Last week, Apple updated its MacBook Pro line. The computers feature upgraded displays and internals, including the option for a 6-core 2.9GHz Intel Core i9 processor in the highest end 15-inch model. Unfortunately, that computer model has some problems, according to one YouTube reviewer. The notebook is severely throttled because of thermal issues.
In his tests, YouTuber Dave Lee found that the 2018 MacBook Pro with a Core i9 processor underperformed in comparison to last year’s high-end MacBook Pro, which features a Core i7 chip. The problem seems to stem from thermal issues: The processor can’t cool properly within the MacBook Pro’s enclosure.
After processor-intensive work such as video editing, Lee found that the machine had trouble maintaining just its base clock speed. Lee also shared Premiere Pro rendering times he experienced, which indicated that the 2017 MacBook Pro with a Core i7 chip actually ran faster than this year’s Core i9 version.
You can watch the video here.
While Lee was one of the first to experience this issue, it appears he’s not alone. Several redditors have conducted their own experiments with the i9-touting laptop and also found that the device throttles performance more than previous models. One user found that the “i9 consistently throttled a bit below its base spec, with occasional extreme dips in clock speed, going as low as 800 MHz (!), when running under default fan conditions.” Another buyer decided to return the new MacBook Pro after he was unable to achieve the speed and performance specs listed for the device.
AppleInsider also conducted benchmarking tests on the 2018 Core i9 MacBook Pro, and its results seem to corroborate what Lee experienced. However, with further explanation as to how these chips work under heavy load, AppleInsider says that the issue is not a “super-crisis.” As the Mac Observer points out, to decide whether this is truly a widespread design problem with the device or not, multiple identical models need to be tested, they need to be tested with a variety of different applications (some programs are optimized for Intel processors, while others are not), and we should consider the changes that Apple had to make in order to protect devices against Spectre attacks.
For those who recall, Apple also had some issues at the outset with its 2017 MacBook Pro. Consumer Reports denied the device its “recommended” award for the first time due to battery performance issues. It later reversed the decision after Apple fixed the bug.
At this point, it looks like performance-affecting thermal issues can be a problem with the 2018 MacBook Pro in some cases, but it’s unclear how much this will affect the average user.
Update 2:39pm CT, July 24: MacBook Pro buyers who experienced abnormally slow processing speeds during heavy workloads weren’t imagining things. Apple identified a bug in the notebooks and has already issued a patch to fix it. “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 told CNET. “A bug fix is included in today’s MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended.”
Apple said it apologizes to any customers who experienced these issues, which affected not just the Core i9 MacBook Pro, but all new models. The fix is available in macOS 10.13.6.