount of time before walking into an area he just dashed through (but then you should usually not be in range in the first place). Alternately, use Schutike Eisen to get behind him.
Lucid is actually one of the better bosses for XBM to deal with, at least for P1. You can generally stay out of range for all attacks by fighting from the statue, while your more melee party members have to watch for scythe and golems. For P2, you want to avoid falling off especially in Hard. Schutike Eisen can be used to rescue yourself if you get knocked off or miss a jump by hooking a golem mid-fall. Again, True Sniping is only used for i-frame or P3 bursting.
HWill and NWill have two different approaches for P1. In NWill, moonlight generates very fast so you can spam dimension swap to dodge the fire wall. In this case, the only thing you need to do is focus on staying as far as you can from Will and dimension swap when he touches his eyes. For HWill, make sure Will is focused on your melee allies and always stay behind him, you need to save moonlight for swapping to go burst another dimension where needed, or to survive the test. If you're solo-ing, you will probably have to i-frame for the tests. In P2, same concept of maintaining distance while dodging legs (and using allies as meat shields). You don't have to even make Will aggro on them, just maintaining your distance will make him default aggro on them because you're never in range. Krrr Ring is very useful for P2. In P3, you must have stance up because positioning for Distance Sensing will put you very close to the webs, and keep your space clean.
Krrr Ring is your friend. You can dodge the platform arms with up jump (you need to time it). Always start prepping your burst skills about 15 seconds before the platforms are to appear. A good burst combo is dps-ing and finishing with True Sniping (one of the few situations I use True Sniping for burst) as he lasers on your i-frame. However, you might want to save it for the fear because sometimes the fear can come up during very inconvenient times. Krrr ring is used if you see an incoming stun meteor that you cannot dodge while the laser is firing. Also used during fear if you get stuck and unable to dodge platform arms.


XBM pre-5th job mobbing is lackluster, especially with the removal of Eruption that gave some semblance of vertical range. Bolt Rupture somewhat works but it's better to just find some long single lane maps. A few examples are PL, MP4 and 5. Multi lane maps work too if there is a hidden portal to get back to the top, so you can clear downwards then rotate back to the top to repeat. An example of this would be AEA4.
5th job totally changes everything with Split Arrow.
Mobbing with Split Arrow
When Split Arrow is up, certain maps let you just turn left and right, and move up and down with Rope Connect. Sniping is good to proc split Arrow because of its range and tracking but for most part both Sniping and Piercing can be used. Some maps are good for this.
Mobbing with Avian Awakening
When Split Arrow is down, activate Avian Awakening and use a combination of Schutike Eisen and Piercing to trigger the bird attack and move around the map simultaneously. You have to get the bird's attack cooldown into your muscle memory so that you roughly know when to trigger the attack. This mobbing is obviously weaker but you just have to bear with it for a minute before your Split Arrow is back up.
Good maps list:
Nameless - Cave of Rest: Cave: Lower Part
Chew Chew - Torrent Area 3
Lacheln - Street of Outlaws 1/Where Colours Are Revealed 3
Arcana - Five-Forked Cave
Moras - Trueffet, That Day 2
Esfera - Mirror Tinged Sea 3
Moonbridge - Waves of the Void 3
Labyrinth - Deepest Area 5/Central Area 1

Additional Resources

Ivangold's YT Channel - If you want to go beyond just maining XBM and instead want to master everything there is to learn about this class, check out his channel. It's highly informative and a lot more detailed than what I can provide.
submitted by redbuffismine to MapleSEA

This is how I modified my XPS 9700 for the best performance.

