Dell XPS 15 9560

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Note: This page refers to the 9560 revision of the XPS 15. Most of it also applies to the Precision 5520 and the XPS 15 9570
Device/Functionality Status
Suspend Buggy
Hibernate Working
Integrated Graphics Working
Discrete Nvidia Graphics Modify
Wifi Working
Bluetooth Working
rfkill Working
Audio Working
Touchpad Working
Webcam Working
Card Reader Working
Function/Multimedia Keys Working
Power Management Modify
EFI firmware updates Working
Fingerprint reader Not working

This page contains recommendations for running Arch Linux on the Dell XPS 15 9560 (late 2016). With some configuration almost all the hardware is well supported. Exceptions are the fingerprint reader, occasional locks on resuming from suspend experienced by some users, and the lack of support for PRIME render offload to the discrete GPU in the Nvidia proprietary driver.

UEFI

Before installing it is necessary to modify some UEFI Settings. They can be accessed by pressing the F2 key repeatedly when booting.

  • Change the SATA Mode from the default "RAID" to "AHCI". This will allow Linux to detect the NVME SSD. If dual booting with an existing Windows installation, Windows will not boot after the change but this can be fixed without a reinstallation.
  • Change Fastboot to "Thorough" in "POST Behaviour". This prevents intermittent boot failures.
  • Disable secure boot to allow Linux to boot.

Installation of Arch Linux can proceed normally. Refer to the Installation guide for more information.

Firmware Update

Firmware images can be found at Dell support page as XPS_15_9560_X.Y.Z.exe files. In order to install:

  • Download the desired firmware from section "Dell XPS 15 9560 System BIOS"
  • Save it in /boot/EFI/Dell/Bios/ (this path may vary, depending on your installation)
  • Reboot the system, and enter the boot menu by pressing repeatedly F12 on Dell logo
  • Choose "Bios Flash Update"
  • Select the file previously saved, and start the process

The process will take about five minutes, during which the system will have some reboots and push fans at maximum speed. Finally the system will reboot normally.

Power Management

Suspend and Hibernate

Suspend and Hibernate work out of the box, although some users have reported occasional system hangs on resuming from suspend, more commonly on kernels since 4.10.

The suspend function key is not printed on the keyboard, but it's actually mapped to Fn+Insert.

Fan and temperature monitoring and control

Many of the thermometers can be read with lm_sensors.

Fan speeds can be monitored with i8kctl from i8kutils-gitAUR. This laptop is not in the supported list so it is necessary to load the i8k kernel module with the force=1 module option. See Kernel modules#Setting module options. It is also possible to manually control fan speeds (at your own risk) however with manual control only a subset of the possible speeds are available (0rpm, 2500rpm, 4800rpm) instead of (0rpm, 2500rpm, 3200rpm, 3700rpm, 4800rpm, and 5100rpm) in the firmware's automatic control. See Fan speed control#Disable BIOS fan speed control[broken link: invalid section].

The thermometer on the discrete Nvidia GPU can be monitored with the nvidia-smi utility, which is part of nvidia-utils.

Sensor kernel module and configuration

One avenue worth investigating is the use of the native kernel module dell-smm-hwmon:

$ modinfo dell-smm-hwmon | grep '^description'
description:    Dell laptop SMM BIOS hwmon driver

If the module won't load, try the passing the option ignore_dmi=1 when running modprobe:

# modprobe dell-smm-hwmon ignore_dmi=1

Upon successfully loading it you should see the following in your kernel logs and/or dmesg:

185:[    9.806060] dell_smm_hwmon: not running on a supported Dell system.
186:[    9.806061] dell_smm_hwmon: vendor=Dell Inc., model=XPS 15 9550, version=x.y.z

Now the sensors command should be able to display some useful data:

$ sensors -f 
dell_smm-virtual-0
Adapter: Virtual device
Processor Fan: 2490 RPM
Video Fan:     2501 RPM
CPU:           +105.8°F  
Ambient:       +109.4°F  
Ambient:       +104.0°F  
Other:         +104.0°F  

You can make these settings permanent by adding the following to /etc/modprobe.d/dell.conf:

options dell-smm-hwmon ignore_dmi=1

And also by making the the HWMON_MODULES variable appears like so in /etc/conf.d/lm_sensors:

HWMON_MODULES="coretemp dell-smm-hwmon"

Power Saving

Disable discrete GPU

bbswitch method

The discrete Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU is on by default and cannot be disabled in the UEFI settings. Even when idle, it uses a significant amount of power (about 7W). To disable it when not in use it is necessary to install bbswitch and bumblebee, add acpi_rev_override=1 to the Kernel parameters, enable bumblebeed.service, and reboot (you may need to reboot twice for the firmware to notice acpi_rev_override).

