exhaustedbrit

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 20, 2020
6
17
This is my first time posting here, but I've been a longtime Mac user and hardware enthusiast.

I bought the 2020 MacBook Air as I was curious about the ice lake chips and keen to see if a MacBook Air could satisfy me for travelling about. But as I feared, thermal solution meant that trying to play a game of League or anything with a sustained load where consistency was important was just too difficult as the CPU pretty much stayed at 100C and would stutter/throttle for a few 100ms when playing anything. Sadly, my old 2015 MacBook Air handled this casual game of League or other trivial game a lot better, so I felt a little bit sour about it.

So to re-iterate, I know these machines aren't suited for that kind of workload (but could be), but I love everything about the laptop so I thought, maybe if I just put a thermal pad on the CPU heatsink so that it touches the bottom of the chassis, it might give it a drop more total wattage to play with. I didn't expect my results to be so great.

I literally just bought an arctic thermal pad from amazon, cut a small strip and placed it on the lower half of the CPU heatsink towards the battery, I only covered maybe a third of the heatsink so there's still some airflow going across the CPU. I ran a Cinebench R20 run, and never did my temps exceed 100C, the bottom of the macbook gets warm, but not frighteningly so, and it seems by doing this, the fan has more of a beneficial impact when it actually spins up.

I went from scoring anywhere between 650 to 720 at a stretch in R20, to scoring pretty consistently 760-780, all whilst never really touching 100C. So, in the interests of sharing my findings and showing what the i3 in the 2020 air would perform like if the cooling were just a drop better, I've attached the CB result and power gadget screenshot and would be happy to run any other tests.
 

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exhaustedbrit

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 20, 2020
6
17
Apologies for the delay, work has been busy and my entry spec MBP 13" 2020 came since.

I've attached photos of the thermal pad, it is an incredibly minor adjustment that I hadn't thought would make a whole world of difference, but the results seem to suggest otherwise.


@exhaustedbrit you could add your findings to the heat sink thread, where others have already been doing something similar.

I will take a look through this thread, thank you.
 

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Bones13

macrumors regular
Oct 7, 2008
106
40
Which processor is that? The heatsink looks different from the "corrugated" style that is prominent in the heat shrink thread.
 

jordanfc21

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2020
6
3
@exhaustedbrit I'm looking to buy my husband a new MacBook this year, and am trying to decide between the Pro or the Air. I'm leaning towards the Air due to portability, but would like to know more about your mod. Does this mod significantly increase the temperature of the base plate? i.e. can you comfortably work with this in your lap with this mod?

Thanks!
 

exhaustedbrit

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 20, 2020
6
17
@exhaustedbritDoes this mod significantly increase the temperature of the base plate? i.e. can you comfortably work with this in your lap with this mod?
Thanks!
The base plate does get warm after a few hours of constant use, warm enough that you would notice it, though personally it's not uncomfortable to touch.

Sadly I don't have the tools to give you a more precise answer, but ever since the entry level Pro came yesterday, I've seldom found myself wanting to use the air. The Pro just doesn't get as hot and noisy, whereas the Air does if I join a zoom call, or have more than a few tabs open.

It's worth mentioning I have an upgraded 15" MacBook Pro with the i9, 32GB of ram and the vega graphics for my work, so really portability was my main motivation for getting the air, but for me feels like too much of a compromise.
 

TacTac

macrumors newbie
Jun 4, 2020
2
0
Thank you for doing this test, it seems very interesting. How thick is the thermal pad?
 

TacTac

macrumors newbie
Jun 4, 2020
2
0
Thanks for your quick answer, I'm going to try this on my 2020 Core i5 MacBook Air
 

IngerMan

macrumors 68000
Feb 21, 2011
1,878
770
Michigan
Thermal Pad only. 1.5mm Artic purchased from Amazon 140x140. I cut it down to a 35mm x 45mm and centered it. The entire heat sink is about 40mm x 60mm. A 50 x 50 is more than enough.

