Thermals: The Leg Test

At the end of my 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro review I mentioned that the bottom of the chassis can get uncomfortably warm. The higher peak power draw of the Core i5/i7 combined with the discrete GPU of the 15-inch MBP can result in more heat dissipated than the previous model.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is built off a mature yielding 45nm Core 2 Duo CPU. Given how long Intel has been making this CPU it's safe to assume that this chip is running as cool as physically possible. While the mobile Core i5/i7 still have a lot of improving to go through. While the base of the 13-inch MBP can get warm under normal use (aluminum conducts heat very well...towards your lap), it's not as bad as the new 15-inch. I'd say it's pretty much on par with last year's models.

To quantify these differences I pointed an infrared thermometer at the bottom of a few MacBook Pros and reported the surface temperatures. They were taken in a room with an ambient temperature of 76F.

At idle the 13-inch MacBook Pro is about room temperature. The new 15-inch is a few degrees warmer and the 2009 15-inch is actually the warmest. Remember that the Core i7 in the 15-inch has a very low idle power thanks to Intel's power gating.

While browsing the web the temperatures climb up considerably. The new 13-inch is still cooler than anything else, while the new 15-inch model's power efficiency let's it run cooler than the previous model.

Running Half Life 2 Episode 2 changes things dramatically. Now all three machines are running at or above 90F and the 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro is finally warmer than the previous model. If I measure temperature near the exhaust fan on the notebooks the new 15-inch model peaks at 105F compared to 99F for the previous generation and 92F for the 13-inch.

In all cases the new 13-inch MacBook Pro keeps surface temperatures under control. In most situations the 2010 15-inch MBP is actually cooler than the previous generation, it's only when the dGPU is active or under heavy load that the surface temperature can go well above what the older model would do.

The Display: Just as Good TRIM Support On the Way?


View All Comments

  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    I noticed a real world article with regards to battery life and for the life of me cannot recall the link.

    Anyhow, the guy grabbed six laptops of various battery life etc and simply played a dvd.

    The macbook (Not sure which he used) lasted around 5.5 hours continuous play... the same as the other laptops.

  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    P.s. I also think that this article gives me nothing that hasn't been said before and wonder why it's been written? Reply
  • BlendMe - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    AT readers have been asking for a review of the new 13" and the 320M, so he delivered. Reply
  • tim851 - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Seriously, am I getting so old that I am the only one who thinks 1280x800 is sufficient for a 13.3" screen? Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link


    /me hands tim a pair of bifocals.
  • Dennis Travis - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Do you have a pair for me also? :D Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    /me snaps bifocals at bridge.

    Bifocal Monocles for both!!!!!!!
  • FATCamaro - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    hahahaha. nice Reply
  • rfadream - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand are you sure those temps you measured are in Fahrenheit and not Celsius? Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Its amazing the type of quality product you can get from using just slave labour to make it.

    Well done.

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