Apple Claims MacBook Pro’s Thermal Throttling Fixed With New Software Update

Posted on July 24, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Hardware with 26 Comments

Apple’s new MacBook Pro came with some beefy spec upgrades. The company has not only included new six-core Intel 8th gen Core processors on the new MacBook Pro, but it’s also now offering models with 32GB of RAM. Unfortunately for Apple, though, the company faced some criticism when YouTuber Dave Lee discovered a major flaw in the new MacBook Pros.

When under pressure, the Core i9 model of the machine gets incredibly hot, likely because of the thin design that makes heat dissipation a lot harder. As a result, intense workloads result in the processor and the device becoming increasingly hot, resulting in automatic CPU throttling to help cool down the hardware. The throttling was so extreme, however, that the clock speed went below the base clock speed expected.

Apple says that’s all cause of a software bug. The company is releasing an emergency patch for macOS that will help fix this problem that resulted in unexpected thermal throttling, according to the firm. Apparently, a missing “digital key” in the firmware of the new devices caused an issue with the thermal management system, resulting in users experiencing “less than optimal performance” on the new MacBook Pros.

“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. A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems,” Apple told The Verge.

Apple continues to stand by its promised performance numbers for the 2018 MacBook Pro, stating that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is up to 70% faster, while the smaller 13-inch MacBook Pro is up to 2X faster.

Users with the Core i9 variant of the MacBook Pro will likely still experience some levels of thermal throttling when dealing with heavier workloads, however. The internals of the system is cramped inside an incredibly small and thin body that makes it difficult to keep the system cool, and so it’s almost impossible for the device to run at the optimal performance level all the time without stopping the thermal management system for kicking in. Aesthetics have started becoming a priority over functionality for Apple, and this is not the first time. 

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (26)

26 responses to “Apple Claims MacBook Pro’s Thermal Throttling Fixed With New Software Update”

  1. jchampeau

    Apple has been putting form over function for decades.


  2. dontbe evil

    sure sure sure magic fix to slow down cpu … it’s never apple faut ... ROTFL

    • sglewis

      In reply to dontbe_evil:


      "it's never apple faut [SIC]"


      What do you mean exactly? Someone reports a problem. Apple acknowledges it is a bug/missing code in the firmware. Apple immediately issues a fix. Problem solved.


      I miss the part where they're either denying it, nor refusing to fix it. Other than being perfect and never releasing products that aren't 100% perfect, what should they be doing?

      • Stooks

        In reply to sglewis:

        Did you watch the new video???


        Under load the CPU never gets above the base clock speed. It "might" have been missing some code but the fix was to throttle the CPU so it is more consistent. Even fixed it was the slowest of the 6 i9 laptops tested in this round. The thicker gamer/Windows laptops never throttled and got between 4.5-5.1ghz.


        Customers are NOT getting the advertised i9 clock speed with this Apple Macbook.

  3. MikeGalos

    Interestingly the videos that have shown people testing the "fix" do show an increase in temperature stability and in the LEVEL of throttling but they don't show a significant performance increase in most tests of things like video editing (on the order of a couple of percent difference) and the processor still not only doesn't run its boost mode but doesn't seem to be able to run at full clock speed so this doesn't appear to really fix the problem.


    It'd be interesting to see some serious 3rd party results rather than taking Apple's word that a hardware cooling problem was really fixed by a minor firmware tweak. I have to wonder if the firmware tweak changed the reporting rather than the actual cooling.

    • Stooks

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Just watch the follow up video from the same guy that started all of this. In it he has 6 i9 laptops. 3 thick (as he calls them) and 3 thin and light laptops.


      The 3 gaming laptops run full clock speed, between 4.5-5.1ghz according to him and NEVER throttle. The fans get loud but they work as advertised. The other 3 will throttle at some point. ASUS model (?), Dell XPS 15 and this Macbook with the patch. Out of all of them he clearly states, even with the patch, that the Macbook is the slowest of the 6.


