GPU Throttling on Macbook Pro 9,1 [Mostly Solved]

ZGR

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Oct 26, 2012
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Update: 4/26/14
I purchased Notcua NT-H1 from Amazon (good thermal paste) and applied it to my 2012 15" Macbook Pro to apply. The entire process took about 25 minutes. Before purchasing, I saw this guide from iFixit. I'd like to point out that step 22 was quite frustrating. I was being extremely careful to not damage the motherboard/logic board, and it does require a little more force to remove than expected.



This was after a quick cleaning near the end of the cleaning process. Before scraping off the original paste, I noticed I saw bare die on the CPU and GPU! I was hoping for around a 10C decrease per component, but after stress testing I was amazed by the improvements; primarily the GPU.

I got a consistent 10C decrease of temperatures from the i7-3720QM, but the GPU gains I got were phenomenal. In many games, the GT 650M exceeded no more than 85C at 1070 MHz core, and 2995 MHz memory! The thermal paste added stability making me go up to 1100 MHz on core speed before crashing. Before replacing the thermal paste, I could only go up to 1050 MHz before the driver crashing... For Intel Burn Test, I saw the CPU no longer hitting 105C and throttling 3.4 GHz at 8 threads; but instead capped at 95-96!

Power consumption lowered about 2-5w per component because of the lowered temperatures enabling me to have maximum cpu turbo/gpu overclock with the bottom lid on for many games!

The big problem for me was the 80w throttle limit Apple has for the Macbook Pro. The high temperatures made the 80w limit a common issue.

GTA IV was a good test for this, as it stresses all 8 threads on the CPU, and stresses the GPU . I could run the game at 3.1 GHz and 1070/2250 MHz without hitting any throttling (80w limit). CPU temperatures were high, peaking at 92C; but the GPU never exceeded 80C! This was with the bottom lid on, playing on the Mac's display. I'd like to point out, that the fan speeds are at 6000RPM for each fan, making it a little loud; but not unbearable. No way I could do such a high GPU overclock before doing the thermal paste replacement;I just find that ridiculous, as it would hit 95C (throttling point for GPU) at lower clocks before... The high GPU overclock allowed me to have a consistent 40+fps at 1680x1050 with high settings.

With the bottom lid off, I can run 1070/2995 MHz for the 650m and 3.4 GHz for the i7-3720QM without exceeding 70w power consumption at 1080p for nearly every game. Only GTA IV, ARMA 3, and probably other multi-threaded heavy games can push it the throttle-limit (80w); but the low temperatures make power consumption very low. Temperatures never exceeded 60C (close to desktop temps) for the GPU, but capped at 82C for the CPU. Looking at the photo, the GK107 die is really tiny, making the low temperatures make sense. Because the bottom lid is off, the logic board is a much lower temperature, making power consumption much, much lower. It makes me wonder why Apple doesn't try to make their notebooks cooler...

After extensive testing, I also noticed the Macbook Pro tries quite hard at preventing the 80w wall. It seems to start skipping frames at around the 75-77w area before high temperatures push the power consumption over the limit. I do not get throttling at 3.2-3.4 GHz for GTA IV with the bottom lid on; but I do get skipped frames as power consumption hovers around 75-79w, depending on the clockspeed. At 2.9-3.1 GHz, I get a higher, smoother framerate. I use AIDA64 and RivaTuner to measure power consumption as it is very accurate. As long as the battery is fully charged, the power supply will accurately measure load.


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The current gen 650M is quite capable for gaming but I am very perplexed at why my GPU throttles.

This only occurs in CPU heavy games.

I recently downloaded ThrottleStop and that was an excellent fix to the problem. I was able to set my CPU at a clockspeed so it wouldn't keep overclocking itself to 3.4 GHz in every game I played.

However, in GTA IV, Metro: Last Light, and ARMA 3, my GPU is not at full utilization unless my CPU is at a relatively high clock speed.

My GPU is overclocked to 1006 MHz core and 2600 Memory. I cannot raise the memory clock any higher. But I kept the same core/memory clock ratio as stock.

