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Test suggests 2018 MacBook Pro can't keep up with Intel Core i9 chip's thermal demands

Technology-centric YouTuber Dave Lee claims the thermal design of Apple's latest 15-inch MacBook Pro does not provide sufficient cooling for Intel's Core i9 processor, causing the chip to throttle down performance to prevent serious damage.

Intel's 2.9GHz six-core Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.8GHz is offered as a premium $300 option on Apple's 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but according to Lee, the chip is unable to reach its full potential due to the laptop's design.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel on Tuesday, Lee shows the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro running Adobe Premiere Pro at surprisingly low clock speeds. Tests conducted put the average clock on load at around 2.2GHz, well below the advertised 2.9GHz.

Lee suggests MacBook's cooling solution, an Apple-designed heatsink and fan module, is insufficient for the beefy Intel silicon.

"This i9 in this MacBook can't even maintain the base clock speed," Lee said. "Forget about Turbos and all that stuff, it can't even maintain the 2.9GHz base clock, which is absurd. This CPU is an unlocked, over-clockable chip, but all of that CPU potential is wasted inside this chassis, or more the thermal solution that's inside here."

Hammering the theory home, Lee posts Premiere Pro render times that show last year's MacBook Pro with Core i7 CPU can chew through a 5K clip in 35 minutes, outperforming the new, improved model with eighth-generation Core i9 chip by some four minutes. Both MacBooks are crushed by a Windows laptop, Gigabyte's Aero 15X, which renders the same clip in just over 7 minutes.

Lee illustrated the apparent thermal handicap by running the same test with the 2018 MacBook Pro in a freezer, dropping the render time down to 27 minutes.

It should be noted that Premiere Pro is not optimized for Mac, as evidenced by the Aero 15X performance. Lee failed to test render speeds with Apple's Final Cut Pro X, or any other app for that matter.

While thermal throttling is nothing new, especially in portables, Lee's findings are somewhat questionable in that assumptions are being made based on a single machine's performance with an unoptimized app. Making blanket statements without thorough testing is reckless at best and disingenuous at worst.

While Lee failed to reach out to Apple for comment, it is highly unlikely that the company would ship a flagship product without first rigorously testing its performance. That goes double for a device like MacBook Pro, considering the company's renewed vigor to serve the professional market.