      Simple physics. Too much CPU not enough cooling. Since they can't fix the cooling they gimp the CPU via a software patch.


      It would be like....here is your new V8 corvette. However when it gets hot we shut off 4 of the cylinders so it does not overheat and you NEVER get the full power of the engine.

  4. ivan19998

    Dave Lee already confirmed original issue is fixed. Explanation sounds a bit odd but it can be something with EFI modules and incorrect CRC which prevented some firmware code from running. I had a bit of experience with reverse engineering firmware and thats how modern firmware designed.

  5. nbates66

    Yeaaah no, they can't properly fix this issue with software since the VRM's have no decent heat dissipation and overheat at about 8 seconds of the CPU pulling full power. The best they can do is adjust the Maximum CPU performance to conserve the VRMs.


    The thing that really ticks me off about this is the scores of apple fans telling people "They're using it wrong".

  6. Martin Pelletier

    I do not know if Razer should do a similar fix, since from some reviewer, the new Razer Blade suffer from heat too.

  7. kjb434

    That's some pretty damn magical software fixes. There is only so much on the performance curve that can be adjusted.

  8. zybch

    Not possible! Their products are utterly perfect so how can ANYTHING have been fixed?! You can fix that which cannot possibly have ever been broken to begin with...

    Next you'll tell us the new keyboards weren't introduced to provide a nicer feel and sound, but replace ones that were actually bad (butterfly) without admitting any fault existed that a speck of dust could render inoperative...

  9. Bob Shutts

    I believe it's a firmware update to be precise.

  10. will

    Good to see this could be resolved with a software update. I hoped this was a software bug, vs a hardware one, and glad to see that was the case.

    • wright_is

      In reply to will:

      The major problem is that they haven't changed the design to take into account the increased TDP of the new high end chips. They might be able to adjust the curve, but it is still going to be subject to extreme throttling when under prolonged load.

      It is one of the tradeoffs of a thin design.

      • will

        In reply to wright_is:


        I agree that the current new 8th gen chips are just hot. Adding more cores has increased the heat and as such they have to be throttled. While the current MBP case is thin and could use a some better cooling for these hot chips, I believe the problem is with Intel and their roadmap.


        Intel was supposed to have been at 10mm by now, as such allowing for thinner cases with increased performance. But what Intel has done is delayed that change and been forced to add more cores to the current 14mm. We now have hotter chips that everyone from Apple, to Dell, to Lenovo has to use. I have 3 brand new Lenovo's including the X1 Carbon, Yoga, and Tablet on my desk and the fans run a-lot. More than the 2018 MBP, and it just shows that the new chips are creating more heat.


        I think, and it is 100% a guess from me, that back in 2016 Apple was going down the road that by 2018 Intel would be at 10mm. This would allow the current design they have to work in the longer run as they would have planned on smaller chips with just as much power. Not the same size chips running hotter.

        • wright_is

          In reply to will:

          10mm was hit decades ago! :-D I think you mean 10nm. ;-)

          At my last job, I had a ThinkPad L470, I now hav3 a T480 and my colleague has the L480. Both don't seem to use the fan any more often than the old one. But these are designs that are specifically made with more cooling room.

          Apple have specifically gone for the thinnest design they could get away with for 3 generation old chips and haven't adjusted it to cope with the increased heat output of newer designs. Yes, Intel are partly at fault for not being able to get to 10nm, but Apple are also at fault for trying to squeeze a higher TDP chip into a case that isn't designed to cope with it.

          That said, Lenovo's IdeaPad Yogas and some of the Dells using the m-Series chips also suffered from more extreme throttling than similar designs from, say, Asus.

          At the end of the day, you have to decide, do you want fast or thin? The laws of physics and current materials say you can't have both - although we now have a trade-off that older designs from the 80s and 90s didn't have, there they could only stick desktop processors into mobile cases with enough room for desktop style cooling and very loud fans...

