A 157-page thread on the Apple Support Communities forum details issues that owners of early-to-late 2011 MacBook Pros with discrete graphics cards are experiencing. They’re reporting hardware-related system crashes that appear to be getting worse as time goes on!
With 206,237 views and 2,348 replies, the forum thread dates back to February 2013 with a steady stream of posts all citing issues with the discrete graphics card. Since the start of December, 53 pages of posts have been added to the growing discussion.
In the majority of cases, the first signs of an issue appears during graphics-intensive operations. The viewing of HD video, editing hi-res photos, or other heavy computing tasks can bring the problem to the forefront. Graphics begin to become striated, or the screen will simply go blank. Reboots solve the problem for some, but the issue rears its ugly head again a short time later.
Many users then see the machine reboot to a blue or gray screen. In cases such as this, Apple suggests a restart in Safe Mode, or resetting NVRAM/PRAM to solve the problem. In severe cases, they will suggest a clean install of OS X. However, many forum posts report these solutions were tried, but didn’t resolve the issue.
While the exact cause of the issues is not known, some have speculated that heat is the culprit, causing degradation of the discrete GPU. Some find that using a utility to prevent the automatic switching to the more powerful AMD GPU from the integrated graphics helps. Others tried this, but wound up having the MacBook’s logic board replaced. An expensive solution if your Mac is no longer covered under AppleCare.
Apple has yet to come out publicly with a fix to the issue.
I have an early 2011 MacBook Pro, and haven’t experienced any issues as described above. We will keep an eye on the story and report back with any developments.