MacBook Pro Complaints
I’ve become a bit fixated on the MacBook Pro issues that are plaguing many early adopters of these new machines. This page serves as a centralized organization point for the various posts I have made on the subject, as well as links to a couple programs I’ve developed to explore and alleviate the “CPU whine” issue in particular.
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Blog entries in chronological order:
- Original Post: All Work and No Play Makes a Quiet MacBook Pro
- Noise Update
- I Belive in Miracles (MagicNoiseKiller introduced)
- Entry announcing this summary page
- Battery Life Tests (for the CPU whine workarounds)
- The Whining User (exhaustive list of complaints)
- Customer Sensory Issues (1st AppleCare Service Submitted)
- Love Conquers All (Google MBP search queries)
- Stop the Cow, MacBook Pro (search engine referrals)
- I Need a Hero (Apple’s price/satisfiaction ratio)
- An Uneventful Return (1st AppleCare Service Returned)
- Wash. Rinse. Repeat. (Contemplating 2nd AppleCare Service)
- Good and Bad Apples (On the brightest and dimmest of Apple’s representatives.)
- The Apple Repair Circus (On the results of my second service repair.)
- The Quiet Mac (Finally, the saga ends.)
NOTE: AppleDefects.com has started a wiki for MacBook Pro problems that is much more comprehensive than my personal list shown below.
While I have many complaints about the machine, some of them are just downright nitpicky. I devoted an entire post to describing virtually every problem I could come up with. The list that follows are the issues that are of most significance to me, and judging by user feedback, to other MBP owners.
- CPU Whine. This noise is present at different times for different people, but seems most prevalent when running on battery powery. The noise is directly related to CPU usage, which may simply be a side-effect of it being directly related to power consumption. The noise can be alleviated by using the built-in iSight camera, plugging in certain external USB devices, utilizing the CPU at a constant rate, or by way of the Mirror Widget/MagNoiseKiller hack, which may simply be a less cluttered equivalent of actually running the iSight camera the whole time, in terms of power usage.
- Display related buzz/whine. This noise is separate from but often confused with the CPU whine. The characteristic feature of this noise is that it gets better or worse depending on the brightness of the display. Most people seem to experience a complete elimination of the noise only when the display is at maximum brightness, while others report reduction of the noise only while the display is dimmed. In all cases the noise disappears when the display is completely darkened. It seems that Apple has acknowledged that at least some of these complaints are due to a faulty display inverter. However, Apple support continues to tell some complainers that the noise is within “acceptable levels.”
- Mooing Motors. This noise emanates from the lower-right corner of the laptop, near where the optical drive is located. The noise seems connected to machine temperature, and some have speculated that it’s simply a fan that is starting and stopping in response to the temperature. The fault here if that is the case is that the fan is so repeatedly started and stopped, such that it is noticeably active over a long period of time. The fan never seems to come on and stay on, it ramps up and then dies. I don’t have any info about whether acknowledges this as a flaw or not.
- High pitched squeal. Some machines (mine included) exhibit a high-pitched squeal that seems to go away temporarily when the tilt of the display is adjusted. On my machine, this problem was rectified in the first round of repairs, though the other issues (including display buzzing) were not.
- Heat! Many MBP owners report higher-than normal heat of the machine. This is hard to quantify, because it’s not easy to get the temperature measured on a particular machine, and the standard range isn’t exactly clear. For me, the temperature is hot enough on the top of the machine, that my hands get sweaty and very uncomfortable, just by typing. The heat problem has recently gotten more press than any of the sound issues, and is alleged to be caused by an excess of thermal grease. The only question that remains is whether the “pretty darned hot” temperature that many of us are experiencing is hot enough to be classified as among the most problematic.
Summary of Downloadable Items (alleviating CPU whine only):
- MagicNoiseKiller. UPDATE: This workaround seems to be less successful as of 10.4.6. I have not yet installed 10.4.6 but once I do I will investigate whether there is a way to modify the program to continue being as “magical” as it was on 10.4.5.This is a simple application that quits immediately after silencing the CPU whine. It does so by exploiting a hack that seems to be identical to why the “Mirror Widget” workaround works. Essentially it opens access to the iSight camera and then quits before closing access. The battery drainage is slightly faster after this tool runs, but it’s surprisingly minimal.
- QuietMBP. While this application is running it prevents the system from becoming “too idle,” by volunteering to do meaningless work when nothing else is going on. I have personally decided to use the MagicNoiseKiller approach now, but leave this download for those who prefer the CPU utilization method, or just want to play around with the slider and hear the noise change.
Appreciate the work I’ve been doing? It’s been my pleasure, but it’s true that I’ve spent a lot of time on this. If you want to show your appreciation in the form of a donation, I’d very much appreciate it. Whatever amount (so far they range from $5-$15USD) you feel is appropriate will be music to my ears, and it might help block out the sound of the MacBook Pro’s CPU whine :)
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