macbook pro

Apple fans complain latest MacBook Pro throttles i9 processor speed

Image credit: DT

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line up last week with the latest Intel processors, but real-world user tests have suggested that the device quickly heats up, forcing the laptop to throttle its processor to speeds lower than the previous generation device.

YouTube reviewer Dave Lee put his new 15-inch MacBook Pro equipped with Intel’s latest i9 processor through a series of rendering tests.

The device, which retails for a minimum of £2,699 in the UK, depending on specification, started limiting its own performance after only a few seconds of rendering a high-resolution video in order to maintain an acceptable internal temperature.

“The i9 is a very powerful CPU. When it comes to multi-core applications, this thing is a beast. The problem, though, is that this chassis in the Macbook Pro cannot cool the i9 properly,” Lee said.

“When you look at renderers - I’m using Adobe Premiere - after a few seconds we’re starting to see some very serious throttling.

“On a properly cooled device, that spikey line for the clock frequency would be much flatter and would be a higher clock speed.

“This i9 in this MacBook can’t even maintain the base clock speed, which is absurd,” he added.

When Lee repeated the same test but put the MacBook Pro in the freezer, the i9 was able to perform the task much faster than older models, confirming that heat throttling is the issue when it comes to performance.

In another side-by-side comparison (see below) of the 2018 and 2017 MacBook Pro models from Zollotech, last year’s device was actually able to compress the same video file two minutes faster than this year’s device.

“This CPU is an unlocked, overclockable chip, but all of that CPU potential is wasted inside this chassis,” Lee said.

“Power throttling and thermal throttling isn’t anything new, we’ve seen it in MacBook’s for years and we’ve seen it in lots of devices, including Windows devices.

“But this degree of thermal throttling is not acceptable. This isn’t something that Apple should put out on the market and just blindly sell to people, because a lot of people that purchase this device will never know that their laptop is throttling to this degree.”

The video sparked an outcry amongst disappointed Mac fans on Reddit, although user maniacdepressive said: “I would want to see this repeated consistently across multiple i9 MBPs before I'd think there’s a larger issue.”

Elsewhere, the 2018 MacBook Pros include a subtly redesigned “butterfly” keyboard that now includes a thin silicon membrane under each key.

While Apple said this change has been implemented to make the keyboard quieter, users have speculated that it could also be a way to remedy recurring issues with the keyboards that have seen them break twice as frequently as those found on older models.

The butterfly keyboards have been designed to be as thin as possible in order to allow for an overall reduction in the size of the laptops.

However, the shallow design appears to be prone to malfunction, as even small amounts of dust or crumbs that find their way under keys can stop them from working properly.

E&T recently detailed a teardown of Apple’s education-focused iPad 6.

Story updated (26/07/18)

Since the claims of processor throttling first came to light, Apple has investigated the issue. The company has now determined that a software bug was to blame and has released an update to fix the problem.

“Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro,” an Apple spokesperson confirmed, speaking to tech web site CNet. “A bug fix is included in today’s MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended.

“We apologise to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70 per cent faster and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2x faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.”

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