Monthly Archives: May 2018

Eliminating MateBook X Pro Throttling

Here are some steps you can take to unlock more performance from the Huawei MateBook X Pro by removing thermal and power limitations. This project is a work-in-progress, so take my advice with a grain of salt and check back often to see new developments. I encourage those with experience to try their own methods as well.

Effects:

  • No more power limit throttling
  • Less thermal throttling
  • Maintain higher CPU frequency under sustained load

Click the image to go to the Reddit comparison thread with other MateBook X Pros.

A typical MateBook X Pro score is around 3600. Click the image to go to the Reddit comparison thread with other MateBook X Pros.

A typical MateBook X Pro score is a little over 800. Click on the image to see this score on HWBot.

Disclaimer: You are about to void your warranty. You are liable for any damage you make to your device. While my laptop survived and benefited from these modifications, they may still break or shorten the lifespan of your laptop.

These steps are arranged not by difficulty or effectiveness but in the order that requires the least time, effort, and risk. Read through all the steps before you begin (you want all the materials in one cart). If you choose to omit some steps or parts of steps, make sure you set a safe power limit in XTU.

[SW] = software mod; [HW] = hardware mod.

[SW] Undervolt

Benefits: Increases overall efficiency by making the CPU and iGPU run at a voltage no higher than necessary. The processor will generate less heat and therefore throttle less.

  1. Install the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. Open it.
  2. Lower the Core Voltage Offset and Processor Graphics Voltage Offset as much as possible without causing a BSOD.
    1. -0.080V core and -0.040V graphics are safe values to start at.
    2. Work your way down in 0.010V increments. Run the CPU Stress Test and Graphics Stress Test to verify stability with every change.
    3. I reached a stable setting of -0.100V core and -0.050V graphics. You should get something similar.
For following hardware modifications, refer to my MateBook X Pro teardown. You should also have some kind of anti-static protection.

[HW] Add Graphite Sheets to Case

Research & Findings

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Benefits: MXP already has a pyrolytic graphite sheet (PGS) underneath the keyboard, but it doesn't extend beyond the motherboard area. The keyboard could get over 60°C while the palmrest would be 35°C. I added full coverage of PGS over the inside of the case to spread the heat better.

See how my graphite sheets span the entire area from top to bottom.

  1. Remove the bottom lid and heatsink.
  2. Disconnect and remove the battery and fan.
  3. Remove the motherboard, USB-A module, LCD controller, etc. to reveal the bare inside of the case.
  4. Download and print my 1:1 scan of the laptop case to use as your cutting stencil.
  5. I used three sheets of Panasonic PGS series EYG-A121807M from Digi-Key. This is the thickness variant with the highest heat transfer (conductivity×thickness), and the model with the necessary adhesive and insulation layers.

[HW] Add Keyboard-Side Cooling

Research & Findings

The metal heatsink mounting brackets are a darker color not because they are cooler, but because they have very different emissivity.

Bare motherboard backside, heatsink not attached, plugged in, CPU idle, GPU inactive.

A good amount of heat conducts to the motherboard backside, which means we can try to transfer it out to cool the entire thing.

Benefits:

  • Cools the CPU VRM to prevent thermal shutdown when we raise the CPU power in later steps.
  • Cools the CPU itself to reduce thermal throttling.
  • Cools the charging circuit so it's willing to charge faster during high load.

Padding the entire motherboard is probably overkill, but it does allow for maximum heat spread.

In the following steps, I used 2 different types of thermal pads:

  • T-Global TGX: best thermal conductivity (12W/mK) (second only to Fujipoly XR-m, which is too hard and brittle for our application). TGX, however, is very soft (65 Shore 00) and compressible, which allows for good conformity and contact. They're available on Digi-Key.
  • Arctic thermal pads: extreme softness (25 Shore 00), which is very important for ensuring good contact with irregular-height surfaces. Yet, Arctic has by far the best thermal conductivity (6W/mK) for this softness level. They're available on Amazon.
  1. Add a layer of thermal pad to the motherboard backside. Use 0.5mm TGX on the heatsink mounting brackets and 1mm TGX everywhere else.
  2. Reinstall the motherboard. Apply some pressure to make sure the thermal pads have good contact. Remember to reinstall all the screws and reconnect all the connectors.

