For a week, we've been seeing reports that the recently released MacBook Pros are running out, it all started after this Dave Lee video. They work so well, in fact, that the very sophisticated Intel Core 8th Gen processors within them were accelerated below their base speed. Apple has recognized that thermal strangulation is a real problem caused by a software error, and is issuing a software update designed to address it.
The company also apologized and wrote: "We apologize to any customer who has underperformed in their new systems."
Apple says it discovered the problem after more testing in the wake of Lee's video, which showed results that Apple has not seen in its own tests. In a call with The Verge the representatives said that the acceleration was only displayed under very specific and very intense workloads, which is why the company did not detect the error before the launch. The bug affects every new generation of MacBook Pro, including 13-inch and 15-inch sizes and all Intel processor configurations. It does not affect previous generations.
This is the company's statement in its entirety:
After performing extensive performance tests under numerous workloads, we have identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that affects the thermal management system and that it could reduce the clock speed under heavy thermal loads in the new MacBook Pro. An error correction is included in the macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 supplementary update today and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has underperformed in their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar will be up to 2 times faster, as shown by the performance results on our website.
Apple declined to provide more details about what precisely this "missing digital key" is – beyond the fact that its lack affects the thermal management system. The company is sticking to its declared performance claims on new machines, and will add a reference chart to its official MacBook Pro website to reflect more recent tests.
Admission closes a full week of drama on these new MacBook Pro. Surprisingly, the heat strangulation is not the main story in this drama. That role falls on the keyboard. Apple insists that the redesign of the keyboard to include a silicone barrier made the keyboard "quieter". It does so in the face of its own internal documents that clearly indicate how the new design should help its keyboards become more reliable when crumbs or sand make their way inside.
Regarding the strangulation drama, it makes sense to the various articles and videos that compare these machines has been nothing less than turn your head, and make sense of all the different results has been a challenge. However, there are a couple of things: Jonathan Morrison conducted an extensive battery of tests that show that i9 MacBook Pros work faster than the i7. On the other hand, the founder of Geekbench created some custom tests that showed that the highest performance i9 processors were running slower:
I am working on other tests, and some show that i9 is faster than the i7. For example, in almost all single core tests (burst or sustained) the i9 is faster than the i7. We hope to have something to share with more detailed tests (and more data!) Next week.
– John Poole (@jfpoole) July 20, 2018
Now that there is a software solution that puts the so-called "missing digital key" back to better manage the temperature of the processors, it seems that everyone will need to run those tests one more time. That is precisely what we are going to do before our review.
We also communicate with Intel and will let you know if they have any comments.