Tested: Thermal throttling and performance in the eight-core 2019 MacBook Pro

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 26
AppleInsider has the new eight-core 2019 MacBook Pro on hand. Given the drama surrounding the thermal condition in the six-core MacBook Pro when it launched in 2018, it's time to evaluate the thermal situation in the new high-end model that was a big issue for its predecessor.




The previous generation 2018 MacBook Pro with the i9 processor launched with a bug that would inadvertently slow down the processor lower than its rated speed, and not recover until the computer was under much less processing load. Apple quickly resolved the issue roughly a week later and sent out a formal apology. But, even with the patch, the enclosure is still very tight from a thermal standpoint.

When the 2019 MacBook Pro line was announced with an eight-core processor, it immediately sparked concern that this machine would be plagued by similar thermal issues due to the even higher heat output.




What is thermal design point?

The Thermal Design Point (TDP) is defined by Intel as the "average power the processor dissipates when operating at base frequency with all cores active under a high-complexity workload." That is a long way of saying it advises how hot a processor can get when running at its rated speed. It is also a measure of what, at a bare minimum, any given manufacturer has to, at a minimum, implement for a cooling system.

When a processor is cool, it is capable of exceeding its standard clock speed to the Turbo Boost speeds Apple and Intel advertise. This, of course, generates more heat above and beyond the TDP, and causes it to slow down back to an equilibrium state where it is generating as much heat as the chassis can dissipate.

If the heat is too great, the chip will drop below the normal operating speed -- the speed Apple advertises for the machines -- in order to prevent damage and cool down further. This is what you should think of when they think of thermal throttling and not the dip below the so-called "turbo" speeds, which every computer with a turbo speed has always had to do.

So, today's test is to see what that equilibrium speed under load is, and to see if the machine dips under the rated speed -- just as we did with the 2018 MacBook Pros.

Procedure

For our test, we powered up Cinebench R20 and ran this comprehensive benchmark ten times, back to back. As soon as one test would end we would begin it again forcing the processor to constantly be under heavy load and pushing its thermal performance.

Simultaneously, we utilized Intel Power Gadget to monitor the clock speed and the frequency of the chipset.

We should see the processor quickly jump up to a turbo-boosted speed before subsiding back down to an equilibrium speed, balancing speed and the thermal condition. If there are thermal throttling issues within the 2019 MacBook Pro then we will see the temperature remain high and the speed dip below the advertised 2.4GHz frequency.

Hot silicon

After the ten iterations of our test, we saw the speed quickly hit 5GHz before it hit 100-degrees at which point it throttled back down. Instead of throttling down and hovering at the advertised speed of 2.4GHz, we are instead seeing it hover between the 2.9GHz and 3.0GHz instead -- quite a bit higher than the rated clock speed, and frankly, a higher steady-state speed than we were expecting.

2019 MacBook Pro Thermal results
2019 MacBook Pro Thermal results


After running the test repeatedly, we averaged a score of 3096 on this machine in Cinebench R20 -- well above the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.4 GHz i5 processor we benchmarked that earned a 1779.

Our machine, for nearly all of our back-to-back tests sustained a 3.0GHz frequency with the temperature at around 94 degrees.

The core of the issue

Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro chassis was designed at the latest, in early 2016. We got the first glimpse of it in a photograph in May of 2016. It looks like Apple is sticking with a four-year chassis design, so it's entirely possible that this is the last year of this enclosure.

We aren't expecting a thicker machine.

We've also said this before -- we think Apple got hosed by Intel, when they were gearing up for the 2016 MacBook Pro enclosure in 2015. We know that in 2015, Intel was promising delivery of 10nm process Core chips well before now. With any luck, Intel will finally deliver on its promises for a die-shrink that was expected nearly three years ago which will help alleviate the situation further. Or, maybe the next will be ARM-based -- we don't know.

We also don't know exactly what Apple has done in the 2019 MacBook Pro to help the situation.

2018 vs 2019 MacBook Pro Internals
2018 vs 2019 MacBook Pro Internals


The heat piping is the same, the fan speeds are the same, the fan design is the same. The processor has the same TDP, and is the same die size as the 2018 six-core model.

But, whatever Apple has done is working. The 2018 six-core machine is still an amazingly powerful machine, even if thermal conditions inside the case pull it back from what it could be.

That limitation doesn't seem to exist in the new eight-core machine.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,146member
    And here’s another trope you see being plastered around by know-it-alls, that Apple’s thermals are atrocious and that their clock speeds never come up to the advertised rates. You see these posts on MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and others. No links, no proof, no tests, just questionable or outright disinformation posted as fact. AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed. The enclosure is the same so what’s different. Again the die has already been cast and the anonymous experts are trashing the thermals of the new models. 
    edited May 26 repressthischasmjeffharristhtMisterKitwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 49
    @AI, thank you, that was very useful, and quicker than I expected.

