MacBook Air owners find latest Apple fix producing mixed results

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Users of Apple's ultraportable Mac are increasingly reporting that a firmware update might be taming processor usage, but is still leaving many of their systems too hot to use and prone to software freezes.



While a number of owners at Apple's discussion forums say the hardware patch solved a problem that would force a core to shut down entirely and ramp up the internal temperature, others still note the slim system continues to overheat and in some cases will bog down as the MacBook Air is unable to cope with a given application's demand, particularly an OS component known as kernel_task.



This happens regardless of whether any peripherals are attached that might ask more of the system.



Others also notice that their systems are simply slowing down in different ways: instead of switching off a single core, a handful report their systems keeping both cores active under most temperatures but lowering the clock speed, producing much the same result.



"This 'update' is a farce - all that it does is step the processor down to 800MHz as soon as the [temperature] rises to some ridiculously low [level]," one Air user explains.



Common troubleshooting steps appear to rule out software as the cause, even with complete operating system reinstalls. A number of less cautious owners have taken to installing the unofficial third-party app CoolBook to adjust system voltages and force the system to run at full speed but at lower voltages and thus lower heat.



For those determined to get an official solution, Apple's frontline technicians have had little success. More than one customer bringing his MacBook Air to the Genius Bar was told that a hardware repair was unlikely to help and to hope for "a software update or some other word" from Apple to provide a more permanent remedy.



While candid, the response comes with no public Apple response and is described as little consolation to customers who feel the system either too hot or too slow to be workable in real conditions.



"How long am I expected to wait? Currently, my computer isn't fit for the purpose for which it was built and sold," an affected owner says.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    jimzipjimzip Posts: 444member
    Hmm, that's unfortunate for the Air owners.



    Maybe I missed something, but if a third party app is cooling the processor while maintaining performance, why can't apple do something similar? Anyone care to explain that one?



    Jimzip
  • Reply 2 of 56
    0sx0sx Posts: 9member
    coolbook still works after applying the update. thank god!
  • Reply 3 of 56
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    I've never experienced such problems with my Air 1.8, so I decided to skip this update (for now). I think I'll keep it that way.



    It gets hot when playing 3D games or watching HD video, but not unusably so, and I've never seen a core drop away in Activity Viewer.



    If it ain't broke, I don't want to try to fix it!



    Now, I HAVE had slow or failed WiFi connection issues--even though the signal is very strong and reliable once connected. I can walk a hundred feet way through concrete walls and not lose my WiFi--but establishing the connection in the first place, even 2 feet from the Time Capsule, takes some retries. I think it's a WiFi n issue, because my iMac once had a similar issue with n only--but the latest Airport software update fixed the iMac. The same update seemed to improve the Air but not fix the problem entirely.
  • Reply 4 of 56
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,652member
    I've been a MBA owner for three months now and have been very happy with it. I don't believe it to be as big a problem as some vocal people say it is.



    I've noticed mine does get quite warm when I'm viewing videos. I just don't watch that many videos on mine anymore. No big deal. It's not meant to be my primary machine. The 99% of the time I use the MBA for what it is intended for. Low-performance office apps/email/browsing. For those things, it works just fine for me and heat is not an issue.



    I could see it being a problem if it was in a hot environment like Vegas and no A/C. But I would think that would be a problem for most laptops.



    Every other laptop I've owned from other manufacturers have always cooked my lap and ran hot. This is not any different so I'm not sure why the heat issues are focused on this particular laptop.
  • Reply 5 of 56
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    ? The next MBAs should go from 20W to 17W so hopefully that will no longer be an issue.



    ? Is anyone use iStat and recording the system load and temps when it's acting up?
  • Reply 6 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post


    Every other laptop I've owned from other manufacturers have always cooked my lap and ran hot. This is not any different so I'm not sure why the heat issues are focused on this particular laptop.



    Not sure. It seems like people have been reporting heat related performance issues, however reducing the processor speed just mimics the problem. Gah!
  • Reply 7 of 56
    While I have no doubt these reports are true, I have never, ever seen anyone with an overheating problem with their MacBook Air "in the flesh" sort of speak, and I've seen quite a few MacBook Airs. I've never even heard the fan go on high with the one at our house.