[HW] Add Heatsink-Side Cooling

Research & Findings

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To identify the overheating VRM components, I removed the heatsink the put a small heatsink on the CPU to expose the surrounding VRM for thermal imagery.

Benefits: Prevents the CPU power-related components from overheating and causing the laptop to shut down when we lift power limits in the subsequent steps.

TGX is grey; Arctic is blue.

  1. Add thermal pads according to the heights above.
    1. Apply the biggest pads first.
    2. Press the heatsink against the components to where the cutouts need to be.
  2. Reinstall the fan, battery, and heatsink.

[HW] Add Thermal Pads to the SSD

Benefits: Eliminates SSD throttling. This increased my PassMark Disk Mark score from 18,159 to 26,826.

  1. Put 1.5mm Artic on the SSD's backside. (I used PGS but that's not necessary.)
  2. Peel away the plastic insulator on the heatsink. We don't need it anymore because the thermal pad's thickness will electrically separate the two.
  3. Put 0.5mm Arctic over the SSD controller.

[HW] Replace the dGPU Thermal Pad with a Copper Shim

Benefits: This helped me shave 15°C off the GPU temperature and GPU Boost 3.0 automatically awarded me around 200 more MHz. The GPU's bottleneck is no longer temperature but only the 10W power limitation of the MX150 1D12 variant.

I probably put too much thermal glue around the edges, but that doesn’t matter.

  1. Remove the GPU's thermal pad and clean the GPU and heatsink base plate.
  2. Put a pea-sized amount of thermal paste on the heatsink base plate.
    • I used Thermal Grizzly Kyronaut for its high thermal conductivity (12.5W/mK) and low viscosity (130-170Pas). It's available on Amazon.
    • Don't use liquid metal thermal paste as it may corrode the heatsink and cause performance degradation over time. Gallium still reacts with copper, only slower.
  3. Firmly press a 0.5mm copper shim onto the base plate.
    • You can find many of those on Amazon or eBay. This is the one I used.
  4. Put a bit of thermal glue around the corners of the shim to keep it from sliding. You can use a hairdryer to accelerate its curing.
  5. Apply a rice-sized amount of thermal paste to the GPU.

[HW] Replace the CPU Thermal Paste

Benefits: The CPU's heat will dissipate to the heatsink at a higher rate, so it will run cooler. The temperature drop will be crucial for reducing thermal throttling in the later stages.

  1. Clean the thermal paste off the CPU and heatsink.
  2. Reapply better thermal paste.
  3. Reconnect and reinstall the battery and make sure everything else is back in place.
  4. Reinstall the heatsink.

[HW] Run Heatpipes to the Fan

Research & Findings

The Honor Magicbook has an arguably better cooler design, and part of that is because the fan casing is copper and thermally coupled to the heatpipes. In other words, the fan casing IS a heatsink.

Benefits: Turns the fan casing into a small but efficient heatsink, as the fan blades are right there to scoop away the heat. This lowered my CPU temperature by another 8°C or so and finally enabled me to indefinitely boost at 3.7GHz under full CPU load.

Disregard the marker lines; they are for my emissivity tests.

  1. Peel away the felt strip on the fan casing to make room for the heatpipe.
    • The heatpipes cannot be more than 1mm thick to fit inside the laptop. I used these.
  2. Put the heatpipes in place to see how they fit. Bend them slightly to accommodate the height difference between the fan casing and the heatsink.
  3. Lay down thermal paste along the heatpipe's path.
  4. Press the heatpipe over the thermal paste.
  5. Put thermal glue around the edges. You can use a hairdryer to accelerate its curing.
  6. Use electrical tape to seal the area where the felt strip used to be, to streamline the exhaust airflow.