This is how I modified my XPS 9700 for the best performance.
I really like the XPS series laptops and I had XPS 9550, XPS 9560, and XPS 9570. One of the most interesting things is to analyze their internal structures, upgrade components, and improve their performance (by making changes to the heat system). Recently, I purchased an XPS 9700. The configuration I went for only had 16 GB RAM + 500 GB Storage. Normally, the components that come with an XPS laptop is not the best. However, this time Dell used Samsung PM981, which is a very good NVME SSD. In addition, I would say the building quality of XPS 9700 is way much better than XPS 9570. The "precision" of the machining improved significantly.
Here is what I did to modify this XPS 9700. The plan is to improve the thermal performance adding additional heatsink, to replace the RAMs, and to replace the SSDs. Also, I will include some observations in this post.
1 Opening the Case
This time, Dell made a lot of changes to the case of the XPS laptop. Unlike previous generations, it turns out that it is harder to open the bottom case of the XPS laptop. Because of not knowing the structure of the clips that holds the bottom case to the main body, I referred to the XPS service manual for instructions. It is very important to follow this service manual to avoid damage to the laptop.
I only thing I would say is that, the clips around the thunderbolt ports are very weak. One needs to be extremely careful in order not to damage the clips. Use a credit card to slide through the crevices along the sides slowly. Nevertheless, there is still a high change that the clips may be damaged. I don't know if there is another other way to reduce this risk. Probably heating up the bottom cover before attempting to open the bottom cover?
Figure 1. Locations where clips may break easily.
Figure 2. Locations where clips may break easily.
2 Upgrading the RAM
The original RAM that my laptop had was only 16 GB. So I upgraded them to 64 GB. The original RAM actually is 3200 MHz. What a surprise! Dell used 3200 MHz RAMs for a laptop that only supports 2933 MHz. Is it possible that in the future the laptop can run at 3200 MHz? Probably yes after some BIOS upgrade in the future. XPS 9560, designed for 2400 MHz, could run at 2666 MHz.
Figure 3. RAM Specifications for the RAM that comes with XPS 9700.
The RAM that I changed is Kingston HyperX Impact DDR4 3200 MHz. This RAM has a better performance. It is surprising that this new RAM is compatible with XPS 9700. A little bit history: XPS 9570 and XPS 7590 rejects a lot of third party RAMs. XPS 9700 accepts this RAM readily.

