MacBook Pro 2018: Apple now has a fix for throttled Core i9 MacBook Pros

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro is also its most powerful yet, boasting a mighty Intel Core i9 chip under its aluminium shell. However, it also appears to be one of the most contentious MacBook Pros in recent years with some users reporting that their powerful Core i9 processors are being throttled due to poor thermal management on Apple’s behalf.

Now though, it appears that Apple has acknowledged the problem and is working on a long-term fix. In the meantime, Apple has issued a quick fix to patch over the issue and keep your Core i9 MacBook Pro running smoothly until something better comes along to solve the problem more permanently.

The bug fix, issued as part of MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update aims to solve the up-and-down throttling the CPU experiences when running demanding tasks. “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,” an Apple spokesperson issued in a statement. “We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems”

News around CPU throttling first emerged from tech YouTuber Dave Lee who alleged that the Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro can’t provide adequate cooling for any CPU-intensive tasks. This meant that, even when running at its base clock speed, it wasn’t able to maintain output before it overheats and has to be throttled. This would make it essentially useless for high-end video-editing capabilities.

According to Lee’s video footage, the Core i9 MacBook Pro render times in Premiere Pro are actually underperforming compared to the 2017 Core i7 model. He then performed the same rendering test while the MacBook Pro was in a freezer (because who doesn’t work in a storage freezer?) and was able to achieve incredible performance out of the Core i9 as it no longer needed to throttle itself for cooling reasons.

If Apple’s temporary fix doesn’t appear to be what you want – although I’m not sure why that would be the case – Reddit user Phillip Rosenthal posted a workaround to MacBook subreddit /r/MacbookPro before Apple had made strides to fix the issue themselves. His fix saw his Core i9 MacBook Pro dish out Cinebench scores of around 1,100 on its first run with a constant of 1,000 to 1,100 on back-to-back runs.

After having experienced the device throttling himself, Rosenthal decided to get to the bottom of the issue. As it turns out, it’s not actually thermal issues throttling the Core i9’s output, it’s actually power throttling from the voltage regulator module (VRM) stopping the i9 from getting the power it needs.

According to the post, when the VRM hits its maximum output it overheats, which then trips the motherboard to lower CPU speed so the VRM can cool down again. Once cooled, the CPU ramps right back up to max and you find yourself in the same situation over and over again.

The solution provided isn’t going to please a lot of people though, as it’s very technical and could even void your warranty if something goes wrong with your shiny new MacBook Pro as a result of this fix. You have been warned.

MacBook Pro Core i9 throttling: How to fix

According to Rosenthal, to fix the throttling problem on the Core i9 model of MacBook Pro you need to put your system into a “custom” System Integrity Protection (SIP) to allow unsigned Kernel Extensions (KEXT). It’ll reduce system security, but it doesn’t totally disable SIP so you do still have some level of security in place.

If that doesn’t phase you and you’d like to hotfix your Core i9 MacBook Pro you can find Rosenthal’s instructions on Reddit. Be warned, you’ll require quite a lot of technical knowledge to solve this yourself.

MacBook 2018: Everything you need to know about the new MacBook Pro

New MacBook Pros were quietly announced by Apple, and released into Stores, at a New York event in July. During the event, Apple unveiled a refreshed line of its 13in and 15in MacBook Pro devices with new processors and a slew of tweaks to set them apart from their predecessors.

Those hoping for news on a new 12in MacBook or a revamped MacBook Air will be disappointed to hear that Apple had nothing to announce. Apple is also not making any changes to its entry-level 13in MacBook Pro model without Touch Bar – a sign it’s probably also trying to quietly kill that off too.

We’ll go into more detail below, but here’s what’s changed for both the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro 2018 models.

13in MacBook Pro 2018 update:

  • Quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors at up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost to 4.5GHz
  • Intel Iris Plus 655 integrated graphics with 128MB of eDRAM
  • Up to 2TB of SSD storage
  • Third-gen butterfly keyboard
  • True Tone display and Touch Bar
  • Apple T2 chip for security, Touch Bar and Hey Siri integration

15in MacBook Pro 2018 update:

  • 6-core Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor at up to 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost to 4.8GHz
  • Up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM
  • Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory in every configuration
  • Up to 4TB SSD storage
  • Third-gen butterfly keyboard
  • True Tone display and Touch Bar
  • Apple T2 chip for security, Touch Bar and Hey Siri integration

You can read on below to find out everything else we currently know about the new lineup of MacBooks for 2018.

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MacBook 2018 release date: When do new MacBook Pros arrive?

