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I work in bed a lot, and I'm undecided between the MacBook M1 Air vs. Pro. I have heard that fans in the bed will cause my MacBook to collect more internal dust. I’m not even sure how to determine if my bed has a lot of dust compared to other offices.

How can I research if having a fan/blower is better or worse in a generic environment?

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  • Welcome to Ask Different. Rather than close this, I am going to make an edit. We STRONGLY prefer one question per question. If you have two questions, feel free to document them, link them together. Once two questions have good answers - it’s always OK to ask a third question how to synthesize / put two answers into practice. – bmike Jan 7 at 17:38
  • There should be a special award for questions like this :) Instead of the typical and usual questions about working in bed, you have elevated the practice with this one. – Seamus Jan 8 at 22:14
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    No matter which model you choose: Make sure to put it on a tray (or on your knees) and not on a blanket. The thermal design relies on heat disposal through the bottom surface. Laptops on blankets heat up to levels that are dangerous to parts (and hence may trigger an emergency CPU power-off) and detrimental to battery life. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jan 9 at 13:28
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Think different.

After surgery I needed some recovery time at home, so I had to use a rolling table that cantilevered over my bed for a few weeks. Amazon has a top 100 rolling & over-bed tables list to choose from.

One model (#92) actually looks like it can hold an iMac or perhaps even an external monitor and a laptop:

over-bed table with iMac

One added benefit is a real table capable of holding meals, books, and other essentials. Hot liquids are best consumed from a travel mug with an auto-closing top. Trust me.

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    Well said - having a hard surface is very important for cooling - no matter if the computer has blowers or not. – bmike Jan 7 at 17:46
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    Most important point here is the travel mug - just lost a macbook pro to number one son spilling beer into it while watching netflix in bed... well he said netflix but perhaps it was p***... Luckily it was covered on insurance - they don’t have a stupidity clause (yet). – Solar Mike Jan 8 at 5:21
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    When I'm depressed I spend much time in bed with my laptop. But I think having Bed Tray (from Ikea.KLIPSK) is a good alternative solution, also I'm using MOFT Invisible Laptop Stand which is really useful in bed. My old macbook pro was suffering because of the heat. I'm not going to make same mistake. – siniradam Jan 11 at 7:04
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I like IconDaemons approach, but there are many reasons you would not want to do that. Therefore I am going to give an alternative answer.


In short: I would recommend the MBA over the MBP for several reasons:

  • no/minimal dust build-up
  • lighter
  • cheaper
  • no moving parts, less risk of hardware failure
  • quiet, no fan sound at all
  • minimal performance difference

The only real technical difference between the two machines is active cooling with a fan on the MBP compared to the MBA. This difference implies the major differences mentioned above, which are all positive, except for the performance difference. Yet, if you compare the two MacBooks, this difference is very small and only occurs after long and heavy workloads:

Only after ~10 minutes under full load the MBA experiences thermal throttling. In my opinion, most users even considering such a laptop do not need the higher performance after long workloads.

Considering the battery on the MBA already lasts more than a work-day (and it actually lasts this long, not only in tests), I'd argue you will rarely need the longer battery life on the MBP.


Now lets get to your questions:

Is it true that the Air without fans would be more bed-friendly than the Pro with fans?

In my opinion: Yes, due to the multiple reasons mentioned above.

If it is true, would disabling the Pro fans while in bed make it essentially function and relatively painlessly throttle like the Air?

Looking past the technical difficulties and the fact that that's not recommended, the answer would most likely be yes.

  • However, what do you gain in doing so? This would basically make the MBP a more expensive MBA, yet still with fan intakes allowing dust to get inside.

Note: Someone using a laptop in bed is most likely not going to edit videos in FPC X, bounce huge Audio composition in Logic Pro X, test large iOS projects/Apps in Xcode,... and therefore not really gain anything from the MBPs higher performance under sustained load.


I know that the MBP also has slightly better speakers, a slightly brighter display (what do you care in bed?), better mics, but in the end, I don't think these small things are that important.

Here is a list of videos/articles comparing the two machines:

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  • I'd argue the note isn't necessarily true, the place of work doesn't really infer what tasks a person could be going, in fact the asker has a large SO profile full of development questions so could be running docker containers, IDEs etc that could put the computer under a strain for a sustained period. – Ryan McDonough Jan 8 at 16:14
  • My answer aims to be more general than just for this case. And I would argue that most people don't do hard work in bed. That there are opposite cases is certainly true, so I agree with you, that this person might actually be using it for serious development. – X_841 Jan 8 at 16:26
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I have worked as a repair technician for several years and the variance in people’s air quality and cleanliness is so much more a factor than whether the Mac has blowers or fans.

In general, there’s clear signs of overheating whether the issue is airflow, ambient temperature or lack of convection in the case - so get the Mac you want and need. Get fanless if you prefer quiet and thin or with blowers if you think you’ll do CPU intensive tasks for 15+ minutes and run into a situation where active cooling will delay thermal throttling.

Where you use the machine will be unlikely to make or break this buying decision in my experience and you’ll need to manage dust for reasons of screen quality and keyboard function well before you get clogged internals in most cases. You’ll know you need to have a technician service a computer due to dust and that’s not generally a large expense if you must use a computer in an environment that requires cleaning. Your lungs are more a concern to me than the hardware.

The only time I would recommend fanless is if there is tobacco smoke and tar in the air - that dramatically accelerates accumulation of fine particulates and can require expensive cleaning in less than a decade of use.

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I've used an M1 MacBook Air as my sole software development machine for the last month and a half, and I've never felt it get hot, and rarely felt it get warm. Tests by reviewers have shown that it takes a long time to throttle, and when it does get hot enough to throttle, it only loses a small amount of performance, (roughly 20% by my memory).

Now if you are doing hard core video editing, I'd get the M1 MacBook Pro since long exports could trigger throttling within 3-4 minutes. But for the vast majority of users I can heartily recommend the Air.

The only other reason I would not recommend using the Air in bed is that, it's usually too cold! I hate putting it on my bare legs when I'm sitting in bed as it takes a while to warm up. But you can always wear pajamas or put a blanket on your lap if that bothers you;)

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Dust is the least of your concerns. Regardless of laptop make or model, operating a laptop on a bed is generally a bad idea. Bed sheets are very non-conductive and isolate heat very well. I've seen cases of laptops including MacBooks overheat due to operation on beds. This can lead to severe damage to your laptop from burnt components which leads to hardware failure.

If you must work in your bed, use a flat surface under the laptop (a board or ideally a folding table). It will dissipate heat a lot faster than a bed sheet.

When your laptop doesn't have to run hot, it will increase the longevity of the device regardless of model.

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go with the air. besides, the specs of both computers are almost the same. the air has superior cpu and battery. you should be fine with that.

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