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Macbook Pro i7 or i9?
Old 19th December 2018
Here for the gear
Gimmick's Avatar
Macbook Pro i7 or i9?

I'm currently in the market for a new Macbook Pro and found myself wondering if the i9-2.9GHz option is "worth it" over the i7-2.2GHz. Obviously the phrase "worth it" when it comes to Apple is a fallacy, but I'm curious about it purely from a performance aspect (all cost aside).

First, I should probably give a general idea of my workload. My DAW is Ableton Live 10 Standard. My projects usually consist of something close to 30+ channels/tracks in total. I usually only have one Kontakt Instrument (GetGoodDrums: Modern & Massive) on a project, but I have do route that instrument to (About) 16 different channels for processing. I also do a lot of DI guitar tracking that I then process with VSTs. I do use soft synths as well, and I'm guilty of liking my reverb and delay which does NOT help my performance. On my 2012 MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHZ i7 I'm hitting close to 80% CPU on heavy projects, and when the track is not running I'm still pushing around 20% CPU usage.

I know that the 2018 Macbook Pros had some serious CPU throttling issues on release that have since been fixed, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will have great performance for my needs. I'm left with concerns on both options.
My concern with the 2.2GHZ i7 is that it's pretty close to Ableton Live's crap out point which tells me that Turbo Boost will be doing a lot of work. I'm unsure if the the thermals resulting from the turbo boost will have a negative affect on my performance, or if it will be negligible. Similarly, the 2.9GHz i9 would not need to turbo boost as fast, but it does run hotter than the i7 in general. I feel like the i9 is more likely to throttle than the i7.

If anyone can let me know what their experiences are then that would be extremely helpful.

Thanks in advance.
Old 19th December 2018
Gear Head

For both the 2.2 and the 2.9, when they go flat out and load all cores, they both top out around 3.2 GHz. The 2.9 has a slight edge when not fully loading all cores and can top out at around 3.6GHz under a decent (but not maximum) load.

So if you are running VIs/tracks that require more headroom on a single core, but are not loading all cores to max, the 2.9 *might* be slightly better. I tend to have loads that spread pretty evenly across cores and so went with the 2.2. I'm a Logic user, so Ableton may have different requirements/gotchas.

edit --- except for when the machine is idling, pretty much any prolonged activity (like mixing/tracking) will push the cores into turbo land - and they will stay there. The base numbers (2.2, 2.9) don't really seem to mean as much these days....

Last edited by dven; 19th December 2018 at 04:47 PM.. Reason: more information
Old 19th December 2018
Originally Posted by Gimmick View Post

If anyone can let me know what their experiences are then that would be extremely helpful.

Thanks in advance.
I made this same decision recently. I went with the 2.2 i7 2018 MBP from a 2.2 i7 2011 MBP.

As others have stated I did a lot of research into this and at high CPU loads the i9 and base i7 2018 models run at the same speed due to thermal management. As stated above the i9 has a slight advantage on performance at light cpu loads.

I can say that I'm VERY happy with my choice. I use Ableton 10 Suite with a ton of CPU intensive plugins like Avenger and Serum, and I've yet to bring this computer to it's knees. Everything is incredibly fast and responsive, and I've been setting my buffer to 64 samples at 96k for low latency high sample rate recording and am VERY impressed.

FYI if you go with the 2.2 i7 I suggest going with the base 555X Radeon video card because it produces less heat than the 560X. If you're not doing intensive video work or gaming, this is a huge thermal advantage. You can still edit 4k footage with effects in real-time flawlessly with the 555X the only difference being render and export times with video.

Hope this helps! You save about $400 going with the 2.2 i7 with the 555X vs. the i9.

Best of luck
Old 3 weeks ago
Gear Maniac
Did you settle with the 2.2 6-core i7? How did it perform for your workloads?

I haven't needed to upgrade since the Early 2013 2.8 i7 Quad Core, but recently saw a deal for the configuration in question. Any updates you forgot to share?
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