m17x r3 580m Throttling Concerns


Mar 4, 2012
The following is a transpose of my posting from the alienware facebook page, and I wanted to share the info wherever I can. The information is given with great thanks to the alienware and dell support agents, and to the community on notebookreview.com



Conference call took place with dell reps, and I have to thank them for taking the time to have the conference call. I wont go into too many details about it, because some of the topics discussed are a little beyond the scope of the Facebook page, and, frankly, I may not remember every detail that was discussed, but here are some bullet points.
(please excuse the typos, I'm trying to wrangle my peanut butter covered son and type this at the same time lol)

1. Repasting or doing any similar work on your computer WILL NOT VOID THE WARRANTY unless you break something. If you want to take apart every single screw and panel and part from your computer and reassemble it, repaste it, get out the paints and paint your name on it, or whatever...it will still be under warranty. The only thing to void it would be if you do something to cause damage to it, with the exception of that damage happening through instruction of a tech on the phone leading you through the steps.

2. The thermal paste on the 580m is better than mx4, arctic, etc. When you repaste it with something different you are actually increasing the issue.

3. The issue is all about cooling. Because of the smaller form factor, and the smaller fans, and the limited venting on the m17x r3 the heat increases more so than the m18x or desktops. This is a "duh" kinda thing, but explained more in the next point.

4. The heat is actually pushed to the edge on the system. The heat comes from the fact that the 580m draws more power than the 6990 (about 20% more). and therefore more amps and current control issues. This is a big concern for the i/o port of the card, the skin temps, and other temp issues. So the P0 state being the norm for high use, then clocks go down to P1 which is supposed to slow temp increase (essentially a 20% throttling), but not necessarily lower it, then once it hits 78C it goes into P8 state which then throttles it heavier.

5. Different directx versions, and driver versions can have a big impact. Seeing as shaders vary from one directx version to another, and different drivers can have their own set of variances which can impact use.

6. Ambient temps are tested around 28C (a little over 80F), so ambient temps should not be a big concern under than mark. However, ambient temps will still play a role, and can help reduce laptop temps.

7. The power throttling (movement to P1) takes place at 63C

8. (Quoted from YodaGoneMad on notebookreview.com) "There was that talk about the fact that what we see for GPU utilization is just a frame buffer, and that what really matters is the number of shaders used. Thus, you might be fine a lot of the time, then hit a scene that is suddenly using the majority of the 384 shaders and your temp spikes."

9. The m18x does have the throttle but doesnt have an issue hitting it like the m17x does. The 6990m also has a throttling point.

There are no plans right now, and probably will not be any in the future, to remove the throttling. It is there for a reason, mainly because of temp specification concerns and safety, but they should not be a continuous impact on your system, and therefore should be addressed if they are. Talks are in the works, however, about other issues such as with the bios, fan speeds, and other aspects that may directly or indirectly impact the throttling issue.

Ways to help alleviate the issue:

First off, understand that if you are hitting the heat throttle at 78C frequently, then you need to contact tech support. Need to make sure that your heat sink, fans, card, pasting, back plates, etc are all setup properly. A quick tech visit can assure this. There are assemblies available that are already pre-assembled and then shipped and can make it easier to just change out without need for repaste.

If you are hitting the throttle limit occasionally and not after every 5 minutes playing a game, some other things can help:

1. Check the basics. Increase airflow. Done have something blocking the fan outputs. Using some spray to clean out the fans, etc.

2. Custom fan speeds. Using HWiNFO64 you can set customer fan speeds that will be more aggressive than stock fan speeds. This can increase cooling performance.
Recommended set would be to set sensor to "Compal EC", reading the "GPU", with the following speeds:

3. Installing a new driver, vBios, or other software changes that may assist as being directly related or impactful on the gpu

4. Using a tool to disable powermizer (there are many different tools out there)

5. Using Nvidia Inspector or other tool to manually correct clock speeds and P states.

6. Making sure everything else is up to date. Other issues, like bad game installs, directx installs, increasing temps from other parts of the system, etc can be indirectly impactful