I was running before Pad 1250+ and 3500's And after Pad see below.




I put the Blue Artic pad on my MBA and with a few notes for install.

4) When applying the pad after cutting it to 35mmx45mm
a) Make sure there are no hanging chads.
b) Remove one side of the film and place it correctly on the heatsink, you can pick up and redo as needed.
c) Apply light amount of pressure with your finger tips like caressing a nipple, to seat the pad on the heatsink.
d) Remove the top side film
e) Done. Note do not remove the heat shield on the bottom inside cover.

Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 9.23.03 PM.png MBA Pad outline.png
 
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Florida_Guy

macrumors newbie
Jun 5, 2020
1
1
I'm assuming the 2/3 photo's you uploaded in your OP depict the benchmarking stats under original vs 'upgraded' setup? If this is true, am I reading it right (assuming the higher max speed is with the mod), that the screen shot with the thermal upgrade allowed the laptop to reach an even higher clock set of +100Mhz (even if just for a brief period)? Very interesting and convincing mod as well. My only concern (for lack of a better word) is to note the stability issues between the two. The OEM setup is/was clearly "tuned" to maintain stable speeds over long durations whereas your modded chart does depict a better performing device however at the cost of the computer working behind the curtains a bit harder to maintain the same stability. I guess the best way to see if this observation is actually worthy of being labeled a "concern" would be to request you run a few more benchmarking programs now and then every quarter or so. Then after 1 year, come back and show us how much (if at all) the thermal pads maintained their ability to dissipate the heat more efficiently. This post came at perfect timing for me as I'm in the process of selling my 2017 i5 Macbook Air after having just taught myself to replace the broken fan on my CTO i7 mid-2012. It's astonishing at how much faster my 8 year old MBA spanks my 2017. Now that I'm content with keeping my older one, I've decided to do what you did on it as well as slapping some thermal pads on my mid 2015 and 2018 MBP's. Last thing I'd say is; if/when you opt to replace or add thermal pads on other devices, you seem like the kind of person that would benefit in going the extra mile and buying the "top shelf" thermal pads. Arctic is def quality stuff but they're also the bare bottom when it comes to minimum expectations on what thermal pads are designed to offer for any sort of respectable device. All the same, thanks for sharing this post! I'm sold!
 
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passdani

macrumors newbie
Sep 20, 2016
1
0
This is really, well, cool... :)
Thanks you all for this great experiment. I'm definitely looking forward to getting a new i7/16/512 Air, at this point.
Does anyone know if the mod could somehow break the warranty? Apple folks are quite sensitive on the subject.
And assuming I'd take it all off if I needed assistance, do you think they'd notice?
 

murphguy

macrumors newbie
Jun 25, 2020
2
1
I tried the Arctic Thermal pad as documented by @IngerMan.

My 2020 i5 MBA went from the fan never being audible (pre-pad) to blasting and having difficulty dropping it's temperature (post-pad), even after disabling turbo boost (via Turbo Boost Switcher Pro). I removed the pad and went back to normal.

Was hoping to turn a good machine into a workhorse, but unfortunately it had the opposite effect.
 

IngerMan

macrumors 68000
Feb 21, 2011
1,878
770
Michigan
Hmmmmmmm, sounds very odd. Sorry to hear your results. I’m running 30’s c idle and 40’s C office work 50-60 C video conferencing

Maybe you could share some screenshots of intel power gadgets of what your running and temp problem?
 
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murphguy

macrumors newbie
Jun 25, 2020
2
1
Turns out the pad seems to help, at least when it comes to Cinebench tests. I ran an experiment with no pad, half pad, and full pad as shown in the pictures. Scores were 788, 888, and 1027.

Larger the pad --> Better the score.

None of the set-ups seemed to slow the CPU from heading straight towards 100 C or the fan from full RPM, but I'll continue to tinker.
 

