Friday, June 4th 2021

Alienware Caught Selling Notebooks with RTX 3070 (Laptop) with Fewer CUDA Cores

One of our readers sent in evidence that their Alienware m15 gaming notebook, which comes with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop discrete GPU, has fewer CUDA cores than it should. The user ran GPU-Z to discover that their GPU has 4,608 CUDA cores, as opposed to the 5,120 that's standard for this SKU. Elsewhere on the NotebookReview forums, an Alienware m15 owner discovered that the latest video BIOS restores the CUDA core count to 5,120. The stock m15 R4 BIOS runs the GPU with 4,608 CUDA cores, whereas the R4 BIOS was shown unlocking all 5,120 CUDA cores. They comment that this could be "VBIOS tomfoolery." It is possible to disable CUDA cores (below the hardwired count) using video BIOS. Perhaps this is an oversight by Dell, which will likely be fixed with BIOS updates.
Screenshots courtesy: EepoSaurus on NotebookReview forums
Sources: TechPowerUp Forums, NotebookReview Forums, Reddit Discussion
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28 Comments on Alienware Caught Selling Notebooks with RTX 3070 (Laptop) with Fewer CUDA Cores

#2
player-x
Just wondering, does it actually make a difference in realworld performance, because most laptops and especially notebooks are power/thermal limited, and lower tier GPU's preform often nearly identical to higher tier GPU's.
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#3
Tomgang
Hmm. I don't know what to say about this. Well Alienware is owned by Dell and Dell doesn't seem to be the best service or support. Seing what youtubers experience with Dell is, this dosent come as a surprise.

Stay away from Dell/Alienware. That's what I have learned.
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#5
owen10578
That's less cores than the desktop RTX 3060 Ti...
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#6
Jism
player-xJust wondering, does it actually make a difference in realworld performance, because most laptops and especially notebooks are power/thermal limited, and lower tier GPU's preform often nearly identical to higher tier GPU's.
If they dont skimp out on cooling or provided then yes the performance would be as intended.
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#7
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
owen10578That's less cores than the desktop RTX 3060 Ti...
It is normal for mobile cards with the same name and generation not to completely match up with their desktop counterparts. Everything always has to be cut down to meet thermal requirements unless the laptop is of the workstation or desktop replacement variety then maybe they will cram a desktop card in there because there is room to add more cooling.
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#8
lexluthermiester
btarunrAlienware Caught Selling Notebooks with RTX 3070 (Laptop) with Fewer CUDA Cores
"Caught" is a terrible expression. It implies some form of nefarious behavior. Mobile parts have always been somewhat trimmed down versions of the desktop counter parts. Perhaps "discovered" would be a better term.
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#9
mb194dc
Power consumption / heat could be the only reason to do this intentionally.

Any benchmarks to confirm if the flashed bios increases performance and / or power usage?
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#10
AsRock
TPU addict
Well didn't nVidia ditch the m marking now ?, other wise seems normal.
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#11
deu
FreedomEclipseIt is normal for mobile cards with the same name and generation not to completely match up with their desktop counterparts. Everything always has to be cut down to meet thermal requirements unless the laptop is of the workstation or desktop replacement variety then maybe they will cram a desktop card in there because there is room to add more cooling.
Unfortunately yes. The mobile gpu-naming can be taken for nothing more that nvidias marketings wish of which product they would like to sell! My best advice is to look at the resolution you are going to play in and then look for review of the specific SKU/gpu-model, because more than often there are multiple version within a model (look for amount VRAM, max-Q /binning or as seen her; products repurposed when they did not bin well or had faulty cores to be turned off.
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#12
KainXS
Nope , not a normal situation here. Normally gpu's of a certain make or model have less shaders but that is across the board depending on whether its the mobile/maxq or desktop version. For example a the 3070 Mobile has less sharders than a desktop 3070. But you don't see laptops of the same exact make and model have less shaders than another laptop of the same exact make and model. There are some m15 R4's that have 5120 shaders and some with 4608. When NotebookCheck reviewed this laptop it had the full shader count and some on the forums over their have the laptops with the full shader counts, its pretty much roulette. If you walk into a store it seems like you can pick up an m15 R4 with cut shaders or all the shaders by chance. I'm guessing its a Vbios update to deal with heat or maybe dell is using the cut 3070's not because they are more abundant.

