Alienware m15x BIOS Fix Coming for Overheating Problem

Alienware m15x BIOS Fix Coming for Overheating Problem

alienwarearea51m15x_g2.jpgAlienware just released a statement in regards to a fix for the Alienware m15′s GPU overheating issues. Here’s what Alienware’s product group vice president had to say:

At the present time, we have replicated the m15x issue related to overheating when the system is running at high-resolutions during gameplay. We have determined that the system’s software-controlled thermal profiles are not performing as originally designed. We are continuing to test this over the weekend and hope to provide an updated software build for our customers as soon as possible.

Alienware suggested that the update will likely be a BIOS one, that it will be available on its Web site, and that the original issue included an error with the fan speeds at higher temperatures:

In the meantime, we ask for our customers to continue to send their account information and issues to Area51_m15x@alienware.com so they will be alerted immediately of an update. We apologize for this inconvenience and we are working diligently to resolve this issue.

Here’s the story behind the overheating problem: Over the past 24 hours I’ve been working with the great crew over at the Notebook Review forums trying to figure out what’s going on with the Alienware Area-51 m15x. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we didn’t see any issues with the graphics overheating in our Crysis and Call of Duty 4 gaming sessions or in 3DMark06 and other performance tests. However, many of our commenters and some owners of the m15x suggested that we try something we don’t usually test: running programs that strain the GPU as much as possible to boost the temperature past 90 degrees Celsius, the apparent cutoff point. According to them, our m15x’s original core clock and memory clock speeds, 500MHz and 799MHz respectively, would drop to 275MHz and 301MHz once the graphics processing unit’s temperature hit 90 degrees Celsius. At idle, our core temperature was in the area of 56-61 degrees Celsius. The decrease to such low speeds would make most of todays games unplayable. drop2.jpgIn order to test this, we ran the suggested programs, ATITool and GPU-Z. The ATITool basically puts as much stress on the graphics processor (GPU) as it can, slowly raising the temperature, which we monitored using GPU-Z. At about 92-degrees during our first run, the unfortunate happened: our GPU core clock dropped to 275MHz and our GPU memory clock fell to 301MHz. The image (at right) shows the immediate GPU temp drop after the spike. So what’s this mean? We spoke with Alienware yet again to figure out what’s going on. Over long gaming periods, the system is going to heat up and people are going to see horrible game play. Even though we didn’t see this when we played for hours, the fact is that strain on the GPU is going to cause issues eventually. Alienware has now acknowledged the issue and has been able to recreate it. Apparently the GPU has a pre-configured thermal high, and when the processor gets too hot, it automatically throttles down to avoid overheating. The cutoff point either needs to be raised, or the heat has to be dissipated in a more effective way.

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  1. Scott Chapman Says:

    Well done Alienware, and good job on reporting this.

  2. Saint Says:

    tanks you for researching the issue on your review unit – great work :)

  3. Dave Says:

    I just got an m15x and I’m blown away by the thing, amazing machine! However I am having a problem with my Xfi express sound card, it works, but whenever sound plays there are little clicks and blips in the audio. It does this with every sound the computer makes (games, music, windows sounds, etc.) I have tried everything I could possible think of and more, am now at a loss. Any help would be fantastic!!!

