Apple Says Throttling Issue Is A Software Bug

Image: Apple

Apple has looked into claims by a YouTube blogger that the company's newest MacBook Pro doesn't deliver on promised performance and is slower than the previous model. In their research, they substantiated the claims and discovered a software bug was the issue.

Apple took the blogger, Dave Lee, seriously and investigated the issue, which I reported on earlier this week. They found the issue was not a design fault with the cooling system, a conclusion many people jumped to, but a "missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system" according to a statement released to media outlets.

Lee's testing found that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with a six-core Intel Core i9 processor couldn't hold its base 2.9GHz clock speed while rendering a five-and-a-half minute 5K video in Adobe Premiere Pro - something the previous Core i7 model could do faster.

Apple has released a supplemental update to mac OS High Sierra 10.13.6 that addresses this specific issue. It doesn't just affect the the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro Intel Core i9 model tested by Lee but also quad-core Core i7 and Core i5 configurations, with the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar also hit by impaired performance.

How Does this Happen?

This entire episode is symptomatic of a bigger issue in my opinion. I find it hard to believe that no-one at Apple thought to test production units of their new computer, equipped with one of the fastest processors ever produced for consumers to ensure that it performed better than the previous model.

The good news is that because so many things are now under software control they can be fixed with relative ease. Of course, that puts the onus on fixing it back on the people that bought a computer that costs more than $4,000 that doesn't perform as specified. In order to get what you paid for, you need to download and install a software update. That will cost you some work time from your day.

One Last Thing

A couple of commenters on the story I published on Monday suggested I ought not report on what was, at that time, an unconfirmed claim. I think it's important to report on such matters as, if they are substantiated, put the pressure on vendors to fix things promptly. While the speculation about the cause of the issue was incorrect the fact the new computers didn't work as promised was corroborated by Apple.


Comments

    I didn't know you could fix the laws of thermodynamics with a software patch!

    I love when corporations think software patches can overrule the law of physics.
    Fact of the matter is, the chassis is identical to its previous laptops of similar size, meaning airflow is *physically* restricted. No matter what software gymnastics they perform, all they can do is either throttle the CPU, or make the laptop VERY hot by not throttling it, which will bring with it a raft of other problems.
    The chassis simply CANNOT dissipate the heat that the i9 puts out under load.

    No matter which way you look at it, this will not end well. The product is intrinsically horribly designed.

      OK - I'm curious (and not a physicist). Why can't that case dissipate the required heat?

        That chassis is exactly the same as the previous generation which was 25% as powerful, and put out considerably less heat. All they have done is pack the same chassis with much more powerful components. Even if they have included a more efficient cooling solution inside (such as a more powerful fan, or even a liquid cooling solution), it's still imperative that the heat is transferred *outside* of the case somehow, since heat cannot be destroyed (basic law of thermodynamics).
        Therefore, to achieve the same level of heat dissipation in the same chassis with components that are 4x more powerful, you either need to make the fan work overtime (ie. EXTREMELY LOUD) to get it to vent all that heat out of the same sized chassis openings (using convection), or allow the chassis to get EXTREMELY HOT (using conduction). More likely, it will be a combination of both.

        Apple likes to keep a consistent visual philosophy without compromise across its range. This means that they are starting to not put thought into how their aesthetic design impacts performance. They are literally becoming the company of 'all show, no go'.

          What apple has done the equivalent to putting an overclocked CPU into your rig and using blowing on it as your cooling method. An i9 cannot run properly in the MacBook unless its severely underclocked. The i9's in these MacBooks won't last long and excessive heat kills CPU's fast.

    Remember when Apple fixed the "you're holding it wrong" Iphone? That was a hardware issue that they "fixed" with a software patch. Of course the poor signal issue was never addressed, they just changed the signal bars readout to make people think they had better signal.

    A hardware problem can't be eliminated with a software patch. It can be managed, reduced, or hidden, but not fixed.

    LOL @ 'seekerofknowledge' downvoting everyone's comments. I wonder if the irony of their chosen username is lost on him/her.

    Truth hurts, mate! Corporations don't give a shit about you. They cut corners wherever they can to make a profit. That's what corporations HAVE to do.

      Hardcore apply fanboys get salty when you say bad stuff about their favourite toy.

    I asked Apple about this and have a meeting with one of the engineers booked in for next week. I'll report back on what they say.

      Keen to see what their corporate propaganda dept has to say about their software somehow circumventing the laws of physics. Initial reports from people applying the patch say that it now performs 'on par' with the i7 model.

      'on par',

      For $400 more.

      What a goddamn disaster.

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