$ cat /proc/acpi/bbswitch

should now print

$ OFF

and

$ dmesg | grep bbswitch

should print something like

$ [    4.253642] bbswitch: loading out-of-tree module taints kernel.
$ [    4.253833] bbswitch: version 0.8
$ [    4.254093] bbswitch: Found integrated VGA device 0000:00:02.0: \_SB_.PCI0.GFX0
$ [    4.254163] bbswitch: Found discrete VGA device 0000:01:00.0: \_SB_.PCI0.PEG0.PEGP
$ [    4.254225] bbswitch: detected an Optimus _DSM function
$ [    4.254282] bbswitch: Succesfully loaded. Discrete card 0000:01:00.0 is on
$ [    4.256651] bbswitch: disabling discrete graphics


acpi_call method

An alternative set of steps, not requiring bbswitch or bumblebee is as follows:

Standard power saving configuration

It is a good idea to install a tool to tune common settings to save power. See Power management#Userspace tools.

Disable/autosuspend of touchscreen

Disabling the touchscreen can be done in the UEFI settings and results in significant power savings. If touchscreen is required it can be placed into autosuspend by TLP by adding 04f3:24a1 to USB_WHITELIST in tlp config file. This will leave touchscreen enabled for usage and will consume much less battery.

Enable NVME APST

Starting from linux 4.11, NVME APST is supported and enabled by default, allowing NVME SSDs to be switched to lower power states when idle, achieving significant power savings. See Solid State Drives/NVMe#Power Saving APST. Depending on the specific SSD, it may also be necessary to adjust the default_ps_max_latency_us parameter to the nvme_core module in order to make ASPT work. This is necessary with the Toshiba THNSN5512GPUK for example.

Enable power saving features for the i915 kernel module

Passing the following options to the i915 kernel module results in significant power savings: enable_fbc=1 enable_psr=1 disable_power_well=0. Some users with the HD matte screen have reported that these parameters cause screen flickering. Frame buffer compression (enable_fbc=1) is enabled by default starting from kernel 4.11.

Wifi and Bluetooth

For the Precision 5520 which has an Intel 8265 wifi card, the power_save option for the iwlwifi kernel module can be set from 1 to 5 with potential power savings. See Kernel modules#Setting module options. Bluetooth and Wifi can seperately be disabled with rfkill. See Wireless network configuration#Rfkill caveat.

Undervolt intel CPU and GPU

It is possible to reduce the voltage supplied to the CPU and integrated intel GPU in order to reduce their power consumption. Usually some reduction is possible without any instability, depending on the specific system. Often the first signs of instability come during suspend, resume, and transitions between load and idle, not necessarily during extended periods of high load. See intel-undervoltAUR and linux-intel-undervolt-toolAUR which can automate the process of undervolting on each boot/resume.

Graphics

The integrated Intel HD 630 GPU works well out of the box. Optionally you may install xf86-video-intel but this is no longer recommended, since the built in kernel modesetting driver is more reliable. If you do not want to use the discrete Nvidia GPU, no extra setup is necessary. Otherwise there are a few options. All of the display outputs are connected to the integrated GPU so there is no need to set up output from the discrete GPU. It may be necessary to compile a custom kernel as described in #Power Saving.

Intel card only

See #Disable discrete GPU above.

Open source driver with PRIME render offloading

With this setup it is possible to use the integrated GPU by default and to offload GPU intensive applications to the discrete GPU by the use of the DRI_PRIME environment variable. See PRIME for details. Note that the open source Nvidia driver Nouveau currently does not support power management on Pascal GPUs such as the GTX 1050, so performance is very poor with this driver. See Nouveau#Power management.

Proprietary driver with bumblebee

With this setup the integrated GPU is used by default but some applications can be rendered on the discrete GPU with the optirun or primusrun launchers. See Bumblebee for detailed instructions. The lack of proper v-sync support means that with this method applications rendered on the discrete GPU exhibit tearing. There is also some overhead introduced as a result of moving data inefficiently between the discrete and integrated GPUs, but the Nvidia GPU performs much better than it does with Nouveau.

Proprietary driver with PRIME output offloading

With this setup the discrete GPU is used for all rendering and the integrated GPU is used only to display the rendered output. Power consumption is much higher during light usage because the discrete GPU cannot be disabled. Performance for graphics intensive applications is significantly better than with Bumblebee, and v-sync works due to PRIME Synchronization so tearing is eliminated. Remove bumblebee and follow the instructions in NVIDIA Optimus, Nvidia README, or PRIME Synchronization thread using PCI:1:0:0 as the BusID. Add the modeset=1 parameter to the nvidia_drm kernel module (on boot, not with modprobe) to enable PRIME synchronization and remove tearing (see Kernel modules#Setting module options).

Touchpad

The Synaptics Touchpad's basic functionality works out of the box. Some desktop environments ship with libinput and others with the xf86-input-synaptics driver. You can see which package is installed by running:

pacman -Qn libinput xf86-input-synaptics

Depending on which package handles your touchpad input, the methods to extend the functionality varies.

libinput Driver Configuration

The full documentation for libinput seemed to work quite well for this touchpad. While the driver already contains logic to process advanced multi-touch events like swipe and pinch gestures, the desktop environment or window manager might not have implemented actions for all of them yet.

