MacBook Pro (2018): Apple finds, fixes performance BUG!

Apple has sent me the following statement to address the recent controversy surrounding the 2018 MacBook Pro and how it manages power and performance:

"Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we've identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today's macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website."

The controversy started with Dave Lee, Dave2D on YouTube, who experienced really bad, and it now turns out really buggy, performance on the new MacBook Pro 2018 with a specific Adobe Premiere workload.

While Apple couldn't initially reproduce the results, the company spent the last few days working with him to try and figure out what was going wrong.

The fix, which Apple will be making available via Software Update around the time this video hits, and following up on with a push notification, won't just benefit people with those worst-case-scenario workloads but should help with all workloads on the Coffee Lake MacBook Pro.

That, despite Apple insisting its own benchmarks, run prior to release and touting up to 70% improvements in some tasks, weren't affected by the bug and are still accurate, likewise the workloads and results of the video, photography, music, science, and developer experts the company hosted and made available to media during the MacBook Pro launch.

Real world tests

My own tests with my own workloads, which skews heavily towards video, showed about as much of a performance increase from the 2017 MacBook Pro as the 2017 MacBook Pro did the 2016. Maybe a little more in some cases.

That aligns with Jonathan Morrison of TLD, who put the new machines through the most comprehensive real-world tests I've seen so far.

In some cases, it's up to 50% better. In other cases, just a few minutes here, a few minutes there. That might not seem like much to someone who only renders a couple of videos a week. To someone who renders a couple of videos every 15 minutes — which isn't uncommon at a production house — it makes all the difference in the world.

Especially when you have a director, artist, or client on the other end with far less time than money chomping at the bit to iterate and sign off on every shot.

That's what makes real-world testing so important. Downloading an Intel Power Gadget and throwing up a video, blog post, or Reddit thread, not understanding anything about benchmarks, CPU vs. GPU load, what's hitting an accelerator or what's hitting AVX2, what's being measured and how frequently, whether or not the tool is up-to-date or tuned for the system it's being used on, or how it might affect the results, especially if it's just to get attention or spout off conspiracy theories, ends up contributing to the noise, not the useful pool of data points.

And, by the way, if all of that sounded like a bunch of jargon… or Dothraki to you, that's because it is. It's the stuff old-fashioned computer geeks lived for, but it's increasingly meaningless to modern mainstream customers.

The new silicon normal

We're living in an age where Moore's law — or more often House's Law — which predicted performance would double roughly every 18 months, is dead or dying. And, as computing continues to become more mobile, and pro-level computing more mainstream, aggressive thermal management in constrained enclosures is something we're all going to have to come to terms with.

It's the reason why Apple doesn't break out things like RAM or frequencies on iPhone or iPad and why, I think, Apple is increasingly viewing the Intel chips inside the Mac as an implementation detail. At least until it's ready with an alternative.

Sure, in a perfect world, I think Apple and everyone else would have far preferred it if Intel weren't so far behind on its roadmap. If Cannon Lake had actually followed Skylake, the process shrink had happened on schedule, the tick had continued to tock, and we never had optimization cycles like Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and whatever else gets crammed in between, or more cores used as a fallback for performance gains.

Given that, I totally get how a few people who prefer power over portability and don't really get how Apple's product development process works, would have vastly preferred the MacBook go thick with a couple of F-22 Raptor vents welded onto a 17-inch chassis so frequencies never fell below base.

But, Apple seems to think the iMac and especially iMac Pro better covers those requirements and wants to keep its pro portable… really portable.

More to come

I was originally planning to post my review yesterday, but, turns out it's going to take a couple more days. In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think. Hit the comments below.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • When I saw the fix is in the High Sierra update, I looked at my new 2018 MacBook Pro with i9 and uttered a Homer Simpsion D'oh!
  • I guess I should explain (thought I mentioned it), my MacBook Pro has the Mojave beta.
  • I think Apple needs to address the different portable MacBook Pro camps than forcing such a compromised system onto its customers. Yes, Intels inability to get to the next process node was (and will be) an issue moving forward in pushing CPU performance. This is were both a Thin & Fat series makes sense. So both camps get what they need. Just like how car makers build a common engine and reuse it in different bodies (coupe vs sedan) to meet the market need. Apple for years has always done this but altered the systems hardware dramatically between the series. Here we are leveraging the same hardware with the exception of the uppercase which is extended to make room for the needed cooling system so high heat CPU's get the cooling it needs to get its full performance. As a Pro I can live with a thicker system so I can get the full performance I need for my work flow. I suspect the i9 is on the knifes edge were some peoples work load will find the i9 will give them what they need, while others will have a maddening time getting the performance they were expecting. I hope Apple's firmware corrections clarify whats happening. While I know a lot of people are smacking their lips on the idea Apple will create an ultra Arm processor which will supplant Intel. I for one think that will happen at the very low end and over time it might push its way up to the high end Pro market. But, we are talking 6 or more years before that will happen. Even then I think you'll find the Arm processor will be laboring with heat issues just the same. Don't forget the Arm CPU's are RISC based chip which gets back to the same PowerPC issues with performance when Apple jumped to Intels CISC based CPU's. Then we'll need to recompile our apps all over again!
  • A fix wasn't "supposedly" made, it was made.
  • It has been proven to work, do some reading troll
  • Well you will only find what I've told you
  • Apple's track record of beating the competition by controlling the whole stack would cause me to bet they actually do produce their own processors, and that it will be at top-end performance long before you are guessing. But we don't know. And having to re-do one's software, and having to have some kind of virtual x86 in there to run older software would be a bad thing. Adobe can't even keep up with MacOS updates as it is. My Mojave beta tells me that my current, up-to-date Adobe apps are old and rickety and need to be updated. If Apple were to make the transition, would Adobe follow in a Flash?
  • Honestly Adobe have really been lacking in quality, plus their forced subscription pricing makes you realise what their business strategy is… making profit, and profit alone. Many people have moved to competitor products, if I were you, I would do the same.
  • Apple machines have always been considered overpriced, but I use them because I hate Windows, plus there's plenty of macOS exclusive apps that I depend on, and honestly I find them to be really nice machines. I've used Windows for longer than I can remember, and there's always been some issue, plus bugs that still exist which have existed in Windows since forever. Macs might be less powerful but how much power do you need? The Mac I'm on at the moment has given me no slowdowns or issues, and I won't need to upgrade it for a long while
  • Actually, Dell i7 laptops have been having this problem in a big way for some time. At least Apple fixed it.
  • Windows updates that half the time cause some bug or issue. If you manage to get through 5 years without having a significant due to Windows updates, I'd be surprised.
  • I'd say check your own drink before criticizing other people's drinks.
  • Great review, thanks
    Regarding the death by zombie plague of Moores law ~ I'm not so sure. Perhaps we are in a transition where market leaders with huge sunk costs in traditional CPU's naturally flounder as distributed computing becomes common. Writing multithread applications that run across CPU and GPU is haltingly possible in Rust. Maybe it will get easier, maybe they will be the same thing. Maybe they should even be counted today as the same thing..