iFixit engineers turned their tools to Apple’s new M2 flash-powered MacBook Air to find a surprising lack of cooling.
Before opening the beast, the teardown team took a moment to ponder the amount of ports crammed into a machine even thinner than its predecessor, noting the return of MagSafe, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and – oddly enough for an Apple product – a headphone jack.
The Air’s innards are secured by four screws on the underside that took a bewildering amount of force to free, iFixit said. After some difficulty locating the battery connector, which was tucked away under brackets and a “neat little hatch”, disassembly could begin once it was safely disconnected.
The engineer’s attention then turned to the motherboard, which was removed with more and more brackets and screws. Clip-on shield shipped, the team was appalled to find an incredibly minimal cooling system. Scrolling through the blank space left for an “SSD chip we didn’t pay for”, iFixit started looking for a heat sink, but only found thermal paste and graphite tape.
“What is this big gap? How does this thing cool?” they asked. “The M2 is efficient, but that shield is super thin, so that doesn’t help much – and the case is lighter than last year… Maybe the M2 Air is secretly an iPad…or maybe Apple is just letting it get hot.”
Apple’s new ARM-based chip is indeed efficient, and the company has made sure everyone knows it, claiming that the processor delivers 87% of the peak performance of Intel’s 12-core Core i7-1260P. while using only a quarter of the rival chip. Powerful.
So while Intel has the pace of the M2, such a performance metric at around 15W of power consumption is nothing to sniff at. We’re going to take a risk here and say that Apple probably knows what it’s doing when it cuts down on cooling systems.
Looking at the motherboard, iFixit was able to identify, among other things:
Answers on a postcard for the accelerometer. Then iFixit was able to free the trackpad via screws, washers, and an “annoying cable,” but struggled to remove the four speakers thanks to screws hidden under the laptop’s hinge covers. The team noted that Apple has shifted its focus on audio, with speakers streaming sound between the case and screen through grilles rather than a perforated top case. “Apple’s obsession with sound still shines through, and they sound great,” they said.
The audio card and ports tell a different story, however. The audio card is “glued, but mounts directly. Even better, every port – the disappearing headphone jack, lavish MagSafe charger, and dual USB-C ports – are modular and not glued. We love to see it!” Likewise, the TouchID button popped out “with ease” from the top casing.
On the battery, therefore, and iFixit wondered if it had decreased slightly compared to those of the last Air model. The four cells are secured to the case by a mix of screws, stretch tape and a metal tray. The specs on the back give a rated capacity of 52.6Wh. The top two cells are wired in parallel and the bottom two in series, making it work like a three-cell battery, iFixit said. “Maybe don’t think too much about why; it doesn’t make sense to us either.”
As for the screen, it came off as soon as those delicate hinge covers were unscrewed.
This is iFixit’s initial investigation of the machine, so it didn’t deliver the coveted repairability score, but the team did admit that the Mac Air “has been moving in a positive direction these days. – more and better ports, a better keyboard, and a return to some of the more fixable ideas.”
However, they questioned the reliability of a “fanless, heatsinkless, non-scalable laptop”. Time will tell, but think of the blissful silence without having a constantly whistling fan. On the other hand, Apple will supply parts for the M2 Air, so at least it was designed with some repairability in mind, and iFixit’s video of the operation shows little real difficulty. Cupertino has come a long way from the impenetrable, impenetrable black boxes of old. ®
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