Well, that’s not so great.
You might have heard that Apple recently refreshed the MacBook Pros with the new 8th-generation Intel Coffee Lake CPUs, including the top-of-the-line Core i9 8950HK. And you may have also heard that the very same configuration generates so much heat to the point where the MacBook’s chassis and cooling system could simply not handle and resulted in the CPU being unable to maintain base clocks. Obviously, this is quite a big issue and it really begs the question of why Apple decided to offer a $300 option for a better CPU when the chassis and cooling solution may not be up to snuff and can result in performance being worse than the i7 from the 8th and even 7th generation.
But why exactly is fitting such a CPU in a chassis as compact as the MacBook Pro such a risky proposition? It’s a lot to do with space and heat. Let me explain;
To do work, a CPU requires electrical energy, which it receives from the computer’s power supply unit. When it receives electrical energy, the CPU is then able to perform any potential given task, but it also generates heat as a byproduct. The amount of heat generated depends on factors such as workload, utilization, core count, clockspeed and TDP among others, though it is assumed that the higher-end the chip is, the more heat it will generate.
Heat is a form of energy, meaning it cannot be destroyed, only transferred or converted. Heat is transferred in one of 3 ways;
Conduction: Transfer through contact
Convection: Transfer of heat through motion
Radiation: Transfer through electromagnetic rays
We’ll be focusing particularly on radiation for this one.
Most computers utilize active cooling, which utilizes fans and heatsinks alongside heatpipes (higher end solutions use liquid or vapor chambers) to whisk heat away from the processor and uses thermal compound between the cooler and processor to improve conductivity. Some laptops also utilize passive cooling, which uses the chassis to aid in cooling. The MacBook Pro for instance, utilizes a mix of both.
However, herein lies the problem with the MacBook Pro with Core i9 alongside other similarly equipped notebooks with a similar form factor like the refreshed Dell XPS15; space.
While these laptops utilize active cooling, not all of that heat is conducted and whisked away by the cooling system. Some amount will be radiated throughout the chassis. Not much of an issue on big desktop replacements and actual desktops due to their large internal volume but in thin machines, there's far less space to radiate that heat, which is why some machines like the aforementioned MacBook Pro and Razer Blade Pro w/ GTX 1080 have very high surface temperatures. This also translates to higher internal temperatures which increases the potential for the CPU to throttle.
A double whammy for the MacBook Pro and others like the XPS15 is the choice of cooling system. To recap, the Core I9 8950HK is a high-end 6C 12T CPU which has a 2.9GHz base clock but goes up to 4.8GHz when turbo boosted on single-treaded tasks if power and temperature limits allow. The CPU has a 45W TDP but is also known to consume up to 150W of power when in its boosted state. Obviously, that's a very power-hungry CPU and that also translates into a lot of heat, hence why the CPU is usually seen in big, bulky gaming laptops (and many of those struggle to maintain turbo but can maintain base). It's not uncommon for these laptops alongside some 8750H laptops to gain upgraded cooling systems to aid in whisking heat away, such as the refreshed ASUS RoG STRIX GL line which has a significantly upgraded cooling system to accommodate the beefier CPU.
The issue with the MacBook and XPS is that while the cooling system is (barely) adequate to handle a Kaby Lake 4C 8T Core i7 CPU without throttling below base, the cooling solution itself does not appear to have been upgraded for the 6C 12T Coffee Lake parts, especially for the 8950HK. I'm not going to make assumptions here since I probably don't know as much as the engineers who did these, but conventional wisdom would tell me that to handle a CPU that is much more powerful and generates more heat as a consequence, the cooling system should be upgraded to better handle the increased thermal load. Sadly, that doesn't appear to be the case for both the MacBook and XPS especially since the latter has had issues with VRM throttling. It's also worth noting that despite the throttling, the XPS's cooling system is better able to handle the heat load, although the VRM temperatures are still a bit of a concern.
There is one outlier that we haven't talked about yet; liquid metal. In some laptops, applying liquid metal thermal paste can significantly improve temperatures to the point where throttling disappears. The reason why I haven't yet mentioned it is because these laptops are very new and haven't have had LM repasted. There is a chance that LM can improve thermals, but not much info is out there.
