The M1 MacBook removes a huge problem I had with previous Intel-based MacBooks.
Problem: When plugged into the 27-inch LG Ultrafine 5K display, previous Intel-based MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models struggled with the heat.
Any MacBook Air I tested would eventually – after about 30 minutes of use – slow down to the point that it is unusable. MacBook pros were better, but the fans were usually heard and under higher loads they also warmed up.
(This includes all MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models I tested from 2017 to 2020.)
Problems with the external display peak during the summer months. Yes, outside time is important. If it’s a hot summer day in Southern California (where I often live 90 degrees + days), the temperature in my upstairs home office rises rapidly to about 80 degrees – even when the air conditioning is on.
Under these conditions, older MacBook Air models become unusable. The latest 13-inch Intel-based MacBook Pro (2020) has better prices in hot conditions, but still struggles with heat and fan noise.
The M1 MacBook Pro is a completely different animal. Paired with an external LG Ultrafine display under the same loads and processing conditions, the M1 MacBook Pro warms up a bit, but that’s it. It does NOT heat up. It does not slow down. And I never heard the fans. They may have shot, but I never heard them. And I tested it * in hot indoor conditions (80 degrees +).
Is it a Mac problem or an Intel problem?
The Windows laptops I tested connected to the LG Ultrafine 5K using similar or nearly identical Intel processors have no serious heating or performance issues. Not to the extent described above. I tested HP and Dell premium laptops – the Specter and XPS lines – using Whiskey Lake (2018), Ice Lake (2019) and the latest 11th generation Tiger Lake processors.
With Tiger Lake laptops, fan noise is rarely heard and heat is not a problem.
Why do I wonder how many problems with the MacBook can be strictly attributed to Intel? Or is it more of an Apple platform problem with Intel processors.
I asked Apple, Intel and computer manufacturers, but either I got a simple technical answer (e.g. how to reduce CPU load) or I didn’t answer.
* Along with MacBooks, I also have a barn for new Windows laptops to test. My workloads are mostly major productivity apps, such as Chrome browser with more than 15 active tabs, Firefox with more tabs, social media, video (usually done in the background), video conferencing, CMS, Word, Excel, Google Docs , photo applications, benchmarking and performance monitoring software.
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