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Apple MacBook Air M2: Small modification brings better than MacBook Pro 13 performance to fanless laptop

Thermal pads can improve performance on the latest MacBook Air. (Image source: Max Tech)
Thermal pads can improve performance on the latest MacBook Air. (Image source: Max Tech)
It turns out that the latest MacBook Air can match or even outperform the M2-powered MacBook Pro 13. With a simple modification, the MacBook Air can maintain peak performance for longer, which should be useful for short bursts of intense activity.

The latest MacBook Pro 13 ran hot when we reviewed it, so it is no surprise to see that the same applies to the redesigned MacBook Air. In fact, the former could not prevent the Apple M2 from thermal throttling, despite having a fan. Unsurprisingly, the fanless MacBook Air has an even tougher time of keeping the Apple M2 in check.

Like the MacBook Air M1, the new M2 model can benefit from thermal pads placed over its logic board. While Apple includes electromagnetic shielding over the latter's logic board, it is not the best solution for pulling heat away from the Apple M2 chipset. As Max Tech's video below shows, thermal pads fill the gap between the back panel and the shielding, although it is a tight squeeze.

For reference, Max Tech recommends using 1.5 mm-thick thermal pads, such as the Thermalright Extreme Odyssey. According to Thermalright, these thermal pads offer 12.8 W/mK of thermal conductivity. Alternatively, Thermalright sells 1.5 mm thick versions of Valor Odin, a more thermally conductive thermal pad rated for 15 W/mK.

It is worth noting that this modification will likely void Apple's warranty. Potentially, it could produce unintended consequences too, such as a hotter bottom panel in general use. Ultimately, these thermal pads will not prevent thermal throttling. However, it will delay the onset of thermal throttling.

As such, thermal pads allow the MacBook Air M2 to export 50 images in Lightroom Classic significantly faster than Apple's stock cooling solution. Also, the modified machine delivers superior synthetic benchmark scores and will maintain peak performance in looped tests. Incidentally, the modified MacBook Air even outperforms the M2-powered MacBook Pro 13, which is quite the feat for a fanless machine.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 07 > Apple MacBook Air M2: Small modification brings better than MacBook Pro 13 performance to fanless laptop
Alex Alderson, 2022-07-20 (Update: 2022-07-20)