The following is provided to help users of Apple laptops understand how their laptop’s built-in cooling system works so that they can use their laptops in ways that do not restrict or otherwise hinder the proper functioning of the laptop’s built-in cooling system.
Before diving into laptop cooling system components, it is important to understand why cooling is needed. Computers generate work through processors. The more work they do, the more power they pull, and the more power that goes through the system, then the more heat is created. Processors generate so much heat that temperatures will rise to the point of causing errors, reducing in hardware durability and even leading to immediate hardware failure. To reduce and avoid these issues, built-in cooling systems attempt to remove a portion of the heat that would would cause hardware damage. However, when the cooling system is not sufficient, as can be the case with laptops that use compact built-in cooling systems, then power is throttled. Throttling helps to protects hardware, but it results in slower performance, so the more effective a laptop’s total cooling capacity, then the faster the performance and lower the hardware damage. If not familiar with throttling, then please read the Throttling
While processors (CPUs and GPUs) are the primary heat generating components within a laptop, essentially all electrical components generate some heat. For instance, the power system’s internal power supply and batteries can also generate significant heat when being charged or when being rapidly discharged. The computer memory (RAM) and storage (hard drive) modules also generate heat, especially with large data transfers.
Apple laptops, as with most laptops, use a built-in cooling system to remove internal heat. These cooling systems consists of the following components that will be reviewed in greater detail in the subsequent sections: 1) the external aluminum enclosure heat sink, and 2) the air cooling system that includes one or more processor heat sink, heat pipe, heat radiator fan, cool air intake vent and hot air exhaust vent.
The first production Mac laptop with a metal enclosure was released in 2001, but as of roughly 2006 all Mac laptops began to use an anodized aluminum metal enclosure that acts as the device’s structure, frame and chassis onto which mechanical and electronic components mount. This helps to provide a structure that is light, strong and rigid, as well as creating a durable and beautifully finished surface.
The aluminum enclosure absorbs heat from internal heat generating components through direct physical contact (conduction), heat waves (radiation) and hot air (convection). This means that the aluminum enclosure acts as a heat sink and is an important component in the laptop’s built-in cooling system. For the aluminum enclosure to function as an effective heat sink that absorbs heat from heat generating components and then expels it to the surround environment, the enclosure needs to be uncovered and as open as possible to the surrounding environment, and for the most effective cooling, then the enclosure should be exposed to cooling airflow or another heat sink.
This means that while covers may serve their purpose in decorating and protecting surfaces, those made of insulating materials such as plastic and wood will negatively impact cooling by insulating the aluminum enclosure and preventing heat from escaping. That is a trade off in function between cooling and decoration, expression and cosmetic protection. One is not inherently better than another, and instead each user can decide how to use their laptop and how it best serves their intended purpose.
Air Cooling System
All recent Mac laptop models with a built-in air cooling system include one or more processor heat sinks, heat pipes, heat radiators, fans, cool air intake vents and hot air exhaust vents. The processor transfers heat to the heat sink, which then transfers heat to the heat pipe, which then transfers heat to the radiators through which the fan blows air that extracts heat through the large surface area and expels it outside of the laptop. The fans pull cooling air through intake vents, and depending on that laptop, the cooling air path will help to directly cool components as it is pulled into the fan, or will not reach them. The processors, heat sink, pipe and radiator are typically represent the areas on a laptop with the highest temperatures. All of these components are located towards the back edge of the laptop, approximately at the center upper section of the keyboard.
Keeping the laptop intake vents open with access to fresh and cool air helps with cooling performance, while keeping the exhaust vents free of obstructions is essential for maintaining proper laptop function. Blocking one or more of the exhaust vents can quickly lead to laptop issues, such as damage and shutdown. Even placing an external fan that pulls heat from the laptop can cause damage if the fan is not pulling more exhaust air that would normally be discharged by the laptop’s internal fan or if the external fan is stopped by the user or by fan failure.
MacBook Pro Touch Bar : The 16, 15 and 13-inch MacBook Pro Touch Bar generation made from 2016 until today includes two long cool air intake vents along the underside edge of the sides. The larger 16 and 15-inch versions include two hot air exhaust vents at either end of the underside back screen hinge. The 13-inch version also includes two exhaust vent along the underside back screen hinge, although, some entry level models include only a single exhaust vent along the underside back screen hinge.
MacBook Pro Retina: The 15 and 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina generation made from 2012 to 2016 includes two shorter cool air intake vents along the underside edge of the sides, as well as an intake vent in the center portion of the underside back screen hinge. The larger 15-inch version includes two hot air exhaust vents at either end of the underside back screen hinge. The initial versions of the 13-inch included a two exhaust vents along underside back screen hinge, while the later versions included only a single exhaust vent along the underside back screen hinge.
MacBook Pro Unibody: The 17 and 15-inch MacBook Pro Unibody generation made from 2008 to 2012 do not include intake vents along the side, and instead includes sections of intake vents along the underside back screen hinge. The location varies between models and configurations. The larger 17 and 15-inch versions typically include two hot air exhaust vents along underside back screen hinge, but the vent location varies between models and configurations. The 13-inch version includes a single exhaust vent along underside back screen hinge.
MacBook Air Retina: The 13-inch MacBook Air Retina generation made from 2018 until today do not include intake vents along the side, and instead include a single intake vent at one end of the underside back screen hinge and a single exhaust vent at the other end of the underside back screen hinge.
MacBook Air: The 13 and 11-inch MacBook Air generation made from 2008 to 2017 do not include intake vents along the side, and instead include a long intake vent running from the center to one end of the underside back screen hinge, and then a single exhaust vent at the other end of the underside back screen hinge.
MacBook Retina: The 12-inch MacBook Retina generation made from 2015 to 2018 lacks an internal built-in air cooling system and as a results relies only on the external aluminum enclosure to act as a heat sink for cooling.
SVALT is Cool by Design
The above represents some of the insights into cooling that SVALT uses to help create the world’s most effective cooling solutions; a creation process that begins by studying how laptops work and then uses that understanding to design products that help them perform at their best. SVALT products optimize the laptop’s built-in cooling systems (external aluminum enclosure heat sink and internal air cooling), and then add supplemental cooling to increase total cooling capacity and boost performance potential.
You can learn how this is accomplished for each product by going to the Cooling Stand
product page, Cooling Dock
product page, and Compare
page where you can learn what SVALT model provides the best cooling performance for your laptop model, as well as compare SVALT models to the competition with a deep dive into all of the ways SVALT obsesses over details to create the most extreme performance.
us with any questions, feedback or general inquiries and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.