Apple underclocking MacBook Pro graphics cards

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple is trading graphics performance for battery life with its new line of Intel-based MacBook Pro notebooks.



The ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card inside each MacBook Pro is capable of running both its graphics processing unit and memory at about 470MHz, but avid computer users have discovered the cards are underclocked to 310MHz (GPU) and 278MHz (RAM).



The modifications cripple the speed of the graphics processor by about 34 percent and the memory by 41 percent.



Users discovered the change after installing Microsoft's Windows XP (with the help of Apple's Boot Camp software) and running a third party application called ATITool (0.25).



By sacrificing graphics performance, Apple was able to improve the MacBook Pro's battery life and keep the units near-silent.



Some daring MacBook Pro users successfully used the third party ATITool software to uncap the full potential of the ATI chip. They found it reduced the battery life of their MacBook Pro by about 30 minutes, but did not over heat the notebooks or cause any other side effects such as display artifacts.



However, one user said the uncapping "took only couple of seconds" to cause the system's cooling system fan to spin at a speed he "never experienced before."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 86
    First of all, I'd like to say that I'm all for this. I'd rather have a laptop that runs as silently as possible, and trade some performance for longer battery life.



    That being said, wouldn't it be cool if Apple offered an "overlooking" tool, like ATI does? That way, if you want to squeeze every last frame per second out of Quake 4, you could, and than clock it back to the "recommended" state.
  • Reply 2 of 86
    I'd like to know, how other Laptop-Manufacturer handled this problem? It seems, that the ATI graphic-card is a bit too hot for Notebooks!
  • Reply 3 of 86
    eduardoeduardo Posts: 181member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Robin Hood

    ...That being said, wouldn't it be cool if Apple offered an "overlooking" tool, like ATI does? That way, if you want to squeeze every last frame per second out of Quake 4, you could, and than clock it back to the "recommended" state.



    This would be very neat if Apple were to somehow offer this.
  • Reply 4 of 86
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,354member
    Yeah! this is good news for us laptoppers that want a silent environment.

    However the best would be to solve it like they do with the processor:



    Processor performance: highest or reduced.

    GPU performance: highest or reduced.



    I would always go with reduced GPU until I really needed a massive on screen feedback, like in Motion or while gaming.
  • Reply 5 of 86
    Other manufacturers have noisy laptops, thats how they handle it.



    I think the ideal solution would be for the graphics processor to only run at full specs when absolutely needed, some sort of automatic sliding scale of performance verses power consumption. This would be Apple's style, I'm disappointed in them.
  • Reply 6 of 86
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by palegolas

    Yeah! this is good news for us laptoppers that want a silent environment.

    However the best would be to solve it like they do with the processor:



    Processor performance: highest or reduced.

    GPU performance: highest or reduced.



    I would always go with reduced GPU until I really needed a massive on screen feedback, like in Motion or while gaming.




    True, but is a reboot required for the settings to take effect? If so I doubt Apple would include such a feature, otherwise have at it Apple!
  • Reply 7 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by thefunky_monkey

    Other manufacturers have noisy laptops, thats how they handle it.



    I think the ideal solution would be for the graphics processor to only run at full specs when absolutely needed, some sort of automatic sliding scale of performance verses power consumption. This would be Apple's style, I'm disappointed in them.




    Correct me if I am wrong here, but I believe that the CPU has very specific features that allow it to dynamically adjust its speed.



    The GPU, however, DOES NOT. As such, it would be impossible for Apple to implement the feature you suggest.
  • Reply 8 of 86
    revsrevs Posts: 93member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by crees!

    True, but is a reboot required for the settings to take effect? If so I doubt Apple would include such a feature, otherwise have at it Apple!



    A reboot would not be required - you can do it on the fly - example: ATIccelerator (could do with having this ported to intel - it would do just waht everyone wants - i.e. change the clock speed.)
  • Reply 9 of 86
    dexterdexter Posts: 12member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Eduardo

    This would be very neat if Apple were to somehow offer this.



    I'm using ATIccelerator II on my TiBook right now. It does the on-the-fly-overclocking thing, but I'm only daring enough to get it about 15% over:



    http://mapage.noos.fr/campahunta/index.html



    I guess it would be nice if Apple put the GPU in its Energy Savings Preference...
  • Reply 10 of 86
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    If the heat is truly not a reliability issue, merely a noise and battery life issue, then Apple should offer a dropdown in Energy Saver Preferences:



    Graphics Performance - Normal / Maximum.
  • Reply 11 of 86
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by palegolas

    Yeah! this is good news for us laptoppers that want a silent environment.

    However the best would be to solve it like they do with the processor:



    Processor performance: highest or reduced.

    GPU performance: highest or reduced.



    I would always go with reduced GPU until I really needed a massive on screen feedback, like in Motion or while gaming.




