Tested: Thermal throttling in base model mid-2019 13-inch MacBook Pro

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited July 17
AppleInsider has the new base model 13-inch MacBook Pro on hand, and we wanted to see whether the single fan design on this new MacBook Pro is a problem for the thermal condition and, as such, the processing power -- or if its able to take the heat.

Mid 2019 base 13-inch MacBook Pro running Cinebench R20
Mid 2019 base 13-inch MacBook Pro running Cinebench R20


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, any given MacBook Pro enclosure since 2016 is still very tight from a thermal standpoint.

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 to keep a computer from dropping below a rated speed.





When a processor is cool, it is capable of exceeding its rated 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 Pro and the 2019 refresh.

Single fan design but with a lower TDP

Like the 2017 MacBook Pro with Function Keys, the 2019 refresh of the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a single cooling fan. The processors on the new base model $1299 MacBook Pro have a 15W TDP versus the 28W on the now mid-tier 13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports that retails for $1799.

Procedure

For our test, we powered up Cinebench R20 and ran this comprehensive benchmark ten times, back to back. This keeps the processor running so that it's constantly under heavy load, pushing its thermal performance.

Intel Power Gadget on Mid 2019 base 13-inch MacBook Pro
Intel Power Gadget on Mid 2019 base 13-inch MacBook Pro


To monitor the clock speed and the frequency of the chipset, we're using Intel's Power Gadget. Before running any heavy intense applications, we did notice that our clock speed hovered around 1.3GHz -- which is normal. If the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro were to throttle under load, we'd see the temperature remain high and the speed dip below the advertised 1.4GHz frequency.

Bring the heat

After our tenth run, we saw the speed quickly hit that turbo boost frequency of 3.9GHz, then slow down before it hit 100C. Instead of going back to 1.4GHz though, we noticed that it maintains a speed at between 2.6GHz to 2.7GHz -- notably higher than the rated clock speed and consistent with Windows machines using the same processor.

Intel Power Gadget and Cinebench R20 on Mid 2019 base 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro
Intel Power Gadget and Cinebench R20 on Mid 2019 base 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro


After running the test repeatedly, we averaged a score of 1583, expectedly less than the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz i5 processor that earned a CPU score of 1779.

True to promises

Apple's new base model 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar doesn't dip below its advertised 1.4GHz frequency even under heavy load. The average clock speed hovers around 2.7GHz throughout our testing.

Every computer with an Intel processor will have an equilibrium temperature dependent on a number of factors -- the process size, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. In our case, with the office air at about 21C, we got exactly what we expected to find.



Where to buy and save on the new 2019 MacBook Pro

Apple's new 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro is on sale thanks to coupon deals stacked with no interest financing incentives. Our 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Price Guide, which is updated daily, offers current product availability, as well as the lowest prices on every configuration.

Those looking for the lowest prices period, regardless of model year, can also take advantage of closeout savings on 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro systems, with the potential to save hundreds of dollars on previous-gen models.

Editor's note: Republished on July 17 with video, and no other changes
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member
    Interesting.  I also want add a quote that every machine is little different, for example my core m7 MacBook got a score of 278 (250~260 average) in Cinebench R15, a lot higher than what notebookcheck was getting (260 highest from a m5).
    Of course I swapped the thermal paste too, though my scores are still kind of rare, most reviews compared them right out of the box, which their pastes is at their highest performance.
    edited July 15
  • Reply 2 of 31
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,685member
    I was always impressed with the amount of thought and work that goes into the thermal design of Macbooks.  It's a testament to the excellent engineering that Apple does with these machines.

    That's the huge difference between what Apple does, and the iKnockoffs.  Sure, they may look the same but when competitor's fans kick in, it's more a vacuum cleaner and lap heater than a laptop, yet no one discusses that.
    MisterKitchiamacpluspluswilliamlondonmacxpresslkrupp
  • Reply 3 of 31
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,860member
    The real problem  here is that the base operating frequency of 1.4GHz is crap.   Intel’s In ability to break my power usage down an honestly advance the clock rates of their chips is really hurting the industry.  The increase in single thread performance of these processors isn’t even worthy of discussion anymore.   
    dysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 31
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member

    Every computer with an Intel processor will have an equilibrium temperature dependent on a number of factors -- the process size, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. In our case, with the office air at about 21C, we got exactly what we expected to find.

