M2 MacBook Air teardown reveals mystery accelerometer
July 20, 2022 July 20, 2022
With the M2 MacBook Air having launched amid considerable hype, repairs site iFixit has done its traditional teardown to see what’s inside the case.
Some of iFixit’s discoveries were expected–such as the inclusion of a single 256GB flash storage chip, rather than two 128GB modules like in the M1 MacBook Air. That design decision was spotted in an earlier teardown by Max Tech, and is believed to be the reason for the M2 model’s slower-than-expected SSD performance.
Other revelations were more surprising. Most notably, the Air contains a mysterious accelerometer, which iFixit itself was unable to explain. “If you’ve got any ideas why Apple might put one in their new laptop, let us know!” says the presenter.
The iPhone and iPad have for years featured accelerometers, which measure the devices’ movement, rotation, speed, and acceleration. Many apps access the data produced by the accelerometer: it can be used for functions as varied as counting steps, switching between landscape and portrait orientation, controlling the character in a game, and undoing a piece of typing when you shake your handset.
Yet most of the accelerometer-related functions of a phone or tablet make less sense when transferred to a laptop; it’s still a mobile device in the broad sense, but you’re less likely to be waving it around, turning it on its side or (we hope) shaking it. So while Apple may have software plans that will eventually take advantage of this new hardware, it’s hard to guess what they might be.
The cynic, mind you–and there are plenty of those in the comments of iFixit’s video–might guess that the accelerometer is there for Apple’s benefit, not ours. Namely, its data could potentially be used to determine whether the laptop had been dropped, and thus rule against the customer in certain warranty situations.
That’s a depressing thought, so let’s get back to the teardown. Another slight mystery relates to the Air’s passive cooling system. Like its predecessor, the M2 Air doesn’t have any fans, and iFixit has found that it doesn’t have a heat spreader either (while its predecessor did).
“How does this thing cool down?” the presenter wonders. “Sure, it has a lot of thermal paste, and graphite tape, and yeah the M2 is efficient, but this shield is super-thin so it’s not helping much. And the case is lighter than last year… so… Maybe the M2 Air is secretly an iPad, or maybe Apple is just letting it run hot.”
The lack of active (and, apparently, passive) cooling is a potential headache for the M2 Air, and some reviewers have highlighted overheating as an issue. It didn’t strike us as hugely problematic, however: in testing for our in-depth review of the MacBook Air, performance was a little slower than that of the fan-cooled MacBook Pro, but that was it.