To get some three and four-touch gestures to work you may need to use the documentation at libinput-gestures and install the libinput-gesturesAUR package.

Synaptics Driver Configuration

You can use synclient to list the touchpad's capabilities and change them for the session.

Configure middle button

The touchpad has a big click zone in the bottom that can be disabled or configured for 1, 2 or 3 buttons. For example, to have most of the touchpad seen as "button 1" but the middle lower zone (middle button) and the right lower zone (right button), create /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf with content:

Section "InputClass"
   Identifier "touchpad catchall"
   Driver "synaptics"
   MatchIsTouchpad "on"
   # enable clik zone and configure 3 buttons on bottom
   Option "ClickPad" "1"
   Option "SoftButtonAreas" "60% 0 82% 0 40% 60% 82% 0"
   # other commons options than you may want to configure
   # scroll with two fingers (enabled vertically, disabled horizontally)
   Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "1"
   Option "HorizTwoFingerScroll" "0"
   # enable tap as click: 1 finger -> left button, 2 fingers -> right, 3 fingers -> middle
   Option "TapButton1" "1"
   Option "TapButton2" "3"
   Option "TapButton3" "2"
   # idem but for click with 1,2,3 fingers. Use "0" to disable. 
   Option "ClickFinger1" "1"
   Option "ClickFinger2" "3"
   Option "ClickFinger3" "2"
   # palm detection. These parameters somehow works, YMMV. 
   Option "PalmDetect" "1"
   Option "PalmMinWidth" "10"
   Option "PalmMinZ" "200"
EndSection

With the recent deprecation of synaptics, it is possible to use existing GUI (for instance, GNOME Tweak Tool) to change the behavior. Using gnome-tweaks, under Keyboard & Mouse section, Mouse Click Emulation is set by default to "Fingers". Changing it to the "Area" option, which uses the bottom right of the touchpad for a right click, fixes the problem.

Thunderbolt docks

TB16

TB16 works fine if either Thunderbolt security is disabled in the BIOS or using bolt to temporarily authorize or permanently enroll Thunderbolt devices with Thunderbolt security activated.

Dell Docks

Some Dell docks (tested with the D6000) experience behavior whereby the displays periodically disconnect. Unplugging and plugging the dock back in again causes the displays to come back to life, but the displays will disconnect again. The more permanent fix for this is to edit the /etc/pulse/default.pa file, and comment out the following line:

### Automatically suspend sinks/sources that become idle for too long
load-module module-suspend-on-idle

A discussion around this issue can be found here, including the discussion around fixes.

Firmware updates

Firmware updates are provided by Dell and can be installed with fwupdate or fwupd. Available firmware versions can be seen here.

Alternatively, firmware updates can be installed by copying the MS-DOS executable firmware file to a FAT32-formatted USB key (or directly to your EFI boot partition) and booting into "BIOS Flash Update" from the Boot Menu.

Fingerprint reader

The fingerprint reader is a Validity/Synaptics model with USB id 138a:0091. There is currently a working prototype of a driver capable of capturing prints, however direct integration with libfprint is unlikely due to the manner in which the matching algorithm is implemented. [1].

There is also some people working on drivers for various other related readers. According to them it should be fairly easy to implement a driver for this model as none of the traffic to or from the device appears to be encrypted. Nevertheless, 138a:0091 is out of the scope of the project. [2]

Troubleshooting

xorg freezes at startup

If Xorg freezes as soon as it starts, even before printing any logs, and you are trying to use the Intel card with the nvidia one disabled, you need to add kernel parameter acpi_rev_override=1 as explained in #Disable discrete GPU above.

PCIe Bus Error in system logs

If you have an NVMe disk and depending of your BIOS version (but even with 1.5.0 from october 2017), you may have a lot of system error logs like:

Nov 25 22:36:08 xxxxx kernel: pcieport 0000:00:1c.0: PCIe Bus Error: severity=Corrected, type=Data Link Layer, id=00e0(Transmitter ID)
Nov 25 22:36:08 xxxxx kernel: pcieport 0000:00:1c.0:   device [8086:a110] error status/mask=00001000/00002000
Nov 25 22:36:08 xxxxx kernel: pcieport 0000:00:1c.0:    [12] Replay Timer Timeout

This can be corrected with the kernel boot option pcie_aspm=off which appears to have minimal to no affect on power consumption. If that does not work, try pci=nommconf (see here for explanation).

lspci causes CPU lockups

The NVidia/nouveau driver may cause any runs of lspci, starting an X server, or otherwise poking the graphics card to cause at least one CPU core to lock up, as well as seeming to completely lock up PCIe access, for instance to the NVMe SSD. The kernel parameter nouveau.modeset=0 may fix this. This is also related to the X freezes on startup (some machines may require lspci/startx to be run twice so they freeze after nouveau is taken care of); the solution in that case is to also set acpi_rev_override=1. [3]

External links