Apple’s new M2 MacBook Pro struggles under pressure

Apple’s M2 chip found in the 13-inch MacBook Pro may struggle under pressure, Max Tech’s Vadim Yuryev found on YouTube. The YouTuber tested the new MacBook Pro to see how it handles extremely resource intensively.

This resulted in severe throttling when hitting high temperatures, suggesting that Apple’s laptop design choices may not be ideal in terms of cooling. But is this really a big deal for the intended user base of the new MacBook Pro?

We discovered SEVERE thermal throttling with Apple’s new M2 MacBook Pro, proving it needs a BETTER cooling system with two fans instead of one.
We exported 8K Canon RAW and saw temperatures rise to 108°C, more than we’ve ever seen on a Mac, even an Intel Mac.
But it gets even worse…

— Vadim Yuryev (@VadimYuryev) June 29, 2022

It seems Max Tech has managed to push the boundaries for Apple’s new M2-based 13-inch MacBook Pro. During a stress test, the notebook consistently reached temperatures of 108 degrees Celsius, resulting in severe processor throttling and a dramatic drop in performance as a result. According to Yuryev, that’s a higher temperature than the YouTube channel had ever seen on a Mac, including Intel Macs.

Thermal throttling can be an issue with both laptops and PCs when (among other things) the cooling is not sufficient for the task at hand. That’s exactly why the M2 MacBook Pro can run into trouble: it only has one fan unlike the two found in the M1 MacBook Pro, as seen in another Max Tech video. In this test, the single fan proves to be inadequate for the workload the M2 MacBook Pro faced – and that despite running at its maximum speed of 7200 RPM the entire time.

Yuryev reported that in a split second, the clock speeds on the M2 would drop from 3200MHz to 1894MHz on the performance cores and from 2228MHz to 1444MHz on the efficiency cores. The GPU cores also saw a staggering drop, from 1393 MHz to 289 MHz. This brought the package power from 29.46 watts to just 7.31 watts. As Yuryev points out, this happened in waves: performance would drop along with temperature, and when the MacBook Pro was able to stabilize at 84 degrees Celsius, it started ramping up clock speeds all over again.

It’s certainly worrying to see the M2 MacBook Pro struggle to keep things cool, and such significant drops in clock speeds shouldn’t be ignored. Max Tech’s workload shouldn’t be overlooked, though: the YouTuber used the 13-inch MacBook Pro to export 8K RAW images. Yuryev himself admits that this is the most resource-heavy test Max Tech uses to test a computer’s true limits. The question is, how often are users going to try the same thing on a $1,299 notebook? Probably not very often.

Paolo Conversano/Unsplash

While most users won’t need that kind of power from their new 13-inch MacBook Pro, it’s annoying that it can heat up to 108 degrees Celsius and result in severe throttling. Whether you should buy it depends largely on the kind of workload you plan to do. It can probably handle all types of computing, but as the test shows, the extremes seem to be reserved for high-end Macs.

Apple’s recently released 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only device out right now that has the M2 chip. The company also has a MacBook Air in the works, but pre-orders have yet to be opened. Rumor has it that that device doesn’t have a fan at all, so the throttling issues could be carried over to the forthcoming M2 MacBook Air.

As for the M2 MacBook Pro, it seems to be off to a bit of a rough start. Some reports pointed to poor performance in several multitasking apps that are on the heavy side, such as Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Lightroom. Other sources, including Max Tech, reported that the read and write speeds on the SSD in the 256GB version of the M2 MacBook Pro are much worse than its M1 predecessor. However, this issue seems to only affect the entry level version and users who choose the more storage option will not be affected by this issue. It probably has to do with the fact that when all 8GB of Apple Unified memory is used up, the M2 MacBook Pro dives into the spare 256GB on the SSD and uses it as virtual memory.

Given the relatively warm reception of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, it’s a shame to see the more budget-friendly version not fare as well. However, as Apple unveils more versions of the M2 chip (and it probably will soon enough), we may be more impressed with the devices that follow than with the MacBook Pro that debuted the M2.

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