The Alienware vBIOS steals CUDA cores from the RTX 3070.

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That’s 10% less chips each chip!

When tested with GPU-Z and other monitoring tools, a handful of Alienware m15 R5 customers discovered less cores than expected in their RTX 3070s. Users claim to have corrected issue by flashing the R4 model’s vBIOS, although Dell advises against doing so until they can put together a legitimate patch.

Things haven’t been going well for Dell’s Alienware gaming notebooks lately. With the recent discontinuation of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier external GPU in favour of Thunderbolt 4 alternatives, and a class-action lawsuit filed against the advertising of their Area 51m R1 laptops, they could be forgiven for wanting some good press right now.

Unfortunately, individuals who claim to find the GeForce RTX 3070 graphics cards in their Alienware m15 R5 gaming laptops to be noticeably subpar are mistaken.

The laptop version of the RTX 3070 should feature 5,120 CUDA cores, a 768-core reduction from the desktop variant, but a handful of m15 R5 users have reported even less, with only 4,608 cores showing up in GPU-Z, HWiNFO, and even Nvidia’s own control panel.

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This is a loss of 512 CUDA cores and a total left that is less than the 4,864 of the desktop RTX 3060 Ti.

 

Compounding things, the RTX 3070 also seems to only have 144 of the expected 160 TMUs and tensor cores, and 36 out of 40 expected ray tracing cores, giving the appearance that a full 10% of the entire graphics card is simply unavailable—or even outright unusable. Contrasting with those numbers, however, are the 96 ROPs reported in GPU-Z and HWiNFO; more than the expected 80, and the maximum possible on a GA104-based GPU, which should only be seen on the mobile RTX 3080 and desktop RTX 3070.

In search for a fix, some users have taken to flashing across the vBIOS from the previous model, the m15 R4. This does appear to have restored the full RTX 3070 CUDA core count, not to mention the other missing sub-components, although the abnormally high ROP count remains.

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However, the user who took the above photos afterwards encountered instability and hanging difficulties, forcing him to restore to the standard vBIOS, possibly due to the greater TDP of the R4’s vBIOS—and, in any event, a repair like this is always hazardous business. Flashing the laptop’s vBIOS risks bricking the GPU, especially if it’s one from a different unit, and the soldered nature of laptop GPUs doesn’t allow for many second chances.

Dell seems to agree, telling Hot Hardware...

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.

We’ll have to wait and see how Dell addresses this issue, but with graphics TDP varying between units and mobile GPU silicon being more heavily reduced from desktop compared to previous generations, another case of laptops failing to perform as expected is unlikely to go down well with the gaming crowd.

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