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Apple M3 MacBook Air Performance Drops When Connected to Two External Displays

One of the advertised features of the new 13-inch and 15-inch M3 MacBook Air models is the ability to connect to two external displays. However, it seems that this feature comes with a significant performance penalty.

According to a recent stress test conducted by YouTube channel Max Tech, the M3 MacBook Air’s performance drops by nearly 50% when connected to two external displays in clamshell mode. The test involved running the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark for 20 minutes on the MacBook Air with the lid closed. The laptop initially started the test strong, scoring 8,083 points. However, its performance gradually declined over the course of the test, eventually dropping to a low of 4,198 points.

The throttling is likely due to the M3 MacBook Air’s lack of a fan. In previous generations of the MacBook Air, Apple has used a thin heatsink to help dissipate heat. However, this appears to be insufficient when the laptop is connected to two external displays and the lid is closed.

It’s possible that opening the lid of the MacBook Air would allow more cool air to circulate over the internal components, resulting in better cooling performance. However, in clamshell mode, this airflow is completely blocked, leading to reduced performance.

If you’re considering buying the M3 MacBook Air and plan on using it with two external displays, you should be aware of this potential performance issue. You may want to consider a different laptop with a more robust cooling system if you need sustained high performance.

Other potential issues

In addition to the performance throttling issue, there are a few other potential issues to be aware of when using the M3 MacBook Air with two external displays:

  • Heat: The M3 MacBook Air can get quite hot when connected to two external displays, especially in clamshell mode. If you’re concerned about heat, you may want to consider using a laptop cooling pad.
  • Battery life: The M3 MacBook Air’s battery life will be significantly reduced when connected to two external displays. If you’re planning on using your laptop on the go, you’ll need to make sure you have a power source nearby.
  • Compatibility: Not all external displays are compatible with the M3 MacBook Air. Make sure to check the compatibility of your displays before you purchase them.
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