Apple unveiled its new MacBook Pros at a press-only New York City event on 12 July and, since their reveal they’ve already started turning up on Apple’s website for pre-order. At the time of writing, only the lower-level new devices are listed (13in Core i5 models and 15in Core i7 models) but if you click through you can issue an upgrade to the base models up to higher tiers.

Understandably, Apple is staying quiet about just how much these things will cost but, thanks to some configuration sorting, a top-spec 15in MacBook Pro is so absurdly priced only those with too much money will buy one. For the 15in MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM, 4TB of SSD storage and a Core i9 processor Apple requests you pay the princely sum of £6,210 (inc VAT – and so rightly it should be). I think we’ll pass.

It’s expected that we’ll see the new devices be able for order shortly and should be with eager MacBook Pro owners in just a few days.

MacBook 2018 price: How much will a new MacBook Pro cost?

Prices for the new MacBook Pro models aren’t going to be changing from the previous refresh. If you’re still aiming for the base-level Touch Bar-enabled 13in and 15in MacBook Pro, you won’t have to worry about forking out even more. This means you’re looking at £1,749 for an entry-level 13in with Touch Bar and £2,349 for an entry-level 15in with Touch Bar.

Seeing as a Core i7 configuration is entirely new for the 13in model, it’s likely it’ll go for close to the £2,000 mark with 256GB of storage and even more with the maximum 2TB storage option. A Core i9 MacBook Pro is an entirely new device and, because the Core i9 is an absurdly powerful chip, you’d be hard-pressed to find that 15in MacBook Pro configuration going for anything less than close to £3,000.

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MacBook 2018 design: What will the new MacBook Pro look like?

Ahead of Apple’s quiet announcement about its new MacBook Pro devices for 2018, the rumour mill was running wild churning out all manner of wild contraptions. One device mockup suggested Apple would go for a dual-screened device but, in reality, the new MacBook Pros for 2018 are woefully dull.

Externally, both the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro look no different from their predecessors. There’s a new True Tone display and True Tone Touch Bar here, but you won’t be able to tell the difference from just simply looking at them from afar. There’s also now a third-generation butterfly keyboard in place, but it also looks exactly the same as before.

Business as usual then.

MacBook 2018 features: What’s new with the latest MacBook Pro?

Now we finally know what these new MacBook Pro devices can do, it turns out there’s really not a lot more here beyond some internals refreshing – even if Apple would like you to think otherwise.

New Processors

The new MacBook Pro 13in and 15in devices with Touch Bar have seen their innards overhauled for 2018. The biggest news is that a Core i9 configuration is coming to the 15in MacBook Pro model and a Core i7 configuration is making its way to the 13in MacBook Pro too. The current Core i5 and Core i7 models of both MacBooks have also been refreshed to Intel’s 8th-generation chips.

The 15in MacBook Pro will now also come with Radeon Pro 555X or 560X graphics chips with 4GB of DDR5 memory to tap into. You can also configure the 15in MacBook Pro to have up to 32GB RAM from its base offering of 16GB.

Apple has also employed its T2 chip to help power the new True Tone Touch Bar, security features and Hey Siri integration.

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No new ports

Everyone was hoping we’d see new ports come with the arrival of new MacBook Pros, specifically a full-size SD card slot. Alas, that’s not to be the case as Apple has insisted on retaining just four USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, an audio jack and nothing more. Cheers Apple.

True Tone displays

Apple has used the 2018 MacBook Pro refresh to introduce its True Tone display technology into both the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro screens and Touch Bars. This means that your MacBook Pro can now automatically adjust the screen’s colour temperature to optimise for viewing in any room and lighting environment you’re in.

It’s not inherently clear why this is a feature that then needed to spread to the Touch Bar as well, but whatever.

Hey Siri integration

These new MacBook Pros are the first Mac devices to have support for voice activation of Siri. Siri has previously been integrated into Mac via macOS, but with the 2018 MacBook Pro you can shout “hey Siri” into the room and get some questions answered.

Third-generation butterfly keyboard

Apple’s third-generation keyboard for MacBook Pro appears to have had a slight overhaul that may well please previous users. Apple’s main focus was to resolve travel issues and make the keyboard even lighter than before while stopping keys from sticking using its butterfly model of switch.

It was previously believed that Apple hadn’t looked to fix concerns around dust and water resistivity, which has led to a large number of MacBook and MacBook Pros being sent back for fixes. However, thanks to an iFixit teardown, it looks very much like Apple has quietly resolved the problem by encasing each switch in a small silicon pocket to keep out dust and moisture from the mechanism.

This doesn’t mean you can now suddenly take your MacBook Pro to the beach or throw a jug of water over it, but it’s certainly a nice improvement for users who’ve suffered with Apple’s previous keyboard designs.

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