2020 Air Heatsink Modification Thread

ilikewhey

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May 14, 2014
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MBA 2020(2018 also possible) cooling modification thread.

"The issue"

The 2020 MBA is almost a perfect laptop OOTB for my needs. Size, battery life, keyboard, weight, and what seemed to be the right amount of performance to carry out trivial tasks like PPT, Excel, web browsing, slack, trello with enough short burst "umph" to do some vscode and lightweight dev work.

While for the most part it performed well, everyday apps like video conferencing (zoom, webex, google meets, webtrc, skype, bluejeans) all caused the 2020 MBA to hit 100C and max 8k RPM fans within 5 minutes of use.

This was unacceptable to me because of the NOISE. It was hard to have a work call with teams/clients with the fans maxed out. It is very loud to the point others on the call noticed some white/static noise from my comp when I was not on mute.

Also troubling was the snappiness while under full load, 100C CPU and fans. You could tell apps opened slower and functions would take a few seconds longer to execute." ~@vyruzeaper

What I bought for the mod:

Thermal Pad

Screwdriver set for MBA

Sandpaper to smooth out shims

Thermal paste cleaner

Thermal Paste

Copper Shims


2020 i3/i5/i7 mod guides:




2018/19 mod guide:


~ HopelesslyConfused

SPREADSHEET OF MOD BENCH DATA
 
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bosozoku

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Feb 23, 2018
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This is the only reason why I haven't ordered i7/16Gb version yet!
Also want to know! I assume we have to wait until fixit done with teardown...
 
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high heaven

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Dec 7, 2017
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If they didnt put a heat pipe properly, then I guess Apple-designed it poorly. I saw some people think it's fine for MBA but I doubt that.
 

ilikewhey

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May 14, 2014
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Has the 2018 or 2019 had some issue with the passive heatsink that makes you apprehensive?
we have couple of these at work, they are fine for simple task but anything else the fans kicks up but the temperature does not drop. i thought it was bad thermal paste but was later revealed the fan is not connected to the heatsink at all.
 

JTToft

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Apr 27, 2010
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Aarhus, Denmark
we have couple of these at work, they are fine for simple task but anything else the fans kicks up but the temperature does not drop. i thought it was bad thermal paste but was later revealed the fan is not connected to the heatsink at all.
- I see. I'll also be looking forward to the teardown and reviews. I'm considering replacing my 9-year-old Pro with an i5/16/512, but I'd rather not have thermal issues of course.
 

austyn23

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Nov 22, 2017
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- I see. I'll also be looking forward to the teardown and reviews. I'm considering replacing my 9-year-old Pro with an i5/16/512, but I'd rather not have thermal issues of course.
I´m tempted too, but I think the Air is not for heavy load... wait for the refreshed MBP 14, if it happens.. or the classic 13 inch if they change that crappy keyboard!
 

fokmik

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Oct 28, 2016
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the 2018 still has 7w cpu , so yea...for normal usage was fine, but if you want i5/i7 quad core cpu...they better have heatpipe
 
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ilikewhey

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I´m tempted too, but I think the Air is not for heavy load... wait for the refreshed MBP 14, if it happens.. or the classic 13 inch if they change that crappy keyboard!
i don't consider my usage too heavy, its mostly 2-3 office doc, couple chrome tabs, a excel spreadsheet, mail, and imessage. if i put on my youtube playlist on the operation for everything just starts lagging.
 

Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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we have couple of these at work, they are fine for simple task but anything else the fans kicks up but the temperature does not drop. i thought it was bad thermal paste but was later revealed the fan is not connected to the heatsink at all.
It's a case fan, not a CPU fan. It's in between the discontinued fanless MacBook and the MacBook Pro.

It appears that the system management chip is programmed to keep the system below 100 °C. It will simultaneously run the fan at the maximum speed while monitoring the CPU frequency so it stays below this temperature ceiling, presumably the thermal design maximum for this particular model.

You guys do know that Apple doesn't let random schmucks walking by verify the thermal designs? And they aren't snot nosed 22-year-olds with a B.A. in Communications either.

The people who do this mostly have Ph.D.s in Mechanical Engineering specializing in Computational Fluid Dynamics. I bet the average age of the senior engineers who do this sort of work is 50.

Moreover, Apple tests many prototype designs before selecting on a particular one for production. Yes, they probably tested a few designs that were fanless, a few with heat pipes, maybe even a few with CPU fans. There are probably units with AMD CPUs, ones with ARM CPUs too.

Every design choice is a compromise: power, weight, bulk, cost, noise, convenience, battery life, etc.

The point of a MacBook Air isn't to harness the maximum capability of the CPU 100% 24x7. Maybe they could add a heat pipe and a CPU fan but that would force an increase in the case thickness. Maybe you need a bigger battery to handle the power needs. All of sudden you end up with a MacBook Pro.

It's not like Tim Cook said one day, "Hey, let's hold a design contest for the interns and ship the one that gets the most employee votes!"
 
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ilikewhey

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May 14, 2014
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It's a case fan, not a CPU fan. It's in between the discontinued fanless MacBook and the MacBook Pro.

