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Santech C47 (Clevo P671RE6-G)

Introduction

This laptop from Santech comes with great components, support and excellent build quality. However, if you are looking for a noob-proof Linux-friendly machine, this might not be it.

Because of video driver issues, none of the distros that I have tested (Arch, Mint 17.3, Manjaro 15.12, Ubuntu 15.10) worked out of the box, and eventually I only managed to achieve a decent setup with Ubuntu 15.10, which is the OS I am referring to in this article.

Specifications

For full specifications see the Santech C47 specifications page and its Clevo counterpart.

NameSantech C47 (Clevo P671RE6-G)
ProcessorIntel Core i7-6700HQ - 2,60 GHz - Quad Core - Smart Cache 6 MB - TDP 47W, up to 3.50GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
Screen17,3“ FullHD 1.920×1.080 IPS G-Sync
15 FHD and 15 UHD 4k also available
RAMup to 64 GB
Optical Drivenone
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 530
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M with 6GB GDDR5
NetworkIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (Dual Band, TX/RX 2×2, 867Mbps, 802.11ac-a/b/g-n) + BlueTooth 4.2
Intel Wireless-N 7265 and Killer 1525 also available

Linux Compatibility

DeviceCompatibilityComments
Processorok
Screenok
HDDok
Graphics Chipbad See Video Card section below
HDMI OutNot Tested
Soundok
Microphoneok
Headphone PortNot Tested
Microphone-In PortNot Tested
SPDIFInNot Tested
Ethernetok
Wirelessok See Network section below
Bluetoothok
USBok
Card ReaderNot Tested
Webcamok
KeyboardokBrightness control keys not working (brightness can be adjusted from GUI)
TouchPadok
Fingerprint ReaderNot Tested
Suspend/ResumedependsSee Video Card section below

Video Card

This machine has two graphic adapters: an integrated Intel 530 and a discrete Nvidia 970m that can be switched on and of with Optimus technology. This graphic setup is the real issue with this laptop and Linux and, currently, it would prevent you from running most of the distros out there.

The players

As a reminder, this are the players involved when you'll try to work out the video drivers on your Santech C47:

* nouveau is the open source video driver for Nvidia cards, default choice in Ubuntu. It doesn't support our 970m yet.
* nvidia is the closed source Nvidia video driver
* i915 is the open source, officially supported, Intel video driver
* bbswitch is a kernel module that allows you to switch on and off a Nvidia card in an Optimus system.
* bumblebee is a software that can control bbswitch to activate the discrete card for some specific apps.

The issue

A default installation of Ubuntu 15.10 would get you to the lightdm login prompt. Once you enter your credentials the laptop would freeze, (no mouse, no keyboard, no virtual terminal switching, no ctrl+alt+del, no REISUB), with no error traces in either Xorg or Kernel log files. The only action you are left with is long pressing the power switch to force the laptop off. The other distros would freeze in a similar way, before even showing the login prompt (e.g. Arch would stop working as soon as you enable Kernel modesetting, loading either i915, nouveau or both modules at boot).

You can boot the live media, and run your installed system, adding nomodeset as a kernel parameter. This way everything works, but you will not make use of accelerated video drivers, and this has an impact on both your user experience and battery life.

Upgrading the kernel

As the Skylake architecture is rather new, make sure you upgrade the kernel to a recent release. I found 4.4.2 is working ok, while 4.5-rc3 would show some glitches when running X on the Intel drivers.

Using the proprietary driver

A first step you can take is to make use of Nvidia proprietary video drivers; you can do it with command line, or with the “Additional drivers” GUI. Version 352.63 can already be found in Ubuntu repositories. With this drivers you will get past the login screen and you will be able to use your laptop with accelerated video drivers. Issues are: the system will freeze (again, no logs, no ctrl+alt+del etc.) every time you try to shutdown, reboot or suspend, and every time you run certain applications like lshw or Steam. Plus, battery life is going to be poor, as the discrete card is always on (this happens even if you specifically chose the Intel card in the nvidia-settings panel).

I found upgrading the drivers to the latest version (361) solved the freezing issue. This can be easily done adding the Graphics Drivers Team PPA (https://launchpad.net/~graphics-drivers/+archive/ubuntu/ppa), that packs the latest proprietary drivers for Ubuntu. The laptop runs now, and you will have a sweet experience with GPU-intensive games and applications, but power consumption is still about two times as it is on Windows: even when idle, you can feel the heat coming from the video card fan; again, this happens even when nvidia-prime is installed, and the Intel card is selected in the Nvidia settings panel.

Switching off the Nvidia card

This is where it gets tricky. My goal here is to completely switch off the Nvidia GPU, which I only need when I run games on Windows, to maximize the laptop's battery life when I am working on Linux.

Ideally one can force X to use the Intel drivers by blacklisting the modules that control the Nvidia card (nvidia/nouveau), or adding nouveau.modeset=0 (or nvidia.modeset=0) as a kernel parameter. Once the system is running on the Intel drivers, bbswitch can be instructed to power off the discrete card. Even more ideally, one could just install Bumblebee and let it do the job but, no need to say, it didn't work here.

