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Are the New i7 MacBooks Hot Enough to Boil Water?

Apple has a lust for packaging loads of electronics into tight metal enclosures. That desire has made it perhaps the hottest gadget-maker on the market, but it also has brought it perennial overheating issues. From overheating iPods and iPhones to the overheating iPad, heat issues have become an unpleasant fact of life for many Apple product owners.

Last week testing by PC Authority indicated that the new 17″ MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7-620M processor is overheating so badly it could boil water. During testing, the site ran the benchmark Cinebench. In OS X the laptop hit a balmy 90° C (39.9° C is approximately 102° F, for the non-SI units inclined), while in Windows 7 (using Boot Camp) the temperature spiked to 101° C, according to the laptop’s temperature diode.

Such issues under Boot Camp are not particularly new. On the Apple support forums, one customer “ADKIM”, owner of a mid-2009 Penryn MacBook Pro writes, “I’ve had Windows 7 Home Premium installed for a little over two weeks now and the temparature (sic) gets so hot that my MBP will actually auto-shutdown.

It gets as high as 195F/90C!”

The latest MacBook Pro does appear to be hitting even greater highs heatwise, though, particularly in OS X.

Already users have begun to complain on Apple’s forums. Writes one user:

I was playing WoW in Windows 7 in boot camp and the laptop felt hot to the touch to the point that if i were to leave my finger there it would start to burn. The hottest part of the laptop was the top left corner. Thinking it was overheating, I downloaded a GPU & CPU monitoring program. The CPU and GPU were both sitting around 70 deg celcius (sic) and i could hear the fan blowing at max speed. Is this normal operation temps for the new model of macbook pros?

The system I am using is the 15-inch Macbook Pro, the model that just came out. Thanks for the help!

It’s unclear what the source of the Apple MBP’s heat woes might be. The good news for MacBook Pro owners is that the Intel Core i7 can operate up to 105° C, as can most of the other hardware onboard, apparently.

As one commenter “eww” remarks in an Apple forum post, “100°C at the processor core is not overheating. It is within the safe operating temperature range for all current MBPs.”

Technically, he’s right about it being within the operating temperature. But the bad news for MacBook Pro buyers is that even if the case doesn’t get quite that hot, it may be hot enough to cause discomfort and even possibly injury (burns or blistering) to the user, if their skin comes in contact with the fully heated case. Also, such a high heat load raises the risk of hardware failure over the life of the device.

Apple has not yet commented officially on these developments.