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

Apple generally knows what it’s doing

  • iFixit’s teardown of the M2 MacBook Air revealed the laptop has even fewer cooling options than its predecessor.
  • Experts give Apple the benefit of the doubt, arguing the company doesn’t make such decisions on a whim.
  • Some suggested that the bigger problem could be the upgradability and repairability of the device.
Person using macbook air m2 in a library


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

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

"Apple has an incredible 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 need is tape and thermal paste, they're almost certainly right.”

Under The Hood

Comparison of M1 and M2 chips


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

“How does this thing cool down?” asked iFixit in their teardown. “Sure it had a lot 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 maybe 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 as 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 a lot of time and money and effort designing its hardware, and we really won’t know until and unless people start complaining. 

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

“The benchmarks for CPU performance indicate a chip design that, despite a total lack of active cooling technology, is capable of both 10-15% increases of performance and massive battery life,” reasoned Bridge. “The lifespan of thermal paste is most often 7-10 years, and if it's your primary cooling vector, there's 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 thanks to Apple’s design choices, such as the soldered SSD, which usually has a negative impact on the resale value of a device.

MacBook Air M2 head on with colorful scene on screen


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

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

“If the board does cook, you should be able to replace its components,” explained Goldheart. “And as it stands, there's not a lot of modularity, and therefore 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 fan, Apple may do better than the competition in the heat,” suggested Goldheart, “but makers like HP are often a great long-term solution since they support repair.”

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