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nill1234

macrumors 6502
Dec 22, 2012
297
201
The problem is your heat transfer CPU -> Cooler. I think if you do the shim mod the pad mod is way more efficient.
 
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killdarabbit

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2020
1
0
Hi, I want to do this simple mod but my question is if it's completely safe to cover the whole cpu? Would that cause any issues? Thanks
 

IngerMan

macrumors 68000
Feb 21, 2011
1,878
770
Michigan
Hi, I want to do this simple mod but my question is if it's completely safe to cover the whole cpu? Would that cause any issues? Thanks

I think you mean cover the entire heat sink? Yes, but make sure your not overhanging blocking the open channels from airflow going thru. It’s safer to just be a little short than long.
 

Jack Neill

macrumors 65816
Sep 13, 2015
1,405
1,144
San Antonio Texas
Hmmmmmmm, sounds very odd. Sorry to hear your results. I’m running 30’s c idle and 40’s C office work 50-60 C video conferencing

Maybe you could share some screenshots of intel power gadgets of what your running and temp problem?
I just used your photo as a guide, I eyeballed it without measuring. I too am now getting 35-45 in idle temps and without I was getting 50-60. I am now getting 50-60 with everything in my workflow running. I am getting 250+ higher in GB5 as well.
 
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Marlo Morgan

macrumors newbie
Aug 11, 2020
12
0
I think you mean cover the entire heat sink? Yes, but make sure your not overhanging blocking the open channels from airflow going thru. It’s safer to just be a little short than long.

Hey IngerMan, thank you for the detailed instructions, I applied the mod myself and achieved the temperatures others reported.

I have a few questions, however, even though I applied some pressure on the pad, it's now stuck on the bottom cover. I reopened the case to check for a couple of times and it was always stuck on the bottom case in line with the CPU's heatsink.

My other question is before applying the mod, I could swear that my macbook was staying even on my desk, the left foot is now uneven but I tried other tables around the house and while some had no issues, I also discovered that the uneven surface issue would disappear if I placed my macbook in different angles. Could this mean my tables are uneven?

My final question is, after I was done with the mod I started finding hairline cuts of the thermal pad around the gap between the keyboard and the screen. I assume these sprinkled around during the cutting process. I cleaned and collected all the pieces I could find, but I'm scared of any rogue thermal pad pieces that I may have missed, could this cause an issue?

Will I ever need to replace the pad in the future btw?

Thank you for your work
 
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Random123

macrumors newbie
Aug 10, 2020
10
5
Hey IngerMan, thank you for the detailed instructions, I applied the mod myself and achieved the temperatures others reported.

I have a few questions, however, even though I applied some pressure on the pad, it's now stuck on the bottom cover. I reopened the case to check for a couple of times and it was always stuck on the bottom case in line with the CPU's heatsink.

My other question is before applying the mod, I could swear that my macbook was staying even on my desk, the left foot is now uneven but I tried other tables around the house and while some had no issues, I also discovered that the uneven surface issue would disappear if I placed my macbook in different angles. Could this mean my tables are uneven?

My final question is, after I was done with the mod I started finding hairline cuts of the thermal pad around the gap between the keyboard and the screen. I assume these sprinkled around during the cutting process. I cleaned and collected all the pieces I could find, but I'm scared of any rogue thermal pad pieces that I may have missed, could this cause an issue?

Will I ever need to replace the pad in the future btw?

Thank you for your work
About your macbook not staying even on a desk it could mean that you didnt push the two tabs that are in the middle of the case back down all the way or your table is uneven. And with the part of the thermal being inbetween the screne and the keyboard that is wierd and probaly not good for the machine so I would take the computer back apart and check what is happening.
 

Random123

macrumors newbie
Aug 10, 2020
10
5
Question for everyone. Do we know which themal size thickness is better 1.5mm or 1.0mm I havent been able to find a single person compare the two thicknesses with benchmarks to determain which is 100% better. Does anyone have evidence that one is better then the other and if not can someone test it?
 
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