Nehalem Mac Pro systems suffer audio-based performance issues

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
The latest Mac Pro models with Nehalem-based Intel Xeon processors reportedly suffer a 20 percent performance hit when playing audio in Mac OS X, users have reported.



Highlighted by Ars Technica, the issue applies to both early 2009 and late 2009 Mac Pro models. When playing audio through iTunes or a number of other applications, users have seen CPU temperatures double, while performance can take a serious hit.



Various user test have found that running Windows 7 via Boot Camp eliminates the issue, leading some to believe the issue is related to power management kernel extensions in Mac OS X.



"Further tests using benchmarks that run the CPU to full utilization show less dramatic temperature increases and, despite the high heat during audio playback, the Mac Pro's fans do not come on," the report said. "Confounding the issue even more is the fact that using audio doesn't seem to show any corresponding increase in processor load, just increases in power draw and heat."



Users have reported attempts to discuss the issue with AppleCare representatives, but have allegedly been told that the temperature range for the processor is considered "normal." Speculation on what could cause the issue from a variety of sources is available in the full article at Ars Technica.



Apple's Mac Pros with Intel Xeon processors based on the Nehalem architecture were introduced in March 2009. in December, Apple added a 3.33GHz quad-core option



Recent reports have suggested Intel's new six-core "Gulftown" processor could be headed to the Mac Pro in a future upgrade. Apple could stick with the workstation-focused Xeon line of chips, though some rumors have suggested Apple could switch to the new Core i7-980X processor, based on the same architecture.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    That is a bummer - expect performance and get less. I have been reading about this for at least a couple months now i.e., not really news .
  • Reply 2 of 28
    The first thread I saw about this issue is four months old now Luckily I grabbed a 2008 model last September
  • Reply 3 of 28
    July 2009 Macbook Pro 15" nothing to report here.
  • Reply 4 of 28
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,193member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post


    That is a bummer - expect performance and get less. I have been reading about this for at least a couple months now i.e., not really news .



    AppleCare is claiming that it is not an issue, that is is within 'normal'. I would think that they wouldn't make sure a claim out of their butts. and a Pro tower user is just as likely to hit a store instead of making a call, or in addition to the call so one would think if there was an issue it would be in the files. course that's also why there are fans. if things were getting that warm and the fans were a no go, I"d be worried.



    course I"m the one with the system that gets several degrees hotter every time I am running anything flash for more than ten minutes, but Adobe assures me that there are no bugs with their software
  • Reply 5 of 28
    It wouldn't have surprised me if the numbers and OSs were reversed, where Windows was having the CPU usage shoot up when using audio. But the fact that Win 7 on the same machine doesn't produce the same results is embarrassing for Apple.



    It wouldn't be nearly as embarrassing if Apple didn't make the computer, but they do and tie their OS solely to the hardware. They should have figured out their drivers before this since they know their hardware so well. Add on top of this, its a Mac Pro, their top model computer used in many audio recording houses.
  • Reply 6 of 28
    mactrippermactripper Posts: 1,328member
    Quote:

    "Confounding the issue even more is the fact that using audio doesn't seem to show any corresponding increase in processor load, just increases in power draw and heat."





    Something going on in EFI isn't going to show up in OS X Activity Monitor or any perhaps software running under OS X if it relies upon Apple's sensors if Apple is trying to hide something.



    Since Windows doesn't use EFI...





    I wonder if it's communicating with Apple, verifying the content and owner of the audio being played?





    This would be my first suspect, they have been talking about implementing something like this though EFI for years now.
  • Reply 7 of 28
    mactrippermactripper Posts: 1,328member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post


    It wouldn't have surprised me if the numbers and OSs were reversed, where Windows was having the CPU usage shoot up when using audio. But the fact that Win 7 on the same machine doesn't produce the same results is embarrassing for Apple.



    It wouldn't be nearly as embarrassing if Apple didn't make the computer, but they do and tie their OS solely to the hardware. They should have figured out their drivers before this since they know their hardware so well. Add on top of this, its a Mac Pro, their top model computer used in many audio recording houses.





    Oh Windows 7 has it's power issues too..



    http://www.computerworld.com/s/artic...taxonomyId=125
  • Reply 8 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacTripper View Post


    Something going on in EFI isn't going to show up in OS X Activity Monitor or any perhaps software running under OS X if it relies upon Apple's sensors if Apple is trying to hide something.



    Since Windows doesn't use EFI...





    I wonder if it's communicating with Apple, verifying the content and owner of the audio being played?





    This would be my first suspect, they have been talking about implementing something like this though EFI for years now.



    Oh god, wouldn't put it past the bastards ay.



    Even some kind of file diagnostic info, about how itunes is used or something. It'll be collecting and/or sending something to Apple.
  • Reply 9 of 28
    Strange. I have two Macpros from 2009. They seem to be running fine. We monitor the stats and "benchmark" new hardware before we implement it and I am sure the CPU temps aren't doubling. (?) We don't test audio functions per se, but we do allot of audio work in pro-tools and I've never noticed fans blasting or any other performance issue. My freelancers are always the first to tell me there's a problem even if I can't find it.



    The temperature fluctuation makes this report sound dubious to me. Off the top of my head average CPU temp floats around 120+ degrees after running half a day or so. So they are saying that the temperatures almost reached 250+ degrees? That just sounds inaccurate. They are used exclusively for Ptools HD or FCP though. I wonder how many machines they tested.