    No need to mention that unlike desktop computers in which the fans blow through all internal space, the fan(s) in a laptop only cool down the CPU and the GPU. The rest of the laptop enclosure must cool down itself. And if the ambient temperature is a parameter in establishing the thermal equilibrium of a computer with Intel, it becomes evident that the heat conductivity and the volume of the enclosure matter as much as the performance of the fans and the heat sink of a laptop. Thus aluminium and thin enclosure...
    edited July 15 dysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 31
    indiekidukindiekiduk Posts: 303member
    wizard69 said:
    The real problem  here is that the base operating frequency of 1.4GHz is crap.   Intel’s In ability to break my power usage down an honestly advance the clock rates of their chips is really hurting the industry.  The increase in single thread performance of these processors isn’t even worthy of discussion anymore.   
    4 cores at an embarrassing 1.4GHz seems to bench surprisingly well though. I'd be interesting in trying it maybe it prevents the usual hangs in Finder and Safari you get on dual core 2.0GHz.

    The article should clarify that any boost speed above 1.4Ghz is only done by one core at a time.
    edited July 15 MplsPMisterKit
  • Reply 6 of 31
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 362member
    wizard69 said:
    The real problem  here is that the base operating frequency of 1.4GHz is crap.   Intel’s In ability to break my power usage down an honestly advance the clock rates of their chips is really hurting the industry.  The increase in single thread performance of these processors isn’t even worthy of discussion anymore.   
    4 cores at an embarrassing 1.4GHz seems to bench surprisingly well though. I'd be interesting in trying it maybe it prevents the usual hangs in Finder and Safari you get on dual core 2.0GHz.

    The article should clarify that any boost speed above 1.4Ghz is only done by one core at a time.
    1.4GHz, but for single threads you get Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz - that's why the single thread benchmarks compare favourably to the 2 x TB3 function key and 4 x TB3 Touch Bar models.

    According to the Intel Ark, this processor has 4 cores, 8 threads (hyperthreading) which would be why the multi core benchmark is so impressively high.
  • Reply 7 of 31
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,572member
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
  • Reply 8 of 31
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,108member
    MplsP said:
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
    I use my MBP connected to an external monitor 90% of the time (which automatically triggers the Vega 20) and have not had any issues. Not sure why you'd assume a single failure report would indicate some inadequacy in design.
    StrangeDaysPickUrPoison
  • Reply 9 of 31
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,572member
    MplsP said:
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
    I use my MBP connected to an external monitor 90% of the time (which automatically triggers the Vega 20) and have not had any issues. Not sure why you'd assume a single failure report would indicate some inadequacy in design.
    I wasn't automatically assuming that it does, rather making an observation/correlation. graphics chip failures are pretty rare and Macplusplus mentioned above about the laptop cooling system cooling the GPU as well as the CPU which lead to my question. (of course, if your GPU fails next year, that will all but prove the hypothesis! ;) )
  • Reply 10 of 31
    mike54mike54 Posts: 347member
    Thanks for mentioning the ambient room temperature your tests were conducted at, it is a significant number, especially around here.
    Room temp of 21°C is quite cool, I wonder what the results would be like if it was 33°C.
    But I guess these laptops are designed to do work like this in well air-conditioned rooms only.
  • Reply 11 of 31
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,170member
    What a red herring!  Take a processor, negotiate its clock-speed down so it shows a TDP way lower than any real scenario would ever use. Not only can you claim ‘lower power’ but also ‘no throttling’.

    Intel Marketing solved the power issue Intel Engineering couldn’t.
    dysamoriarandominternetperson
  • Reply 12 of 31
    wizard69 said:
    The real problem  here is that the base operating frequency of 1.4GHz is crap.   Intel’s In ability to break my power usage down an honestly advance the clock rates of their chips is really hurting the industry.  The increase in single thread performance of these processors isn’t even worthy of discussion anymore.   
    4 cores at an embarrassing 1.4GHz seems to bench surprisingly well though. I'd be interesting in trying it maybe it prevents the usual hangs in Finder and Safari you get on dual core 2.0GHz.

    The article should clarify that any boost speed above 1.4Ghz is only done by one core at a time.
    Source? I'm pretty sure that's nonsense.
  • Reply 13 of 31
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member
    MplsP said:
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
    Which one?
  • Reply 14 of 31
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member

    Every computer with an Intel processor will have an equilibrium temperature dependent on a number of factors -- the process size, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. In our case, with the office air at about 21C, we got exactly what we expected to find.

