When the new MacBook Air was launched, it offered more power than previous Air machines. Quickly came reports of machines overheating, excessive fan noise in daily use, and a lack of performance running under load.
Has Apple sacrificed power for beauty?
The premise, presented by Linus Sebastian and his team at Linus Tech Tips, is simple. If all other laptop manufacturers include a fan to help cool down the bottom of the machine, what leaves the MacBook Air on the table with Apple’s aesthetics of a sealed unit? Starting with a few cunningly placed fans, through adjustments in thermal material and internal design, to an innovative water-cooling solution, the performance of the MacBook Air is closely examined when the cooling capacity is increased.
The test results show that with improved cooling, the performance of the MacBook Air could be increased by almost fifteen percent according to the benchmarking. So why hasn’t Apple delivered a MacBook Air with these options?
Does Apple really want the MacBook Air to be the best possible computer? Focus in the air is about being lightweight and portable. Most people will seek to consume media; edit work for university, school or office; and create simple audio and video content. There is enough power in the air for these tasks, but the moment you step out of the Apple-defined ‘this is what air is for’ swim line, you will want a little more money for your significant dollar amount.
Presumably, Apple’s answer to ‘I want more power’ is ‘buy a MacBook Pro’?
The ultra-portable nature of the MacBook Air centers on the tight hardware within the chassis. By their very nature, electronic packages are as close as possible and leave little room to use more complex cooling systems. Most laptops of this shape have fans and vents to bring in more fresh air and blow hot air out. That is not the style of Apple. When you balance design language on the air, it’s hard to see where Apple could mess up the lines for more traditional cooling.
Changes could be made to the heat sink around the processor. This was one of the most successful mods tested, dissipating more heat on the machine base. Since this was a first attempt without the benefit of a full R&D lab, the results (about a ten percent increase) show a promising line of research that would likely reduce the size of the access point.
Finally, the question of longevity must be considered. MacBooks have traditionally been seen to have a long lifespan. The flexibility of unscrewing the back cover, turning off the battery, upgrading memory, cleaning internal parts, and replacing the disk drive are no longer options for the consumer looking to keep a machine running for years. Factory installed components must operate for the life of the machine without maintenance. In practice, that means leaving a lot of free capacity and rejecting things.
Every computer sold has to compromise in some areas. In Apple’s case, it appears to have changed the gains that could be found through better thermal control for a longer lifespan and less manufacturing complexity.
The processor can offer much more than the MacBook Air design allows. Choke occurs frequently to keep the temperature in the acceptable range. With a few design changes, this could have been minimized.
MacBook Air hardware has the potential to deliver more power, offer more flexibility, and create a better user experience. The promise of the MacBook Air has not been fully fulfilled.
Now read more about the USB connectivity issues facing MacBook Air and MacBook Pro …