Figure 4. The new RAM that is installed on my XPS 9700.
Figure 5. RAM specifications for the RAM that I installed later on XPS 9700.
We can see that this new RAM has a better specification than the original one. The tRAS is much lower. The CL is also lower (19 vs 21).
3 Upgrading the SSDs
Obviously, the biggest change of XPS 9700 over previous generations is that XPS 9700 has two NVMe slots. This allows the installation of two physically different M.2 SSDs. Data can be distributed to the two SSDs and the chance to lose both of them due to SSD failure is lower. The original SSD that comes with XPS 9700 is Samsung PM981. This is very good SSD. Its performance is even better than Samsung 970 EVO Plus. Nevertheless, I changed the SSD. The one that I use for replacement is Samsung 980 Pro 1TB. Even if this SSD is for PCIe 4.0 and XPS 9700 does not support PCIe 4.0, it still has a much better performance than Samsung 970 EVO in terms of 4K read, and Sequential Read (No Queue). As a result, when you use the SSD for the system drive, Samsung 980 Pro is still a very good choice compared with Samsung 970 EVO / EVO Plus.
Figure 6. Samsung 980 Pro 1TB on XPS 9700. I also used a red box to highlight the location of the WiFi Module.
Figure 7. Samsung 980 Pro 1TB / 970 EVO Plus 2TB / 970 EVO 1TB performance comparison on XPS 9700. Notice the performance difference for Seq Read and 4K Read.
Because there are two SSD slots on XPS 9700, it is possible to install two SSDs and configure them into RAID. However, I found that there is an issue with XPS 9700. When configured into the RAID mode in XPS 9700, the first physical SSD (SSD-1) is listed as the second SSD in the RAID system, and the second physical SSD (SSD-2) is listed as the first SSD in the RAID system. This is also reflected in the operating system. So, your first SSD as seen by the operating system is SSD-2 whereas the second SSD as seen by the operating system is SSD-1. If you configure the storage system to AHCI, the problem goes away. This is probably a bug and may be fixed by Dell in the future.
Figure 8. An SSD issue with XPS 9700. The sequence of the SSDs are swapped. This is likely a bug.
4 Comments on the WiFi Card
This WiFi card is called Killer AX500-DBS. Although it is called a Killer WiFi card. It is actually called QCA6390. It is a Qualcomm WiFi card. You cannot get a driver from Windows automatically (as the time of writing). You cannot find the driver from the Killer's website. You can find it, however, from either Dell or Qualcomm. The WiFi card uses a small factor and is soldered on to the board, as highlighted in Figure 6.
5 Thermal Modification
Previous versions of XPS 15 laptops are not good in terms of thermal performance. My XPS 9570 had serious thermal throttling. The power throttling is the most serious issue. It is the major bottle neck. The main reason is that the Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs) are not cooled by heat sinks, and they can get to very high temperatures. Dell starts to consider this issue since XPS 7590. They now did a great job for XPS 9700. Most VRMs are cooled by the vapor chamber.
Figure 9 shows some areas of the mother board of XPS 9700. The red box shows the location of a problem. Originally, the black heat sink is not pressed against the underlying chips. It is very loose and floating. I think this is an assembly problem. To resolve this problem, I had to take off the vapor chamber and bend the heat sink downwards. Now it is pressed against the underlying chips. In addition, I placed two additional heat sinks over two VRMs (right next to the red box to the right in Figure 9). These VRMs are also very hot when the GPU is running. I don't know why Dell does not include a heat sink for this part. The large inductor in Figure 9 (2R2 033 1DT) is extremely hot during operation. It would be better if this is also cooled by the vapor chamber.
Figure 9. Thermal modification. The red box shows a location where the heat sink is not probably configured. The thermal pad is not perfectly aligned, and most importantly, it is not pressed against the underlying chips.
I further placed some thermal pads on some of the heatsinks and chips to further improve the thermal performance. The red box in Figure 10 shows a location where the modification is not necessary. I later found that the underlying VRM is not at all, even at full loads of either CPU or GPU. The south bridge chip is very hot and thermal pads are recommended. (Dell placed thermal pads on the south bridge chip in XPS 7590, but I don't know why they removed it for XPS 9700).
Figure 10. After Thermal modification. The red box shows areas where the heatsink and the thermal pad is unnecessary. In fact, the VRM in that area is not very hot at all.
In addition, I placed thermal pads over the SSDs. However, I later found that the fans actively cool the SSDs! There is a huge opening on the fans near the SSDs! As a result, it is not very necessary to install thermal pads on the SSDs. Since I already installed them, I will keep them on.
Here is some data I observed from Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. For my XPS 9570, after a lot of extra work to improve the thermal performance, the i9 8590HK can only run 3.2 Hz with 6 cores (100% CPU load) over an extended period of time. For this XPS 9700, the i9 10885H can run 4.0 Hz with 8 cores (100% CPU load) over an extended period of time. I would say, XPS 9700 has much much better thermal performance than XPS 9570. For intermittent loads, XPS 9700 can run 5.0 Hz instantly (around 10% CPU loads, one core). I would say, this is as powerful as a desktop.
6 Size and Sleeve
Although this is an 17 inch laptop, its form factor is the same as a lot of 15 inch laptop. It is just slightly larger than XPS 15 9570. As a matter of fact, I can put XPS 9700 into the same sleeve that is designed for XPS 15 9570. Here is the proof.
Figure 11. A 15 inch compact sleeve (for XPS 15 9550/9560/9570) can be used to hold the XPS 17 9700. It is just that one side of the laptop protrudes a little bit and that is not a big problem.
7 Conclusion
Here is the a picture of my laptop after all the modification that I made.
Figure 12. Overview of my laptop after all customization / modification that I made. I am very happy with this laptop.
So far I am very happy with this XPS 9700. I think it is the BEST laptop that Dell has ever made. I did not experience anything bad with this laptop and it works perfectly without any issue (after 1 month of constant usage). The only thing that I am slightly unhappy about this laptop is that it is very hard to open the bottom cover of the laptop. Three clips broke when I was trying to open the laptop. I tried to use super glues to put them back but did not do a great job. I even spoiled a tiny bit amount of super glues onto the mother board. (So don't do this). Sometimes I thought if only the clips did not break! (Most clips did not break.) Then my laptop would be perfect. Well, nothing is perfect. Even when the laptop comes to me, it is not perfect (the heatsink does not press against the underlying chips). It is good enough, no need to pursue perfection, especially for less important things (such as some clips).
Disclaimer: Do not attempt to open your laptop unless you really know how to do it, and it will be at your own risk. XPS 9700 is a very delicate laptop. Refer to the service manual as much as possible. If it is damaged during this process, the warranty could be voided.
submitted by liangsizhuang to Dell