Dell XPS 13 9310; Early findings with Razer Core X and Mantiz Saturn Pro V2: Crash fixes, BitLocker errors and performance with Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC + NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super.
After an extremely disappointing eGPU experience with an i7-10750H Dell Vostro 15 7500, I replaced it with a newly released Dell XPS 13 9310 featuring the very promising i7-1165G7. It only arrived yesterday, and I immediately put it to work.
I didn't even bother with the factory configuration, and immediately replaced the included Western Digital SN730 M.2 NVME SSD with a 1TB Samsung 970 Evo Plus. I also replaced the thermal paste with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut and also installed a 1mm thick thermal pad directly above the CPU, bridging the heat-sink to the aluminium bottom panel.
Testing started with Windows 10 Home 20H2. Nearly all hardware drivers downloaded directly through Windows with no issues, and I only had to add one or two Dell specific applications. Once all Windows updates were completed, I tested it with the Mantiz Saturn Pro V2, a Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER GAMING OC 8G and an external display. I allowed Windows to install drivers upon initial plug, and then updated to the latest NVIDIA Drivers, which installed without issue. This problem free installation did not last long, as Windows would now freeze after a few minutes and cause a complete system lock up. I would need to hold the power button down on the XPS to force a shutdown to restore the system. This same freezing / crash also occurred when using the RTX 2070 Super in a Razer Core X. I fixed the crashes by adding a TdrDelay of 10 and a TdrDdiDelay of 20 in the Windows Registry Editor, followed by changing NVIDIA Global Power Settings to Prefer Maximum Power. This appears to have alleviated the crashes for now.
I reinstalled Windows, this time with Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC. I personally believe that all Windows eGPU users should be using Enterprise LTSC. It contains no Windows 10 bloatware, adware or pre-installed third party applications like Skype or Candy-crush. More importantly for this community, it holds off on Windows updates until they are stable, and releases them in cumulative packages, rather than incremental updates. LTSC requires a bit more user input to get up to date. All hardware drivers had to be downloaded and installed manually from Dell, which actually provides a driver page dedicated to LTSC based systems. You also have to run a custom script to force install the Windows Store, which then enables you to install the Thunderbolt Control Centre. There are also some other programs to do some LTSC "Modification", but that is a different story.
With the Registry and NVIDIA power settings changed, the eGPU is running smoothly on LTSC with great performance. Compared to my previous XPS 9380 + Vega 64 and Lenovo S730 + GTX 1070 builds, I am getting over 50% increase in performance in Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark, with no CPU or GPU undervolting or overclocking.
The first issue I am currently looking into are Bitlocker prompting a recovery key if I add or remove the eGPU or WD19TB Dock when it is powered off. I have not looked into this issue too much, but I will fiddle with the BIOS Thunderbolt Security and TPM settings before disabling Bitlocker altogether to void this issue.
The second issue I have is the fact that the fans of my Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Super will spin at 100% if the laptop or dock it is plugged into goes to sleep or is turned off. I have no idea what is causing this, and I believe it is an issue relating to my GPU, as it happens in both the Razer Core X and Mantiz Saturn Pro, but did not occur in either of these eGPUs when I was using a 1660 Super.
I am looking forward to uploading a new build and full review.
@boltoway, I do have the exact same setup and thank to your post, I managed to fixed my installation. I would like to thank you. I do have the same issue with bitlocker, if you have a solution do not hesitate to share.
my apologies for my english.
@philippe69, No problem! I am glad I could help you.
I think I decided to just disabled Bitlocker to avoid the lock ups.
How stable is the performance of the XPS, @boltoway , @philippe69 ? According to the review of the XPS 13 9310 at https://www.notebookcheck.net/Dell-XPS-13-9310-Core-i7-Laptop-Review-The-11th-Gen-Tiger-Lake-Difference.499291.0.html#toc-performance there are issues with Dell's "intelligent" adaptive throttling, which causes a sinusoidal fluctuation of FPS in games (cf. the last graph of the performance section, right before emissions). Have you seen any such pattern? Would you say the 9310 is a decent choice for eGPU?
Thanks for the hint with the registry keys. I had similar issues with my new setup (c940, saturn pro v2 and a 1660 Ti) and since adding those it's been stable!
May I ask you, how is the thermal performance on your machine? Throttling? I am currently considering upgrading to a XPS 9310 myself, and I would go the thermal pad+liquid metal route instantly if I was somewhat confident on them addressing the issue. The 7390 can now hold max. turboboost frequency at 100% load indefinitely after the pads and liquid metal mods. If it is the same with the XPS 9310, I think I will be sold.
@thegreen, Thank you!
I no longer own the XPS 13 and have replaced it with a Lenovo Thinkpad E14 Gen 2. The XPS did throttle under full load and would reduce the all-core turbo to around 3Ghz from memory, but it nonetheless it performed very well. I think with thermal pads and liquid metal it would perform even better, although if you are looking for the best performance, I would suggest the XPS 13 2-in-1, which has a vapor chamber and slightly higher cooling capacity. Either way the 1165G7 is an amazing little CPU and the eGPU performance is phenomenal.