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I'm playing on a Dell Studio 1558 with the following specification:

  • core i5 M520 @ 2.4 GHz
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • Windows 7

For some games sooner than others, but for most games I play (Arma 2, Tribes Ascend, Battlefield BC2) FPS starts out playable at 20-30 but then starts dropping over time to an unplayable level (10-15). For Arma 2 it can take like an hour but for Tribes (and presumably other UE games) it only takes a few minutes.

I'm suspecting it's the crappy ancient Dell supplied ATI display drivers having problems with keeping the right stuff in video memory or something like that. Since the FPS starts out fine I'm hopeful this is actually fixable by getting my drivers set right, question is how?

Are there ATI mobility drivers out there that are actually up to date and usable on this Dell?

Has anyone ever experienced or read about similar issues? Any sites or forums on laptop gaming advice you can recommend? I'm finding it hard to come up with good results on google and elsewhere.

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try monitoring your heat as you play, is your computer overheating? I like to use CUPID's hwmonitor for that: – l I Jul 27 '12 at 21:01
In my experience, "starts out good but gets worse over time" is pretty much always due to overheating. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 27 '12 at 21:08
hwmonitor does say the max temp it has hit once it's going slow is 99 degrees C. I think that could also be the point it starts throttling? I didnt get the impression that the laptop was getting that warm but I guess it could be very local to the GPU. I should give the vents a cleaning. – Jorn van de Beek Jul 27 '12 at 21:27
Heat issues are likely. You might try propping the back of the laptop up a bit, making sure not to block any of the vents. Also, maybe getting a small fan would encourage airflow. As far as drivers are concerned, I think you can use generic ATI drivers from the ATI website, but some laptops don't allow this (my toshiba doesn't, sadly :( ) so I used this guide: – agent86 Jul 27 '12 at 21:29
99 C is quite high, yea at that point your CPU will probably naturally throttle back to prevent damage. Try cleaning out your fan and air intake area. Ideally you want to be no higher than 75C at full load. – l I Jul 27 '12 at 21:30
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Turns out updating drivers can also help with heat issues.

I thought that you could only get ATI laptop drivers through your laptop maker, but apparently there is an ati mobility compatibility tool that can figure out if your laptop can work with the up to date generic ATI mobility drivers.

Now I'm getting a steady 92 degrees C on the Furmark burn in test (seems like a good tool for this, it graphs your temperature and maxes out your GPU) and no apparent throttling in games. Thank you for the comments on checking the temperature, it did not occur to me that that could cause throttling.

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