Here is a screenshot:



GPU clocks are solid across the board. But GPU usage is not consistently at 100%, meaning there is a CPU bottleneck @ 2.6 GHz.

That is not a problem, because my CPU and GPU are still well below their throttling points.

Raising the frequency to 3.0 GHz:



Throttling occurs soon after. My frame rate goes up and temperatures are still well within acceptable boundaries this entire time.

The only thing I can think of is the 650M is exceeding the 85W power supply's limits. I never could have imagined that thermals are no longer the primary concern in a laptop, but rather its power supply.

After further analysis, i7-3720QM and GT 650M are pushing the system beyond its 80W power limit. When that occurs, the GT 650M will throttle. Using ThrottleStop or a similar utility, you can clamp CPU frequency to below the power limit and throttling should not occur. In CPU heavy games, this can be a huge problem. The stock 85 Watt Power Supply is simply not enough.

Lowering memory clock of the GPU while retaining the core clock helped lower power consumption and maintain framerates. I find that for games that demand high CPU clocks will hamper GPU overclocking. To counteract this, a good overclock I use is 975 MHz core and 1600 Mhz memory. The stock 2000 MHz memory is quite unnecessary for many games unless AA is used.

Update 11/29: The cooler your power brick remains, the less likely your GPU will throttle. If your power supply is very hot, throttling will occur even if below the 80w power limit set by Apple. Even after unplugging the power brick , throttling will occur for some reason. A reboot typically fixes this.

Update 4/6/14
Easy quick fix. If you have a Macbook Pro and use an external monitor with keyboard and mouse, flip the notebook upside down so the apple logo is on the table.

With the vent facing upwards, temperatures lowered by an average of 5-7c. This also lowered power consumption by a good chunk. It made me wonder what the advantages of taking the bottom lid off.

With the lid off under stress testing, temperatures never rose above 80C for the GPU and CPU. This allows me to maintain a constant overclock of both the CPU and GPU.

Before doing this, Assassin's Creed IV was quite choppy due to high temps. Now after 30 minutes of gameplay:



This is with the lid off. It takes about 3 minutes to put the screws back in, so it isn't much of a hassle. With the lid on, I saw a peak GPU temperature of 94C (with the same overclock).

With the lid off, temperatures lowered by a gigantic margin, making the 85w PSU a non-issue due the thermal power savings.

Even after a few hours of gaming, temps are very low. This game is a good example of what would give me problems. A single-threaded bound game needing a high CPU clock also made it impossible for me to have a high overclock on the GPU. But now that temps are lower, I am no longer power constrained and can maintain a high overclock completely stable.

I even ran a 3dmark benchmark and no throttling occured even with the CPU maintaining its turbo all the way through. Very pleased :)

Removing the bottom lid of the Macbook Pro decreased temperatures drastically and made the weak PSU no longer the bottleneck.
 
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runawayprisoner

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Did you check CPU temperature?

Since both CPU and GPU are cooled by the same heat pipe on the motherboard, and they are relatively close to each other, the system may have mistakenly detected that temperature was too high around that region and throttled the GPU in favor of keeping CPU performance up.

I'd think that if you exceed the 85W limit of the power supply, it'll start draining the battery instead of throttling performance. But I may be wrong.
 

ZGR

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Oct 26, 2012
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I think a recent update from Apple has stopped the battery draining for me. I used to get that, but it no longer happens even after several hours of gaming.

And the CPU temperatures are displayed on the screenshots (even the max) and it will not throttle until it hits 105C.
 

joshhedge

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Nov 19, 2011
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Have you tried resetting the SMC and potentially the NVRAM, if I ever suffer from throttling that always does the trick, although since updating to 10.8.4 I don't suffer from it anymore.

I am running my rPro at 1050MHz and 1400MHz and don't suffer from any visible throttling, although the temperature of my GPU rarely exceeds 75 degrees celsius under load. It's interesting to note that your memory frequency is much higher than mine, have you done testing to show increasing it by that much is worthwhile?
 
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ZGR

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Have you tried resetting the SMC and potentially the NVRAM, if I ever suffer from throttling that always does the trick, although since updating to 10.8.4 I don't suffer from it anymore.

