How much can the 17" i7 handle?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Coswyn, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. Coswyn macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    I'm considering getting my first MacBook Pro - a 17" i7 with 8GB RAM and an SSD. I plan on making this a desktop replacement, coming from a 2.8GHz Core 2 Quad with 8GB RAM and a GTX 260 GPU. I consider the 17" i7 a good trade-off because I mostly under-utilize my desktop (that is, it's not constantly being pushed to its limits under a heavy workload (encoding, compiling, rendering, etc)), and my 24" is the same resolution as the 17" (1920x1200) so I get the same workspace.

    My concern, though, is whether the 17" i7 will overheat under my typical workload. Here are a few scenarios of how I work to give you an idea...

    1) A few instances of Firefox with 30-40 tabs altogether (several videos, some loading, at most one playing, but otherwise the same as above); chat client; email client; possible a torrent app with one or two downloading/uploading.

    2) Photoshop with a 50MB interface design (sometimes 2 or 3); Dreamweaver with several files open; one or two instances of Firefox with a dozen or so tabs open on each (a video or two, but mostly news, forums, email and the like); iTunes in the background downloading and/or playing a track; Dropbox; chat client; email client.

    3) Maya; Firefox with a dozen or so tabs; iTunes; chat; email. that's what I'm typically doing. I'm not sure how the 17" i7 would handle this. Would the temps run near or above the CPU's threshold for any or all of these cases? Any thoughts? Thanks.
  2. TRUCRACKER macrumors 6502


    May 31, 2010
  3. Coswyn thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    Getting my money's worth:cool: ...but seriously, a few for email, several for news, several for forums, and sometimes several more for each of the last two along with a few to several videos.

    And if it matters for comparison, I often run close to each of those scenarios on my work computer without much of a hitch (it slows down a bit at the end of the day, but otherwise allows me to keep productive throughout it), and that's a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM and a 8600 GTS running two 22" LCDs. Not sure what the discrepancies are for mobile processors (i7 620M).
  4. macjaffa macrumors member

    Feb 17, 2010
    I've got a 8GB i7 mbp17".

    It's really very powerful. I don't think you will have a problem. It's the most powerful computer I have used, apart from my friends 27" i7 imac.

    Under load it can get a bit hot underneath, and the fans can kick in a bit, but this is only when running the cpu at >75% for prolonged periods.

    When doing browsing even with 40 or so tabs, photoshop open, various other apps, file copying, downloading, decompressing etc, you wouldn't even know it was workign away in the background so responsive.

    My only gripe about the 17" mbp is the distance between the keyboard and the edge is quite for for use on a lap. On a desk though it's fine.
  5. Mirabella macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2010
    I've done scenario # 2 many times with my 2006 2.16 Ghz MacBook Pro, and it was able to handle it, though it did get hot.

    So far, I haven't fully put my new new 17" i7 through the paces, but – to the degree that I've experienced it, so far, it seems to be handling such workloads just fine, working faster than my old one, while running cooler.
  6. banalelectric macrumors member

    May 22, 2010
    For fun, I tested the 17" i7 in the Apple Store by loading and playing 11 HD movie trailers from the Apple website simultaneously. My old PB G4 had problems playing just one of these, while the i7 played 11 without so much as a stutter. (I felt the computer get merely warm above the keyboard--as opposed to 'hot'.)

    This was an unscientific test to say the least, but it sold me on the i7's computing power. And that big 17" matte display sold me on the rest ;)

    That said, last night I opened a ridiculously large photoshop file (a 4800 dpi "contact sheet" style scan of 20 negatives = 4 GB) and really felt the bottlenecks in my system. While the CPU was still running cool and only functioning at 11% or so, my 4 GB of RAM filled up instantly, and the limitations of the stock 5400 rpm hard drive became apparent, as it took a couple of minutes for the file to load. Thankfully, I'll be installing another 4 GB of RAM this evening, and I will definitely look into upgrading the drive once SSD prices come down a bit. Not that I plan on working on stupidly huge files like this too often, but it will be nice to have a little extra headroom when I do.
  7. banalelectric macrumors member

    May 22, 2010

    After upgrading to 8 GB a few minutes ago (which was a surprisingly easy process), the same giant 4 GB Photoshop file was opened within 30 seconds (compared to the 3-4 minutes it took yesterday). Working on the file is also significantly faster--everything is pretty much as snappy as it should be now in spite of the unwieldy file size.

    iStat tells me I'm currently using 6.36 GB of RAM (with a token amount allotted to Safari, I reckon). So I guess it's safe to say if you've got RAM available, CS5 is going to use it.

    I honestly wasn't expecting that sort of performance boost--and obviously it will be most noticeable on a program like PS which caches data like crazy--so it's reassuring to know my $300 were not wasted on a useless upgrade. And it also confirms that the i7 is a tough customer when it's properly spec'd out.

