Question I'm wondering whether this ("high-end") laptop was underpowered for its time

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I bought a laptop from one of my customers, a Dell XPS 13 9343. I bought it mainly as a replacement for my Dell Latitude E4300 which has served me well but the screen backlight was dying and buying a new one was similar to buying another E4300 off ebay so I decided not to.

My use for my laptop is pretty minimal as I'm pretty entrenched in my desktop usage, so the laptop doesn't get used much and travelling weight was an important factor, and the XPS 13 9343 is pretty sleek.

It dates back to 2013. Intel i7-5500U (so dual core plus HT), Intel HD graphics. However, 1080p YouTube gives it a fair run for its money which surprises me given that my dad's 2007-era C2D with AMD GPU is also similarly taxed (either laptop in suboptimal conditions will struggle maintaining the video stream). It seems to me that the XPS struggles if Windows Update kicks in, or if the wifi isn't perfect then I think the CPU gets hit harder. The integrated graphics are definitely in use on the XPS.

However, I'm puzzled by the XPS. It has a 4k screen, yet given the 1080p YouTube hardware usage I'd be very surprised if it could keep up with 4k YouTube. I'm guessing that YouTube 1080p either wasn't a thing back in 2013 or was cutting edge? I would have thought any laptop should be able to handle video streaming for the laptop's native resolution (provided that graphics hardware acceleration is occurring). As this laptop came with Win8x I'm considering putting it back on Win8x in order to reduce background activity.

PS: I said 'high-end' in the thread title because while there were higher-end Broadwell mobile processors, I bet that this laptop cost a pretty penny in its time given the 4k 13" screen and its 512GB NVMe SSD. I bought it pretty cheaply so I'm not worried about that, I'm just wondering if I bought a bit of a performance lemon like when a PC maker sells a Celeron-N with an absurd amount of RAM and storage in order to make it look better to the untrained eye.
 

Panino Manino

Senior member
Jan 28, 2017
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Try using h264ify. It forces YouTube to stream h.264 codec instead of VP9, so that you can use hardware acceleration.
This for older PCs that may not have VP9 / AV1 hardware decode, 100%!
I have a Skylake i3U and it has no problems with Youtube VP9. I actually avoid using Enhanced-h264ify because VP9 uses less bandwidth and that quality is much (noticiably) higher.

What destroys these dual core CPUs is Windows.
Every hour it insists on doing something in the background, the worst is when it wakes from sleep. If I don't force close the processes that it opens the computer can become unusable for 30 minutes to even 1 hour.
This is partly because of HDD, but even so it uses too much processing from the CPU, and to do what? Only Microsoft knows.
You absolutely need to use something like Ultimate Windows Tweaker and disable everything you can there. This revolts me, I have another much older notebook with a 2c2T Arrandale also with HDD and it just flies, no slowdowns like this ever happens... but because it doesn't have to run Windows.
 

Magic Carpet

Diamond Member
Oct 2, 2011
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As this laptop came with Win8x I'm considering putting it back on Win8x in order to reduce background activity.
This is the solution to your problem. I’ve had a similar 2c/4t broadwell laptop and it ran noticeably less responsive under windows 10 compared to windows 8.1. Unless you tweak W10, stick to the older OS.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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What destroys these dual core CPUs is Windows.
Every hour it insists on doing something in the background, the worst is when it wakes from sleep. If I don't force close the processes that it opens the computer can become unusable for 30 minutes to even 1 hour.
This is partly because of HDD, but even so it uses too much processing from the CPU, and to do what? Only Microsoft knows.
You absolutely need to use something like Ultimate Windows Tweaker and disable everything you can there. This revolts me, I have another much older notebook with a 2c2T Arrandale also with HDD and it just flies, no slowdowns like this ever happens... but because it doesn't have to run Windows.
Thanks for writing this, you just reminded me of the fact that on Win81, my dad's 2007 C2D has spent *hours* processing Windows updates (and not because of lack of use). I think these monthly update roll-ups are a problem for low-end machines. I say low-end because I bet that even a Celeron-N style yet quad-core losing two cores for ages is going to feel noticeably slower than when all four are available.

My tactic with my dad's laptop (even with an SSD) has been to switch it on ten minutes before I want to use it. On this laptop I might try switching off background apps even though it loses features like Windows Spotlight in the process.
 

coercitiv

Diamond Member
Jan 24, 2014
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This year I morphed a Chromebox into a Win 10 PC for someone in the family to use as an "Internet" machine. The hardware inside is a i3 7100U 2c/4t, 12GB RAM (upgrade from 4), 64GB SSD. Last year I gave someone else my old ultrabook with a i7-4510U. The machine served me for years running Win10, with decent performance considering it's specs.

To address the OP - on any low power machine with older gen hardware - one needs to check media capabilities before deciding to invest time and money in the unit. In my case I knew from the start that Kaby Lake was the bare minimum I should go for in terms of video hardware decode for any PC in 2021.

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To adress @Panino Manino on the Win10 background process - I have not found Win10 to be a background task menace. I do however find the SSD is a mandatory baseline requirement, and I always make sure RAM is plenty. I would wager the HDD is by far the biggest culprit in slowing down the machine as the OS goes through updates and maintenance at an agonizing pace. In my experience this also skews CPU usage, as it always looks like the CPU is doing something... when it's mostly doing reads&writes on the old rusty rune device. RAM is also important to minimize page file activity, and you actually want more memory than what the user requires as the OS will use extra RAM to cache frequently used data. Any millisecond gained through caching is a millisecond more for CPU time before the user starts getting impatient.

