Dell XPS 15 9560

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Hardware

Standard

Device Make/model Status Kernel driver(s) Kernel version
CPU Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700HQ CPU @ 2.80GHz Works 4.12.5
Memory 16GB DDR4-2400MHz Works
Hard disk 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive Works nvme
Video card NVIDIA Corporation GP107M GeForce GTX 1050 Mobile (4GB GDDR5) Works nvidia, fbsimple 4.14.8
Video card Intel Corporation Device 591b (rev 04) Works i915 4.13
Wireless Killer 1535 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi (Qualcomm Atheros QCA6174) Works ath10k_core ath10k_pci linux-firmware
Touchscreen ELAN Touchscreen Works usbhid hid_multitouch 4.15.4
Touchpad Synaptics TouchPad Works mouse_ps2_synaptics_smbus 4.13.0
Bluetooth Killer 1535 Bluetooth Works bluetooth btrtl btintel bnep btbcm rfcomm btusb linux-firmware 4.15.4
USB 3.0 Works xhci_hcd
Thunderbolt 3 2 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3. Supports: Power In / Charging, PowerShare, 40Gbps Bi-Directional, 3.1 USB Gen 2 (10Gbps), VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and USB-A via Dell Adapter (Sold Separately) Works ?
SD Card Reader SD, SDHC, SDXC Works ?
Webcam Widescreen HD (720p) Works uvc 4.14.8
Microphone Dual array digital microphones Works ?
Fingerprint reader 138a:0091 Validity Sensors, Inc. No None (see below)

Regarding the unsupported fingerprint reader, according to arch wiki, "The fingerprint reader is a Validity/Synaptics model with USB id 138a:0090. There currently is no Linux driver but an open source Linux driver is being developed by reverse engineering the Windows driver.". This implies some or earlier versions have the 138a:0090 version, which a driver is now functional for, however mine has the 138a:0091 version, which is unsupported. See driver development github repository for further information.

Accessories

Some models have touch screens. Some models are 2-in-1 (break apart). I tested on a conventional (non break apart) model with touch screen, however the touch screen has not been tested. A dock exists however I have never seen it and wouldn't personally make use of it. Other reports have described docks in this series as functional, however.

Firmware

BIOS version on receipt was 1.3.4 with ePSA Build 4304.17 UEFI ROM.

We need the sys-kernel/linux-firmware package to operate the wireless chipset and to provide firmware to upload to the Intel graphics controller to enable things like proper power management.

root #emerge linux-firmware

Configuration

make.conf

We want to enable a few things in /etc/portage/make.conf ...

FILE /etc/portage/make.confSetting VIDEO_CARDS and INPUT_DEVICES
VIDEO_CARDS="nvidia"
INPUT_DEVICES="evdev wacom libinput synaptics"

Kernel

KERNEL Input support
CONFIG_INPUT_EVDEV=y
KERNEL NVMe support
CONFIG_NVME_CORE=y
CONFIG_NVME_=y
KERNEL Wireless support
CONFIG_ATH10K=m=y
CONFIG_ATH10K_PCI=m
CONFIG_ATH10K_AHB=y
CONFIG_ATH10K_USB=m
KERNEL Real Time Clock support
CONFIG_RTC_CLASS=y
CONFIG_RTC_HCTOSYS=y
CONFIG_RTC_SYSTOHC=y
CONFIG_RTC_NVMEM=y
CONFIG_RTC_INTF_SYSFS=y
CONFIG_RTC_INTF_PROC=y
CONFIG_RTC_INTF_DEV=y
CONFIG_RTC_DRV_CMOS=y
KERNEL ACPI button support
CONFIG_DELL_SMBIOS=y
CONFIG_DELL_WMI=y
CONFIG_DELL_WMI_AIO=y
CONFIG_DELL_WMI_LED=y
CONFIG_DELL_SMO8800=y
CONFIG_DELL_RBTN=y
Note
Probably not all of these are needed, but I am too lazy to isolate the correct option. To test this is working, emerge acpid then run acpid && acpi_listen on the command-line. Pressing the various function keys such as F11/F12 for brightness up and down should show events like BRTUP and BRTDN. If you don't have the correct kernel flags, these will simply shown zeroes and no named/registered ACPI events.
Important
For x86 and AMD64 processors, the in-kernel framebuffer driver conflicts with the binary driver provided by NVIDIA. When compiling the kernel for these CPUs, completely remove support for the in-kernel driver as shown:
KERNEL Disable support for the in-kernel driver
Device Drivers --->
    Graphics support --->
        Frame buffer Devices --->
            <*> Support for frame buffer devices --->
            < >   nVidia Framebuffer Support
            < >   nVidia Riva support
            < >   Userspace VESA VGA graphics support
            < >   VESA VGA graphics support
            <*>   Simple framebuffer support
            < >   EFI-based Framebuffer Support

Now make sure the nouveau driver is disabled:

KERNEL
Device Drivers  --->
    Graphics support  --->
        < > Nouveau (NVIDIA) cards

Ensure MTRR and kernel module support are enabled.

