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Slowdown/Performance Variation with 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max... Ambient Temperature? Apparently not

Repeating this note here since many people might miss it under the test notes.

I was getting flaky (highly variable) test results with the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max. And still getting weirdly slow results with Adobe Lightroom:

2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra: Lightroom Import/Export

It’s hard to believe that the M1/M2 CPUs could have heat issues, but I don’t know what else to think. And it’s not been cool in my office.

UPDATE: I put a large gel pack from the freezer under the MBP. Fans silent, machine cool to touch, no difference in Lightroom performance. So the behavior does NOT appear to relate to temperature. macOS bug? It’s running macOS Monterey, but I am loathe to “upgrade” to macOS Ventura. Could it be OS version? And why only Lightroom?

UPDATE 2: Activity Monitor shows Lightroom using only ~6 CPU cores. But there are 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores. The Adobe Lightroom speed issue is thus fully explained by Lightroom failing to use all the cores, using only about 2/3 of the available processing power. But why?

UPDATE 3: Lightroom has only “limited” support for M1 Max GPU, whereas M2 Ultra shows full GPU acceleration—perhaps this is why the CPU core usage is low—maybe the GPU support is not there to allow the CPUs to be fully used.

Limited vs full GPU support in Adobe Lightroom (toggle)
2023 Mac Pro: Lightroom import and export

Important note for MacBook Pro

Before testing, system activity is monitored to preclude background activity interfering with tests. For example, Spotlight indexing, a wayward daemon process offering no useful control over the timing of its indexing. But it generally settles down to doing nothing a minute or two after reboot.

Highly variable results were seen with the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max. For example, 133 or 153 or 169 seconds for Fujifilm GFX100S raw conversion. Ambient temperature range 80°F to 90°F.

Further testing suggests that in the 80°F range or hotter, running one test can heat up the laptop, slowing subsequent ones. It also means that long-running tests might never run at full speed if the ambient temperature is too high. Which makes the MacBook Pro a poor choice for sustained workloads in warm environments. The 2022 MacBook Pro M2 Max is likely to suffer from similar behavior, but it was tested at a far lower ambient temperature of around 65°F back in early spring, so no insight available on that. Bottom line: for reliable performance in warmer temperatures or with long-running workloads, steer clear of laptops.

No performance variation was seen with the 2023 Mac Pro vs temperature (its cooling system is world class!), but as of July 2023, it has its own Slow Mode bug related to sleep/wake.

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