One other thing I recommend for a low spec machine that struggles with OS maintenance is to switch the network connection to "metered". This can be done on both the wireless and wired connection and will technically disable any and all OS and driver updates. As long as the user understands the implications of disabled OS updates and is willing to perform them manually (as in click on the update button once in a while, or when a reminder inevitably appears), the system will run far smoother.

To sum up, based on my experience with multiple laptops over the years, they suffer more from storage & memory capabilities than they do from CPU performance. However, when it comes down to video content, 15W TDP CPUs always need modern hardware decode/encode capabilities or they will suffer greatly on trivial tasks such as video streaming or conference calls.
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
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Thanks for writing this, you just reminded me of the fact that on Win81, my dad's 2007 C2D has spent *hours* processing Windows updates (and not because of lack of use). I think these monthly update roll-ups are a problem for low-end machines. I say low-end because I bet that even a Celeron-N style yet quad-core losing two cores for ages is going to feel noticeably slower than when all four are available.
Very much so. My old Celeron N3350-based (2C/2T Goldmont @ 2.4GHz) laptop has become completely unusable in Windows because of this. My old Athlon x445 based "retro PC" can't keep up with 10 updates anymore. Literally takes hours for the monthly rollups.

So the old laptop happily runs Linux mint now.
 
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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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Thanks for the responses, I've learnt/been reminded of a thing or two in the process. Technically I'm probably happy to try Linux on this laptop but either going entirely Linux or dual-booting is going to complicate usage somewhat.

I'll try h264ify because I bet that the battery is being chewed up at the moment and it may well help with background activity related issues as well.
 

Panino Manino

Senior member
Jan 28, 2017
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Monthly Updates?
I'm talking Daily updates here (including of course a lot of nonsense telemetry. What the heck is "computer census"?!)

Thanks for writing this, you just reminded me of the fact that on Win81, my dad's 2007 C2D has spent *hours* processing Windows updates (and not because of lack of use). I think these monthly update roll-ups are a problem for low-end machines. I say low-end because I bet that even a Celeron-N style yet quad-core losing two cores for ages is going to feel noticeably slower than when all four are available.

My tactic with my dad's laptop (even with an SSD) has been to switch it on ten minutes before I want to use it. On this laptop I might try switching off background apps even though it loses features like Windows Spotlight in the process.
I also do this, I power on/wake up the notebook/computer and leave it alone for 15 to 30 minutes. But we shouldn't do this, that's why while I understand @coercitiv points I disagree, Win10 IS "background task menace". I did everything that I could to lessen this evil but I still suffer like this. Only on Windows, I don't have this problem on Linux on a hardware with double the age.
Other thing that kills performance with Windows is Anti-Virus. With time they got hours, scaling something and updates too frequently and everything disk usage also almost makes to system halt (somethings the browser can't load pages). You may say that it's not necessary to use one, Windows Defender is enough, but it takes a lot of courage.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
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It dates back to 2013. Intel i7-5500U (so dual core plus HT), Intel HD graphics.
You have the lowest end i7 that Intel made at the time. It doesn't have particularly impressive frequencies, the lowest integrated graphics, and only 2 cores. But the real killer is the 15 W limitation. It will run fine for daily tasks, but as soon as you try to do more than one thing at a time, it will start to chug.

I have a slightly older, slower computer for my TV. I use it mostly for playing movies and streaming videos. It was doing just fine with Windows 8. Upgrading to Windows 10 was fine. But with each Windows 10 update that comes out, the thing has a harder and harder time keeping up. With each bug patch taking a few percent of speed off of it, what was once acceptable performance is now really feeling its age. You just will never have the best performance on that thing with Windows 10.

But also I just had a problem with the fan. It was caked with grease and dust and finally failed me. I replaced the fan this month and cleaned out the unit and so far the performance seems noticeably better. So, I would check if you are just getting overheating problems.
 
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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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@NTMBK

h264ify made quite a bit of difference, thank you. CPU went down from >50% full clock to often ~15% lowest clock, GPU went from about 50% up to about 80%. There was a slight quality hit at 1080p but perfectly manageable.
 
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moinmoin

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Jun 1, 2017
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It's odd that it needs addons to enforce the use of hardware accelerated codecs. Preferring such ideally should be a setting in the browser itself, enabled by default.
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
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It's odd that it needs addons to enforce the use of hardware accelerated codecs. Preferring such ideally should be a setting in the browser itself, enabled by default.
If you view it from the other side, you'll want to use as high efficiency codec and as little bandwidth as possible. Decoding is the end users problem. So why expose such a setting when it'll cost you?

Sad state of affairs.
 

Panino Manino

Senior member
Jan 28, 2017
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If you view it from the other side, you'll want to use as high efficiency codec and as little bandwidth as possible. Decoding is the end users problem. So why expose such a setting when it'll cost you?

Sad state of affairs.
If you go to the "GPU" pages of the web browser you'll see that it can know exactly how much hardware acceleration is available. The browser knows that it can't decode VP9 for example and yet it still asks YT to use that coded.
 

moinmoin

Diamond Member
Jun 1, 2017
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If you view it from the other side, you'll want to use as high efficiency codec and as little bandwidth as possible. Decoding is the end users problem. So why expose such a setting when it'll cost you?

Sad state of affairs.
The middleman to mediate the middle ground between both sides is the browser. It helps neither the user nor the website if a video is technically but not practically playable.
 

NTMBK

Diamond Member
Nov 14, 2011
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If you go to the "GPU" pages of the web browser you'll see that it can know exactly how much hardware acceleration is available. The browser knows that it can't decode VP9 for example and yet it still asks YT to use that coded.
VP9 saves on bandwidth costs for Google.
 

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