15-inch MacBook Pro with Core i9 Processor Suffers From Serious Thermal Throttling Issues

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 18 Jul 2018

2017 vs 2018 MacBook Pro Comparison

Last week, Apple surprised everyone by launching a refresh of its MacBook Pro lineup. The 15-inch variant was of particular note since the top-end model now featured a powerful 6-core Core i9 processor thereby making it the perfect laptop for prosumers.

Given how prosumers were previously limited by CPU performance on older generation MacBook Pro, the switch to a beastly Core i9 CPU is going to make a huge difference in their rendering times. Apple managed to use a powerful Core i9 CPU on the 15-inch MacBook Pro without making any changes to its internal design or cooling solution. And turns out, that it is not enough to cool that beast of a chip.

As YouTuber Dave Lee points out in his video, the Core i9 chip featuring the 8950HK Coffee Lake chip with a base clock of 2.9GHz throttles down to 2.2GHz when it is pushed hard for just a few seconds.

This difference is not just limited to benchmarks but can have a huge difference in daily tasks as well. For comparison, the YouTuber rendered a 5.5-minute clip in Adobe Premiere Pro on the 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro at the same time. The former took 35 minutes and 22 seconds while the latter despite its faster and more powerful processor took 39 minutes and 37 seconds. This means that due to the chip throttling, the render times of the 2018 MacBook Pro is actually higher than that of its predecessor by over 4 minutes!

When put inside a freezer, the thermal constraints are removed and the 2018 MacBook Pro is able to render the video in 27 minutes and 18 seconds making it over 12 minutes faster than its own timing when used in a regular environment.

Our Take

It is common for laptops to thermal throttle when put under load. However, as the YouTuber points out, this level of thermal throttling in a laptop in just a few seconds is simply unacceptable. Apple can tweak the thermal performance of the 2018 MacBook Pro with a software update but it is unlikely to have a huge impact on the throttling.

Due to this degree of thermal throttling, the performance gains on the 2018 MacBook Pro is going to be limited, and in some cases, its performance might just be worse than its predecessor. If you are a professional, you might want to consider buying the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Core i7 processor as it is bound to thermal throttle less than the Core i9 variant.

Are you disappointed that the 15-inch MacBook Pro has severe thermal throttling issues?