What does it take to freeze an M1 MacBook Air? [Setups]

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3D games, video editing, a million browser tabs -- how would you try to jam up a MacBook Air M1?
3D games, video editing, a million browser tabs -- how would you try to jam up a MacBook Air M1?
Photo: Typical_Andrew@Reddit

If you owned a new MacBook Air with an M1 chip and 16GB of unified memory, how much would you have to do at once for it to freeze, bringing up the spinning beach ball of death?

Redditor Typical_Andrew had a run at that.

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“Don’t ask me why, but I like seeing computers struggling so I thought I’d try to make my M1 MacBook Air freeze by running a 3D game, a 10 minute run of Cinebench R23 multicore, exporting a 4K video, watching YouTube, browsing Steam, and scrolling Reddit,” his post’s title said. “I couldn’t even manage to get a beachball. :(“

Kink shaming as well as serious consideration

“That might be the nerdiest kink/fetish I’ve ever heard of,” came the first reply.

And it got more “blue” from there, with commenters dropping many nerdtastic double entendres in the realm of sadomasochism. But most of the post’s 200-plus comments had only to do with technology and its limits.

“I actually bought this M1 because I wanted a way to play OSRS on the go and my iPad just isn’t cutting it for serious use,” Typical_Andrew said. “I have a desktop PC that I use for the majority of AAA games, but if I can play a game on this MacBook I’m honestly happier to play it there for the portability.”

This led to much hand-wringing among Redditors over whether the 3D multiplayer game OldSchool RuneScape (OSRS) is demanding enough to challenge Apple’s M1 chip.

One fellow player said the game heats up his 2017 Intel i7 Mac when he watches YouTube at the same time. Typical_Andrew assured him the M1 “doesn’t even break a sweat playing the game” while he watches YouTube on an external monitor.

Another commenter noted his Mac mini M1 has only frozen when crushed with “three Photoshop projects open, a Lightroom album, two Word docs, and about 100 Safari tabs.”

The MBA mostly matches or outdoes monster gaming PC

Typical_Andrew said he mostly keeps his MBA plugged into a monitor beside his PC.

“I honestly forget I’m doing all of this computing on a MacBook AIR. I’ve always steered clear of MacBook Airs because Intel’s low-powered CPUs have always been a joke for doing anything remotely demanding,” he wrote. “But, this MacBook competes with my monster gaming PC that has an i7-10700K desktop processor in it. It certain opens applications faster and navigates the OS faster than my PC.”

The only area where his PC has an advantage is in graphics processing, he said, because of its “monstrous RTX 3070 that uses 10 times the power of my entire MacBook alone.”

“That thing is the size of a mini-fridge with water cooling and makes my desk vibrate when it’s on, so it’s not really a fair comparison lol,” he added.

How would you freeze an M1?

Redditors mentioned a handful of ways they’ve seen a little sluggishness in their M1-powered machines. Many others simply suggested various challenges. Here are a few choice comments:

Mine gets a beach ball when I’m working with pixelmator pro or affinity photo lol.

Resident evil 4.

Try OBS [Open Broadcaster Software] … that’s when it starts to struggle, and that’s only when it’s recording. If you actually tried to stream, it’d probably catch on fire lol.

Just plugging an external monitor and opening two small apps is enough to make my M1 Macbook Air struggle.

Emulate a Windows machine emulating a PowerPC Mac emulating a DOS machine emulating an arcade machine.

Emulate a PC with a Turbo button, really test the limits.

When I open large PDF files like college books and make some highlights or annotations, my M1 Air will struggle and get the beach ball for a few seconds.

Just open Blender and start sculpting.

But can it play 10 different games of solitaire at the same time?

Try [RuneScape] 3. That will probably use much more power than OSRS.

I managed to have a beach ball … download Tor and run it.

Not enough Google Chrome.

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