    Thanks

  4. Damianism Says:

    Hello All,

    I had to take a moment and post this information after reading the thread here about the Alienware laptops overheating. My step son came to me last year with his Alienware Area-51m ( I believe that is right model, but not sure), completely bummed out because it kept overheating and shutting down after a short time of game play. He spent hours on the phone with Alienware, and wrote numerous e-mails and was pretty much just given the run-around for a month. It was hard watching him go through all this considering how anti-climatic it was for him thinking he had purchased one f the top-of-the-line laptops only to find he cannot use it. It was devastating for him to say the least. One of the computer technicians he spoke with had suggested that maybe the CPU fan was not functioning properly, so they purchased a new fan, which didn’t happen until after about a year of not being able to use his Alienware. Given the fact that Alienware commonly combined cooling pads to help with the heat issue it would appear that they have been aware, to some degree, of the overheating problem for some time. So here were are over a year later when he brings this issue to me, along with a new CPU fan/heat sink assembly and asked me if I could swap it out for him. I have personally built over 30 gaming PCs and completed hundreds of small upgrades on laptops, i.e. memory, HDD, replaced parts, etc. I decided to make it a learning lesson for him and we changed the fan together. This is where it gets interesting, because I didn’t expect to see what I saw when we cracked open the laptop and removed the existing CPU fan. I fully believe that what we found has caused hundreds if not thousands of Alienware customers to experience frustration and unnecessary expense. I wanted to inspect the old fan and see if I could identify any abnormalities. That’s when I noticed, that on the old heat sink of the fan, where it comes in contact with the CPU, someone at the Alienware factory had forgotten to remove the foil from the face of the heat sink prior to installing on the CPU. It also appeared that they used no additional thermal grease outside of the foil cover either. Once we PROPERLY installed the new CPU fan, and reloaded the OS we have had no problems with the laptop besides the keyboard randomly stops responding properly, ( L becomes 3 while typing something), but that’s another issue altogether, which I believe was tied to a dead CMOS battery. Well I hope this information was helpful, and it would be nice if Alienware stood behind their products and replaced the laptops that may have been damaged do to overheating, because of an assembly line mistake. The chipset on this laptop is having issues since the overheating and has not worked properly since, and since this isn’t the end users fault, the manufacturer should replace them to avoid a class action lawsuit. Who wants to shell out close to $4,000 for a machine Alienware can’t seem to engineer or manufacture properly?
    If you have had the same issue, send me an e-mail so we can include you on our list of customers who have purchased a faulty Alienware laptop. I have an appointment with an attorney who specializes in such cases who might be interested in speaking with you. My e-mail is equitable1@yahoo.com, my name is Damian. Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with others in our cyber community, and I hope it was helpful and I hope Alienware opts for customer satisfaction over company profits. I will keep you posted.

  5. Bill Says:

    Alienware has been fully aware of the various overheating issues for quite a few years. I too have worked on many laptops as well as desktops and was interested to read what Damian discovered.
    Couple this with the fact that Alienware’s own users forum removes and bans users who submit legitimate complaints about issues such as destroyed (from heat) motherboards, Graphics cards which fall to pieces while being removed (from being burnt), processors which have been baked internally and so on. The forum moderators response? Ban the user’s who provide legitimate gripes and complaints!
    Now add in the ridiculous 15% restocking fee for Alienware laptops that are destroyed because of poor workmanship or the simple refusal of Alienware to a) honor the warranty altogether or b) charge the customer an inflated price with no real resolution to the problem which in time will repeat itself all over again and what you wind up with is a HORRIBLE laptop sold at a ridiculously inflated price sold purely on HYPE!!!

    I’m currently working on a customers m5500i-R3 series and I can tell you from firsthand experience it’s overpriced JUNK!

    There is absolutely no way I’d ever even consider paying 1/3 the price for what Alienware charges for these things after seeing the design factor and the fact there is no way the design allows for even moderate cooling capabilities let alone gaming or video usage cooling (which by the way the proudly use as a selling point).

    Quite honestly if I were advising someone on buying a laptop I would stake my reputation on NOT getting an Alienware laptop, regardless of the cost!!!

  6. Lisa Says:

    Hi Guys! I have a Alienware Area 51 M15x that started overheating (wouldnt stay on more then 5 minutes) I read about the bios update and did a big pfft to that. The computer was running hot. I took off the back panel and unscewed the 2 fans and guess what I found??? Tons of caked on dust stuck inbetween the fan outlet and the radiator screen that blows to the outside of computer. Give that a try, Mine is working now like the first day I recieved it! Good Luck!!

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