Sparked by rumors of a performance-enhancing Pro Mode for the Mac, developer and podcaster Marco Arment is calling on Apple to introduce a Low Power Mode for Mac laptops. Such a feature has already been available for iOS since iOS 9, and Arment has found a way to implement something similar with the $9.95 Turbo Boost Switcher Pro, which prevents Intel’s Turbo Boost feature from automatically overclocking the processor for intensive tasks. (There’s also a free Turbo Boost Switcher that requires more manual interaction but would likely be sufficient for testing.)
What benefits does turning off Turbo Boost offer for MacBooks? Arment reports a 62% drop in power consumption and a significant decrease in temperatures on his 16-inch MacBook Pro. Anecdotally, he says that the fans do not spin up, and the MacBook Pro runs cool enough to keep on his lap. While he hasn’t performed battery life tests on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, he estimates 30–50% longer battery life on older models. Of course, those benefits come with performance trade-offs like lower Geekbench scores—46% lower in single-threaded tests and 29% lower in multi-threaded—and 59% longer Xcode builds.
But most laptop users would happily make those trade-offs while on the go. Unfortunately, Turbo Boost Switcher Pro depends on a kernel extension that won’t be supported in future versions of macOS. Hopefully, Apple will introduce a Low Power Mode in the next version of macOS that solves the problem without additional software.