‘Severe’ thermal throttling in Apple M2 chip raises questions about MacBook Air performance


'Severe' thermal throttling in Apple M2 chip raises questions about MacBook Air performance
The M2 MacBook Pro can get hot, hot, hot. What does that mean for the M2 MacBook Air, which has no fan?
Graphic: Apple

The just-released MacBook Pro running Apple’s new M2 processor offers generally good performance, but its single fan can’t stop it from experiencing ‘severe’ thermal throttling under certain conditions, according to tests done on the device.

The upcoming MacBook Air also uses an M2 chip and doesn’t have a fan at all. How much thermal throttling it will experience is not yet knownn, but it could be signficant.

Thermal throttling and the M2 MacBook Pro

Many Mac processors get hot when asked to do demanding tasks for any length of time. When that happens, these chips slow to prevent overheating, which is called thermal throttling.

The M2 chip in the new MBP is reportedly prone to it when pressed hard. The YouTube channel Max Tech tested the notebook, and host Vadim Yuryev reported on Twitter, “We discovered SEVERE thermal throttling with Apple’s new M2 MacBook Pro.”

In one of the tests done to the Mac, the processor hit a peak of 226 degrees (108C). This forced it to throttle the M2 down to reduce the temperature so there’s no risk of damage to the chip. The keyboard reached 106 degrees (41C).

To be clear, severe thermal throttling isn’t common on the M2 MacBook Pro – just under very heavy demand. “This is the most demanding real-world video editing test we have,” notes Yuryev.

Under ordinary conditions, tests show the M2 provides a boost in performance over the M1. Benchmarks of the processor done by Engadget showed an 8,984 score on the Geekbench 5 multi-core test. That’s 25% faster than the original M1 in the 2020 MBP on the same test.

2022 MacBook Air won’t be as powerful as MBP

The MacBook Air coming in July uses the same M2 processor as the MBP. But its sleek design makes no room for a fan, so it’s likely to run slower in some situations.

When the Pro’s chip starts to overheat, it can cool down with its fan and keep going. The MacBook Air won’t have this option. It’ll have to throttle the M2 performance instead. This will almost certainly make the Air unsuitable for very tasks that put an extended heavy load on the processor.

That said, the Air series is not designed for people who need top-tier performance out of a notebook. That’s what the MacBook Pro models with the M1 Pro or M1 Max are for.

The Max Tech tests showed the M2 is exceptional at web browsing, and should have no problems with email, word processing and the other basic tasks that people should buy a MacBook Air for.

Watch the Max Tech video to see how the M2-powered MacBook Pro stacks up against a MBP with an M1 Pro.


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