Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Releases Software Update to Address Throttling Bug on 2018 MacBook Pro Models

Owen Williams, writing for Vice:

Over the last few days we’ve seen outcry about Apple’s new MacBook Pro, which offers an optional top-end i9 processor, and how its performance is throttled to the point of parody as the laptop heats up over time.

Sparked by a video from YouTuber Dave Lee, who demonstrates that the only way to get Apple’s quoted performance from the MacBook Pro is by keeping it in a refrigerator, the outcry has been brutal.

I elected to take a wait-and-see approach to this apparent scandal, especially after word spread that Apple was investigating this with Lee. But some, like Williams this morning, decided that it would be easier to conclude that — as always — Apple’s obsession with thin and light products was largely to blame:

Apple’s insatiable thirst for thinner, which we can see across the iPhone and Mac, appears to have finally caught up with the company. Its new hardware is the most powerful yet, but the form factor betrays that on-paper performance, because the laptop’s form factor means it’s thermally constrained.

[…]

Outside of making the MacBook thicker — which is unheard of, for Apple — there’s little the company can do to solve this. This isn’t the only thermally constrained machine Apple builds, either. After years of silence, Apple admitted in 2017 that the top-end Mac Pro was stagnant because “[…] we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will.”

For what it’s worth, each new iPhone has become thicker than its predecessor since the iPhone 6S; so, no, it would not be unheard-of for Apple. Especially egregious, though, is Williams’ assertion that there’s little that Apple can do to fix it.

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

After a week of controversy following the posting of a video that claimed the new 15-inch MacBook Pro could experience massive slowdowns, Apple on Tuesday acknowledged that the slowdowns exist — and that they’re caused by a bug in the thermal management software of all the 2018 MacBook Pro models. That bug has been fixed in a software update that Apple says it’s pushing out to all 2018 MacBook Pro users as of Tuesday morning.

This is the kind of thing you would expect Apple to catch before they shipped an expensive flagship product, but a week from identifying the bug to shipping a software fix seems fairly reasonable.

Williams’ article also — as usual for this kind of piece — blames Apple for the industry’s broader woes:

The pursuit of thinner, lighter laptops, a trend driven by Apple, coinciding with laptops replacing desktops as our primary devices means we have screwed ourselves out of performance — and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.

Apple may prioritize thin and light in their portable products, but that doesn’t make a trend. The industry following their lead does make a trend, but that’s the fault of those companies. If they thought that they would be constrained by the thermal envelope of thinner notebooks or that Apple was making a mistake in their priorities, they could have released different products. You can, of course, buy gaming laptops that are thicker and allow high-performance processors to run at their fullest potential, if that is your objective. But how many of those do you actually see people using in the real world, compared to those using MacBook Pro-like notebooks? In my experience, the latter dominates.