KERNEL
[*] Enable loadable module support --->
Processor type and features --->
   [*] MTRR (Memory Type Range Register) support
KERNEL Graphics support
CONFIG_FB=y
CONFIG_FB_BACKLIGHT=y
CONFIG_FB_NVIDIA=n
CONFIG_FB_RIVA=n
CONFIG_DRM_NOUVEAU=n
CONFIG_FB_EFI=n
CONFIG_FB_VGA16=n
CONFIG_FB_UVESA=n
CONFIG_FB_SIMPLE=y
Note
Unsure whether in-kernel AGP or builtin nvAGP is better on this device. Apparently this varies by device. The switch is this option.
KERNEL
Device Drivers --->
   Graphics support --->
      -*- /dev/agpgart (AGP Support) --->

Touchpad

Synaptics touch pad.

root #emerge --ask xf86-input-synaptics

You can tune this with a tool, see the arch linux page on synaptics touchpad for more details.

Bumblebee / Primus

Hybrid Graphics (GPU Switching) is available on the XPS 15 9560. Follow the Gentoo Bumblebee Wiki guide to installing it.

Important

There is a known bug with Bumblebee whereupon the user cannot start an x server or make any PCI but calls while the GPU is switched off. Symptoms will be a complete system hang when running nvidia-smi or lspci or similar while Bumblebee is ON, bbswitch is enabled, and the discrete GPU is off.

The answer lies in [this Reddit thread] and [this Arch forums post]. Add GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT='acpi_rev_override=5 modprobe.blacklist=nvidia nvidia.modeset=0 pcie_port_pm=off acpi_osi="Windows 2009"' to a grub config file then rebuild grub.

Note
It was necessary on my system to configure Xorg to use the Intel iGPU by default and to have the nvidia module loaded in order to start an X server without the system hanging. See the Troubleshooting Section of the wiki.

Troubleshooting

Slow 2D graphics

According to this page slow 2D performance attributed to a BIOS setting can be identified via:

root #cat /proc/mtrr
reg00: base=0x00000000 ( 2048MB), size= 2048MB, count=1, uncachable
...

If any line contains the word "uncachable" apparently you need to reboot, enter BIOS, and change an MTRR setting from 'continuous' to 'discrete'. However, on my machine while this is certainly the case, I cannot find such an option in the BIOS.

X11 fails to start with "No Screens Found"

This can be because you have enabled the efifb EFI Framebuffer Driver in the kernel. Disable it. Only CONFIG_FB_SIMPLE=y (Simple Framebuffer) is OK to leave enabled!

Crash on X11 startup

This can occur you have the nouveau driver enabled. You can work around it by adding nomodeset to the kernel command line.

Excessive CPU Throttling

When the CPU runs continuously at 100% (say, for instance when emerging larger packages), it can become quite hot. When it crosses certain temperature thresholds, it throttles down the CPU frequency, which in turn makes it run cooler for a while, but at a vastly lower clock frequency. Dell XPS 15:s (and other XPS models) have historically have not had enough airflow to cool the CPU in its default configuration (or the discrete GPU for that matter).

Several workarounds have been attempted with modding the case with cooling pads, tape, better thermal paste, etc. One easy thing to try first is to adjust the voltage of the CPU (and/or the GPU) with the 'sys-power/intel-undervolt' package.

In the settings in /etc/intel-undervolt.conf, try something like this:

   undervolt 0 'CPU' -125
   undervolt 1 'GPU' -75
   undervolt 2 'CPU Cache' -125
   undervolt 3 'System Agent' -75
   undervolt 4 'Analog I/O' 0

Due to a lot of factors depending on your particular machine, you might still be able to get a stable system with even lower figures, or you might have to raise them a bit. It did make a huge difference in temperature, and the CPU did not throttle anymore after these settings.

See also

External resources