It appears that the system management chip is programmed to keep the system below 100 °C. It will simultaneously run the fan at the maximum speed while monitoring the CPU frequency so it stays below this temperature threshold, presumably the thermal design maximum for this particular model.

You guys do know that Apple doesn't let random schmucks walking by verify the thermal designs? And they aren't snot nosed 22-year-olds with a B.A. in Communications either.

The people who do this mostly have Ph.D.s in Mechanical Engineering specializing in Computational Fluid Dynamics. I bet the average age of the senior engineers who do this sort of work is 50.

Moreover, Apple tests many prototype designs before selecting on a particular one for production. Yes, they probably tested a few designs that were fanless, a few with heat pipes, maybe even a few with CPU fans.

Every design choice is a compromise: power, weight, bulk, cost, noise, convenience, battery life, etc.

The point of a MacBook Air isn't to harness the maximum capability of the CPU 100% 24x7. Maybe they could add a heat pipe and a CPU fan but that would force an increase in the case thickness. Maybe you need a bigger battery to handle the power needs. All of sudden you end up with a MacBook Pro.

It's not like Tim Cook said one day, "Hey, let's hold a design contest for the interns and ship the one that gets the most employee votes!"
If I were these engineers I would Ask my money back from whatever phd program they came out of.

As it stand it can’t load 100% for more than couple minutes without throttling, never mind 24/7

No doubt Apple hires the best but it doesn’t mean they don’t blunder, the utter failure of butterfly keyboard is a pure example of that

They don’t need to add another fan, just add a heat pipe, the thermal cooling benefit it brings would actually reduce fan rpm, thus lowering battery usage

the 2018 mba internal design is clear they went with form over function
 
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Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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Apple sticks with the same basic case designs for Macs for several years. If you want a heat pipe, wait for a new design, maybe 2021 or 2022. And there's no promise you'll get it either.

The MacBook Air 2020 is essentially the same as a MacBook Air 2018. The main differences are better CPU/iGPU, better keyboard mechanism (which is likely close to a drop-in replacement), and better TrueTone screen (with the 2019 model).

Everything else is basically the same.

The MacBook Air is miles better performance wise than the fanless MacBook 2017. The latter's performance would immediately slow to a crawl when CPU throttling kicked in.

Even a case fan does an adequate job for a notebook that isn't primarily designed for pro tasks.

Different devices are designed for different target audiences.
 
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Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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My MacBook Air 2019 manages to keep the CPU temperature below 100 °C according to the Intel Power Gadget utility.

It appears the unit is functioning according to design. I still get the quick TurboBoost jolt from time to time but it was never intended for this unit to run at TurboBoost frequencies for sustained durations.

If there was any Mac that was form over function, that was the discontinued fanless MacBook. I had the 2017 model and replaced it with the 2019 Air. Good riddance.
 
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Pakaku

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Aug 29, 2009
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Wouldn't Apple have mentioned if cooling was improved? They aren't the type to not mention new/improved things. I'd bet it's the same but we'll see soon enough.
That would be admitting they made a massive mistake with the cooling. Sure, a proper heatsink would technically be an improvement, but it's also a basic expectation to not have your machine melt under non-idle use cases
 

Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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I see no "anacedals" [sic] of overheating.

It's designed to throttle in certain operating conditions. That's what it's supposed to do. If Apple let the processor runaway with heat generation, it could (and probably would) eventually damage the other components.

And heat management isn't just about the CPU. The CPU doesn't live all by itself on a tiny desert island.

Are you not aware that Intel produces families of processors? It's not like Apple could only use this one. Usually there are several choices within a certain TDP.

My guess is that Apple gets dozens if not hundreds of sample units of pretty much any production CPU Intel makes as well as a bunch of pre-production demos to research.

There's also cost which you have completely ignored. Your blinders are strictly on the CPU.

It's not just about the CPU.

This isn't a homebuilt PC from 1997. You don't just drop in a bigger Panasonic case fan, bigger PC Power & Cooling power supply when you upgrade your Pentium II or graphics card in your Lian Li ATX case.

If you think you can design notebook computers better than Apple's current engineering staff, why don't you send in your resume? They're always looking for engineering talent.
 
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lambertjohn

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2012
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I own a 2018 Air, 8gb with 256gb hd. I run Photoshop on it, Office 365 and a slew of other programs. Never head the fan come on once, and I'm sure that's by design.
 

Jimmy James

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Oct 26, 2008
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Magicland
It better have an improved thermal path or it’s just poor design. This still isn’t a cheap computer. We’re just used to overpaying.
 

smirking

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Aug 31, 2003
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Silicon Valley
i don't consider my usage too heavy, its mostly 2-3 office doc, couple chrome tabs, a excel spreadsheet, mail, and imessage. if i put on my youtube playlist on the operation for everything just starts lagging.
Excel might be your villain. I know that whenever I keep Excel open on any of my Macs, things slow down and the fans ramp up even when Excel isn't doing anything. You might not even need 16GB for your level of usage otherwise.
 
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