The XPS 13 was one of the best laptops of the year, but it did have some issues, as all devices do. One that was very frustrating to deal with during the review was the aggressive Content Adaptive Brightness Control (CABC) which was enabled by default, with no way to disable it. CABC is a common method of saving power, since the backlight can be lowered depending on what content is on the display. Unfortunately, it was so aggressive that trying to accurately establish battery life was difficult, since we set the displays to 200 nits. With the CABC, brightness would vary quite substantially just with webpages flashing onto the screen.

It was also an issue when trying to calibrate the display. The calibration software first sets a baseline brightness on white (200 nits again is what we use) and then flashes various shades of gray and color to create a profile for the display. Once again, the CABC would get in the way, changing the brightness that the software was expecting.

I think for most people, it would be something that they would notice, but not something that would bother them too much, unless you were doing certain tasks where it would kick in. I am all for power saving features, but anytime you add something like this, you need to have a way to disable it for customers who don’t want it. Luckily Dell is now offering a patch to disable this feature.

At the moment, the only way to get the patch is to contact Dell support. It would be nice if they would just offer it as a link to download, but for the moment this is what we have.

Being able to remove the aggressive CABC fixes one of my biggest issues with the XPS 13, and it was already one of the best laptops of the year. With this fix, it moves up a bit more.

Update 2016-01-04: Dell is now offering the patch on their site on the source link below.

Source: Dell

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  • Brett Howse - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    I was told specifically by Dell that you just have to call support. With the replies here from people, I sent them a link to this so that they can let support know about this patch.
  • CharCharBinks - Friday, December 25, 2015 - link

    As of today, I've spoken with multiple reps, and all of them deny such a patch existing. This is really frustrating.
  • Gunbuster - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    Sure dragged that out. Went with a Surface pro instead even though it has the worlds worst wireless chip
  • ZeDestructor - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    Can we have a link to the source? I need to get rid of that on my Precision M4800 (a workstation laptop of all things has that damn thing!!!)
  • Brett Howse - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    Sorry there's no source - I got this via email from Dell. You have to call support for the XPS 13 I would suggest doing the same with the M4800. And no, a workstation should not have this enabled.
  • ZeDestructor - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    Ahh, I see. This should still count, since you posted as a writer for AT.

    Thaqt said, some searching later from my end, I found some public statements by some Dell engineers indicating the same on the github page for the XPS Linux support project. You can find them referenced in this thread , and may want to link it somewhere in the article, so that those of us who are trying to get this firmware have an ever so slightly easier time escalating up by having evidence on hand, from their own engineers about it being available.
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - link

    Are you certain you have it on your M4800?

    I have a M4800 at work and have seen no signs of CABC behaviour, although to be fair, the laptop spends most of its time docked.
  • ZeDestructor - Wednesday, December 23, 2015 - link

    My previous screen had it. This replacement seems not to. It got swapped while trying to fix a screen flickering issue.. which is still here after we swapped the motherboard, LCD cable and screen. Next up is the GPU, which should be getting swapped tomorrow (I love NBD OnSite coverage!).
  • ik9000 - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    I just spent 1:45 on dell chat today asking if they had released this yet. 1:45 of bashing my head against a wall with someone who seemed incapable of understanding a very basic question. Please do update the review after testing with the patch running! And can you comment on calibration too now that the display won't be ruining the tests.
  • ik9000 - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    a few choice quotes from the lengthy Dell chatlog:

    12/21/2015 11:40:05AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "please note dell does not provide you any software help in dynamic contrast / or calibration for XPS 13/ 15"
    12/21/2015 11:40:12AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "you need to use a 3rd party software for that"
    12/21/2015 11:41:43AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "these changes are to be done only via a software which you need to find it from your side"
    12/21/2015 11:47:20AM jan: "does the XPS13 also? and for it to be any use you need to be able to turn off dynamic contrast. Has Dell made this possible yet?"
    12/21/2015 11:51:58AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "please note dell does not have any software for these"
    12/21/2015 11:52:06AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "so you need to try a 3rd party from your side"
    12/21/2015 11:53:41AM jan: "yes the colorimeter will have software, but Dell dictates whether the settings are locked down or not. And again, please answer my question, does the XPS13 have the same Dell software to allow adjustment of the screen? It is a very simple question."
    12/21/2015 11:54:33AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "No dell XPS 13 does not have the software"
    12/21/2015 11:54:54AM jan: "so you offer greater control on the 15?"
    12/21/2015 11:55:10AM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "yes that is right"

    12/21/2015 12:12:14PM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "we will not have software (technical information) on this for the calibration"
    12/21/2015 12:12:20PM jan: "and what about dynamic contrast?"
    12/21/2015 12:12:38PM Agent (Ram_Swaroop): "No dell does not have software for dynamic contrast for either XPS 13 / 15"

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