I am running my rPro at 1050MHz and 1400MHz and don't suffer from any visible throttling, although the temperature of my GPU rarely exceeds 75 degrees celsius under load. It's interesting to note that your memory frequency is much higher than mine, have you done testing to show increasing it by that much is worthwhile?
2600 MHz is 2.58x the current GPU core clock which is the same ratio as stock clocks.

2600 is the highest the 650m's bios allows it appears and it does increase performance. Temperatures are similar to yours. I will try resetting SMC and NVRAM. I will also try testing on battery power to see if it will throttle on battery.
 

joshhedge

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2600 MHz is 2.58x the current GPU core clock which is the same ratio as stock clocks.

2600 is the highest the 650m's bios allows it appears and it does increase performance. Temperatures are similar to yours. I will try resetting SMC and NVRAM. I will also try testing on battery power to see if it will throttle on battery.
I see thanks, I'll give that a go then regarding the memory clocks.

Good luck, let us know if the reset helps.
 

BuCkDoG

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Personally I think resetting the SMC might do the trick. I have seen this type of issue in the past and an SMC reset did the trick. Let us know the outcome.
 

ZGR

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Alright, I reset the SMC and PRAM/NVRAM according to the directions from Apple.
Afterwards, I started Metro Last Light and locked the CPU to 3.3 GHz (GPU bottlenecked at that point) and have not experienced any throttling at all!
It seems like the SMC reset did the trick. I am very relieved that this was an easy fix.

Edit: Playing GTA IV, I got my GPU to throttle down to 725 MHz. Like before, temperatures are not a factor. During throttling, the CPU is consuming nearly 30W in power. I think I am power constrained in this scenario. If I lower my CPU to 2.9 GHz, I am still GPU bottlenecked and it will not throttle. Luckily, I don't need a super high CPU clock rate to achieve high FPS.
It is only replicable with a high CPU frequency in GTA IV and possibly other CPU heavy games.

If I could monitor my GPU's power consumption, I would know for sure....
 
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joshhedge

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Glad the SMC and PRAM trick did the job for you in Metro. I'm not sure where to go to monitor your GPU power usage, but I'm sure someone on the forums will do.
 

ZGR

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I decided to disable ThrottleStop to see if the throttling issue was fixed in some games. Sure enough, Red Orchestra 2 was too much to maintain 3.4GHz and my GPU overclock so Throttlestop was enabled and I fixed the CPU @ 2 GHz (not a demanding game at all).

If I let my CPU have its way, it appears to want to maintain its max turbo at all times even when it doesn't need to. When this happens, my GPU starts to underclock itself to 725 MHz. If I enable Throttlestop, I still am able to maintain the same frame rate as before, but I will have MUCH lower temperatures, and no throttling.

In Red Orchestra 2, my CPU peaked 102C without Throttlestop, and peaked at only 80C while still maintaining 60 FPS.
Even though the CPU gets super hot, the side effect without Throttlestop is my GPU throttling itself even though it is maintaining perfectly safe temperatures.

GPU-Z lets me see voltage, but that is not important.

AIDA64 Extreme Edition (Trial) lets me see how many watts are running though the power supply. Earlier today, I monitored that with GTA IV with my CPU at 3.0 GHz with my GPU overclocked.
At peak before throttling the GPU, it was at 77-78W. Underclocking the CPU or the GPU brought it down to 55-60W.
Both the CPU and GPU are rated at 45W and are extremely power hungry at high clocks. I am pretty convinced that I cannot access beyond 85W before my GPU starts throttling.

When I first got this computer, I did not have this problem. Instead, I noticed my battery draining after several hours of gaming.
There was recently an update to my Macbook Pro (I am also running 10.9 Preview) that fixed the battery draining; but I think the GPU throttling is the fix...
 

ZGR

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Okay I did some thorough analysis and I am confident I know why my GPU throttles.

Using Intel Burn Test and Furmark, I was able to see my peak total power consumption before my GPU throttles.



With my CPU at 2.4 GHz, my stock GPU clocks begin to throttle because power consumption is near 80W!

