Performance vs. Heat: M3 MacBook Air Suffers Under Pressure

Not long ago, we reported that Apple introduced a new addition to the MacBook Air series at the beginning of the month. Despite the entry-level configuration of the new MacBook Air remaining at 8GB of RAM, as a product of 2024, Apple has equipped it with the M3 chip. Those familiar with the MacBook series may know that the MacBook Air has always adopted a fanless, passive cooling design. As a result, although the M3 MacBook Air and M3 MacBook Pro share the same chip, the two exhibit a significant performance difference due to the thermal behavior of the chip.

According to tests conducted by the YouTube channel Max Tech, in the same environment, the 15-inch M3 MacBook Air scored 5916 in the 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress test, while the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro scored 7933, leading by approximately 33%. Temperature data revealed that during the test, the M3 MacBook Air’s CPU peaked at 114°C, and the GPU peaked at 109°C. Despite such high temperatures not causing the M3 MacBook Air to shut down due to overheating, the video also showed that the M3 chip would throttle under high temperatures, limiting performance release.

Moreover, the MacBook Air’s casing is entirely made of aluminum, so in addition to a noticeable decline in performance, the blogger also mentioned that the M3 MacBook Air runs very hot when under full load, with the hottest areas reaching 45-46°C. Such temperatures can cause a distinctly uncomfortable sensation for users. Therefore, based on the test results from Max Tech, it can be inferred that the M3 MacBook Air is not suitable for prolonged tasks requiring high performance.

The M3 MacBook Air was officially released on March 4, 2024, available in 13.6-inch and 15.3-inch sizes for consumers to choose from. The entire line is equipped with the M3 chip and a Liquid Retina display, supporting hardware-accelerated ray tracing and True Tone functionality.