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Intel re-enables undervolting for some reference design laptops

The XMG Fusion 15 and other Intel QC71 laptops support undervolting again. (Image source: XMG)
The XMG Fusion 15 and other Intel QC71 laptops support undervolting again. (Image source: XMG)
Undervolting has returned to a select number of laptops. Specifically, the functionality has been re-enabled on Intel QC71 laptops, which includes the XMG Fusion 15, Maingear Element and the Eluktronics MAG 15.

While multiple OEMs have disabled undervolting on new and existing machines, Intel has re-enabled the functionality on its Whitebook LAPQC71. Colloquially called the QC71, the laptop is one of Intel's reference design laptops released under multiple names. The XMG Fusion 15 is one, as is the Maingear Element and Eluktronics MAG 15.

The updates to look out for are BIOS 0114 and Control Center 2.20.15. The functionality will be enabled in version 2.20.16 of the latter too. According to XMG, the two updates introduce the following undervolting mechanisms:

  • Allows CPU Core Voltage Offset
  • GT and GTU (both iGPU) have no effect yet and are stuck at positive (+) values
  • The CPU Core Voltage offset only allows safe negative values (no Overvolting).
  • The maximum voltage offset is -150mV. This is deemed to be safe as to not cause any reboot loops or security issues. A typical sweet spot that has almost zero chance of causing any random Bluescreen issues would be -80mV. If you ever encounter an issue, just reduce it in steps of 10mV until you find your safe level. Factory Default is -50mV.
  • Uncore (Cache) Voltage is supposedly set automatic 1:1 in Coffee Lake, thus does not need to be set manually in BIOS anymore. This explains why Intel has left it out.

The two updates introduce other fixes and changes too, more on which you can read here. If you have the XMG Fusion 15, then we would recommend downloading the updates directly from Schenker. XMG states the generic Intel drivers will work on other QC71 machines, though. The company has also published several instructions on upgrading the BIOS and Control Center, along with a few known issues.

Overall, it is encouraging to see that Intel has enabled undervolting with one of its white-label laptops. With that said, it still does not change the fact that OEMs are either removing the functionality from older machines. Additionally, most OEMs have disabled undervolting on laptops released with 10th Gen Core processors after the publication of the Plundervolt exploit. XMG has also published a general comment on the new updates, which is worth a read. We have included it in the truncated section below.

We are happy to see that Intel has been working hard to bring these new features to every owner of XMG FUSION 15 and all compatible laptops based on Intel QC71. These free updates (we exclusively announced them as DLC already 3 months ago) would not have been possible without the continuous feedback and active engagement from the community. I personally take some pride in the fact that I have played a major role in forwarding and explaining the community requests to Intel over the recent months. We have started talking about these kind of updates ever since we started releasing the product for the first time in September 2019. It was finally in a key management meeting that we had in Intel's headquarter in Portland, Oregon in January - just before CES 2020 - that myself and XMG's founder and general manager, Robert Schenker, have been able to really get Intel's commitment to finally start working on these updates.

Bringing new firmware features to an already released product is no easy task, especially if you have such a long chain of quality assurance and validation and a huge global customer base like Intel has. Programming BIOS code is notoriously fickly and you don't want to break old things by introducing new things. You also can't go around and ask every individual customer if they would agree with your decisions. After all, you are making changes to the product that people have already payed money for - you better get this right.

It is a testament to Intel's ambition and perfectionism that they listened to their customers, invested the R&D and validation resources and brought these updates to us, free of charge - especially in these special times with new projects (Intel 10th Gen, AMD Ryzen 4000 series) being worked on left-and-right at Intel's ODM and OEM partners.

Intel has some major OEM partners for this reference design in China, Japan, North America, Singapore and elsewhere. None of these customers have such an internationally vocal community like we have here on our XMG_gg subreddit and on this legendary thread on Notebookreview. Some of those markets have been selling at a much higher volume than what we have sold here at XMG while being (from what I've heard) much lower maintenance. But thanks to the commitment and professionalism of the team at Intel's System Product Group (SPG), our persistence has prevailed. We are the first brand in the world to bring these updates to you, today.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 07 > Intel re-enables undervolting for some reference design laptops
Alex Alderson, 2020-07-14 (Update: 2020-07-14)