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My brand new 2019 Macbook Pro 16" (macOS v10.15.7) suffers from severe GPU throttling after 30 minutes of playing Civilization 6. The freeze causes visual GPU artifacts that extend beyond the game's window while consuming 1100% CPU. In Windowed Mode it is sometimes possible to force-quit Civ6 and recover system stability. I've read online that these thermal issues do not occur with top-line AMD Radeon 5600M GPU.

GPU Artifacts on 2019 MBP16

Is there any known software fix that can prevent this catastrophic breakdown, perhaps by limiting the GPU clock's speeds?

Personally, I invested in this machine as a musician and a professional programmer to do live music and video performances, so if the GPU freezes in the middle of a concert, that will be unacceptable. Machine details:

  • Machine: 2019 Macbook Pro 16"
  • Processor: 2.3Ghz 8-core i9-9880H
  • GPU: 8GB AMD Radeon 5500M
  • View Mode: Full Screen or Windowed
  • Graphics Detail: Low to Ultra. Seems to happen faster at Ultra.
  • Displays: No external displays.

Suspected causes in order of likelihood:

  1. Flawed Thermal Design on MBP16. My machine idles at 70-85degC out-of-the-box.
  2. Badly applied Thermal CPU Paste at Apple's factory
  3. Faulty AMD Radeon 5500M drivers
  4. Faulty 5500M Hardware (GPU)
  5. A bug in Civ6. Unlikely because this should not cause visual artifacts outside of the game.

In the meantime, I am in a battle with Apple to replace my £3200 Macbook Semi-Pro.

Here is a related question, but mine should not be considered a duplicate.

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  • Not really sure how you'd find out, but see if you can tell if it uses OpenGL for graphics - many games from back then did. It may be struggling with Apple's limitation to Open GL at v2.1 – Tetsujin Oct 11 '20 at 17:23
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I wrote a answer to a similar question; it comes down to the design of the MacBook in relation to the thermal requirements of the CPU and GPU.

So, as to your suspects, I concur that poor thermal design being right there at the top. As for poor application of thermal paste, it may be a factor, but even the most perfect application of the most efficient thermal paste will only account for a minuscule improvement in heat transfer.

I don't believe it's faulty drivers - could they be more efficient? Sure, what couldn't? I also don't believe that you have a faulty GPU, however, the way to confirm that is to benchmark the GPU. Essentially stress test it to see if it fails.

Could it be a bug in Civ6? That's likely as well.

As for the reliability of the machine to do the job, I believe you'll be fine for what you bought it for - programming and music. These machines are very popular for both of those tasks and personal experience with using a Mac in audio recording/production found that even lower end Macs with ample memory and no GPU were up to the task.

I find that MacBook computers (and most laptops for that matter) aren't the appropriate platform for games. There's a reason most of the gaming rigs you see are desktop builds with ridiculous cooling mechanisms at the forefront. In fact, I've seen a 2012 iMac (which is essentially a MacBook Pro in a desktop config) outperform a 2015 MacBook pro with essentially the same specs. The iMac was able to run it's CPU at a higher speed for longer because it remained cooler longer.

Bottom line: You should be safe with your Mac for work purposes and if you want to game, I'd build a gaming rig. Besides, it's just pragmatic to keep your recreation off of the device that pays the bills, but that's just my philosophy so YMMV.

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  • I ran a 30-minute benchmark in Unigine Heaven at Extreme settings on max resolution (full screen and windowed) and could not trigger any system instability. GPU hovers at 70degC eating ~58W. Tried Civ 6 w/o Turbo Boost, still freezes. So maybe not using OpenGL is the problem? – Petrus Theron Oct 10 '20 at 16:13
  • I found this re: Mac Requirements for Civ 6 and it mentions specific supported GPUs. Maybe disabling the GPU and using the integrated graphics might solve the problem? I'm not a gamer so I can't say for certain (newer) GPUs are backward compatible of if you need a specific GPU like it says. – Allan Oct 10 '20 at 16:23
  • Thanks! Do you know a way to force the MBP16 to disable the discrete AMD GPU and use the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB? My other car is a cdr (MBP15) and it can run Civ6 just fine without a GPU. – Petrus Theron Oct 10 '20 at 23:02
  • In Energy Saver, try turning off Automatic Graphics Switching. There's also gfxCardStatus I personally haven't used this (no need), but it's been around for a while. There's also gSwitch. Give those two a shot. – Allan Oct 10 '20 at 23:49
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Everyone needs to submit a bug report according to this link.

https://support.aspyr.com/hc/en-us/articles/360049626712-Why-is-Civilization-VI-is-freezing-mid-game-

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  • I've to agree, got same model and recently tried eGPU which is more than enough. The game still crashes so I cannot agree with previous answer that it might be thermo problem, but it's rather a bug. – VessoVit Mar 4 at 20:14

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