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I5+Geforce 540M CPU/GPU temperatures when gaming?

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
August 14, 2011 1:12:01 PM

Hi. I bought an Acer laptop about a week ago. It has an i5, 4 gigs of ram and a 2 gig Geforce 540M. I have been gaming on it, and I had some crashes in a particular game which lead me to believe that perhaps it is overheating. Downloaded real temp and I have recorded a maximum CPU temperature of 90 degrees while the GPU was 80 degrees. I shut down the game after that (it didnt crash and Windows didnt give me any warnings) because I was afraid I might melt it down. Does anyone have any advice on laptop gaming and what I should consider reasonable temperatures while gaming?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 2:01:25 PM

GPUs run hot and 80C on the graphics card seems pretty normal.

90C on the CPU is not and that's the range when you expect the CPU to throttle (slow down) to keep from overheating.

Apart from gaming - what CPU temps are you getting at idle and when the CPU is working with a moderate load? Are you seeing the CPU speed (CPU multiplier) drop when the load increase as the CPU throttles?
Related resources
August 14, 2011 2:30:18 PM

I read about that tool, and I guess I will have to install it now. Normal idle temperature is around 50-55 degrees for the CPU, and moderate work load around 60-65 degrees.

I was running a heavily modded Fallout 3 with the games basic graphics settings on max (including LoD and fades), added weather mod, super HD texture pack plus motion blur and DoF shaders when it reached 90 degrees. The strange thing is the framerate was good, but it crashed when loading new areas/textures in the game. I uninstalled the heavy-duty mods and I now get around 80 degrees when playing that game (I also read something about FO3 not being compatible with 64 bit win7. Something about a huge memory leak - dunno if that affected things).

So 80 degrees is alright for the GPU (it never went above that), but what should I expect from the CPU's?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 2:32:05 PM

If the CPU is staying around 70C max that's what I would expect if the cooling is working as it should.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 2:33:38 PM

Those 50C idle temps are looking very high though.
Something under 40C is about what I'd expect to see.
August 14, 2011 2:43:34 PM

Wow that is pretty far from what I am getting. The fan doesnt go all the time though and I dont experience crashing (outside of gaming), but these are the temps I am getting on a constant basis on a brand new laptop. Do you reckon something is wrong with it?

The Geforce 540M has a pretty nifty feature that allows me to deactivate it (and its massive heat buildup) so the Intel HD can take care of all processes, except for those progammes (games) I designate for use with the Geforce. I didn't measure temperatures before using this option, but the fan started going even if I just opened a browser window with the Geforce switched on always.

Are there anything I can do in my end to improve things? I want to balance it so I can game without wearing out the computer completely - Acer build shabby but inexpensive laptops, and the last time I had one it was the fan that died first, so I prefer not to use tools that speeds up the fan drastically. I want the computer to last for at least a couple of years.
August 14, 2011 2:44:48 PM

Edit: FYI the lowest all-time recorded CPU temperature on my computer is 47 degrees.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 2:57:30 PM

Talk to Lenovo. Acer
August 14, 2011 3:35:53 PM

Why Lenovo? You mean I should buy a new computer instead?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 3:39:16 PM

Have you seen any sign the CPU is throttling? Changing the CPU speed and multiplier to a lower number?
August 14, 2011 3:49:57 PM

No, but I will install CPUID and test it while gaming. It only crashes to desktop in that one game (modded Fallout 3) but once at the desktop everything is back to normal. I played an equally heavy modded New Vegas and "only" got temperatures of around 80-85 degrees but no crashes.

I am going to start a Real Temp stress test (Prime95) in a minute or two to see if everything holds together - with the computer just being a week old I should be covered if it blows itself up, I would think. I'll post the results here.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 3:58:45 PM

That sounds like a good idea to me. Best to find out early on.
And it should slow down or shut down to protect itself before it gets to the damage stage.
August 14, 2011 4:18:29 PM

Alright, here it what it says. TJ MAX is 100 although after reading the real temp documentation tj max should probably be 105 for Core 1. Nevertheless it gets super close to these values - a lot closer than the guy in the official documentation does in his example. How do I get data on whether or not my system throttles down while gaming? I installed CPUID but I don't know how to log and what to look for.

Real Temp Cooldown results
August 14, 2011 4:22:55 PM

Btw the test was done with the Geforce GPU switched off. The CPU temperature peaked at 83, so the modded Fallout stressed the computer more than the stress test - I guess added heat from the GPU affected the overall temperature and thus the temperature of the CPU's cores.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 4:53:28 PM

CPU-z main screen. Clocks column, Core Speed, Multiplier
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 4:55:39 PM

You'll need to watch it as you do the stress test - there is no logging feature.