    @Lkrupp, maybe some trolls are doing that, but it's still true that the current design is a poor choice if you're optimizing for performance. (It's a different story if you're optimizing for weight, battery life, etc.) It's also true that in the last couple of years, for the first time ever, other companies have been putting up legitimate contenders against Apple for the combined weight-batterylife-performance-style crown. In my opinion, Apple hasn't done too well on that front recently, though the latest macbook helps a lot. If I could get MacOS on another brand's hardware, I would seriously consider it, and I never felt that way previously. Of course I still won't, because Windows.
    coolfactorLatkowilliamlondondysamoriachemengin1
  • Reply 3 of 49
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member
    lkrupp said:
    And here’s another trope you see being plastered around by know-it-alls, that Apple’s thermals are atrocious and that their clock speeds never come up to the advertised rates. You see these posts on MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and others. No links, no proof, no tests, just questionable or outright disinformation posted as fact. AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed. Then enclosure is the same so what’s different. Again the die has already been cast and the anonymous experts are trashing the thermals of the new models. 
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.

    9980HK: On Coffee Lake architecture based processor for big and heavy laptops. Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores) that support HyperThreading. Manufactured in an improved 14nm process (14nm++). Offers an unlocked multiplier that allows overclocking of the CPU.» Further information can be found in our Comparison of Mobile Processsors.

    Based on the tests above it sits between 2.9 GHz and 3.0 GHz.
    edited May 26
  • Reply 4 of 49
    Wasn’t expecting that. 
  • Reply 5 of 49
    KITA said:
    lkrupp said:
    And here’s another trope you see being plastered around by know-it-alls, that Apple’s thermals are atrocious and that their clock speeds never come up to the advertised rates. You see these posts on MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and others. No links, no proof, no tests, just questionable or outright disinformation posted as fact. AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed. Then enclosure is the same so what’s different. Again the die has already been cast and the anonymous experts are trashing the thermals of the new models. 
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.

    9980HK: On Coffee Lake architecture based processor for big and heavy laptops. Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores) that support HyperThreading. Manufactured in an improved 14nm process (14nm++). Offers an unlocked multiplier that allows overclocking of the CPU.» Further information can be found in our Comparison of Mobile Processsors.

    Based on the tests above it sits between 2.9 GHz and 3.0 GHz.
    What?...
    Apple ADVERTISES exactly 2.4GHz. SMH
    macplusplusredgeminipa
  • Reply 6 of 49
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    Further info about the CPU: 
     The processor clocks at between 2.4 - 5 GHz and can execute up to sixteen threads simultaneously thanks to Hyper-Threading. The 5 GHz can only be reached using the "Thermal Velocity Boost" which allows one core to boost to 5 GHz (+200 MHz) as long as the CPU temperature is below 50°C. Multiple cores can be boosted +100 MHz below 50°C (not verified). 

    Sounds like heat is a real issue with this CPU. And all the other Intel CPUs.
    caladanianrepressthis
  • Reply 7 of 49
    I have the 6-core 2018 ...and would have waited for the 8-core 2019 if I had known about that having less heat issues. As of today I have to throttle the maximum rpm down manually because otherwise both fans would run at 6000 rpm constantly (!) - a noise I can only tolerate when I don’t have time to wait. 
  • Reply 8 of 49
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,626administrator
    KITA said:
    lkrupp said:
    And here’s another trope you see being plastered around by know-it-alls, that Apple’s thermals are atrocious and that their clock speeds never come up to the advertised rates. You see these posts on MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and others. No links, no proof, no tests, just questionable or outright disinformation posted as fact. AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed. Then enclosure is the same so what’s different. Again the die has already been cast and the anonymous experts are trashing the thermals of the new models. 
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.

    9980HK: On Coffee Lake architecture based processor for big and heavy laptops. Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores) that support HyperThreading. Manufactured in an improved 14nm process (14nm++). Offers an unlocked multiplier that allows overclocking of the CPU.» Further information can be found in our Comparison of Mobile Processsors.

    Based on the tests above it sits between 2.9 GHz and 3.0 GHz.
    I'm not sure where you get that from Notebookcheck. Intel ARK is very clear about 2.4GHz rated, with 5GHz for single-core burst, or 4.2Ghz possible for 8-core.
    chasmlkruppericthehalfbeerepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 49
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member
    martinxyz said:
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    That's precisely the point, it can go up to 4.2 GHz with 8 cores. It's not 2.4 GHz for 8 cores like Lkrupp believes.

    Looks like we're on the same page.
    chemengin1
  • Reply 10 of 49
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,626administrator
    KITA said:
    martinxyz said:
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    That's precisely the point, it can go up to 4.2 GHz with 8 cores. It's not 2.4 GHz for 8 cores like Lkrupp believes.

