Dell Latitude E6440

e6440-01-smTo date (as of 20180522) this has to be the perfect Laptop, for me. This is my primary on-the-go machine for doing most of my work. I can test things in virtual machine and verify the documentation I work to keep updated on multiple operating system versions.

Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4610M
  • Storage: 128GB mSATA and 960GB SSD drive
  • Display: 1080p Matte screen
  • GPU: AMD Radeon GPU
  • 16GB RAM
  • Removable media bay for optical or a third HDD/SSD
  • Dock Station Capability
  • Smart Card reader

It is running openSUSE Tumbleweed flawlessly. I was once a little skeptical of the rolling release due to the likelihood of an update breaking a system. So far, since March of 2017, it has been rolling along without any problems. Admittedly, this is not a top-of-the-line machine but it has what I want. Most notably, the dock station ability. Very convenient to go from desk to lap with just the push of a button for separation. Also, running KDE Plasma Desktop, dock to undock automatically and flawlessly updates my screen layout and remembers each screen “location.” This is super slick and the best implementation I have experienced on any platform. A nice feature of this machine is, everything worked without any tweaking. This is a large part of why I recommend Dell Latitude series of machines. This had to be the most uneventful Linux installation I have ever accomplished.

Offload Graphics to AMD GPU

The default on this computer is for it to use the Intel GPU but it is possible to offload to the AMD on a per-application basis. In preparation to do this you need to ensure that the proper software packages are installed. For openSUSE Tumbleweed install the following:

xf86-video-amdgpu

The Boot Loader will need to have two parameters to be passed to the kernel

YaST > Boot Loader

Select the Kernel Parameters Tab and add the following:

amdgpu.si_support=1 radeon.si_support=0

From what I understand, this will tell the kernel to use the amdgpu driver and not use the radeon driver.

Reboot the machine.

To test that the AMD GPU is available, open a terminal and run

xrandr --listproviders

You should get an output similar to this:

Providers: number : 2
Provider 0: id: 0x69; cap: 0xf (Source Output, Sink Output, Source Offload, Sink Offload); crtcs: 3; outputs: 7; associated providers: 1; name: modesetting
output eDP-1
output VGA-1
output HDMI-1
output DP-1
output HDMI-2
output DP-2
output HDMI-3
Provider 1: id: 0x3f; cap: 0xd (Source Output, Source Offload, Sink Offload); crtcs: 0; outputs: 0; associated providers: 1; name: AMD Radeon HD 8600M Series @ pci:0000:01:00.0

Two keys to pick out here. First, that there are 2 providers. Provider 0, is the Intel GPU, the second, Provider 1, is the AMD. Take note that Provider 1 is AMD.

To test that the AMD GPU is properly usable run the following in termrinal:

DRI_PRIME=1 glxinfo | grep “OpenGL renderer”

Which SHOULD output:

OpenGL renderer string: AMD Radeon HD 8600M Series (HAINAN / DRM 3.23.0 / 4.16.8-1-default, LLVM 6.0.0)

Since the point of all of this is to run Graphic intense applications or games using the AMD GPU, all that must be done is to prepend any application with “DRI_PRIME=1”

For example, to run all Steam games using the AMD GPU not the Intel, from terminal:

DRI_PRIME=1 steam

Even better, you can modify the menu entries

Steam Desktop Menu Properties

DRI_PRIME=1 can be prepended to any application you want to be offloaded to the AMD GPU. It has worked for every application I have tried, games, emulators, FreeCAD and it indeed works well.

There is a way to default to the AMD GPU but that is not how I want my system to operate.

Machine Shortcomings

This is a Generation 4 Intel CPU, so it is a bit dated, however, I don’t seem to have serious issues of lack of processing ability.

Only 16 GB of RAM. Actually, I am surprised that is the not enough, really. I have pushed it from time to time and another 8 or 16 GB would have been great but that is not a possibility in this sized package.

No Thunderbolt or USB-C ports. Granted, I have nothing that requires USB-C bus access but if it had at least 1 port, that would make it much greater.

Related Links

Dell Latitude E6440 mSATA Upgrade

openSUSE Tumbleweed on Dell Latitude E6440

Dell Latitude E6440 all on SSDs