Whats the local ambient temps while you're testing today?
August 14, 2011 5:25:16 PM

Cold cold Scandinavia - even though it is summer it is not warm. I'd say dunno 18-20 degrees indoors. So I watch CPUID while I do a stess test in Prime95?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 14, 2011 5:34:25 PM

August 15, 2011 5:08:43 PM

Hello again. It does not throttle down, but I haven't tried to push it to higher temperatures. Intel's documentation states that the Tj Max is in the range of 100-105, which is when it supposedly starts to throttle down. I contacted the manufacturer who told me to contact the retail store I bought it from, who told me to hand the computer over to them. I know this process of handing stuff in, waiting for weeks and then getting the exact same thing back without any improvement, so I am reluctant. But the general consensus here on Toms Hardware is that 90 degrees CPU temp and 80-85 degrees is way too much for a laptop with an i5 and a Geforce 540M 2 gig?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 7:17:08 PM

TJ-max is the throttle down point and is the max safe operating temp.
But not all hardware monitoring programs get the temps right all the time, so I like to see if the CPU, in fact, throttles itself which gives a certain indication. The 100C/105C for your model CPU is higher than I thought it would be.

Does ACER give you cooling profile options? It was mostly the idle temps that lead me to think the cooling isn't performing as designed. If that's because it's being weighted toward less noise than optimum cooling I'd be less concerned.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 7:25:46 PM

I read your other thread about that 'remote optimization". As far as I can see that could only mean tweaking the cooling profile (fan speed) or jiggling with the CPU speed.
August 15, 2011 8:00:00 PM

He didn't go into detail - but I guess it has to do with BIOS tweaking and stuff like that. The question is can I do this by myself and achieve stellar results? The way I see it I should do one of the 3 things I suggested in the other thread.
August 15, 2011 8:01:42 PM

Like clocking it differently and stuff like that, so I can't really completely rely on the original specsheet. In which case I might be better off with a lower spec laptop that can use it fully.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 8:51:57 PM

I don't know how flexible the ACER BIOS and control programs would be, or if it's something you could do yourself. I suspect that could be the case, but I just don't know.

I noticed the Acer support staff agree it was operating higher than expected. There is no way of telling if that's partly due to the natural variation in CPUs, some type of mis-handling during shipping or a sloppy assembly procedure.

The downside of returning it would be that you get it back and are told it's operating inside 'allowable tolerances' after it being away for a couple weeks. The upside would be you find it IS with the allowable tolerances or perhaps they can adjust the cooling performance. Or it would be replaced.

I think you'd end up with more confidence having it returned from a technical review by a (relative) expert, familiar with similar models than you would discussing generalities/possibilities in a forum.
August 15, 2011 9:02:05 PM

Well he didn't exactly say he didnt expect it to get this hot, he just said 90 degrees was too much for sustained use. I mean they have an optimization programme for this specifically and he seemed familiar with the issue. But still wanted a hundred bucks to do it. So I suspect its a standard deal - advertise high specs (it is substantially better specs than anything else in the price range here) but save production costs by building with low quality components like fans and such and then put a cap on it fan speed etc. so the components dont wear out super fast. Most customers probably wouldnt notice something like this. I mean it just seemed well familiar to the guy when I contacted him - it wasnt in-depth support he offered, it was a remote setting tool to do a fast "optimization". A standard operation it seemed. Hundred bucks, please.

But you are right I would get clarification if I go through the full process, however if I want to exchange this for something else, I have 3-4 days. If I send it in for a check, I will forfeit the option of changing it to something else. So I have to make up my mind fast.

The specs are just SO much better than anything else in the range so I am thinking is it possible to underclock the i5 and keep using the geforce without getting these high temperatures? And would that be better than an i5/Intel HD3000 combination or i3/Geforce 520M 1 gig option?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 9:14:40 PM

I don't think you'll be playing many games at a high level with the HD3000 graphics built on the CPU. The Geforce 520M will do mostly low graphics tolerably well.
Are the Acer models you're only option?
August 15, 2011 9:40:20 PM

I got it narrowed down a bit, but if I am going to change, it will be to worse specs. If I return it I have to spend the money in the same place, so I that limits the options, unfortunately. If I turn it in I got it basically narrowed down to this:

1. Packard Bell Easynote ENTS11HR640NC (I don't know if they are any good, but I know Acer owns them)
i5 2,3 ghz / 4 gig ram / Geforce GT520M 1 gig

2. Toshiba Satellite C660-1MF
i5 2,3 ghz / 4 gig ram / Intel HD3000

3. Toshiba Satellite C660-1TT
i3 2,1 ghz / 4 gig ram / Geforce 315M 1 gig

4. Packard Bell Easynote TM85-544
i3 2,4 ghz (but an older i3 model than the other i3's in the list) / 4 gig ram / Geforce 420M 1 gig

