Zoom performance on Linux

Hi there,

so I have gotten a Laptop from my company to work with.
It is a Dell Latitiude 5310 with a Intel® Core™ i5-10310U CPU @ 1.70GHz × 8 and 16 GB of Memory.

I am running Pop OS 20.10 on it with this Kernel:

5.8.0-7642-generic #47~1612288990~20.10~b8113e7-Ubuntu SMP Wed Feb 3 02:27:26 UTC 2 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

I always run the Laptop with 2 Monitors attached which are 1440p. One Monitor is directly connected via HDMI to the Laptops HDMI port, the other is connected via a USB C HUB.
The Laptop does not have Thunderbolt. Its just USB C Displayport or however that is then called.
The USB C Hub is used with:

  • HDMI
  • USB for Kamera, Mouse, Keyboard, Headset
  • Ethernet
  • Power

I mostly like the performance, but since I am working remote (even without Covid) we have to have to use a lot of zooms.

Problem

When using zoom my Laptop feels like barely usable.
When having a zomm session and sharing desktop, everything is super slow.
Clicking on a Slack group or person chat takes around 5 seconds until the chat opens.
Jira is loading an eternity. when trying to open the standup board or creating a ticket during a meeting to keep track of it.

Questions

Is there anything I can do to improve the performance with zoom?
What is the actual reason why it is so slow?
Is this more of a hardware than a software issue?

I am already running a node-exporter and process-exporter on this laptop to gather some data in prometheus (running on my local server) to have a look. Just started this a few hours ago.

I just would like to know if I can do anything to make the work-life bearable.
If not I would like to gather data and explain, that this machine is not capable of helping me do my tasks with good arguments.

Thanks for the input :slight_smile:

My laptop is an Intel i5-8250U (8) @ 3.400GHz, 16GB, and two 1080 screens. Zoom fine but does use quite a bit of CPU time, not aware of any optimizations for it.

This is significantly more clock speed than mine has.

I know it can clock up to 4. something GHz, but since it is running 100% with the fan maxed out using zoom it only is around 2 - 3 GHz during zoom session.

Maybe this Laptop model has an thermal issue and just can not provide enough clock speed?

Maybe, I don’t have any slow systems to test Zoom on at the moment.

Now to answer your question why Zoom might be using so much CPU opposed to other alternatives like Discord; for one they’re based in China (In which the Chinese government has a record of interfering with software developers) and they’ve also been dealing with major security flaws in their software that seem to be a structural problem with the software itself. One can argue they’ve been working to improve these security flaws, but when the competition doesn’t have these flaws in the first place one would question the cleanliness of the code base itself.

In my opinion, if you have a choice: stay away from Zoom and use something far more optimized that isn’t based in China like Discord, google hangouts, or even Skype.

Basically there is not a choice yet.

Working at a full remote company and tested a lot of software. Conclusion was that everything with webrtc does not come close to zoom in audio and video quality.
Screensharing is also essential and works best in zoom as well.

This question is more about the performance and not some ethics or open source vsclosed source, China vs western world.
Not that I do like to discuss this but it does not help much in my problem.

I want to figure out what the problem is. When the answer is: “buy better laptop” then this is a good outcome as well.

I want to figure out why my laptop and the ones from my coworkers are super slow when using zoom with slack, jira, etc. on Linux and Mac.
I do not know the performance for Windows users.

Btw:
I just did did boot up my system in my desktop pc (thank you Linux) which has a a dedicated graphics card (power color 5800XT) and a i5-6700k.
The system is perfectly responsible all the time.

Could this be due to better CPU?
Due to dedicated graphics card which offloads work from the CPU?
GPU hardware acceleration in zoom?

Any idea how I can find out what this could be?

It could be thermal or power limitations. those are not unheard with Dell laptops. I have a Dell XPS 9570 with an i5 8300H (no discrete GPU) with a base clock of 2.30Ghz and a boost of up to 4.00GHz, but it is usually closer to 3.98Ghz.

I have replaced the thermal paste on this laptop with some thermal grizzly kryonaut. So, this does effect thermals but I’m not sure to what extent, but for me it was more about noise. It runs much quieter now.

However, when I run the Intel Extreme Tuning utility, it says that my laptop is not thermal, but power limited. I have read online that the XPS line is known for having power issues delivery issues. If Dell’s “flagship” laptop line has these issues it would not surprise me if others in their lineup do as well.

P.S. I am running Windows 10 on my laptop.

I was also thinking about thermals.