    For what it's worth, I opted for the new discount RAM being sold through OWC (called "NuRAM".) $250 for the 8 GB option, and OWC will give you $50 in exchange for the 4 GB of stock RAM from your MPB. So far, it's looking like a pretty sweet deal.
  8. Coswyn thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    Thanks a lot for taxing and sharing! That's definitely helpful to my decision making process.

    Have you tried any extended time tests? I assume sapping your memory like that for a short period didn't overwhelmingly increase the CPU (and case) temp, but I wonder how much it takes to get it a few degrees above or below the threshold (which, as I understand it, is 105 C)?

    What are the chances of any of those scenarios I listed bringing it to that level after a few to several hours of work? Frankly, getting even near that would concern me. I would hope to stay about 10-15 below in the worst case, but I wonder if the 17" i7 would allow that?

    Thanks again for the input.
  9. Rhalliwell1 macrumors 6502a

    May 22, 2008
    Your asking about the CPU here, i think you should be asking more about the RAM and Storage. The CPU isn't going to be the one struggling. I'd have 8GB of ram if you are going to have that many tabs and photoshop/maya. Photoshop and Maya will use the CPU as will many flash videos in those tabs (you can only watch one at a time though!) but it's going to be able to cope fine.

    The computer will not 'overheat' as such, yeah it may get a little hot but you don't need to worry about heat at all. The only time damage could be done due to heat is from excessive dust or hardware failure but even then OS X will shut down the computer before that happens. If the computer shuts down randomly then start to worry.
  10. Coswyn thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    No doubt 8GB will handle that, and more, but I'm concerned that the CPU will not without becoming a skillet for my legs - I don't want it to be uncomfortable on my lap under those workloads for a few to several hour duration, nor do I want to [too] adversely affect the CPU's life span.

    Also, what do you mean "you can only watch one at a time"? Coming from a Windows environment, is there a limit on Flash in Mac OS that I'm not aware of?
  11. Lone Deranger macrumors 68000

    Lone Deranger

    Apr 23, 2006
    Tokyo, Japan
    Perhaps not directly related, but I figured I'd chime in nonetheless.
    I've got the 2009 17" MacBookPro 2x3.06GHz with 8GB of Ram and use it on a daily basis with Maya, ZBrush, TopoGun, VMWare, SoftImage, Nuke and PhotoShop. Oftentimes many of these apps running at the same time.
    I've been doing a lot of rendering with mentalray from a Terminal on both cores (am doing it now). And the temps right now are 93°C with the fans hovering around 4800rpm. The top of the keyboard is cool on the right hand side and a little warm on the left hand side. On the bottom it feels hot, but not worryingly so. I have it on a desk anyway, so it's not a problem. Wouldn't want it on my lap in that state though.

    The best thing about these machines is how well they multitask. I frequently am rendering on both cores while continuing to work in apps like ZBrush and/or TopoGun. Or playing back my uncompressed renders in QuickTime. Not exactly lightweight tasks. And the performance, despite the background renders is excellent. Perfectly workable.
    I can only imagine what the i7 will add to this in terms of performance and wouldn't worry too much about heat. The system is smart enough to deal with it adequately.
  12. Rhalliwell1 macrumors 6502a

    May 22, 2008
    When you said you plan to make it a desktop replacement i thought that would mean you would have it on a desk, not your lap. All that going on might make your leg sweaty... I don't have and haven't used the model your talking about but my MBP is the top of the line mid 2008 model (The older brother of the one you plan to get) and it does get a little hot when pushed.

    You wont effect the life of the CPU by using it (goes back to the heat issue and how OS X and i think most OSs handle it)

    No technical limit on flash but you only have one set of eyes and one set of ears (i presume) so i don't understand you would would watch more than one video at a time?

    Heat will change dependant on the climate too. I live in England so its generally quite cool. If you live in a warm environment the machine will run hotter.
  13. Coswyn thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    Heh, that's true. Just making sure there is no technical limitation - I've heard stories about Flash not running well on Mac OS.

    I live in Arizona :cool:
  14. Coswyn thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 24, 2010
    For anyone who is interested, I somewhat answered my own question today at the Apple store.

    I tried out a 2.66 i7 with 4GB RAM and a 5400 500GB HD. Here's what I got running while monitoring the memory and CPU...

    - 50-70 tabs in a few instances of Safari (many pages; a couple dozen news sites; etc)
    - Photoshop with a several page PDF opened up
    - Flash
    - Illustrator
    - Dreamweaver
    - Excel
    - PowerPoint
    - Word (with 1,000+ pages of text)
    - iTunes
    - Aperture
    - ...and a few other large-scale apps that I forgot (I was just clicking on anything I could open)

    ...I let them run for several minutes while the CPU only jumped above 50% a few times, though the 4GB filled up quickly (when I filled up the pages in Word the machine had 20MB free). It got a bit warm at its base, but not unbearable (wasn't uncomfortable to lay my palm on).

    I'm still concerned about what kind of temperatures the base would see after a few hours of substantial use (even under half that workload), but it's clear the machine is powerful enough to handle a lot without so much as a hick-up.

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