Fanless M1 MacBook Air Thermal Pad Upgrade

Tuesday, March 15, 2022 2:19 PM

Hi all just "upgraded" from an early 2020 MBA i3 to the M1 MBA 8/256. 2020 lurker here.

On my prior i3 MBA, I had performed the thermal pad mod with great results as shown with various users in the extensive thermal mod thread. lol at that laptop performance compared to the M1.

I ordered the 200mm x 200mm x 3mm thermal pad and it will be arriving tomorrow. The 3mm is because the heat sink appears to sit lower and therefore farther from the back case when it is closed. The 3mm will ensure contact to the aluminum.

Thermal Pad

Since the heat sink on the M1 MBA is an elongated piece from the processor all the way to the edge, I plan to cover the whole piece edge to edge. Since this processor barely breaks a sweat I will also remove the sticky tape covering on the case to ensure best adhesion. I have no issue with additional heat that will be on the backside since I know this processor barely heats up doing mainstream things.

Geekbench doesn't seem to have any impact on M1 thermal since the processor barely heats up to 50C without breaking a sweat through multiple repeated runs of up to 5 times with no change to score.

The test will be performed with Cinebench R23 through the 10 minute thermal test run for multicore to see if the score drops into the low 6000s or not. On the single loop, multicore runs from YouTube it seems the M1 MBA and MBP are aligned in scores and only on the 2nd or 3rd run does the MBA begin to throttle.Results are in

The M1 Macbook Air no longer thermal throttles under a 10 minute Cinebench R23 test. And now operates at MBP levels for such a test.

Cinebench R23 10 minute multi core tests

Before thermal pad mod:
6412 with a warm backshell case near where backshell meets hinge

After thermal pad mod:
7713 with a hot backshell case (i can touch it and leave my hand on it but is like a hot cup of tea)

The heatsink has a lot of top surface area so it is able to quickly transfer heat to the backshell. While watching the thermals, it appeared the system stabilized into a heat equilibrium at around 3-4 mins in. After the test was complete the system quickly went back down to ambient temps within a few minutes and the backshell did not retain heat.

As for the heat on backshell, For my use case, if I am using it on my lap, I am almost always doing very basic things: movies, music, internet browsing etc. Regular use does not heat up the backshell case.

If I am going to be doing something cpu intensive and being serious, then the laptop is on a desk and the heat will not bother me nor will I know about it. At least all that heat is not staying inside the laptop baking things. The M1 MBA has no vents whatsoever.

I will continue to monitor how this works for me.

Overall, if you dont want to spend $300 for the M1 MBP, this $15 reversible thermal mod gets you near equal to it since it seems the M1 MBP barely even runs its own fan based on all youtube reviewers.