    No need to mention that unlike desktop computers in which the fans blow through all internal space, the fan(s) in a laptop only cool down the CPU and the GPU. The rest of the laptop enclosure must cool down itself. And if the ambient temperature is a parameter in establishing the thermal equilibrium of a computer with Intel, it becomes evident that the heat conductivity and the volume of the enclosure matter as much as the performance of the fans and the heat sink of a laptop. Thus aluminium and thin enclosure...
    That actually depends, most Mac notebooks sucks air on the opposite side where your fan is located, so the airflow has to gone all the way through.  On the 4TB 13” and 15”, you’ll get air flows from the side with one side spins little faster.
    edited July 15
  • Reply 15 of 31
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,270member
    DuhSesame said:

    Every computer with an Intel processor will have an equilibrium temperature dependent on a number of factors -- the process size, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. In our case, with the office air at about 21C, we got exactly what we expected to find.

    No need to mention that unlike desktop computers in which the fans blow through all internal space, the fan(s) in a laptop only cool down the CPU and the GPU. The rest of the laptop enclosure must cool down itself. And if the ambient temperature is a parameter in establishing the thermal equilibrium of a computer with Intel, it becomes evident that the heat conductivity and the volume of the enclosure matter as much as the performance of the fans and the heat sink of a laptop. Thus aluminium and thin enclosure...
    That actually depends, most Mac notebooks sucks air on the opposite side where your fan is located, so the airflow has to gone all the way through.  On the 4TB 13” and 15”, you’ll get air flows from the side with one side spins little faster.
    There’s almost no room for air to move around in there. 
  • Reply 16 of 31
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,789administrator
    If you can't find your comment, re-read the commenting guidelines.
  • Reply 17 of 31
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 933member
    wizard69 said:
    The real problem  here is that the base operating frequency of 1.4GHz is crap.   Intel’s In ability to break my power usage down an honestly advance the clock rates of their chips is really hurting the industry.  The increase in single thread performance of these processors isn’t even worthy of discussion anymore.   
    This base commenting stance of doubling down on the negative leaves something to be desired as well. I commend them for not promising more, then quietly delivering a surplus on top of what was promised.
    edited July 16
  • Reply 18 of 31
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member
    dysamoria said:
    DuhSesame said:

    Every computer with an Intel processor will have an equilibrium temperature dependent on a number of factors -- the process size, the cooling system, and the ambient temperature. In our case, with the office air at about 21C, we got exactly what we expected to find.

    No need to mention that unlike desktop computers in which the fans blow through all internal space, the fan(s) in a laptop only cool down the CPU and the GPU. The rest of the laptop enclosure must cool down itself. And if the ambient temperature is a parameter in establishing the thermal equilibrium of a computer with Intel, it becomes evident that the heat conductivity and the volume of the enclosure matter as much as the performance of the fans and the heat sink of a laptop. Thus aluminium and thin enclosure...
    That actually depends, most Mac notebooks sucks air on the opposite side where your fan is located, so the airflow has to gone all the way through.  On the 4TB 13” and 15”, you’ll get air flows from the side with one side spins little faster.
    There’s almost no room for air to move around in there. 
    Sigh.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,572member
    DuhSesame said:
    MplsP said:
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
    Which one?
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/07/15/i-replaced-my-mac-with-my-ipad-pro-for-a-week----heres-how-it-went
  • Reply 20 of 31
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member
    MplsP said:
    DuhSesame said:
    MplsP said:
    Interesting article. One thing I noticed when looking at the new 13" MBPs was how well they perform. Like indiekiduk said, they bench well above what you'd expect just by looking at the clock speed.

    I just read the article by Andrew O'Hara who had to send his MBP in for repair due to the ports and graphics chip failing. One of the things I wonder was whether the graphics chips were inadequately cooled, causing early failure. It sounds like he routinely connected to an external monitor, so they were likely worked harder than if they had just been running the laptop screen and I don't know if the graphics chips have any thermal throttling mechanism like processors do.
    Which one?
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/07/15/i-replaced-my-mac-with-my-ipad-pro-for-a-week----heres-how-it-went
    Well, he didn’t say anything else, but the port is loose.
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