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The Alienware m15 R5 laptop equipped with RTX 3070 graphics card has proven to be underwhelming in its performance, falling behind the FPS performance of competing laptops such as the MSI GP76 Leopard 10UG, Lenovo Legion 5 Pro and HP Omen 15z-en100 by between 5% – 20% depending on the game.
Tech sleuths on Reddit, some of whom had bought the laptop, discovered that at least part of the reason for this was that the detectable CUDA core count for their RTX 3070 laptop version (as detected by GPU-Z) was 4608 rather than the usual 5120 – a reduction of exactly 10%.
CUDA Core count essentially makes a GPU what it is – a lower core count graphics card would essentially cease to be an RTX 3070 so it’s surprising that this is the case, though it has been confirmed by both Jarrod’s Tech and Tom’s Hardware, as you can read below.
The Cause Of Alienware m15 R5 vBIOS Restrictions - How To Increase CUDA Core Use?
It would appear that the mystery of the disappearing CUDA cores is due to limitations imposed by the vBIOS, rather than a change to the physical hardware, and the same users on Reddit who originally discovered the problem found that flashing the m15 R4 3070 vBIOS resolved it, though it did bring instability to the overall system.
Dell have however stated that this is not advisable and that a proper fix is coming as early as mid-June, as detailed below.
Alienware m15 R5 vBIOS Restrictions - Intentional Or Accidental?
Why this restriction is in place is less than clear, as the two reviewers we know of that have asked Dell about this issue have received different responses.
Jarrod’s Tech was given the following response on 4th June 2021 from Dell Support on Twitter:
‘CUDA core counts per the nvidia baseline may change for individual OEM, such as ourselves to allow a more specific design and performance tunning (sic). Be assured the changes made by our engineering team for this computer model was done after careful testing and design choices to bring the most stable and best performance possible for our customers, if at a later date more CUDA cores can be unlocked via a future update we will be swift to make it available on our support website’
If this is to be believed then it would seem as though the restriction to the number of active CUDA cores was an intentional decision by the Dell engineering team to make the GPU compatible with the power output of the m15 R5 laptop, though it does read somewhat like a generic assurance/response to us rather than an answer by a person who knows the definitive reason.
Tom’s Hardware however, when enquiring about the same issue, was given the following response from Dell:
‘We have been made aware that an incorrect setting in Alienware’s vBIOS is limiting CUDA Cores on RTX 3070 configurations… This is an error that we are working diligently to correct as soon as possible. We’re expediting a resolution through validation and expect to have this resolved as early as mid-June. In the interim, we do not recommend using a vBIOS from another Alienware platform to correct this issue. We apologize for any frustration this has caused.’
This clearly contradicts the first response, stating that the vBIOS limitation was accidental. Whether or not this is the genuine reason or it’s an example of Dell changing their tune in anticipation of a coming backlash is unclear.
It’s encouraging to know that we can expect an update to correct this issue soon either way, though the cynic in us does wonder that if the restriction was intentional due to limitations imposed by the power of the laptop and stability issues, whether or not this is an issue that can easily be corrected. We’ll just have to wait and see!
Mid-June is obviously not a hard deadline and is the earliest we can expect an update to rectify the problem, though hopefully we shouldn’t have to wait much longer than a couple of months.
Until then, keep locked onto WePC for future in-depth reviews on Alienware’s latest gaming laptops.
From halcyon days playing Sonic 2 on the Megadrive, to trying to work out how to make the 'TOASTY!' man appear on Mortal Kombat 3, many of Aaron’s fondest childhood memories are associated with gaming. He regrets nothing.
First getting into PC gaming through exposure to Drug Lord 2.0 and then the original Half Life, he has been a fiend ever since. If you need to know anything about gaming laptops, he's your guy.