Using AIDA64, I am able to measure my total system power consumption. It can reach up to 80W before throttling. Playing Skyrim at 1.9GHz for the CPU, and with 1006 MHz core / 2600 MHz memory for the GPU, I am around 77W of total power consumption. If I raise my CPU frequency just a little, GPU throttling begins to occur.

That means if my power supply hits beyond 80W, my GPU begins to throttle....

85 Watts is not enough!
 

joshhedge

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Okay I did some thorough analysis and I am confident I know why my GPU throttles.

Using Intel Burn Test and Furmark, I was able to see my peak total power consumption before my GPU throttles.



With my CPU at 2.4 GHz, my stock GPU clocks begin to throttle because power consumption is near 80W!

Using AIDA64, I am able to measure my total system power consumption. It can reach up to 80W before throttling. Playing Skyrim at 1.9GHz for the CPU, and with 1006 MHz core / 2600 MHz memory for the GPU, I am around 77W of total power consumption. If I raise my CPU frequency just a little, GPU throttling begins to occur.

That means if my power supply hits beyond 80W, my GPU begins to throttle....

85 Watts is not enough!
That's certainly very interesting, thanks for the findings. Have you tried investigating whether the increased core clock or memory clock of the GPU increases the power consumption significantly?

Out of interest are you using the MBP or rMBP?
 

ZGR

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That's certainly very interesting, thanks for the findings. Have you tried investigating whether the increased core clock or memory clock of the GPU increases the power consumption significantly?

Out of interest are you using the MBP or rMBP?
The Macbook Pro 9,1 is the regular 2012 Macbook Pro. I found that lowering my Memory Clock to 2200 MHz, and keeping the core clock around 1000 MHz kept the power consumption down enough.

Even with stock clocks, I only get around ~10w extra so there isn't a lot of overclocking room...
 

joshhedge

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The Macbook Pro 9,1 is the regular 2012 Macbook Pro. I found that lowering my Memory Clock to 2200 MHz, and keeping the core clock around 1000 MHz kept the power consumption down enough.

Even with stock clocks, I only get around ~10w extra so there isn't a lot of overclocking room...
Another good find.

Is it the power adaptor wattage which is the limiting factor for the laptop then as it seems like the thermal dissipation of the chassis is pretty good. Tried finding a higher one on the web but it looks like the 17inch MBP still used a 85Watt adaptor, which is a shame. I guess there is very little more you can do.
 

ZGR

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Another good find.

Is it the power adaptor wattage which is the limiting factor for the laptop then as it seems like the thermal dissipation of the chassis is pretty good. Tried finding a higher one on the web but it looks like the 17inch MBP still used a 85Watt adaptor, which is a shame. I guess there is very little more you can do.
I think its a limitation of the notebook. Even unplugged, it can only consume 80w max before the GPU throttles.

I didn't know this would be a problem when I got the notebook; otherwise, I would have most likely gotten something else.
 

TheStu

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I think its a limitation of the notebook. Even unplugged, it can only consume 80w max before the GPU throttles.

I didn't know this would be a problem when I got the notebook; otherwise, I would have most likely gotten something else.
Well, what did you buy the MBP for? What's the situation under stock clocks for the CPU & GPU (I re-read, did you mention this or not?)?
 

ZGR

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Well, what did you buy the MBP for? What's the situation under stock clocks for the CPU & GPU (I re-read, did you mention this or not?)?
My old laptop was a Hackintosh and I really liked OS X overall. With stock CPU and GPU clocks, I only have around 10-15w overhead.

It really all depends on whether the game is CPU heavy. GTA IV at stock clocks I only have 7-8W free...

Here is an experiment to see how much the 650M consumes on its own without Throttlestop. This is essentially not touching with any of the GPU or CPU clocks.



Here I am running Furmark (on another monitor) with my GPU at power saving clocks. With Throttlestop disabled, you can see how the i7-3720QM loves hitting its turbo. There is no performance change from 1.0 GHz to 3.4 GHz here. I am not stressing the CPU at all, yet turboing itself is just consuming more power.