      • madthinus

        In reply to wright_is:

        From some of the video reviews it appear that trottling that is happing is back to the base clock and not below that, which is great. They do run very hot, to the point that you want this device on a surface and not your lap.

  11. curtisspendlove

    Well, to pick a few nits, it’s pretty unlikely most users would have encountered these bugs. It only happened during long, heavy, all-cores usage.


    The problem, of course, is that is what these machines are designed and marketed toward.


    But really the the only thing that would trigger this would be a process heavily using all cores plus the GPU.


    (They definitely should have some QA procedures setup to catch stuff like this though.)


    Video encoding, some gaming / game development, etc.


    But even then, most games and graphics software aren’t optimized to peg all CPU’s and the GPU for extended periods (that is actually bad on a system, similar to how running overclocked all the time reduces the extended life of a chip, mostly due to higher heat than it was designed to handle).


    So I guess...kudos for trying to pin it on the “thinner and lighter” bandwagon. It’s true, to a degree.


    But bottom line, if you need to peg all your stuff for extended periods, I’d recommend a desktop form factor.



    • Stooks

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      I would agree with you for the most part. Fist most using these Mac's are doing it for show....look at my pretty Mac, now let me surf the web and look at Facebook.


      Games on the Mac suck. There are way fewer of them and even when they get a AAA game it is either a 2-3 year old game wrapped in some kind of wine wrapper, so emulation, and on all but the best Mac's the performance sucks. Or its some game like Fortnite, Overwatch or some other cartoony pay to win/cash grab game that can run on the lowest of computers.


      On a PC running some AAA games...like Assassins Creed Origins, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Witcher 3 etc you will drive both the CPU and GPU into the upper 60-80% for the CPU and if properly coded the GPU will be at 90+%. That would kill the performance of this Macbook in Windows 10 bootcamp mode.


      With all the krap that Apple has taken since releasing this model back in 2016.....only USB-C ports, horrible shallow keyboard, keyboard that breaks from tiny crumbs and costs $600 to fix, a touchbar that basically no one likes and removal of the best Apple invention ever, the MagSafe power adapter, you would think that they would have tested this thing to AVOID further criticism on this model. The name "Throttlebook" will live on.

    • zybch

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      Can't really use gaming as a case study. No serious gamer would ever use a mac, especially games that peg all cores plus the GPU.

      Apple have just done their usual 'form over function' thing to excuse basic design errors, and then blame users. Why try anything different (like hiring competent designers) when the lies and blame game have and continue to work so well.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to zybch:

        Meh.


        You can “game” fine on a Mac. No one buys a Mac as a gaming machine.


        But it plenty of people who like Macs play games on them.


        No, they will never compete with a gaming laptop from Dell, ASUS, etc.


        But neither will the rest of the Windows laptops built to compete with Apple’s laptops.


        :: shrug ::


        Buy what you need.


        If you buy a laptop that only sits on a desk, docked to monitors and input devices and you expect it to encode 4K HDR video all day; I’d say you bought the wrong computer.

      • Stooks

        In reply to zybch:

        "form over function"


        This, more than any other example in the past, is so true. Customers who buy this laptop will NEVER get the advertised speed....but it is thin and purty.

      • ivan19998

        Generally, laptop is a much more than a raw performance. Battery life, solid chassis etc - everything counts. There are options for gamers from almost every major manufacture and Apple just not into this market. Gaming laptops always been a joke. And gaming itself - just stupid occupation for children and marginals.

        • Stooks

          In reply to ivan19998:

          "And gaming itself - just stupid occupation for children and marginals."


          Really????? What do you like to do for liesure? Did you know the gaming industry makes more money than the movie and music industry combined? Apparently a few people like gaming.

  12. wocowboy

    Looks like the patch actually did fix the problem, Cnet and Apple Insider among other sites, have run some tests and report no problems. We will see what happens once the YouTubers get through running their torture tests that do not replicate any sort of real-world use and report back.

Leave a Reply