[SW] Remove Intel DPTF

Benefits: The Intel Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework limits the maximum power of the CPU to 10W under sustained load. This mechanism is known as power throttling. Removing Intel DPTF eliminates this limitation and allows you to raise the power limits in XTU so that the CPU can sustain much higher frequencies (boost) for much longer.

Warning: Removing DPTF is dangerous unless you've ensured that no component will overheat. The previous steps should fulfill that, but there is always a risk.
  1. Open Device Manager, under "System Devices", find all devices whose names start with "Intel(R) Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework".
  2. For each of those devices, follow this guide to prevent Windows Update from automatically reinstalling DPTF.
    1. Before clicking OK, make sure you check "Also apply to matching devices that are already installed."

[SW] XTU Settings

Benefits: Allows the CPU to boost with more power and for longer (indefinitely!).

Prerequisites: You MUST have sufficient cooling for the CPU and VRM before raising the power limit here.

  1. You can import my XTU profile, but make sure you set your own voltages afterwards!
  2. Feel free to quit XTU after applying the settings, but check back after a reboot.

[SW] ThrottleStop Settings (Optional)

Benefits: Makes the CPU always try to maintain the highest frequency (4GHz!), even if it means raising the power when needed. When combined with the previous step, it's basically laptop CPU overclocking.

  1. Launch XTU once and make sure its settings from the previous step are applied before launching ThrottleStop.
  2. In ThrottleStop, set the Multiplier to 40.
  3. You may also need to set all the Turbo Ratio Limits in the FIVR menu to 40.
  4. You may also need to set both Turbo Time Limits in the TPL menu to the maximum.

Digi-Key

Amazon

May 10

I replaced the CPU thermal paste with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut and the GPU thermal pad with 0.5mm Fujipoly XR-m. These should give me more thermal headroom, but I didn't check the temperatures in stock form beforehand, so I have no comparison.

May 15

The MateBook X Pro's CPU throttles to ~10W under sustained load. Intel XTU and HWiNFO report that this is Power Limit throttling, specifically PL1, which is set to 10W by default.

May 20

I followed this guide to disable DPTF in Windows, and now the package TDP can stay at 30W as long as Turbo Boost Power Max in XTU is set to 30 or above.

With the Power Limit unlocked, XTU's CPU stress test caused the laptop to shut off. The CPU at that time was 92°C, which leads me to believe that something else, such as a MOSFET, is overheating.

I was on a -100mV undervolt, so I reverted to normal voltage but it shut off even quicker. Therefore, CPU instability is probably not the cause either.

I gave the MX150 a Base Clock Offset of +200MHz and a Memory Clock Offset of +400MHz. They have been stable for me.

June 2

I removed the heatsink, put a little heatsink on the CPU, ran a stress test and measured the temperatures of the components surrounding the CPU. The inductors, MOSFETs, and resistors right above the CPU are the hottest, exceeding 60°C.

July 7

I peeled off the plastic insulator film on the keyboard side of the motherboard and put thermal pads on the CPU area to cool the aforementioned components. I used 0.5mm on the metal bracket and 1mm everywhere else. I want their heat to go to the keyboard-area unibody. It won't burn my hands because the heat doesn't transfer to the keys much.

I am no longer using Fujipoly XR-m thermal pads because their tendency to dry makes me worry that their conductivity might degrade over time. Instead, I switched to Thermal Grizzly Minus Pad 8 across the board. Its theoretical thermal conductivity is lower, but its softness allows it to possibly work better in practice.

I also taped up the gaps along the hot air exhaust passage to make sure hot air doesn't escape back into the laptop.

July 8

I took off the MX150 core overclock to let GPU Boost 3.0 do its own thing.

I suspect that recent BIOS updates have reduced CPU power behavior. The package power hasn't been boosting beyond 20W.