www.notebookcheck.net/Alienware-m15-R4-gaming-laptop-in-review-Lots-of-power-short-battery-life.531030.0.html
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#13
W1zzard
lexluthermiesterMobile parts have always been somewhat trimmed down versions of the desktop counter parts.
These are the official specs provided by NVIDIA. If you sell a product that doesn't have 5120 cores, then it's not a 3070
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#14
DeathtoGnomes
The fact that a BIOS update fixes the problem tells me that it wasnt intentionally nefarious.
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#15
medi01
player-xdoes it actually make a difference
d for damage control
W1zzardThese are the official specs provided by NVIDIA. If you sell a product that doesn't have 5120 cores, then it's not a 3070
And then the question is where did you get that product.
Or rather, how come NV has sold you an unofficial product.
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#16
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
player-xmost laptops and especially notebooks are power/thermal limited
I'd bet that this was an engineer seeing that the laptops thermal throttle and just trying a BIOS to lower the shader count, just as a test to see if it works. And then the BIOS somehow got into production units.
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#17
lexluthermiester
W1zzardThese are the official specs provided by NVIDIA. If you sell a product that doesn't have 5120 cores, then it's not a 3070
They would still be getting it from NVidia and 4608 cores is alot closer to a 3070 than a 3060. This is standard operating procedure and nothing nefarious. It's total nothing-sauce... So if anyone is "Caught" it would be NVidia as they were the ones who sold the die and provided guidance and the digital signature for the VBIOS. And even then there is no real problem.

And @W1zzard , you of ALL people know full well companies sell mobile focused products that are trimmed down versions of their desktop products. This is NOT new, it has been SOP for mobile sector product lines for decades. So what's with the acting all surprised?

EDIT:
Looks like it was a totally different situation;
www.tomshardware.com/news/alienware-to-return-abducted-gpu-cores-to-m15-r5-laptop-with-vbios-fix

It shouldn't be surprising, but why would NVidia/Dell/Alienware deliberately disable a core block like that? Heat and/or power management perhaps?
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#18
R-T-B
lexluthermiesterThey would still be getting it from NVidia and 4608 cores is alot closer to a 3070 than a 3060. This is standard operating procedure and nothing nefarious. It's total nothing-sauce... So if anyone is "Caught" it would be NVidia as they were the ones who sold the die and provided guidance and the digital signature for the VBIOS.
Manufacturers generally produce the VBIOS using a provided nvidia toolkit, and do the final signing. And yes, you can turn off specs that way, but you aren't supposed to unless trying to make an official variant.

Likely done for thermal management but still misleading.
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#19
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
lexluthermiesterThey would still be getting it from NVidia and 4608 cores is alot closer to a 3070 than a 3060. This is standard operating procedure and nothing nefarious. It's total nothing-sauce... So if anyone is "Caught" it would be NVidia as they were the ones who sold the die and provided guidance and the digital signature for the VBIOS. And even then there is no real problem.
Yeah, not at all how it works. NVidia sells the cores, Dell creates the VBIOS using nVidia's tools and Dell signs the VBIOS. So Dell locked shaders using the VBIOS they created.

The cores are cut down from their desktop counterparts, but the specs are set. It's not the wild west where anything goes.
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#20
Vya Domus
W1zzardIf you sell a product that doesn't have 5120 cores, then it's not a 3070
Then neither of those are 3070s, the desktop variant has 5888 shaders yet they are all called the same. I think Dell is simply profiting from the false advertising that Nvidia pulls off with their GPUs from the get go.
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#21
medi01
lexluthermiesterThey would still be getting it from NVidia and 4608 cores is alot closer to a 3070 than a 3060. This is standard operating procedure and nothing nefarious. It's total nothing-sauce...
So, buying a notebook with 3070 you would not care if it is full or "gimped edition"?
That's one loose take on things.
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#22
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
Vya DomusThen neither of those are 3070s, the desktop variant has 5888 shaders yet they are all called the same. I think Dell is simply profiting from the false advertising that Nvidia pulls off with their GPUs from the get go.
The official name is RTX 3070 Laptop GPU. It has a different name and hence different specs than a RTX 3070. And those specs are set at 5120 shaders.

This was made clear when W1z posted the official spec sheet earlier.
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#23
king of swag187
lexluthermiester"Caught" is a terrible expression. It implies some form of nefarious behavior. Mobile parts have always been somewhat trimmed down versions of the desktop counter parts. Perhaps "discovered" would be a better term.
Ok, so someone obviously did not read the article and just looked at the headline. The stock 3070 (Laptop) comes with 5120 cores, this is being shown as having 512 less at 4608 cores.
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#24
64K
I think there is a Class Action Lawsuit already filed against Dell for advertising originally that the Alienware Area 51M R1 as "unprecedented upgradeability".
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#25
boidsonly
Jarrod's Tech explains the performance hit in detail. This is shady on Dell's part. Just as shady as their hidden "warranty fees" that folks have been subjected to. Not to mention the OEM RTX 30xx cards they provide are not Resizable Bar capable. From what I can tell, there is no VBIOS update in the works. I'm a bit pissed since I suffer from the 2nd and 3rd points made.
Update: Dell has issued new BIOS and VBIOS for the RTX 30xx GPUS here:
www.dell.com/support/home/en-us/product-support/servicetag/0-blBXam9mZlJsWE9jM1RvYzZGTTVKdz090/drivers
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