M17X R4 - 980m - Throttling Research and Workaround

Discussion in 'Alienware 17 and M17x' started by Schurke, Jan 16, 2016.

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  1. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    A couple of weeks ago, I swapped out my 680m for a 980m. As a piece of hardware, the thing is impressive to say the least. In terms of driver compatibility however (in the M17X R4, anyway), it leaves something to be desired.

    At this stage, I'd call the 980m's compatibility with the R4 somewhat limited by driver support.

    Regardless, as I have been testing a lot recently, I thought I should share my findings:

    Relevant platform specifics: M17X R4, 3940xm @ 43/41/41/41, 32GB ram, 980m

    OS Tested: Windows 8.1 pro

    Bios Tested: Premamod bios (84.04.22.00.10 - card from @woodzstack)

    Testing: Firestrike 1.1, Fallout4 (standing in front of a burning object on Ultra, 2k settings)

    Installation Process: DDU, clean install (though I experimented with dirty installs outside these without results that were particularly different)

    GPU Temperatures: 50 @ idle, 65 @ full load

    Graphics Mode: PEG/Dedicated

    Drivers Tested:

    353.00 Peg Mod by J95: The best tested. Used without mods, the card holds on P0 until 99% load where it toggles to P1 and holds. Using nvidiaInspector, the P1 clocks can be changed to match the P0 clocks, making this more of a blip than a hard throttle. Included game profiles txt extends its usefulness beyond its original datestamp. Not compatible with VR headsets (deal-breaker for me, because I'm developing games for the Oculus Rift).

    353.06 Peg Mod by J95: Comparable to 353.00

    359.06 INF Mod by J95: Stable on installation with stable overclocking but goes back to throttling after a power cycle. After power cycle: Used without mods, the card holds P0 until ~90-99% load where it drops to what reads as P1 but actually has a clockspeed of ~324mhz. Can sometimes be tricked back into a pristine state by unreliable means (series of restarts, pin-mod cables, etc). Pristine state usually holds through reboots, but not through power cycles. Powerstate matching from above has no effect. Various additional settings (adaptive/high performance, batteryboost off, unnecessary services off, trying to reset the card by loading new user profiles) have no effect.

    Benchmarking 359.06:
    No throttle state (right after installation, 135/200 oc): http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/10227403
    Power draw during benchmark (stock gpu clock): 183w-190w during the demo scene, max 214w on the combined test.
    Power draw during benchmark (oc gpu clock):186w-196w, max 216w on the combined test
    Throttle state: Radical throttling with the clock jumping from 1126, 1038 to 324. Not a lot in between: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/10320712
    Power draw during benchmark (stock): 182w-190w, falling to 112w during throttle periods during the demo scene. Similar data for the combined test.

    For interest: Power draw with an underclocked processor @1.2ghz: around 163w. Doesn't help the gpu at all.

    - Strangely, if you start the M17X R4 with a pin-modded cable, the CPU drops to its base clock (1.2ghz) but the GPU runs at full burn at what it calls P1 but actually clocks like P0. Benchmarks reliably but like one would expect with so little support from the CPU.

    359.12 INF Mod by J95: Comparable to 359.06

    358.50 by Eurocom: Comparable to 359.06.


    Graphics Mode: Optimus

    359.06, 359.12 INF Mod by J95: Comparable experience to PEG equivalents, complete with radical throttling.


    That all said, if anyone's found a way to get this thing to run reliably under heavy load without turning into an expensive paper weight (aside from running drivers from the 347-353 era) please let me know.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  2. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    Glitched Start - These are the peculiar steps I followed to get into a glitched/corrected state (where there was no throttling on the 359.06 driver without any other modifications). Note that I've not attempted to reproduce this and I have no idea whether this is stressing the components.
    Mess around with this at your own risk.

    Appendix:
    Pinmod: Where you only partially seat the power-cable such that the control pin isn't making contact (or pull the pin out, or use an incompatible PSU). The computer (via osd) will report that the adapter is not supported and the computer will enter an unusual powerstate where the CPU drops down to its base clock and the GPU reports P1 state as a maximum.
    Test: Firestrike
    Power Cycle: Unplug the adapter and battery, hold power button for 30s, reconnect and power up.

    1. Power Cycle for a clean start
    2. Start windows
    3. Pinmod - observe CPU drop to 1200mhz
    4. Test - observe bad, fluctuating performance
    5. Restart with pinmod still in place
    6. Test - observe locked P1 state that performs like P0 w/ 1200mhz CPU
    7. Restart
    8. Unplug
    9. Restart
    10. Start into windows, Plug in
    11. Restart
    12. Pinmod
    13. Restart
    14. Unplug, Plug in
    15. Test - observe good test with full marks
    16. Restart
    17. Checkerboard windows - graphical error where everything is rendering with a black pattern of squares overtop
    18. Restart
    19. Test - observe good test with full marks
    20. Be confused. Sit down for a bit. Get a coffee. Question your life choices. Move to LA. Buy a dog. Name it "Mother." Find a passion for scuba diving. Get married. Have 1.5 children. Give the 0.5 to someone else with 1.5 children. Write a play about intelligent animals.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
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  3. woodzstack

    woodzstack Alezka Computers , Official Clevo reseller.

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    vbios 84.04.22.00.10 I think we flashed your card with.

    I have always found 1 out of 10 drivers would work flawlessly and not throttle. The ones that did this, yielded about 5-10 % less power, but considering the 980M on the M17X-R4 is a godsend to begin with anything over 9000-GPU (not totally score, total was like 8500 or something..) score on Firestrike is good.