Bottom line is this. Thin machines combined with super beefy CPUs will always run into heating issues particularly due to their limited internal volume for better cooling and extra space for heat to radiate. It's one of the reasons why I've kept saying that the whole thinness race should really end if we want these super powerful CPUs to run in laptops without a lot of compromise. The MacBook Pro is already in ultra portable territory when it comes to size and that combined with a power-hungry Core i9 and a cooling system that is unable to keep the fury in check results in a machine that just runs too hot to maintain base.
I don't think an i9 should have been offered in the first place if it was found that it could have throttled to the point of being worse than a last generation product. While I'm all for increased portability, there's a balance to be had and I think Apple (and Dell plus Razer) probably tipped the portability scale a bit too far.
It’s official. NVIDIA’s GeForce Partner Program has been killed off by NVIDIA after weeks of controversy surrounding the potential implications, not helped by the news that ASUS launched the AREZ line as their new home for formerly RoG-branded products which utilized Radeon GPUs.
In a blog post, NVIDIA had the following to say;
If you’re like some of the other guys on here, you may be cringing a bit at the statement, especially the part where it was implied that the purpose of the GPP was to ensure that gamers who want NVIDIA tech know what they’re getting (which is contradicted with the fact that the boxes already do the job more than well enough). Well, don’t feel too awkward because this is pretty much a typical damage-control type of PR statement aimed to reduce whatever damage the controversy had done to NVIDIA’s image.
If you need a refresher, the GeForce Partner Program is a program for AIBs which grants them first-level access to new tech from NVIDIA along with advice from engineers along with free publicity. NVIDIA states that it is not compulsory to join the program though it would be fair to assume that companies may lose out on competitiveness if they do not join versus those that have joined. However, one unmentioned portion (and one that has been controversial) is that when part of the program, the respective company’s core gaming brand must be exclusively aligned towards GeForce GPUs, meaning that if for instance, ASUS joined the GPP (which they did), that would mean that their core gaming brand, the Republic of Gamers, would need to have their GPU-line be GeForce-exclusive, which also means that the Radeon cards would need to have the RoG branding stripped and branded as something else.
This has several implications, chief among which is that this places AMD and other potential competitors in a further uncompetitive position in the mainstream sector due to the general Tom, Dick and Harry’s tendency to pick parts based on brand rather than based on the actual product. A customer who isn’t tech-savvy would definitely know “Republic of Gamers” but “AREZ” may be relatively unknown to them. NVIDIA’s cancellation of the GPP has a lot to do with this controversy but even though the GPP is dead, the damage is already done.
Many of the rival offerings have already had their gaming brands from their respective companies stripped and either placed in a lower, “non-gaming” tier or placed in a new brand that has been created due to the GPP (such as the aforementioned AREZ lineup from ASUS). The death of the GPP does not necessarily mean that companies will immediately start to put the Radeon GPUs back into their gaming lineup as rebranding isn’t as simple and requires a bit of resources to make it work, especially when trying to build it up again. Plus, there’s no reason to doubt that NVIDIA may try something similar in the future, albeit in a more subtle manner.
While the effects of the GPP wouldn’t affect the product that you and I enthusiasts end up getting since the basic product is the same with a different brand, competition is important in the industry and what NVIDIA has done shouldn’t be overlooked. The GPP may be dead but its effects linger on.
If you've been following the news section of the LTT Forums, you would've noticed that the LG G7 was launched. And it does look like a solid, if slightly underwhelming device. But there's one issue; lack of information on availability.
No, see, this is a problem that's been obvious over the past few LG devices. The G5 took a long while to reach the market and some of its modules ended up not making it to North America, the V20 suffered from lack of availability info nearly a month after launch, the G6 suffered from that regional crap and the V30 suffered from the same shitty launch that plagued the V20.
One thing that I've consistently seen from phone launches from other companies is that they have a time-line of when the device is available for purchase, whether that's an exact date or a rough time frame. LG has NOTHING. Not even a quarter. Nothing at all.
And this is a pattern that continues even today. The G7 has no launch and pricing info, and if LG doesn't come out with them before the month is over, the G7 will already be dead on arrival. I keep saying this but it really seems that LG is entirely oblivious to their situation. Hype means nothing if the product can't be obtained by consumers. LG needs to understand that or risk being much more irrelevant
UPDATE: More info has come out on launch, though curiously not from LG. The launch date seems to be June 1st, as confirmed by many carriers, with a South Korean launch happening slightly earlier. That’s later than expected and I wished LG would have said so earlier, but I guess it’s better than nothing?