M2 MacBook Air struggles with heat, and we now know why

Apple’s new M2 MacBook Air is now available, and true to form, iFixit tore it down in order to peek inside and take a better look at the hardware.

The teardown revealed a few interesting design choices, but most of all, it showed that Apple must have a lot of faith in the new MacBook Air, seeing as it didn’t even equip it with a heat spreader. Another potential issue was also unearthed.

In a display of endless bravery, iFixit did something that many of us wouldn’t be able to work up the nerve to do — it completely disassembled the new M2 MacBook Air. As one of the two products to house Apple’s new silicon, the MacBook Air received widespread attention, but not all of it has been good. According to several reviewers, the notebook has a heat problem — and unfortunately, iFixit’s teardown does nothing to dispel that notion.

Even though the M2 MacBook Air houses the same M2 chip as the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, the former doesn’t come with any fans or heat pipes. That’s a lot of trust that Apple is putting into the stability of the device. The M2 MacBook Pro was also found to have heating issues, complete with throttling and hitting extreme temperatures of 108 degrees Celsius when dealing with heavy workloads. Even then, the MacBook Pro at least had one fan — the MacBook Air has none.

iFixit didn’t even find a heat spreader during the teardown, and it’s still quite unclear as to how exactly the passive cooling system works on the new M2 MacBook Air. Apple did, however, give it ample thermal paste and graphite tape. On the other hand, seeing as the M2 MacBook Air is even thinner than the previous generation, the components have even less room to breathe. The results of that are often mentioned by reviewers: The laptop tends to heat up when under pressure.

A different teardown performed by MaxTech revealed just why the SSD in the 256GB version of the M2 MacBook Air might experience an up to 50% drop-off in performance. This is because the 256GB version comes with a single NAND storage chip as opposed to two 128GB NAND chips, and although Apple claims this would be an improvement, the benchmark results say otherwise.


iFixit also looked closely at the rest of the logic board, including the 64-bit, 8-core M2 chip, a Wi-Fi chip, a USI Bluetooth chip, and a custom Apple Thunderbolt 3 driver. There’s also an accelerometer with no explanation as to why a MacBook Air might need one. It could be used for spatial audio or for the purpose of running iPhone/iPad apps, but in any case, it’s a surprising choice.

Apple’s latest offering comes with a 52.6-watt-hour battery which is a step up from the 49.9-watt-hour battery found in the M1 version of the notebook. It’s secured by adhesive pull tabs that seem quick and easy to remove. The ports are not glued down, but both the M2 chip and the SSD are soldered and thus difficult to replace.

The M2 MacBook Air seems like a solid notebook in its price range, but the potential heating issues raise some concerns. Oh well, at least we have a mysterious accelerometer.

In all likelihood, for most users, this won’t be an issue. The MacBook Air was never meant to be the sort of laptop you’d use for the most resource-heavy tasks. For day-to-day computing, it will likely serve its purpose as the ultra-light notebook it was built to be.

Editors’ Choice

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Summer Game Fest Returns in June, As E3 2021 Rumors Heat Up

Summer Game Fest is officially returning in June. The digital video game showcase was announced one day after a new set of rumors emerged about E3’s own digital 2021 plans.

Summer Games Fest was founded last year by Geoff Keighley. The four-month event served as a way for developers to show off their game announcements last summer after E3 2020 was canceled. Keighley previously said that the event would return this year, but now we have some firm details on what it will entail.

The showcase starts in June, though no exact date was given. It’ll highlight both AAA and indie games over the course of different events. The first confirmed event is Day of Devs: Summer Game Fest Edition. Co-produced by Double Fine and iam8bit, the digital showcase will feature exclusive news and gameplay reveals. Developers can currently submit their games for consideration.

More details on what developers are participating in the show and the planned schedule are coming over the next few weeks. Fans will be able to tune in via major streaming platforms, such as Twitch.

The announcement comes just as more confusion has set in about the future of E3. A new report from VGC says that the ESA is planning on rebranding E3 as the Electronic Entertainment Experience for its 2021 digital show. According to the report, it has considered introducing some form of paywall for the show, which could be how fans access hands-on demos.

E3 took to Twitter to deny the rumors, tweeting, “E3’s 2021 digital show is a free event for all attendees. We’re excited to fill you in on all the real news for the event very soon.” No official details about the show have been revealed otherwise, except that it will take place from June 15 to June 17.

Editors’ Choice

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Microsoft tests the Surface Book 3 to avoid ‘hot bag’ heat issues

Microsoft is sweating the details with the Surface Book 3, especially when it comes to thermal issues that users experienced with the Surface Book 2 and the original Surface Book. As the company prepares to launch the Surface Book 3 on May 21, it’s specifically testing the new model for “hot bag” and other heat problems.

Heat issues have affected Microsoft’s Surface devices going back to the Surface Pro 3, but both the original Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4 were plagued by an inability to enter a low-power sleep state. That kept both devices in an an active power state, which consumes lots of power and generates quite a bit of heat as a result. That had two negative effects: greatly diminished battery life, and a surprisingly hot Surface when pulled out of an enclosed, insulated backpack. The issue was significant enough that Surface chief Panos Panay himself announced new firmware that solved the Surface Book power issue several months after its launch.

The Surface Book 2 had its own, separate power problem, where it consumed too much power for the charger to keep up. But in my personal experience, the Surface Book 2 also suffered from the hot-bag problem, which was echoed by other users both on Microsoft’s site and on Reddit. The temperature would climb to levels that were honestly alarming. The Surface Book 2 devices would sometimes refuse to resume operation because the operating temperature exceeded its own thermal limits. 

Microsoft acknowledges that the hot-bag scenario is one “which can destroy your device,” in the words of one Surface executive PCWorld spoke to. Executives responsible for the Microsoft Surface tell PCWorld that part of the Surface Book 3 test suite involves literally putting the Surface Book 3 test units in backpacks and testing for heat buildup. Microsoft also embedded a number of thermal sensors in the Surface Book 3 device itself to prevent this from happening.

While a hot-bag scenario could still occur with the Surface Book 3, the fact that Microsoft is specifically looking out for this issue is good news. Personally, from our own experience with the Surface Book 3 so far, we can report that its cooling is on a par with the Surface Laptop 3’s: excellent, with minimal fan noise or thermal issues. We’ll have a full review soon.

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Tech News

Wahl recalls a bunch of heat massagers over sparks and fire risk

If you have a heated massager from Wahl, you should check its model number to see if it has been recently recalled over the risk of overheating and starting a fire. The company has voluntarily recalled all of its Model 4212 Deluxe Heat Therapy Massagers due to this potential risk, warning that customers who have purchased them should stop using them immediately.

The Wahl massager is exactly what it sounds like: a handheld muscle massager that warms up and vibrates. The massagers are intended to bring some pain relief or relaxation — if you’ve been typing at a laptop all day, for example, your shoulders may feel a bit tight and a massager could help loosen things back up.

The Wahl Deluxe Heat Therapy Massager Model 4212 has been recalled and, it seems based on a look through various online retailers, already pulled from sale. The company’s recall advisory, which was recently published by the FDA, warns that these models may have an issue with the connection between the heat attachment and massager.

This connection issue could result in the massager overheating, which may then cause it to start sparking and/or smoking, the company says in its alert. This could result in a fire, making it a danger to use for very obvious reasons.

If you own one of these massagers, Wahl says you can contact its tech support team to arrange a free return of the product. The company is offering full refunds, as well as an extra $10 ‘for this inconvenience,’ it says in the recall, which contains the contact information.

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