    Looks like we're on the same page.
    No. The rated speed is 2.4GHz. The Turbo speed is 4.2.
    chasmericthehalfbeerepressthispscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 49
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,585member
    Thanks Mike for clearing that up perfectly, Notebookcheck is not saying that Intel (or anyone) is claiming 4.2GHz across all eight cores (the Turbo mode) sustained under heavy load. It's claiming 2.4GHz. Despite this, Apple is delivering around 3.0GHz -- 600MHz more performance -- sustained under heavy load.

    Bottom line: for everyone but those who need to keep their computers in a beer cooler to squeeze max turbo speed literally all the time, this machine is both a) world-class fast and b) faster than advertised under load.
    edited May 26 ericthehalfbeeMisterKit
  • Reply 12 of 49
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member
    KITA said:
    martinxyz said:
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    That's precisely the point, it can go up to 4.2 GHz with 8 cores. It's not 2.4 GHz for 8 cores like Lkrupp believes.

    Looks like we're on the same page.
    No. The rated speed is 2.4GHz. The Turbo speed is 4.2.
    You're not saying anything different than I am.

    2.4 GHz is the base clock.

    4.2 GHz is the turbo clock with all 8 cores in use.

    5.0 GHz is the turbo clock with 1 core in use.

    The user said: "AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed"

    The advertised speeds for all 8 cores is up to 4.2 GHz, not up to 2.4 GHz. No one expects a processor to only be able to boost to just its base clock.

    If it can't reach its multi-core turbo clock (as is the case here), clearly the implementation is not enough to handle the CPU. However, this is unlikely to be an issue that only Apple encounters. I would suspect other manufacturers run into similar situations with their laptops.
    chemengin1
  • Reply 13 of 49
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member
    Notebookcheck

    We ran a Cinebench R15 Multi loop for 50 rounds to test sustained performance of the Core i9-9980HK on our pre-production Schenker laptop. At the default settings, we found that the short-term TDP peaked at 83 W for 48 seconds and finally sustained at 55 W. During this process, the 9980HK could score ~1600 points in the first run with all eight cores hitting 3.6-3.9 GHz at 83 W and dropped down to ~1420 points with all eight cores running at 3.2 GHz at 55 W.

    To see if the 9980HK could perform any better, we undervolted the CPU to -130 mV while raising the power limit to 75 W. This condition offered the best sustained performance with the first loop hitting ~1740 points and continuing between ~1720 to ~1740 throughout the test. Laptops featuring the 9980HK that are thinner than our Schenker test model are likely to show increased throttling at heavy workloads. Therefore, those who wish to put the Core i9-9980HK to good use will have to don some elbow grease to tweak the voltages for better sustained performance. 


    Takeaways:

    Initial implementation saw a single run with all 8 cores hitting 3.6 to 3.9 GHz and a score of ~1600 in R15 and then a drop to ~1400 with all 8 cores at 3.2 GHz (only a little better than the current MBP which hits 3.0 GHz).

    Following undervolting, the laptop was able to sustain even higher core frequencies than the single run and offer a sustained score of ~1700. 

    9980HK

    Clearly implementation matters considerably here. In this case, the MBP might also see an improvement from undervolting.
  • Reply 14 of 49
    LordeHawkLordeHawk Posts: 156member
    I’m surprised that Apple’s R&D didn’t attach a Peltier cooler to the heat sink.  For smaller projects, the technology is available, still a bit expensive but no fan noise...

    One reason for not innovating, the rumored Arm based Macs might not need active cooling.  Apple wouldn’t spend the time and money investing in an expensive solution that could be null in a few years.

    Though they have done it before...
    williamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 49
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,146member
    And the misinformation is thick and confusing already. Claims, counterclaims, corrections, objections to corrections. And yet the design is declared “poor” because... somebody read it on the Internet.
    jeffharriscoolfactorwilliamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 49
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,626administrator
    KITA said:
    KITA said:
    martinxyz said:
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    That's precisely the point, it can go up to 4.2 GHz with 8 cores. It's not 2.4 GHz for 8 cores like Lkrupp believes.

    Looks like we're on the same page.
    No. The rated speed is 2.4GHz. The Turbo speed is 4.2.
    You're not saying anything different than I am.

    2.4 GHz is the base clock.

    4.2 GHz is the turbo clock with all 8 cores in use.

    5.0 GHz is the turbo clock with 1 core in use.

    The user said: "AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed"

    The advertised speeds for all 8 cores is up to 4.2 GHz, not up to 2.4 GHz. No one expects a processor to only be able to boost to just its base clock.

