Apple Fixes Throttling Glitch in Its New MacBook Pro Laptops

After customer complaints came in about slow speeds with the latest MacBook Pro models, Apple issued an update to fix the problem.

MacBook Pro

Apple's latest MacBook Pro laptop models, which have been garnering complaints about slow performance and processor throttling by some users, are now getting a software update to fix the problem, according to Apple.

The customer complaints have been coming in since about July 17, when the new MacBook Pro models began shipping. The updated MacBook Pros, in 13-inch and 15-inch models, were unveiled by Apple on July 12, featuring more powerful processors and other updates.

The company acknowledged the problem and its fresh software update for its latest macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 operating system in an email reply to an eWEEK inquiry.

"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," according to an Apple spokesperson. "A bug fix is included in today's macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended."

In its statement, Apple said it was sorry for the problem in the latest machines. "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 percent faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to two times faster, as shown in the performance results on our website."

The update is available for all 2018 MacBook Pro models, according to Apple. It can be installed using the machine's software update service or can be directly downloaded from Apple's support website.

The performance hit, which was being reported by users who were trying to do high-performance operations involving photo editing applications, was experienced with the latest quad-core and six-core Intel processors used in the new MacBook Pro models.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, told eWEEK that he was not surprised by the recent glitch in the new MacBook Pro laptops.

"Excessive throttling is a common Apple problem," said Enderle. "They know people buy on spec and don't often benchmark. So, they have often over-specified the processor, resulting in excessive throttling. They got caught this time, but the fix may result in excessive heat, which may end up cooking the battery and reducing system life."

Another analyst, Charles King of Pund-IT, said that Apple took appropriately quick action in making the fix.

"By definition a premium-priced notebook like the MacBook Pro should deliver, if not guarantee, premium performance," said King. "Anything less than that injures the product brand and does harm to a vendor's relationships with some of its most valuable customers. Apple took just over a week to fix the problem" after it first arose in a video review by David Lee, a popular YouTube video blogger. "To its credit, Apple took the issue and its responsibility seriously. Then again, that's exactly as it should be."

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro models, which start at $2,399, can be configured with six-core Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and a maximum of 4TB of SSD storage. Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory are available in all 15-inch models, as well as True Tone display technology and Apple's Touch ID fingerprint security feature.

The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro models, which start at $1,799, can be configured with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with up to 16GB of memory and a maximum of 2TB of SSD storage. The smaller MacBook Pros also include Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics 655 with 128MB of eDRAM, True Tone display technology and Touch ID.

The latest MacBook Pros also now feature the Apple T2 chip, which was first introduced in the iMac Pro lineup. The Apple T2 chip provides enhanced system security with support for secure boot and on-the-fly encrypted storage. Both models will also be the first MacBooks to include Siri digital assistant by saying, "Hey, Siri," rather than just using the artificial intelligence engine through keyboard combinations. Also included in both models are improved third-generation Touch Bar keyboards for quieter typing.