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Apparent frame-rate drop using Thunderbolt Display

1196 Views 4 Replies Latest reply: Jan 24, 2013 4:18 PM by pauly_C RSS
DIESEL-X Calculating status...
Currently Being Moderated
Dec 31, 2011 7:35 AM

When running 3D applications such as Games on the Thunderbolt's Display and with my Macbook Pro 17" early 2011 in clamshell mode to divert all GPU power to the Thunderbolt Display only, I notice a frame-rate drop EVEN when setting and matching the Thunderbolts Display resolution virtually identical, say 1920 x 1200/1080 pixels to that of the MacBook Pro's purely for a comparison analysis by having virtually the same pixel count processing taking place. Frame-rate appears hampered and at times nearly half of what I would normally acheive making games unplayable after a few minutes with visual judgment becoming impared. This appears to be the case for 3d applications/games wether running in OS X or Bootcamp.


I mention machting the resolution for comparison analysis because understandable one would NOT expect the frame rate to be high or the same as the 17" MacBook Pro's top resolution at 1920x1200 if the Thunderbolt's Display was outputting at it's top resolution of 2560x1440 as any frame-rate drop would be expected in this scenario with the GPU having to throw out many more pixels for every frame when set at Thunderbolt Display's top resolution.


I don't know what's causing the problem. Maybe this could be down to software, graphics adapter drivers, thunderbolt display drivers and/or firmware?

  • AdityaAgarwalDelhi Calculating status...

    Same Problem here. Tried


    1. Bonderlands

    2. Duke Nukem 3D

    3. Rage


    Tried running on the same settings as the MBP 15" (2011) but there is an apparent FPS drop. Things improve a bit if I put the TB Display on mirror mode and run the game on the MBP display. So I am just mirroring the internal display this way.


    Seems a very annoying bug. Am seriously a bit worried about the effort Apple is putting in updates nowadays. The 10.7.3 update fisco worried me further. Is iOS all that matters now?



  • JL0v3 Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    Aug 21, 2012 9:44 AM (in response to DIESEL-X)

    I have been watching this thread for a while now and it doesn't look like anybody else has posted anything since the release of the Macbook Pro Retina.  I previously had an early 2011 Macbook Pro and had noticed a slight drop in performance when playing 3d games in both bootcamp windows7 and osx (lion).  The issue is even more noticeable on the new Retina (windows7x64 and mountain lion).  Here are my findings:


    *all games tested will have all settings the highest available.  AAx4, AFx8 where used when available


    Being that the retina display has a higher resolution than the 27'' thunderbolt display, you can test all the same resolutions.  I would typically game at 1980x1200 on the retina, and 1980x1080 on the thunderbolt display (almost same resolution, different aspect ratios.  not a major change).  When playing games on the retina display frame rates are smooth and consistent.  All the source games on steam (l4d2, portal2, cs, tf2) run silky smooth with AA, and AF enabled.  Frame rate will hover around 40-60fps and they look gorgeous!!!  A laptop with this performance is really amazing for how thin it is.


    Testing external monitors connected via the HDMI port also result in silky smooth frame rates.  I would only have the display output to the external monitor and the retina would be disabled.  Tested with a 43'' tv and a 24'' lg monitor (both 1920x1080).  Performance is the same as when using the retina display.  Silky smooth and responsive.


    One would expect performance to be the same regardless of the type of monitor connected if the resolution is the same right?  This isn't the case with the Thunderbolt display.


    In both OSX and Windows7 games will perform much, much worse on the thunderbolt display.  Source games will have much lower fps (without changing any settings, l4d2 went from 50-60fps down to ~30).  It seems as though the thunderbolt display introduces a latency of some sorts.  Even keyboard/mouse input isn't as responsive.  The overall performance is much choppier.  Could it have something to do with the bandwidth of thunderbolt connections?  Performance doesn't change regardless of what else is connected to the thunderbolt display.  Even reducing resolution down to 1280x720, games will still be choppy.  Could it be that thunderbolt is a bottleneck to performance?  It seems that for now it is.

  • pauly_C Calculating status...
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    Jan 24, 2013 4:18 PM (in response to DIESEL-X)

    Hi all,


    I too had this issue.


    15inch MBP 2011


    Fast responsive FPS when using just the laptop and laptop screen but awful sluggish performance when attached to the thunderbolt display with the laptop closed (in clamshell mode, the only way i could find to dedicate the GPU to the external display).


    It was very confusing. How could feeding a signal to a display effect FPS performance of the hardware. I have fixed my problem. What I think is happening (i cant be sure) is something to do with the clamshell mode of the laptop. My theory is that when in clamshell mode you do get the benefit of dedicating your video card to the thunderbolt display BUT i belive you also drive up the heat of the laptop and there is something at a low level OS level that begins to cut performance to reduce heat. That may be a completely bonkers theory but anyway here is the fix that worked for me.


    Download this free app called ClamshellOpen (works with lion and mountain lion) ion/


    Then you can follow the steps which turns off your laptop display but lets you keep your laptop open. It then gives your thunderbolt display all your GPU. When you go to do some intesive tasks you no longer suffer any performance drop as the laptop is open and ventilating properly.


    I konw it sounds like a superstitious and silly solution but trust me if you have a notebook it will fix your problems.




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