July 9

Breakthrough! I am now able to sustain well over 20W indefinitely by combining XTU and ThrottleStop. XTU has the ability to set PL1 and PL2 to unlimited, which I haven't been able to replicate in ThrottleStop. Meanwhile, ThrottleStop can disable Speed Shift and enforce a high Multiplier. I think both programs have a apply-once behavior rather than regularly checking, so they don't seem with fight with each other. This has completely counteracted any possible behavior changes done by the BIOS update.

July 28

This method of disabling Intel DPTF no longer works for me, but I found a new method and have updated the guide accordingly.

July 31

Plugged in, CPU idle.

I found why the MXPro charges slowly, doesn't charge, or even discharges under high load. The charging rate is thermal throttling. The inductor and its surrounding transistors are thermal-padded to the heatsink, but that doesn't seem to be enough.

August 5

Added heatpipe hack and SSD cooling. Updated copper shim, keyboard-side and heatsink-side instructions, and added PassMark result. I'm now able to hit 42W and sustain over 30W.

MateBook X Pro Touchpad Rattle Fix

If your Huawei MateBook X Pro’s touchpad is loose and rattles when you tap on it, try sticking a piece of paper between the touchpad and the frame. You might not need to remove the battery like I did, but if you do, the heatsink plate has to come off first, which is a hassle. You do NOT need to take out the touchpad itself to perform this mod.

Matebook X Pro Teardown

The only heatsink in this laptop is this big metal plate. In most laptops, a fan or two blow directly through a stacked-fin heatsink in a process called forced convection cooling. In the X Pro, heat spreads across the metal plate with the heatpipes' help, warming up the air inside the laptop. The small fan exhausts all this hot air and brings in new cool air using negative air pressure. It also generates some, but not enough, airflow across the heatsink plate.

The miserably small fan can spin at nearly 9,000 RPM, but the bar under it (where a heatsink with fins would usually be) is just one of the WiFi antennas.

The fan is the model BAZA0504R5H made by Asia Vital Components and rated at 5V 0.5A. This means it could theoretically use 2.5W when spinning at max speed.

Look at how thin the fan is!

The copper base plate for the CPU.

Behind the keyboard is a pyrolytic graphite sheet to spread heat more evenly across the keyboard area.

See the motherboard with the heatsink off. The Nvidia MX150 GPU gets a thermal pad as if it were an Intel iGPU.

The back of the motherboard is covered with a plastic insulator film.

This is the motherboard's back with the plastic film removed.

The Nvidia MX150 (1D12 10W version) and its VRAM.

The motherboard has good component density. It's also the thinnest I've seen. The coil whine is insane on my unit.

The pop-up webcam's bottom and the springs for reducing the display cable's slack.

The WiFi card (Intel AC-8275) is non-replaceable.

Although the SSD is awkwardly under the heatsink, it can be wiggled straight out. I bought my X Pro on Taobao.com in China and it came with with a Samsung PM981.

The speakers under the speaker grill are tiny tweeters.

The tweeters fire upward through the grill, and they have a thin fabric filter cover.

Most of the sound comes from the bottom-facing speakers instead, which have much larger enclosures.

There is a cavity on each side of the touchpad, underneath the battery. They're not quite big enough to fit extra battery cells or thick enough for the speaker enclosure to extend into it. Poor use of space? A little bit.

Unlike the MateBook X, there are no screws under the rubber feet. Instead, there are many plastic tabs that hold the back plate firm.

The back cover has many foam pads that press against the internals.

  1. Unscrew the screws.
  2. Use a guitar pick or similar tool to feel, locate, and lift the tabs.
  3. Pull the hinge side of the back plate first.
  4. No need to be gentle with the middle tab—it's spring loaded.
  5. The tabs near the touchpad side like to be slid out.

If your touchpad is loose or rattles, read this.

If you want to get rid of throttling and unlock more performance, read this.