    Ok I read the report sounds like a bunch of computers were tested. Guess we're just lucky.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    Sure thing -- but I don't understand what all the fuss is about. My Mac Pro (4-core Early 2009 2.66 GHz Nehalem model) when at idle will have its 4 cores at around 137 deg F. With an ambient temp of around 84 deg F when playing iTunes music it's typical for all 4 cores to kick up to 165 deg F. So what? This isn't an issue and the CPU does not overheat and my Exhaust, Intake and Power supply fans hover at their idle speed of 600 RPM. The Booster and Fan expansion slot fans hover around their idle speeds of around 800 to 850 RPM.



    The Marcel Bresink's Hardware monitor shows an Upper Limit for the core temps to be 212 deg F.



    CPU's do get hot when used -- that's all I can say.



    I do not see this as an issue on my 2.66 GHz Mac Pro 4-core Nehalem.



    My idle power consumption sits at around 145 watts and when iTunes is playing music it kicks up to around 217 watts. This translates to around 246 BTU/hour.



    I guess the question being asked is the rise in CPU temp and power increase warranted for the likes of iTunes playing a music file? I dunno!



    What I can tell you is that if I run all 8 core threads at 100% cpu while iTunes is playing a music file the core temps will all kick up to around 207 deg F and power consumption runs at around 270 watts and fans ramp up another 100 RPM from idle speeds.



    If I now pause the audio from iTunes the core temps and power draw remain at the levels of 207 deg F and 270 watts.



    Again, the CPUs can run very hot but the Mac Pro's cooling system handles it very well and with little to no discernible noise.
  • Reply 11 of 28
    So the headline mentions a performance hit, but all I get from this is that power draw increases, so obviously CPU temp will as well. Is there an actual performance problem though???



    As far as I know, iTunes is not multi-core enabled. However, the Nehalem architecture has Turbo feature that ramps up clock speed in certain instances when not all cores are active. Therefore, isn't it possible that increased power draw is nothing more than the CPU ramping clock speed on the single core being used by iTunes, thereby requiring increased power draw, and consequently, an increase in heat? Moreover, you wouldn't necessarily see increased CPU loads either since my understanding is that CPU load and CPU speed are not directly tied. You could ramp CPU speed to infinity without any corresponding increases in load, right?
  • Reply 12 of 28
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacTripper View Post


    Something going on in EFI isn't going to show up in OS X Activity Monitor or any perhaps software running under OS X if it relies upon Apple's sensors if Apple is trying to hide something.



    Since Windows doesn't use EFI...





    I wonder if it's communicating with Apple, verifying the content and owner of the audio being played?





    This would be my first suspect, they have been talking about implementing something like this though EFI for years now.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by caskey09 View Post


    Oh god, wouldn't put it past the bastards ay.



    Even some kind of file diagnostic info, about how itunes is used or something. It'll be collecting and/or sending something to Apple.



    Really you guys, you think a stealthy phone home routine is going to drive up CPU temps and inflict a 20% performance hit? Get a grip.
  • Reply 13 of 28
    It happens even when you simply plug in a usb audio device.
  • Reply 14 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bxs6408 View Post


    Sure thing -- but I don't understand what all the fuss is about. My Mac Pro (4-core Early 2009 2.66 GHz Nehalem model) when at idle will have its 4 cores at around 137 deg F.



    Your idle temperatures sound pretty high to me.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    avidfcpavidfcp Posts: 381member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr Underhill View Post


    July 2009 Macbook Pro 15" nothing to report here.



    Eh mate. I think they are talking about he mac pro tower which is priced okay but honestly, Apple towers used to be for the Pro and Prosumer for recording and the likes. Why they have to use Deon that take special ram so you cannot upgrade your own sticks, is beyond me.

    More Apple lockdown if you look at it. And a 20% hit is huge, especially in Logic or Pro Tools.
  • Reply 16 of 28
    asciiascii Posts: 5,848member
    Nehalem Macs are cursed. The iMacs have issues too. Maybe that's what Nehalem is - a Jewish swearword.



    Bring back the golden age of Core 2 duo!
  • Reply 17 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Nehalem Macs are cursed. The iMacs have issues too. Maybe that's what Nehalem is - a Jewish swearword.



    Bring back the golden age of Core 2 duo!



    hahah very funny!



    This is what is mean I guess when they say the mac pro is for power users!



    More power to the user, then!
  • Reply 18 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr Underhill View Post


    July 2009 Macbook Pro 15" nothing to report here.



    That's because the MacBook Pro released in June 2009 does not use Nehalem CPUs, and is not a Mac Pro.
  • Reply 19 of 28
    benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Sounds like a driver issue. Does it in Mac OS X, but not not in Windows.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacTripper View Post


    Something going on in EFI isn't going to show up in OS X Activity Monitor or any perhaps software running under OS X if it relies upon Apple's sensors if Apple is trying to hide something.



    Since Windows doesn't use EFI...





    I wonder if it's communicating with Apple, verifying the content and owner of the audio being played?





    This would be my first suspect, they have been talking about implementing something like this though EFI for years now.



    Doesn't EFI just run a BIOS emulation?
  • Reply 20 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Nehalem Macs are cursed. The iMacs have issues too. Maybe that's what Nehalem is - a Jewish swearword.



    Bring back the golden age of Core 2 duo!



    It seems like Apple's QA testing over the past couple years has gone into the toilet - all I know is they can have my pre-metal (and non-glossy) 24" iMac when they pry it out of my cold, dead hands!
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