User ‘solutions’ for thermal throttling of the i9 2018 MacBook Pro

It has been about a week since it was discovered that the MacBook Pro’s i9 processor can slow down below the rated speed to reduce the thermal load.

Thermal limitation, in a nutshell

Processors are created to operate at different levels of TDP (Thermal Design Profile), depending on their target market. Desktop processors can afford to have a higher TDP, while laptops, mobile devices, and tablets tend to use processors with lower TDP values because of the difficulty to cool the chip.

According to Intel Ark, the manufacturer’s specifications website of the processor for all of its chips, the Core i9-8950HK at 2.9GHz has a TDP of 45 Watts, the same TDP as the Core i7-8850H and the Core i7-8750H. The TDP itself is weak, so in theory, it should not require an excessive amount of cooling.

Notably, the 45-watt TDP of the three processors used in the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro line is the same as the 3.1 GHz Core i7-7920HQ processor used in the 2017 MacBook Pro.

But, published TDP is based on the base frequency, not the heat load that it generated when at the speed of the turbo. When a processor is cold, it exceeds its normal clock speed up to its boost speed. This generates more heat, of course.

As the heat increases, the processor slows down to help dissipate heat along with the cooling system. It can even go down lower than the normal operating clock speed if necessary to avoid any damage.

And, this slowdown at a speed lower than the normal operating clock speed is what happens in the i9 when the user slams the machine with a big load.

There are alternatives that users can apply. May be.

A word of warning first. If you decide to apply one of these solutions, especially the software settings, do it At your peril.


We watched Volta since our article on the issue last week. In short, Volta allows you to set the maximum power that the processor can consume, keeping the clock speed and, therefore, heat to manageable levels.

Volta is not a new application, and the developer is responsive to user requests. In fact, earlier this week, a new version of Volta appeared, allowing users to allow processors to consume more power, ideal for the i9 in the MacBook Pro.

However, the utility requires a custom state of protection of the system integrity to install and run. This may or may not be a deal-breaker for a given user.

Volta is available from the developer. He is free to try but sells for $ 5.99.

Verdict: Minimally invasive, but potentially a problem for the stability and use of the system if you choose to change the processor voltage. Do not do this if you do not know what you are doing, because you can cause problems and file corruption if you change some settings too far from the default values.

Apple will not repair an otherwise damaged machine damaged by this or any other utility.

Adjusting the parameters of the voltage regulator module
Over the weekend, a Reddit user claimed that the problem was not directly the thermal condition of the processor, but the voltage regulator on the motherboard.

By setting a few parameters in the Terminal, the user seems to have eliminated the problem. But, like everything else, thermodynamics can not be completely challenged.

If you are considering this, click on the Reddit post. This is basically the clearing house for information on the voltage regulator module.

Verdict: It’s not even clear that that’s the problem, for the moment. The Terminal command is not permanent, but it’s a good thing Probably will not break anything permanently.

If you do this, be absolutely sure to follow the instructions to the letter.

Control fan speeds with Macs Fan Control

Macs Fan Control, and another called SMC Fan Control have been around for a while, allowing users to change the fan settings on a Mac.

Honestly, we have never been great supporters of one or the other. Until now, if you had a frequent overheating problem, it was a fairly reliable indicator of a maintenance problem, such as clogged vents or a fan that was not working.

The situation has not really changed our minds about utilities as a whole, but they are one way to address the problem of heat if not the root cause.

Macs Fan Control is also available only from the developer. It is currently free, but the company is requesting a payment of $ 14.95 to support the development of the application.

Verdict: This is by far the least problematic solution from a point of view “causing more problems than solutions”. When starting at a colder temperature, it takes longer for the machine to heat the processor sufficiently.

That said, with sufficient CPU load, this does not solve the problem, it just puts it to rest for a minute or two at the expense of increased noise. The amount of noise imported remains an exercise for the reader.

Use Final Cut Pro and Apple Apps
This is not really a solution, but it is an option. Apple’s own apps, like Final Cut Pro and Logic, do not slam processors as eagerly as apps like Adobe Premiere or Handbrake.

This is not a quick fix, and if you do not have them already, this is not a cheap solution. But, it’s a possibility.

Verdict: Not practical for everyone. In addition, under sufficient load, you will always have time after a while, even with Apple ‘s applications.

Use an eGPU

This is not a solution either, and simply improves the thermal condition. When the MacBook Pro does not use the internal GPU and the video processing of the unit is unloaded on an eGPU, the limitation is not as severe and the deep slowdowns only occur later .

Given our tests, the best way to do this is to put the MacBook Pro in clamshell mode. This basically disables the onboard GPU, assuming that the external monitor is connected to the eGPU, and there are no monitors connected with USB-C directly to the machine.

If you follow this road, while you are there, take a vertical position. The heat is dissipated a little more by the bottom of the case in this orientation. The closed lid does not seem to aggravate the dissipation of the head in both directions.

Verdict: It’s expensive, and can be noisy. Expect to spend at least $ 600 for a self-build eGPU with a Sonnet, Mantiz or Razer enclosure, or $ 699 for the Blackmagic eGPU, much quieter. And, that’s assuming you have an external monitor.

We love eGPU technology and have been talking about it for over two years. This technology has the advantage of bringing a better GPU to the MacBook Pro when you’re at a desk, and maybe USB-A and Ethernet, but it’s not for everyone. Did we mention that it can be expensive?

This is also not a real solution to the thermal situation, just a job to reduce the heat generated inside the MacBook Pro.

Put it in the freezer!

We will pass the convention that we started at the beginning of this article, and tell you directly in advance to do not do this. The cold metal, which you will get in certain places on the MacBook Pro, will condense the moisture in the air when you remove it from the freezer.

This condensation forms mainly on the outside of the casing, but a good quantity is also formed on the inside. It’s a deeply bad thing.

Verdict: Do not do that. Already. Seriously.

Complicated solution

First of all, we really do not recommend any of these solutions to remedy the thermal situation with the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Some are dangerous, others are stupid and others are not really helpful.

Well, we recommend an eGPU, but for many reasons we have already explored. The fact that it has a positive non-zero effect here is just a cherry on the cake.

If you can improve your own local thermal conditions, such as ventilation or room temperature, do it. If there are voltage or power limits to apply, let Apple do them in a future announced or silent software update.

There is no perfect product for all aspects of use, regardless of the field. There are trade-offs in every product, at every stage of design, and priorities that apply during development.

The thermal situation East a problem for “us”. This is not one for everyone, with every workflow. This will not be a problem for all “Pro”.

The importance of a problem for a user greatly depends on the workflow of the user, and what he needs, in the same way that Thunderbolt 3 using USB-C as connector is fantastic for some, and the worst for others. other.

Thermals or not, the machine East a “Pro” machine, no matter what it really means. he is not a bad or fatally imperfect one. It is also the fastest laptop computer that Apple has ever manufactured, and it can stand at your fingertips with the iMac Pro in many workflows.

But, it could be faster, and the story is not over yet.


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