Consumers taking advantage of one of the MacBook Air’s newest features are facing an awkward problem.

The redesigned MacBook Air laptops at WWDC (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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One of the new functions the M3 chipset offers the MacBook Air is the ability to run two monitors. This allows consumers to use a docked set-up with an external keyboard and mouse and the productivity boost of dual displays. In this mode, the MacBook Air typically remains closed.

This is where the problem lies.

The team at MaxTech found that the MacBook Air started out with a score of 8,083 with 3DMark benchmarking, falling to 5,916 after twenty minutes. When closed, the score drops even further to 4,183. Nearly half of the performance has been lost in a short period and loses even more when the new dual-display feature is used.

The consumer-focused laptop relies on passive cooling (there’s no fan here to help drive air through the system), so when the temperature rises, the processor must run slower to stay cool. In normal operation, some heat rises through the keyboard and surrounding surface, enough to keep the M3 chipset in a comfortable operating window.

A docked and closed MacBook Air does not have this extra surface area to help dissipate the heat, leaving the laptop’s performance vulnerable when placed under any significant load.

As it stands, you can only access a dual-display setup if you close the MacBook Air; the main display will always be in power when the laptop is open, and only one external monitor can be used. You can recognise the lower performance when docked or work with a single external monitor and use the main laptop screen as your second screen. Neither are best-in-class solutions.

The best advice today is to look at external peripherals to do your best to stop your Air from overheating; a laptop cooling pad is one option, and another is to use a desk stand to elevate the laptop and allow more airflow around the machine.

Future updates to MacOS may offer some hope for a solution. Apple can’t change the laws of thermodynamics, but software options may minimise the impact.

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