    I wonder if most of the people having the problem are living in a really hot climate, or simply prone to blocking the ventilation port through the manner in which they hold or use the thing. Even though it doesn't alleviate the need for a fix for those people, up here in the cooler North, I don't know anyone who has had a problem with this.
  • Reply 8 of 56
    s10s10 Posts: 107member
    My MBA was heating up significantly when watching youtube videos or, especially, when using video in SKYPE... after 20 minutes, the video image would begin to stutter and then the whole MBA would become slower and slower, and then it would just hang... closing the MBA was the only solution.

    I love my MBA but I was seriously thinking of getting MB pro to replace.... then this update came out and my MBA does no longer have these symptoms. It works as it should have done... so I'm no longer considering another Mac.



    If you have Coolbook, reset the factory settings and uninstall all Coolbook related files first, then upgrade... if not your problems may continue as before...
  • Reply 9 of 56
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by S10 View Post


    My MBA was heating up significantly when watching youtube videos or, especially, when using video in SKYPE... after 20 minutes, the video image would begin to stutter and then the whole MBA would become slower and slower, and then it would just hang... closing the MBA was the only solution.



    I can't speak for Skype, but Flash on OS X is huge system hog.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by S10 View Post


    My MBA was heating up significantly when watching youtube videos or, especially, when using video in SKYPE... after 20 minutes, the video image would begin to stutter and then the whole MBA would become slower and slower, and then it would just hang... closing the MBA was the only solution.

    I love my MBA but I was seriously thinking of getting MB pro to replace.... then this update came out and my MBA does no longer have these symptoms. It works as it should have done... so I'm no longer considering another Mac.



    If you have Coolbook, reset the factory settings and uninstall all Coolbook related files first, then upgrade... if not your problems may continue as before...



    I can also confirm my Macbook Air used to get hot, slow down and almost become unusable - however this update fixed it all...
  • Reply 11 of 56
    I'm one of these MBA owners that this has affected.

    I had a 1.6 that a kernel task would bring it to its virtual knees on a regular basis.

    Swapped it and upgraded to a 1.8 SSD and same thing.

    Applied update and it still happened.

    Of course Help Desk says this is not a known issue which is crap.

    I cleared out my startup items and that seemed to help but it gets very hot from time to time and I have to restart.

    In truth it doesn't happen as often now after the update but I am seriously considering getting a new MB Pro when they are updated.

    This is a real bug and my guess is Apple knows it and it cannot be fixed by a software update.

    This feels like a hardware config issue around trying to have MB Pro functionality with an architecture that is woefully inadequate.

    I must say that the transition to SSD is the future and apps simply fly open.

    Safari barely bounces once and is open compared to the 1.6 MBA I owned.

    Apple, gives this thing a video card even if it makes it a hair thicker and my guess is problem solved.

    I had a 17 MacBook Pro and this thing is simply amazing in its portability.

    I even bought a leather folio from Levenger to put it in a-la the Apple envelope commercial and people are wowed that I'm not hunched over pulling out a big laptop.

    I simply love this laptop and hope they fix its Achilles heel.
  • Reply 12 of 56
    I got my 1.6 the day it was released and had lots of problems with a core shutting down before getting coolbook.



    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=429626



    I was using it how I typically do, downloading a torrent and encoding a video for my iPhone. I had lots of things open, but just encoding a video causes it to overheat and shut a core down.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    it works for me - my Air still gets pretty warm if I push it...but so does my wife's Macbook Pro.



    The update certainly seems to make the system handle load in a more graceful way than shutting down a core of the processor (which causes whatever was taxing the system to stall). When I was first trying to work out if I had a problem, I used Google Earth with all of the 3D options turned on (like buildings). I requested directions from a major city (with lots of buildings) to somewhere else - and then pressed "play" to cause it to fly along the directions.



    Before the update - my Air would heat up and eventually one of the cores would indeed shut down. The result was that Google Earth become extremely choppy. After the update, it still heats up but there is no obvious slowdown or choppiness even when I leave it going for a long time.
  • Reply 14 of 56
    I've been using my MBA now for months, and I am one of the people this does NOT affect at all -- it doesn't overheat, and it doesn't slow down or have any core shutdowns while watching movies or anything else.