    I would note, that you need to have more power. I solved this by using 3.9Ghz all 4 clocks, DDRL RAM at 1.5v only, and using low power SSD's, no CDROM, no lights/LED from Alienware CC, not using the onboard speakers- used 5.1 external sound, offloaded all the USB to a very reliable USB powered bar... I found just using a few more usb's or cycling the lights and speakers was enough to throw it over the edge and make the cpu throttle, and when the cpu throttles so does the gpu mostly too.

    I also used a decent laptop cooler to keep the laptop cool, so the fans wouldn't even need to kick in, and used very good / excellent thermal paste like TX-4 or Gelid Extreme.

    I've had a few M17X-R4's and this kind of trick worked on all of them. I started using it when the 880M debuted, and had insane throttle issues. 240W is just not enough for 4 dimms of RAM 3-4 harddrives, a 125W GPU and 100W+ CPU overclock, plus all the other bells and whistles.

    if you really calculate the power when under full load, you will see, it adds up to much more then the PSU's.

    The trick for M17X-R4, is not to use SLV's or any of PREMA's overvolted vbios unless your willing to sacrifice the extra 20-30W from something else or somewhere else. Also. 9/10 times the laptop would throttle the GPU in benchmarks, but very very very rarely in any games. When it did so ingames, it was only when the game just came out, was only a day old and was always fixed with a game patch, not a driver for the GPU.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
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  4. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    You're right - editing post
     
  5. woodzstack

    woodzstack Alezka Computers , Official Clevo reseller.

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    Also - might I add that your score on firestrike is ridiculously more then to be expected. Its very high, if you compare that to what NBR shows the 980M range being, you would see your 10% past the highest point on the bar, so surely I didn't give you a dud of a GPU, and lets face it, you absolutely went beyond normal use, and what can be expected of it. Using a X6 and ignoring the fact I have a i7-6700K as my cpu and DDR4 and a m.2 2280 951Pro SSD in that, I would still not be able to easily get that high of a score, never mind just the GPU score alone.

    So - congrats, your 4-5 year old laptop outperforms the fastest and most powerful laptops today for a 1/3rd the cost.

    You might want to consider creating youtube video's or twitching your skills, and sticking to unlocking such potential and showing people, because it can, if you stick to it, make you famous.
     
  6. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    Heh heh. Thanks, Woodzstack. It's by no means a dud card - thanks again for the quick turn around on getting it to me. (also, tell me about your X6 in a pm sometime - when I started this adventure, I was debating either upgrading the M17X or switching to the X6 or the DLX7).

    Twitch: God... can you imagine a twitch channel of me restarting my laptop over and over again? "All right folks... restarting again *plays three chords on a guitar* here we go... uninstalling the drivers *plays three more chords* restarting with signature enforcement disabled *plays a chord, screws up the next*" -- and so on, and so on. I'll stick to writing code for the time being... that would also be an awful twitch channel lol. "Here you can see that the player falls through this section of floor if they have the menu open and are taking damage from an acid effect... let's try to fix that *6 hours later* and now the player doesn't fall through the floor!"

    I'll add some watt rating numbers to the OP and break out the benchmarks for throttle and no-throttle runs.

    Throttling on games, my tests: When the card is in a throttling... state/reboot/whatever... gpu load above 90% throws the clocks down to 324mhz. Now, you have to be pushing the settings pretty high for that (my Fallout 4 test was at 2k resolution, msaa, on ultra settings with a bunch of smoke particles on screen). If the load is less demanding (like say at 1080p resolutions) the card holds P0 just fine.

    Throttling in general and firestrike scores: Man, I'd take a solid 8000 if the clock didn't keep dropping to 324mhz and holding there for a few seconds at a time! It's the radical fluctuation that makes it hard to work with.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  7. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    Interestingly, the power draw during the benchmark should be well within the limits of the 240w PSU (max 214w while overclocked - measured using a Kill A Watt). The only thing that separates the Throttle and No Throttle tests above is that the No Throttle test is right after a fresh driver install and restart, where the Throttle test was done after a powercycle/cold boot.

    Also, interestingly, the 3940xm (according to throttlestop anyway) reads a package power of 33w during the Firestrike test (compared to 60w doing an 8-thread cpu benchmark). Underclocking it, freeing up another 20w, doesn't affect the gpu at all.

    Makes me wonder what changed in the driver code between the earlier 347-353 drivers and the more recent drivers. Heh heh, also makes me wish I could get a look at the source code.
     
  8. mariussx

    mariussx Notebook Evangelist

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    SLV7 vbios helps to push that bit of extra performance though:
    http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/10321003?

    Edit - added 3d mark 11 score too:
    http://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/10817423

    I did listen to your advise in the end and got a proper OEM 3940xm instead of one of those ES chips.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  9. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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    Also - Power Management Mode (NV control panel). When the GPU is in its throttle prone state, changing this field to prefer maximum performance actually helps (but not in the way I'd expect).
    In doing a test on the Rift (which puts a huge load on the GPU because of the stereo rendering), my test scene was pushing the card to throttle, where the load ran from 77%-98%. Same scene, on with prefer maximum performance set hovered around 77% load - I suppose preventing the load spikes by keeping to the higher power states? It almost seems like the card's instruction set has a condition that reads like "90% load? TOO MUCH". J95's thread at TI recommends this setting (but doesn't talk about what relationship it has to the throttling issue beyond making it better in combination with the peg mod drivers).

    Note also that this setting prevents your card from hitting idle clocks / p-states... so if you're unplugged... consider switching it back to adaptive.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  10. Schurke

    Schurke Notebook Consultant

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