5. HP Pavillion g6-1129eo
i5 2,3 ghz / 4 gig ram / Intel HD3000

6. Samsung NP-RV520-A02SE
i3 2,1 ghz / 4 gig ram / Intel HD3000

So GPU-wise everything is a step down - but then again if that means my computer wont burn out after a year of gaming, I'd prefer that.
August 15, 2011 9:47:47 PM

However I just came up with something. I read about that Intel 3000, and it turns out if you have a Geforce in my series, it uses some sort of technology to utilize both the onboard Intel HD AND the Geforce simultaneosly - that might account for high temps. I am going to figure out how to switch it off and test it, but still I would like advice to what I ought to do.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 9:54:47 PM

That might be a BIOS option.
But I don't think the HD 3000 is active while the GT 540M is running.
Its only when GT 540M isn't needed that the HD3000 is active. They call that Optiums.
August 15, 2011 9:57:03 PM

Yeah you are right I just skimmed a fan site, and then found the official documentation which says its either/or. No luck I guess. Not being super familiar with pc's anymore, is there an easy and safe way to try and underclock the processor to just give it a go? It seems if I change to one of the other computers I am sacrifing a lot of GPU power/memory.
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 10:07:50 PM

No doubt about it. None of your options look attractive.

Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 HR review I believe this is the same model, with different GPU option, as the first alternate you listed.
Of interest is the 93C CPU temp they report when tested with Prime and Furmark.
They mention it's higher than expected but they also give an above average rating on the whole.
August 15, 2011 10:18:48 PM

Thanks I am reading through it now and then I am going to read about the 520M the specific model I looked at came with. I really appreciate all the help - it is a bit frustrating because I have to make a decision pretty fast and I hate doing the "wrong" deal:-)

By any chance is there a super easy safe way of underclocking the CPU? Like pressing one button or something like that without risking anything?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 11:07:03 PM

Of all the leads that Google turned up this one looks most promising: Throttlestop
It's actually designed to do the opposite of what you need but also looks flexible and powerful to change the CPU multi to allow lower CPU performance.

Also, while not authoritative, I've run across a few comments that make it look as there might be a design decision by Acer (and some other MFRGs) to use 'barely adequate cooling' designs. I guess they trust the Intel TJ-max spec or have inside information that spec has some padding? It might be the case that a 90C CPU operating temp might not indicate a cooling 'malfunction' after all.
August 15, 2011 11:07:04 PM

I think I got it all figured out! I used windows control panel to make a power setting only using 80% CPU power and I am doing the prime95 test again. So far the 100% load shows an 18 degree improvement! We will see how that translates into gaming performance.

Generally speaking is it worth sacrificing the CPU power to keep the good graphics card? Or would I most likely be better off with the slower gpu and lower vram of the 520M and the full power of the i5?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 11:09:50 PM

If you can adjust the power setting based on your 'requirements of the moment' I see very little downside to keeping the better GPU for gaming.

What did CPU-z show on the Prime95 run for CPU speed and multi?
August 15, 2011 11:12:29 PM

100% CPU power results. Tj Max=100 degrees on both cores

80% CPU power results. Tj Max=100 degrees on both cores

August 15, 2011 11:15:23 PM

Yeah I read somewhere that bus speeds and such are bottlenecks anyways so 20% CPU power reduction doesnt translate to 20% less performance. We will see how it holds when doing a game test, Also this way I can always "scale up", buy a laptop cooler and see how much juice I can add. I just need a benchmark value - like should I try and aim at maintaining a difference of 20 degrees to the tjmax? 30?

When gaming the values far exceed the prime95 test though - 10 degrees to tjmax(!) at 100% power
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 15, 2011 11:18:00 PM

I'm wondering if this is the $100 support "remote optimization" that Acer Tech mentioned.
August 15, 2011 11:21:44 PM

Sorry for my many posts and slight ignorance. I didnt look at cpu-z but im going to run it again now and have a look - I should be looking in the "Clocks (Core #0)" section and observing "Core Speed" and "Multiplier"?

Currently those two are 798,2 Mhz although through the corner of my eye I just saw it jumping to ~1700 something, I think.

The other one says 8.0

Those are the two things to look at when the prime95 is running?

August 15, 2011 11:25:53 PM

I reckon this in conjunction with reving up the fans to be honest - perhaps the cpu more elegantly clocked through the bios. When I know how my macbook revved up to insane speeds trying to stream HD video (first series core duo / intel gma945 adapter) this fan runs remarkably silent, even when the cpu is toasting itself. Nowhere near the "hairdryer" effect you would expect when the processor is 10 degrees from a meltdown.

Edit: I downloaded speed fan and I noticed I cant configure the fan from there - it might be because the programme isnt designed for laptops, but it still struck me a bit odd.
August 15, 2011 11:43:40 PM

Ok watching CPU-Z at 80% power overall power settings, 100% workload it fluctuates between 1795,7 and 1796,1 Mhz and a steady multiplier of 18x.

