Wednesday, Jul 20, 2022, 11:15 Mac: Hardware

MacBook Air M2 Performance Limit Test – Throttling Compared To MacBook Pro M2 & M1 Air

Similarly to the M1, the M2 chip also relies on the 5nm production process. Due to its higher clock rate as well as its two additional graphics cores, the M2 is guaranteed to produce more heat than its predecessor. The increased heat production is already playing a role in perceived performance, whilst the M1 almost never necessitated throttling (even under full load) – the cooling system for the MacBook Pro M2 is almost at its limit. The fan needs to run more frequently, the housing is significantly warmer, and after longer operating times at maximal capacity – there's even a 10% reduction in the device's performance. These observations have nurtured concerns that the situation might be even more grave in the case of the passively cooled MacBook Air M2.

Cinebench Loops Reveal M2 Air's Performance During Heat
Meanwhile, there are already test results revealing whether or not these concerns bear any significance. During the benchmark process, the MacBook Air M1, MacBook Air M2, as well as the MacBook Pro M2 ran through Cinebench's R23 multicore assessment. Whereas the MacBook Pro did not require any throttling in the scenario, device and component warmth were a more significant factor for the MacBook Air. That being said, there is still good news: The new MacBook Air clearly handles the challenge much better than previously assumed. As already known, the M1 model was forced to sacrifice up to 25% performance, whereas the M2 forgoes significantly less.



Throttling: First vs. Last Test
After half an hour at maximum capacity, the previous benchmark score of 7706 points shrank to 6757 points, resulting in a less than 15% decrease in performance for the MacBook Air with M2. That's actually quite a surprising figure, especially given the fact that the predicted percentage for performance throttling was either that of the 2020 MacBook Air M1's 25% or greater.

MacBook Pro M2 Considerably Faster
An important observation was made during the benchmark testing, the passively cooled MacBook Air performed worse than the actively cooled MacBook Pro in many situations even during the first pass. Observers didn't have to wait more than a few minutes before the device throttling became apparent. Compared to one another, there's a difference of about 25% performance between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Despite all of this, the MacBook Air M2 is still considerably faster than its predecessor – although this doesn't come without a disclaimer. During daily usage, the throttling never becomes apparent, and as far as initial performance – the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro M2 are both consistently better.

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