    In fact, it functions in no way differently than my MBP in similar situations.



    What it does raise, it that ongoing Apple bug-a-boo (that's a great word) of sample variation -- just like with the iPhone, some people just have zero problems and can't reproduce the problems others are having, while some very clearly have problems in similar situations.



    The interesting thing is -- people can recreate the problem with their own macbook air, yet someone sitting right next to them with identical settings and functions can't reproduce it.



    That smacks of Sample Variation to me -- and it makes you wonder how Apple is dealing with it in the longrun -- is it like the iPhone? WHere they are manufactured in different plants, and those coming out of one plant have problems, while those coming out of another plant do not have any problems? Is it particular chips? How are those distributed? FOr some, the software update seemed to have fixed the problem, others never saw the problem, and for still others it didn't do anything -- now that starts to smack of hardware problems rather than software problems....



    Makes you wonder, right?
  • Reply 15 of 56
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    While I have no doubt these reports are true, I have never, ever seen anyone with an overheating problem with their MacBook Air "in the flesh" sort of speak



    Sort of speak?!?
  • Reply 16 of 56
    I had no issues before the update but just blindly applied it since it appeared in my software update list.



    However now that I have applied the update system performance has dropped significantly. I used some software to check the core speed and ran the good old yes > /dev/null test in terminal and it shows my cores dropping to 0.8 ghz, wtf?



    I ordered a 1.6ghz dual core MacBook Air, not a dual 800mhz machine. Seriously what is the point of have dual 1.6ghz processors when you actually want to use the power it just under-clocks them!



    Cant remember the update process whether it was a software or firmware update. If a software update only I am going to try and roll back.



    All you idiots out there who think I am a whiner and that I should just be happy with my machine as it is needs to pull your head out of Apples PR arse.



    Why do we put up with this practice from Apple but if it was Dell or M$ or somebody else doing something similar we would hang them out to dry. I have been an Apple user since the Apple IIe and have increasingly seen this behaviour from Apple of late. I certainly believe now mre than ever that Apple and Google = Next generation M$
  • Reply 17 of 56
    New lawsuit tomorrow?
  • Reply 18 of 56
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gingofthesouth View Post


    I had no issues before the update but just blindly applied it since it appeared in my software update list.



    However now that I have applied the update system performance has dropped significantly. I used some software to check the core speed and ran the good old yes > /dev/null test in terminal and it shows my cores dropping to 0.8 ghz, wtf?



    I ordered a 1.6ghz dual core MacBook Air, not a dual 800mhz machine. Seriously what is the point of have dual 1.6ghz processors when you actually want to use the power it just under-clocks them!



    Cant remember the update process whether it was a software or firmware update. If a software update only I am going to try and roll back.



    All you idiots out there who think I am a whiner and that I should just be happy with my machine as it is needs to pull your head out of Apples PR arse.



    Why do we put up with this practice from Apple but if it was Dell or M$ or somebody else doing something similar we would hang them out to dry. I have been an Apple user since the Apple IIe and have increasingly seen this behaviour from Apple of late. I certainly believe now mre than ever that Apple and Google = Next generation M$



    Sounds more like placebo effect to me. You never checked the performance before the update, how can you be sure that its not just the suggestion that something has changed that is making you think you're noticing a difference?
  • Reply 19 of 56
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    It's all a bunch of hot air.

    I wonder if they'll have an update to cool down my AppleTV? Then again we're heading into winter and I could use a space heater.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    I quickly sold my 1.6 Air after I discovered that it cannot handle something as basic as watching MLB.TV games.



    On my Core 2 2.16 MBP, watching the 800kbps feed with Safari uses about 25% of both cores, with CPU temperatures usually below 60C. On the Air, the MLB.TV feed made the CPU run well over 65C. If I did anything else, like basic web-surfing with FireFox (which I'm using right now as I watch the Dodger vs. Padres game), the temps skyrocketed to over 70C, and everything became sluggish. Watching the 1.2mbps feed was almost impossible even when I was not doing anything else.



    The Air is a dud for those of us who actually need decent portable power.



    My machine was built in May and had the latest firmware and updates, so it wasn't an older unit.
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