Make Your M1 MacBook Air Perform Like A MacBook Pro With This Quick And Easy Thermal Mod
It may sound far-fetched but you can actually get similar performance out a MacBook Air as an M1-powered MacBook Pro, with some fairly straight-forward modifications. You simply need a P5 (pentalobe) screwdriver and some inexpensive thermal pads.
Some may be curious as to why the MacBook Air doesn't already have the same performance as the MacBook Pro. In fact, some M1 MacBook Air models ship with the same exact chipset as the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro (not the latest M1 Pro or Max variants, mind you), but do not have the same level of performance. The reason for this is because of a cooling fan that resides on board the MacBook Pro, while the Air is a fanless design.
Whether or not you choose the 7-core or 8-core option for the MacBook Air, you can still achieve greater performance by improving its thermal management. The issue with thermal management exists in the MacBook Air due to the heat sink going from the SOC to the edge of its chassis. As heat builds, it gets caught in the air gap between the MacBook Air's heat sink and its backplate. Essentially the bottom cover of the MacBook Air becomes one large heatsink, but by not exhausting the heat inside, like a fan does in the MacBook Pro, it eventually throttles the M1 SOC and in time its performance.
That said, there's hope and an opportunity here, for those daring enough to crack the MacBook Air's factory seal. If you have a P5 screwdriver and some thermal pads you can gain some thermal management back that will give you the performance you have been lacking. It is an easy process that does not require messing with any other components and thus something you can do yourself with a fairly high degree of confidence. View the video below to see just how this is done.
In a Cinebench test performed by High On Tech, the modded MacBook Air was able to gain a score of 7,718, which is only a tad bit less than the M1 MacBook Pro that scores around 7,764 Cinebench points. This is quite a jump in performance over the unmodded MacBook Air that is only able to achieve a score of around 6,412.
Before you get too excited, however, you should take into consideration a couple of things. First, if you are the type that likes to work with the MacBook Air on your lap it will be quite a bit more toasty than before. Second, while you can still remove the thermal pads before having to send it off for Apple genius service members to look over for any future issue, this mod may still void your warranty.
Regardless, if you don't mind slightly higher skin temps, and to possibly a voided warranty, this quick and easy mod may be well worth it. And if you have been trying to choose between the two models, this could save you a few hundred dollars if you are the type that likes to tinker and don't mind living on the edge.