The MacBook Air M3 Loses Half Its Speed When Using it in Clamshell Mode

The power of Apple Silicon and the new MacBook Air with an M3 chip is pretty remarkable, but that power might not always carry over to all scenarios. It turns out that if you opt to use the MacBook Air M3 in the signature Clamshell mode with the lid closed to attach it to two monitors, the laptop might end up losing almost half its speed.

Discovered by Max Tech on YouTube, and shared by WccTtech, a few benchmarking results were performed that can show how throttling kicks on on these new (and fanless) MacBook Air models. In the first, which is 3DMark Wild Life Extreme, the MacBook Air M3 put up an 8,083 score. But once the lid was closed and the Mac plugged into monitors with the test running, the score was halved to around 5,916. The temperatures of the laptop were also getting concerningly high at about 114 degrees.

Later, when a cooling stand was added and the same tests were performed again in clamshell mode, the scores jumped back up to 7,309. Max Tech even added his thermal pad over the M3 chip in the MacBook Air, and scores improved back to 6,906. Interestingly, though Max Tech doesn’t discuss it himself, comments on the YouTube video show that using a magnet on the side of the palm rest also helps with cooling, since the Mac would think that it’s closed.

If anything, these results show that the MacBook Air is not suited for heavy tasks while sitting on the desk with the lid closed. Apple only includes a small covering over the M3 chip, which doesn’t do much for cooling, and the keyboard and other parts of the laptop could help in temperature dissipation, too. If you’re worried about this, then you’re probably better off spending an extra bit of money on the MacBook Pro, which has fans to aid in cooling.

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