37 and 35 degrees from tjmax

At 100% overall power settings, 100% workload it fluctuates between 2692,6 and 2694,2 and a steady multiplier of 27x

20 and 15 degrees from tjmax

Also one more thing, the idling temperature is the same on 80% and 100% which might suggest general inadequate cooling.
August 16, 2011 12:53:06 AM

Ok I did a non-scientific comparison test.

Witcher 2 on medium-ish settings, 10 minutes of time in game on 100% power settings:

19-27 FPS in fraps

Maximum temperatures of 87 and 90 degrees in the two cores, and 78 degrees on the GPU.

80% power settings, same conditions:

15-24 FPS in fraps

Maximum temperatures of 74 and 76 degrees in the two cores, and 74 degrees on the GPU.

This seems like a totally viable solution - I think I would see a bigger performance decrease with an Intel HD or one of the lesser Geforces, no?

And what should I aim at temperature-wise for playing 1-2 hours straight?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 16, 2011 5:55:52 AM

Dell XPS 15 Notebook (i5-2410M & GT 540M) review
Max load temps touched 94C.

Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 (i7-2630QM & GT 540M) review
It's a Quad but this Sandy Bridge also hit 94C and the reviewers noted that was the point where the cooling kicked into high gear.
The processor's temperature increases up to 94 degrees Celsius before the cooling system steps up a level and the processor is cooled down to about 85 degrees again.

These temps did not seem to scare the reviewers. Both laptops got good ratings.

August 16, 2011 11:05:46 AM

Strange. But also who is the target audience for the review? Hardcore gamers, casual gamers or people that use it for studying, ie. webbrowsing and use of office suites? I don't mind that it soars up to high temperatures momentarily, but when gaming it might be 1-2 hours of 90 degrees straight - and I don't think that is advisable in the long run. Also for instance I had the Macbook (1st gen) which got outstanding reviews, but it got super hot too - I think if reviewers of the Macbook did the review with gamers in mind, it would have received lesser scores because the fan goes on full hairdryer effect when the graphics are pushed just a little bit.

Also I have a feeling I experience fewer crashes-to-desktop with the reduced CPU output/reduced heat, but that might just be a "feeling".

But something seems to indicate that high temps is inherent to the Sandy Bridge's. A user here on the forum showed me a review of my laptop (configured with an i7 instead) and there was mention of high temps there as well.

So to be on the safe side, I am going to keep going with underclocking it. Somethimes I can game for 4-5 hours straight if I got nothing else to do, and I don't think sustained temperatures of 80-90 degrees for 4-5 hours in a row will do it any good.

I am very very thankful for all the help I have gotten. I still have 2 questions though:

1) Generally speaking is an underclocked i5+Geforce 540M 2 gig "better" than the same processor with unmodified clock speed+Geforce 520M 1 gig?

2) What temperatures should I aim at when gaming, as a "rule-of-thumb"?
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 16, 2011 4:44:56 PM

The target audience for those independent reviews are potential owners who want to be an informed consumer.

There were enough other examples of Sandy Bridge dual and quad CPUs running at cooler temps too. I put that down to more robust cooling design or perhaps a more aggressive cooling fan profile. But it does point out, I believe, that your Acer cooling does not have a malfunction and is probably performing close to it's designed capability. There seems to be confidence on the part of the MFGRs that it's 'good enough'.

1) This issue looks unrelated to the GPU. I saw 90C+ CPU temps reported on on models with lower GPUs and even with integrated HD 3000 graphics. A GT 520M model will probably get 90C+ too from an Acer or Acer owned brand.
2) I haven't seen anything authoritative that gives guidance on this question. This might be more of a 'what makes you feel good' situation.
August 16, 2011 5:09:15 PM

Yeah, I think I feel good at 75 degrees, although my hardcore gamer friend said his water cooled super computer never runs above 35 degrees and he suggested a range of 40-50 degrees tops. And I think I am going to keep this laptop afterall. I shouldn't expect the world of it gaming wise, and in reality I should just be happy I can run a game like witcher 2 at all on a discount laptop. And I think I am better off with an i5 running at 80%+540m geforce at 75 degrees than a full i5 and a vid card with lower performance at god knows what temperatures.

I really appreciate the help and effort you put into helping me out. Thx a lot
a c 572 D Laptop
a b 4 Gaming
August 16, 2011 5:24:57 PM

I think you'll find some games that don't send the CPU up above 90C so check for differences in games, especially new games.
I see no problems running the occasional gaming session @ 90% or even 100%. You can use those comparisons to look for the 80C and 75C performance levels in different games.

You should also be on the lookout for possible ways to change the fan performance profile too.