After some trial and error, I removed the Nvidia proprietary drivers, along with bbswitch-dkms and Bumblebee, and blacklisted nouveau. At first there seemed to be a problem with the Intel drivers as well, because X could not boot without a module for the Nvidia card: the screen would just keep flashing between the text terminal and the graphic terminal, and a X log would show a segmentation fault error:

[     9.570] (WW) modeset(G0): Option "ConstrainCursor" is not used
[     9.570] (WW) modeset(G0): Option "AllowEmptyInitialConfiguration" is not used
[     9.570] (WW) modeset(G0): Option "IgnoreDisplayDevices" is not used
[     9.570] (EE) modeset(G0): [DRI2] No driver mapping found for PCI device 0x8086 / 0x191b
[     9.570] (EE) modeset(G0): Failed to initialize the DRI2 extension.
[    10.849] (==) FBDEV(0): Backing store enabled
[    10.849] (EE) FBDEV(0): FBIOPUTCMAP: Device or resource busy
[    10.849] (EE) FBDEV(0): FBIOPUTCMAP: Device or resource busy
...
[    10.853] (EE) FBDEV(0): FBIOPUTCMAP: Device or resource busy
[    10.853] (EE) FBDEV(0): FBIOPUTCMAP: Device or resource busy
[    10.853] (==) FBDEV(0): DPMS enabled
[    10.853] (--) RandR disabled
[    10.857] (II) SELinux: Disabled on system
[    10.858] (II) AIGLX: Screen 0 is not DRI2 capable
[    10.858] (EE) AIGLX: reverting to software rendering
[    10.898] (II) AIGLX: Loaded and initialized swrast
[    10.898] (II) GLX: Initialized DRISWRAST GL provider for screen 0
[    10.904] (II) modeset(G0): Damage tracking initialized
[    10.904] (EE) 
[    10.904] (EE) Backtrace:
[    10.904] (EE) 0: /usr/bin/X (xorg_backtrace+0x4e) [0x556ba266c68e]
[    10.904] (EE) 1: /usr/bin/X (0x556ba24b8000+0x1b89f9) [0x556ba26709f9]
[    10.905] (EE) 2: /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (0x7f5ac5dc1000+0x352f0) [0x7f5ac5df62f0]
[    10.905] (EE) 3: /usr/bin/X (RRSetChanged+0x50) [0x556ba25cfcc0]
[    10.905] (EE) 4: /usr/bin/X (RRScreenSetSizeRange+0x54) [0x556ba25d41e4]
[    10.905] (EE) 5: /usr/bin/X (xf86RandR12CreateScreenResources+0x2a5) [0x556ba2590d35]
[    10.905] (EE) 6: /usr/bin/X (0x556ba24b8000+0xcc030) [0x556ba2584030]
[    10.905] (EE) 7: /usr/bin/X (0x556ba24b8000+0x5c1b4) [0x556ba25141b4]
[    10.905] (EE) 8: /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (__libc_start_main+0xf0) [0x7f5ac5de1a40]
[    10.905] (EE) 9: /usr/bin/X (_start+0x29) [0x556ba24fe6c9]
[    10.905] (EE) 
[    10.905] (EE) Segmentation fault at address 0xa0
[    10.905] (EE) 
Fatal server error:
[    10.905] (EE) Caught signal 11 (Segmentation fault). Server aborting
...

Intel provides a graphics installer for Linux to upgrade the Intel drivers to the latest version. Didn't work.

Oibaf's Updated and Optimized Open Graphics Drivers PPA provides the latest development versions of open source graphics drivers, which for us means Nouveau and Intel modules. Once the update is performed Nouveau would freeze after login as usual. However, when blacklisted, X would finally run using the Intel drivers only.

At this point, even if not used, the discrete card will still be powered and consuming energy. bbswitch-dkms can be installed to solve the issue. You can have the module loaded at boot by adding bbswitch to /etc/modules, and updating the initial ram images ($ sudo update-initramfs -u -k all). Once bbswitch is loaded (check if it is: $ lsmod | grep bbswitch) you can check if the Nvidia card is powered:

dario@santech:~$ cat /proc/acpi/bbswitch 
0000:01:00.0 ON

To power it off, write OFF in the same file:

$ sudo tee /proc/acpi/bbswitch <<<OFF

It is possible to power off the discrete card on boot by adding options bbswitch load_state=0 to a /etc/modprobe.d/bbswitch.conf. However, this broke X for me and, as of now, I have to manually disable the discrete card after I login.

Network

At some point, while updating drivers and firmwares, the Network stopped working, in that it was possible to connect to either a wired or wireless connection, but DNS names could not be resolved, even specifying custom DNS from Network Manager. Ping to external IP addresses was working. It is not clear to me what was the reason of this behavior, but it was solved by adding a custom DNS directly in /etc/resolv.conf, and removing write permissions to keep Network Manager from editing that file.

Summary

While most of the hardware is working out of the box, getting this laptop to work with Linux is a pain because of the unstable support for both the graphics adapters. There is some room for hope that future updates will fix compatibility issues, bus as of now if you are looking for a reliable Linux machine, go for a Dell or a Thinkpad.

Resources

Author

Dario Chiappetta
dario.chi -at inventati do-t org
http://www.repni.it/


Discussion

junior, 2016/03/30 05:19

ciao Dario,
grazie per la tu recensione mi è stata davvero utile.
sono un fan linux mint 17.3 e sto valutando anch'io l'acquisto di un c47 da 17 pollici.
mi sapresti dire se è possibile installare un ssd sata3 da 7mm con un hdd sata3 da 9mm
grazie

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santech_c47_clevo_p671re6-g.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/25 00:01 by 151.64.10.84
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