With stock GPU clocks and with Throttlestop disabled, I have literally no overclocking room. Reminder: this is just stressing the GPU only.



I clamped the i7 down to 1.0 GHz. I now have an extra 7w of breathing room with no frame rate or latency changes to Furmark. This is still using the GPU at stock clocks.



Maintaining the 1.0 GHz clocks speed, it is pretty obvious overclocking the GPU does not work with Furmark. After 30 seconds, my GPU will start to throttle itself because I am hitting that 80w barrier.

I really feel like the components are simply too power hungry for 80w.
 

joshhedge

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I'm really not sure why your MBP is struggling with throttling like you, my GPU is over clocked and I've never experience what you're going through.
 

ZGR

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I'm really not sure why your MBP is struggling with throttling like you, my GPU is over clocked and I've never experience what you're going through.
This is pretty recent. If you want to measure your power usage download AIDA64. There is a sensor that measures total system power consumption and that led to me finding why my GPU throttled.

I am thinking this has something to do with a recent update from Apple that made it so the battery no longer drains if gaming for several hours.

I have also updated to 10.9 Preview.
 

joshhedge

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I'll do a post of my power usage while playing Anno 2070 sometime this weekend and see if it's comparable to yours.

Out of interest, how are you finding 10.9?
 

ZGR

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It all depends on how intensive the game is. Maybe Furmark would be a better test since its pretty easy to max out your PSU with it.

10.9 is pretty stable. It doesn't feel all that different from Mountain Lion but that's not a bad thing at all. It still takes awhile to shutdown for me.
 

joshhedge

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It all depends on how intensive the game is. Maybe Furmark would be a better test since its pretty easy to max out your PSU with it.

10.9 is pretty stable. It doesn't feel all that different from Mountain Lion but that's not a bad thing at all. It still takes awhile to shutdown for me.
I've never used Furmark, to make it a fair comparison what settings, if available, are you using?

Edit:

I'm getting major throttling very much similar to yours at stock clocks almost instantly while my overall power supply usage is virtually 80W. Temperatures aren't an issue.

It's interesting that for me this throttling is only apparent during this test.
 
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ZGR

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I've never used Furmark, to make it a fair comparison what settings, if available, are you using?

Edit:

I'm getting major throttling very much similar to yours at stock clocks almost instantly while my overall power supply usage is virtually 80W. Temperatures aren't an issue.

It's interesting that for me this throttling is only apparent during this test.
Not all games caused throttling for me. Just the CPU hungry ones. Throttle stop helped get rid of most of the throttling; but even without overclocking, power consumption is very close to its 80w limit. I think it's like that for everyone

Using furmark, I just chose the default 1280x720 resolution. It doesn't need high settings to stress the GPU.

I also have many things plugged into the MacBook. I noticed that My monitor via mini Display port increases about 8-10W of usage.
The 4 other USB devices are also adding about 3-5W. Even lowering display brightness can lower usage by 5W.
 
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ZGR

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Updating this thread because I have completely solved the throttling issues.
There is something that nobody seems to mention about Apple power supplies; but it makes a lot of sense.

Earlier today I was encountering huge throttling issues in games and applications for no apparent reason. My 650M was throttling even at 500 Mhz core, and 1000 Mhz memory. I kept lowering clocks, thinking my 650m was faulty.

NOPE! Frustrated, I was about to turn off my laptop for awhile because I already tried several troubleshooting steps. I saw my power supply was under a blanket super hot. I let it cool and set it on a wooden table for proper ventilation.

Zero throttling issues now. If I attempt to break that 80W barrier Apple set, I will of course run into throttling issues.

So to reiterate: If a Macbook Pro user is experiencing throttling of their dedicated GPU; make sure your power supply is cool and ventilated, and make sure your CPU is not turbo-ing itself into oblivion.

I have been stress testing many games including Assassin's Creed IV and have found that 1035 Mhz core and 3080 Mhz memory is about the maximum stable overclock Furmark and games let me use. The performance improvement from stock clocks is incredible.

Its a general rule that the cooler something is, the less electricity is consumes. The cooler that power supply gets, the more performance I should be able to squeeze out of it.
 
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