A $30 thermal mod can make the fanless M1 MacBook Air as fast as an M1 MacBook Pro. The mod requires using a few thermal pads and sticking them to the heat sinks in the MacBook Air. The end result is that the M1 MacBook Air provides similar results in benchmarks like Cinebench, Xcode, photo editing, and other video rendering comparisons.
Of course, this mod is not for everyone, as it requires opening up the MacBook Air to add the thermal pads. It can also have some negative effects as it can cause the MacBook Air to heat up more than usual which is an unintended consequence of the mod. As the Air does not have a fan, the thermal mod will allow it to push beyond the usual operating temperatures.
Get MacBook Pro like performance with M1 MacBook Air with this mod
This thermal mod has been tested by a few of our favorite YouTubers, along with benchmarks to show it impacts benchmarks across Cinebench, Xcode, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro, and more, as well as its impact on thermals and battery life.
MaxTech put the modded M1 MacBook Air through tests involving Cinebench R23, Xcode, BruceX, H.264 export, HEVC export, and 4K and 8K RED RAW video export using Final Cut Pro. In most tests, the MacBook was able to almost reach the numbers posted by the M1 MacBook Pro, and even outperforming it in a few tests. In tests where the GPU was heavily utilized, the base model Air’s 7 core GPU was beaten by the 8 core GPU in the Pro model.
All this came at a price though as the MacBook Air’s thermals showed that it was not suitable for lap use anymore.
In similar testing done by Created Labs involving Geekbench and Cinebench R23, M1 MacBook Air showed an average of 20% performance increase, putting it on par with the expensive M1 MacBook Pro which costs $300 more. However, this meant that the MacBook Air’s bottom case heated up to 66.1C, compared to the relatively cooler 41C temperature.
Of course, the testing done in these videos is not something users would do while the machines are on their lap. If you are rendering 4K or 8K video, you would be better off placing the MacBooks on a desk. Despite that, pushing the thermals beyond what Apple has designed the Air to do might not be recommended and will likely impact your warranty.
As both MacBook models use the same M1 chip, normal usage might not cause any issues. If you feel courageous, you can grab $30 thermal pads from Amazon and give this mod a try!