Does the MacBook Air 2020 have an overheating problem?
The 2020 edition of the MacBook Air is the refresh for which many Apple fans had been hoping. Quad-core processors and the Magic Keyboard are two of the main improvements that Apple has introduced to the MacBook Air, but questions remain about the new device's cooling system.
Strictly speaking the same cooling system as the one in the last MacBook Air, Apple continues to leave the fan in the new MacBook Air disconnected from the heatsink. As we noted in our recent review, the fan improves air circulation within the chassis rather than expelling excess heat.
Accordingly, multiple reviewers have voiced their concerns about the thermal performance of even the dual-core model. This has resulted in websites like Forbes posing the question of whether the MacBook Air 2020 has an "overheating problem". While not explicitly coming down on a judgement either way, Brooke Crothers does caveat his article with
I experienced the same issues cited by Max Tech with a late-2018 MacBook Air and eventually sold it because of heat and performance issues.
To clarify, overheating and thermal throttling are separate issues. From our experience with the quad-core Core i5 model, the MacBook Air throttles CPU and GPU performance under heavy load. Additionally, its fan can spin up to 8,100 RPM, which corresponds to about 45.8 dB(A). The fan comes on in undemanding tasks like having the MacBook Air connected to an external monitor, which may frustrate some people.
However, that doesn't mean that the new MacBook Air overheats. On the contrary, the CPU never breached its 100 °C T-junction. Likewise, surface temperatures remained at an acceptable 40 °C or so under sustained load. If the MacBook Air were to overheat, then it would shutdown. Anecdotal evidence of having owned an A1181 MacBook confirms this.
So, it is fair to say that Apple has included a weak cooling system in the MacBook Air 2020, probably for reasons that it will never make clear. It may run hotter and louder than its predecessor or recent MacBook Pros, too. However, there should be no debate about the MacBook Air 2020 "having an overheating problem". Simply, to suggest it does conflates overheating with thermal throttling.