M2 MacBook Air teardown casts doubt on cooling, and reveals a mysterious component

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) in Apple Park, Cupertino
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s MacBook Air (M2, 2022) has been given the teardown treatment by iFixit, with some interesting revelations about the cooling solution for the notebook, and a mysterious addition in the component mix, too.

The finding included some things we already knew, courtesy of YouTuber Max Tech already having poked around in the innards of the laptop. Namely that the new MacBook Air base model has its SSD configured as a single 256GB NAND flash chip, which makes it slower than the previous (M1) Air’s pair of 128GB NAND chips, and that’s a little disappointing (although expected, as this is the route Apple went with the entry-level model of the M2 MacBook Pro).

Other highlights include the mystery addition we mentioned at the outset, which is the presence of an accelerometer in the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) – to what end, we don’t yet know – and a thorough examination of the cooling system employed in the notebook.

As you may know, the MacBook Air is fanless, relying on passive cooling rather than a fan – and avoiding using up space to fit one of these, as well as ensuring no noise during operation. But iFixit was surprised to see there’s no heat spreader used, and rather, Apple seems to be relying on applying a whole load of thermal paste and graphite tape, and that the M2 chip itself is highly power-efficient and therefore easy to cool anyway.

There’s some good news in that the battery is relatively easy to remove, and therefore swap for a fresh power pack if needed, but the SSD is soldered so cannot be upgraded with a better model down the line (and the same is true of the M2 SoC, as you’d expect).

Analysis: Heatgate incoming? And what about that accelerometer?

The main point of interest here is the observations iFixit makes on cooling, and how Apple has potentially taken a few liberties in terms of ensuring the MacBook Air’s seriously slim and svelte lines by cutting a few cooling corners.

While we didn’t find any issues with overheating in our review of the MacBook Air (M2, 2022), there have been some owners reporting the laptop running hot in their experience, and the M2 chip throttling back as a result (cutting down performance levels to ensure it doesn’t get any warmer).

The latter is not an ideal situation, of course, and it’ll be interesting to see if something of a ‘heatgate’ situation develops as more folks get their shiny new MacBook Airs. Especially if they’re using the portable in very hot environments, with the current heatwave situation in Europe, for example, which has already seen some companies sending out warnings about the thermal limits of their devices.

As for the mystery of the accelerometer and what it’s there for, these gizmos were inside old MacBooks to detect if the laptop had been dropped, and to take precautions to try and save the hard drive from damage in the ensuing impact. Of course, Apple’s notebooks have SSDs these days, so that’s not necessary anymore – but maybe the company could still want to detect drops, perhaps to see if a faulty laptop has been dropped in the past, and any damage is down to the owner.

We’re not sure if that’s a good enough reason to set aside internal space for an accelerometer, mind – when space is at such a premium with the MacBook Air in particular – but it’s not outside the realms of possibility. Alternatively, maybe the accelerometer will have some kind of app-related function; only time will tell, but presumably it must be there for a good reason.

Via MacRumors

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).