    If it can't reach its multi-core turbo clock (as is the case here), clearly the implementation is not enough to handle the CPU. However, this is unlikely to be an issue that only Apple encounters. I would suspect other manufacturers run into similar situations with their laptops.
    I am saying something differently than you are, but we're coming to the same conclusion.

    The advertised speeds for all 8 cores is 2.4GHz, not 4.2. That 2.4GHz is absolutely delivered. all the time, and the machine does hit 4.2 and even 5 -- it just doesn't maintain it. What it maintains is that 2.9-3GHz that we pointed out.

    That 4.2/5 maintained isn't promised by Apple, nor is it by every other vendor. 2.4GHz is.
    edited May 26 repressthispscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 49
    jkdstevejkdsteve Posts: 1member
    I have the 'base' i9 model with the 2.3GHz (4.8 Turbo) and 560x GFX. The only way to get it to hit Turbo is with one Core/Thread in use..then it might get close to 4.8Ghz.

    Using 2 cores, it maxes out in the 4.2 range but will drop to 3.8/3.9 under load.

    Using all cores (8C/16T) the sustained performance is 2.8-2.9GHz and CINEBENCH r20 score of 2,800-2,900 (max 2,953 with screen update turned off) and the fans more or less max out to keep the CPU 96-97'C

    How the heck do you get the CPU below 50'C, it's 60-62 just at idle with Finder (Its probably 18-20'C in the house) I guess Photos might be doing 'stuff' since I've only owned this a couple of days :wink: 


    ALSO: GEEKBENCH 4.3.3 TRYOUT

    Single: 5,654 and MULTI: 28,767
    edited May 26
  • Reply 18 of 49
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member
    KITA said:
    KITA said:
    martinxyz said:
    The advertised clock speed with all 8 cores isn't 2.4 GHz though. According to Notebookcheck, it's actually 4.2 GHz.
    I read that slightly differently: "Integrates eight processor cores clocked at 2.4 - 5 GHz (4.2 GHz with 8 cores)". I read that as base speed is 2.4 GHz, and can go to 5GHz for a single core, or 4.2 GHz for 8 cores.

    That's precisely the point, it can go up to 4.2 GHz with 8 cores. It's not 2.4 GHz for 8 cores like Lkrupp believes.

    Looks like we're on the same page.
    No. The rated speed is 2.4GHz. The Turbo speed is 4.2.
    You're not saying anything different than I am.

    2.4 GHz is the base clock.

    4.2 GHz is the turbo clock with all 8 cores in use.

    5.0 GHz is the turbo clock with 1 core in use.

    The user said: "AI tests the new machines and they are performing better than expected and not dropping below the advertised speed"

    The advertised speeds for all 8 cores is up to 4.2 GHz, not up to 2.4 GHz. No one expects a processor to only be able to boost to just its base clock.

    If it can't reach its multi-core turbo clock (as is the case here), clearly the implementation is not enough to handle the CPU. However, this is unlikely to be an issue that only Apple encounters. I would suspect other manufacturers run into similar situations with their laptops.
    I am saying something differently than you are, but we're coming to the same conclusion.

    The advertised speeds for all 8 cores is 2.4GHz, not 4.2. That 2.4GHz is absolutely delivered. all the time, and the machine does hit 4.2 and even 5 -- it just doesn't maintain it. What it maintains is that 2.9-3GHz that we pointed out.

    That 4.2/5 maintained isn't promised by Apple, nor is it by every other vendor. 2.4GHz is.
    Which is fine, but again, that's the minimum. With an ideal implementation it could maintain that 4.2 GHz turbo on all 8 cores as advertised by Intel. The Notebookcheck / undervolting test shows that higher levels of performance can be sustained with the right hardware. Although, it's important to be realistic with the size and weight class of the 15" MBP.

    Contrary to what that user is claiming, sites and their users aren't "plastering" that Apple can't even hit the base clock.

    Judging Apple's thermal implementation is a different story. At that point we'll have to compare it to similar laptops (perhaps the new OLED XPS 15 which also uses the i9).
    chemengin1
  • Reply 19 of 49
    My takeaway is Apple is faithfully promising and delivering  2.4ghz on all cores based on Intel’s baseline specs for the 9980hk. 

    In many situations, based on load, the chip can and will deliver well above that baseline spec in the 2019 MacBook Pro 15. 

    Is the 9980hk capable of more? Absolutely. The 9980hk has a large, variable turbo range based on thermal management. Beefier systems with better cooling can and will experience better performance as shown above but that isn’t Apple’s concern. They are delivering as promised. 




  • Reply 20 of 49
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,041member
    My takeaway is Apple underpomise and overdeliver in this case, but just like everything about Apple, many complains come from nitpicking the word '4.2GHz' and assumed that's what is 'promised as the baseline' because it just makes the narrative for the thermal problems more plausible.
    coolfactor
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