M2 MacBook Air’s Lack of Traditional Cooling Should Be Fine, Experts Say

A recent iFixit teardown has revealed a startling lack of cooling hardware  within the  new M2 MacBook Air,  even as  an unprecedented heat wave cooks parts of Europe and the US.

As they take apart the M2 MacBook Air, iFixit notes that,  a bit like  its predecessor, the laptop doesn’t include a cooling fan, which isn’t surprising. What’s alarming, though,  may be a  very minimal passive cooling system. Apple has decided to scrap  the warmth  spreader as well, which was  a part of  the M1 MacBook Air, and instead only relies on thermal paste and graphite tape  to chill  the laptop. Experts are concerned but not overly worried.

"Apple has  a fantastic  track record for thermal engineering in the MacBook Air line of products," Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager, Apple, at JumpCloud, told Lifewire over email. “If they're saying all  they have  is tape and thermal paste, they're almost certainly right.”

Under The Hood

As they took the lid off the device, iFixit noticed “an impressive amount of empty space,” but were perplexed by  the warmth  spreader, conspicuous by its absence.

“How does this thing cool down?” asked iFixit in their teardown. “Sure it had  plenty  of thermal paste and graphite tape, and yeah the M2 is efficient, but this shield is super thin, so it’s not helping much—and the case is lighter than last year, so? Maybe the M2 Air is secretly an iPad …  or even  Apple is just letting it run hot.”

And the ambient temperatures aren’t helping matters either. Valve recently warned that the Steam Deck operates best when the ambient temperature stays below 95° F, suggesting people don’t use it during the heatwave  because the  device will start to throttle performance to protect itself in higher ambient temperatures.

What does that say about the M2 MacBook Air?

iFixit Content Advisor, Sam Goldheart, told Lifewire via email that Apple spends  plenty  of time and money and effort designing its hardware,  and that we  really won’t know until and unless people start complaining. 

Bridge believes  the shortage  of cooling could have something to do with the M2’s efficiency,  and maybe  all it really does need to cool is dollops of thermal paste.

“The benchmarks for CPU performance indicate a chip design that, despite  a complete  lack of active cooling technology, is capable of both 10-15% increases of performance  and large  battery life,” reasoned Bridge. “The lifespan of thermal paste is  most frequently  7-10 years, and if  it is your  primary cooling vector,  there is no  way on earth you're going to cheap out on what's there.”

Look Elsewhere

iFixit also highlighted the non-upgradability of the laptop  because of  Apple’s design choices,  like  the soldered SSD, which usually  features a  negative impact on the resale value of a device.

However, Bridge, who  is a component  of the MacAdmins Foundation that helps connect Mac administrators around the world, doesn’t expect this new generation of MacBook Airs  to possess  a lower resale value than its predecessors, for  the straightforward  fact that its use case profile is substantially lighter.

Goldheart also agreed that  the planning  choices don’t necessarily point towards planned obsolescence. However, she thinks that  whether or not  the M2 MacBook Air does hold up under internal and ambient heat,  the sole  way to ensure it has a long happy life is to make it even more repairable.

“If the board does cook,  you ought to  be able to replace its components,” explained Goldheart. “And  because it  stands, there's not  plenty  of modularity,  and thus  not a lot of salvageable parts, on the logic board.” 

This, she argued, would probably translate into a prohibitively expensive repair, whether you swap the board or find a micro-soldering expert who wouldn’t have the advantage of Apple’s manuals and schematics, and Apple doesn’t do those repairs themselves.

“The long and short is that even without  a lover , Apple may do better than the competition  within the  heat,” suggested Goldheart, “but makers like HP are often  an excellent  long-term solution since they support repair.”


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