The desktop clearly does not have a thermal issue, when compared with the laptop.
Also, I see spikes up to 4.5 GHz on the desktop when doing Jira/ slack things while zooming.

These spikes do not happen on the laptop I think. Maybe it is thermal throttled all the time?

Will this be logged regarding the thermals somewhere?
I would like to check that.

Also, would it be possible to cool the laptop with some extra fans so much so that I can verify this behavior?

You might be able to find logs in the BIOS of the laptop as mentioned Here by Dell.

You may be able to cool the laptop with more fans, but depending on the condition of the thermal paste of the laptop it may not make any difference.

Let me explain. Your laptop like most laptops has direct die cooling, there is not an integrated heat spreader(IHS) like you see on desktop CPUs. So, if there is poor contact between the laptop cooler/heatsink and the CPU die or the thermal paste application is poor or the thermal paste itself has dried out you will see worse performance due to thermal throttling than you would if the CPU had an IHS.

No matter how many fans you point at the laptop, if the laptop cooler/heatsink cannot get the heat away from the CPU due to any of the above reasons, adding more fans will won’t do much.

Thanks for the explanation. Was also thinking in that direction that the bottleneck of cooling might not be the fan itself.
Would be wondering if the thermal paste is already bad since this guy is ~6 month old but was performing from the beginning like I described.

Not sure if it is a good idea to replace the thermal paste on my own, since this is not my laptop and it still has dell service and everything.

I will check the bios, never noticed that option!
But the “thermal and self-test events” in the bios is empty.

Will not use Zoom because they outright lied about having end to end encryption and yes the China connection. My choice is Jitsi open source host your own server or use the free server run by 8x8 or their paid service.

1 Like

@g-aitc

Good for you, that your use case is fitting jitsi.
A great tool in general, but did not withstand our heavy tests.
Like I said, all webRTC software did have the same issues.
I also understand your idealistic approach, I really do.

Still this topic is about the performance of zoom on my specifc hardware and maybe OS. Maybe finding out what the real problem is.
So please lets not discuss which other software is better, because you can not know it.
It is only better if it fits all requirements and those will be different on every use case :slight_smile:

So it not necessarily the case that the thermal paste has “gone bad” more so that it was never “good” to begin with (relatively speaking).

There are many different levels of quality of thermal paste, a company like Dell is going to find the cheapest one still allows the laptop to function without shutting down due to thermal issues when you open a word doc. That does not mean that the paste they used is the most efficient or prevents the laptop from thermal throttling, just that it won’t shutdown due to overheating. You can watch HERE about just how bad thermal paste can get. (Warning it is a Linus Tech Tips video).

As to whether or not you should open your laptop to replace the thermal paste is up to you. My XPS is my personal laptop so none to get made at expect myself id something went wrong. Although I did replace the thermal paste on a Dell E7??? something laptop I had a couple of years ago, again to lower the fan noise. But I worked in the IT department so if anything went wrong I could have swapped for another laptop no questions asked.

You mentioned nothing showed up in the thermal section in your BIOS, I’m wondering if that only includes failures or shutdowns due to the laptop getting too hot. That would explain why nothing has shown up, since you have not stated any issues with unexpected reboots.

Okay, I did some testing with booting from my laptop and using it like always and then booting up with my desktop and using it as always.

Laptop:

As soon I use zoom with screen sharing and several people I hit around 70°C, fan going nuts and the core clock will stay around 2.2 to 2.5 ish GHz.

When I try to do some task like opening, creating, searching a ticket on jira the task taskes several seconds to do so.
Also slack takes ~5 seconds to switch to a persons chat.

When doing these actions the core clock is stuck at 2.2 to 2.5 ish GHz.

Desktop:

Way different temperatures, as expected. Around ~30-40°C, do not have a screenshot and do not remmeber.

But what was interesting:
Same use case with jira and slack but when doing those actions, the core clock went up high in the 4.5 GHz range for a quick moment and then is back to a lower clock speed.

Interestingly the core clock when not doing those actions and just watching the screen share and listening to the conversation are way lower than on the laptop which straigt stays at ~2.3GHz give or take.

conclusion

So the high core clocks are missing on the laptop.
The reason could be thermal paste.
Could it also be some bad CPU government behavior that I could somehow tweak?

The desktop is defitniy not staying at the ~ 2.3 GHz, it jumps around when stuff is needed.
Also keep in mind my desktop i5 does not have hyper threading but the laptop does.
Not sure if this would have an effect as well.