    I would like to be able to underclock the CPU, and reduce the clock even further on the graphics for heat and battery life. Unlike on my PMG5, I don't see the ability to select to run the CPU as "reduced" in the MBP Energy Saver preferences, or in the CHUD Processor Preference pane. Given the amount of flexibility that SpeedStep currently has, I'm surprised that almost none of it is given or available to the user.
  • Reply 12 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Robin Hood

    First of all, I'd like to say that I'm all for this. I'd rather have a laptop that runs as silently as possible, and trade some performance for longer battery life.



    That being said, wouldn't it be cool if Apple offered an "overlooking" tool, like ATI does? That way, if you want to squeeze every last frame per second out of Quake 4, you could, and than clock it back to the "recommended" state.






    I quite agree. The battery life sacrifice isn't too bad, but the reported noise increase is. Also, it would be great if Apple offered, as you said, an uncapping tool (possibly incorporated in the Energy settings).
  • Reply 13 of 86
    eckingecking Posts: 1,588member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Robin Hood

    First of all, I'd like to say that I'm all for this. I'd rather have a laptop that runs as silently as possible, and trade some performance for longer battery life.



    That being said, wouldn't it be cool if Apple offered an "overlooking" tool, like ATI does? That way, if you want to squeeze every last frame per second out of Quake 4, you could, and than clock it back to the "recommended" state.




    That'd be cool but if someone overclocked too much and screwed up their computer think of all the warranty and tech support issues apple would have.



    A simple normal and maximum like nagromme said would be perfect if it was possible to do that while still keeping the machines safe.



    I mean yeah sure people haven't had problems with this but no one has done it for a long time, who knows how much life that might take out of the components, or future damage it could do.
  • Reply 14 of 86
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Robin Hood

    First of all, I'd like to say that I'm all for this. I'd rather have a laptop that runs as silently as possible, and trade some performance for longer battery life.





    Screw that! you are giving Apple the pass...You save battery by not running wifi, so they made it able to switch off, why not have a switch in prefs...Working in Motion, turn it up, working on battery checking email, turn it down...and if they really wanted to take it to the next level, they could have an "ultra low" mode, clock everything at 100MHz, that would save some juce, would it not?



    Theres no "i'd like to see" to it, if the artical is true, Apple should have DONE IT AT LAUNCH.
  • Reply 15 of 86
    ajmasajmas Posts: 590member
    Well given the issues Apple is already having with MacBook Pros, I think that not pushing the machine to the limits is probably a good thing to do. Of course there is nothing stopping you from overclocking your machine, at your own risk. I don't believe finding out your computer is better than advertised is false advertising.
  • Reply 16 of 86
    asciiascii Posts: 5,936member
    The iMac is also underclocked. By default it is set at 400/400 instead of 470/470. I upped the frequency using ATI Tool and Far Cry was noticably smoother.
  • Reply 17 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by palegolas

    Yeah! this is good news for us laptoppers that want a silent environment.

    However the best would be to solve it like they do with the processor:



    Processor performance: highest or reduced.

    GPU performance: highest or reduced.



    I would always go with reduced GPU until I really needed a massive on screen feedback, like in Motion or while gaming.




    Could be like the Windows 'power-saving' option (not sure if it still exists) that slows down the CPU...it also has options to change the times for screensavers, sleep etc. based on whether or not the laptop is plugged in...
  • Reply 18 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by palegolas

    Yeah! this is good news for us laptoppers that want a silent environment.

    However the best would be to solve it like they do with the processor:



    Processor performance: highest or reduced.

    GPU performance: highest or reduced.



    I would always go with reduced GPU until I really needed a massive on screen feedback, like in Motion or while gaming.




    That's an excellent suggestion Palegolas. I wonder why Apple didn't think of this already. Makes a lot of sense to be able to independently adjust both the graphics ram and processor speeds as well as the Core Duo processor's speed. There's still the processor speed adjuster in the Energy Saver Prefs on the Core Duo MBPs right?
  • Reply 19 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Robin Hood

    Correct me if I am wrong here, but I believe that the CPU has very specific features that allow it to dynamically adjust its speed.



    The GPU, however, DOES NOT. As such, it would be impossible for Apple to implement the feature you suggest.




    I think you're wrong because such a feature exists with the Windows XP utility that was used to discover the graphics processor and ram speed slow downs.
  • Reply 20 of 86
    Quote:

    Originally posted by dexter

    I'm using ATIccelerator II on my TiBook right now. It does the on-the-fly-overclocking thing, but I'm only daring enough to get it about 15% over:



    http://mapage.noos.fr/campahunta/index.html



    I guess it would be nice if Apple put the GPU in its Energy Savings Preference...




    Thanks Dexter. I had no idea such a utility existed. This is great. Now can anyone tell me if a similar utility is out for the nVidea cards. My Quad has the GeForce 6600 in it and I don't see any way to put any of the ATI PCI Express video cards inside the Quad yet. Have any third parties written drivers for them?
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