Lenovo To Address Linux Laptop Thermal Throttling, Lower Performance Against Windows

Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 27 September 2019 at 09:07 AM EDT. 46 Comments
For owners of recent Lenovo laptops that find frequent thermal throttling and ultimately lower performance compared to Windows, the company has formally acknowledged the issue and is working towards addressing the issue.

There have been no shortage of complaints within the Lenovo Forums and elsewhere over Linux thermal/performance issues including some pointing towards the cTDP ends up being set lower on Linux than Windows. Some users are reporting their recent ThinkPads seeing as much as half the performance under Linux as they do with Windows.

Lenovo has attributed the reduced performance and thermal throttling to "the closed-source DPTF settings from Intel" that are not supported under Linux. These settings are used for determining between on-desk and on-lap behavior for trying to ensure that the laptop doesn't become too warm should it be on your lap. Under Linux, without this Intel feature enabled, the laptops are always assumed to be "on-lap" and thus lower on Linux.

Intel DPTF is the Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework. Intel has provided some DPTF code in the past under the context of Chromebooks, which can be found on 01.org. But it appears newer DPTF revisions aren't published or for that matter support implemented within the mainline kernel.

To address this issue with Intel apparently not opening up their DPTF settings for Linux, Lenovo is trying to provide "an improved and smarter firmware design that is OS agnostic" by better monitoring of thermal sensors to determine the most appropriate behavior.

Lenovo will be rolling out new firmware on the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) for supported laptops to address this and future platforms will be using the reworked firmware by default.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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