/>
X
Innovation

Dell updates thermal algorithms in response to CPU throttling concerns

In response to customer concerns about CPU throttling in Latitude-series laptops, Dell on Wednesday announced that there was no inherent flaw in the computers, but said it has tweaked thermal algorithms to accommodate for more types of use.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

In response to customer concerns about CPU throttling in Latitude-series laptops, Dell on Wednesday announced that there was no inherent flaw in the computers, but said it has tweaked thermal algorithms to accommodate for more types of use.

Lionel Menchaca writes on the Direct2Dell blog:

Recently, there’s been a lot of speculation about CPU throttling on sites like Engadget, ZDNet and others. This is not about system lockups, freezes, data loss or a design issue. It is about the degree of throttling, which varies under different usage models and ambient conditions.

Throttling is a power management methodology used throughout the industry to balance system performance, component temperature and user experience. Throttling optimizes performance, regulates component temperatures and skin temperature (the amount of heat you feel at external touch points) while using a laptop.

Under normal conditions and use (i.e. a typical office environment and running a typical set of applications), customers won’t see any issue at all. At this point, we’ve only heard from a small number of customers who have reported issues related to throttling. Those issues arose under more extreme thermal and usage models. These customers report more throttling than expected, plus they tend to experience a prolonged recovery time that sometimes requires a reboot to recover from the throttled state. In those scenarios, users may see slower system performance.

What we learned from the customers we’ve talked to is that we could improve thermal algorithms that dictate throttling thresholds on our mainstream business-class product line. Previous BIOS revisions for some platforms were not optimized for certain extreme operating conditions. That’s why we’ve recently introduced BIOS revisions for the following systems:

Latitude E4200Latitude E4300Latitude E5400Latitude E5500Latitude E6400Latitude E6500Latitude E6400 ATGLatitude E6400 XFRDell Precision M2400Dell Precision M4400Dell Precision M6400

Menchaca added that no Dell forum users were banned for discussing the issue.

"It's not nearly as widespread as online chatter would indicate," said Dell "Listening Czar" Bill Bivin. "We did change the algorithms to the thermal tables to accommodate a broader set of usage models. We're talking about a business-class notebook here, we're not talking about an Alienware box."

Bivins said the customer that had published a 59-page report about the subject was using an extreme usage case that didn't affect the vast majority of users.

"Basically, he wants us to never throttle the CPU and stress it until it blows up," Bivins said. "We just can't do that. We don't want to jeopardize your data. We don't want to damage your components."

Bivins said Dell tested the user's system and found no inherent problems other than an "extreme usage model," calling it a "corner case."

"We did see there was some room to write an algorithm that allows for a broader set of usage models," Bivins said. "People that weren't quite that extreme, but maybe were bumping into a lesser degree of throttling. They won't see it. But we can't accommodate everything. You can't sit in the Mojave Desert and sit and play Crysis on the thing."

The issue has received input from the highest levels, Bivins said.

"There is a high degree of attention being paid to this," Bivins said. "There have been a few e-mails from Michael [Dell] about this."

Editorial standards