Apple is investigating the use of “distributable feet” on the MacBook Pro to help with cooling, according to a recently published patent application.
The patent application, first discovered by Apple patent, titled “Deployable Feet for Display Articulation and Thermals Performance”, outlines how a MacBook Pro can have feet that move to raise the back of the device. Apple’s deployable feet can be extended by at least 3.8 millimeters, thus significantly increasing the airflow under the machine.
The filing explains how, in one embodiment, the MacBook Pro display hinge can be connected to the deployable feet so that the feet are distributed relative to the lid.
In other embodiments, the feet may be distributed via a gear, pneumatics, electromechanics, or simply tilted out manually by a user. The filing also suggests that the entire base of a MacBook Pro can be expanded, instead of individual feet.
The patent application explains that deployable feet can be an “effective means of cooling the device” without taking up internal space with large components such as fans, and ensures that the MacBook remains “thin and light while including many high-performance features.”
As the number and performance of internal components increases, so do the thermal and other requirements of the electronic device. There is thus a requirement for efficient use of space in an electronic device, and efficient ways to cool the device. Accordingly, it may be desirable for an electronic device to include deployable features that can both increase clearance of the bottom portion and also improve the efficiency of the internal volume of the bottom portion, while maintaining a portable and slim form factor.
In an embodiment where the distributable part is larger, the patent states that “the distributable function can at least partially define a ventilation when it is deployed,” potentially adding a dedicated ventilation, as well as increasing natural air flow under the unit.
In addition, Apple explains how the distributable feet connect to the Mac software. In a deployed position, the Mac processor may be allowed to get hotter to provide better performance due to the increased airflow. In Macs that have both fan and removable feet, the fan speed will be “at least partially” determined by the extent of distribution.
The electronic device may include a sensor that detects at least one of the temperatures or a processing rate of the electronic device and provides the signal in response to the detection. The electronic device may further comprise a fan, where the fan speed is at least partly based on the state of the deployable function.
The archive also addresses the potential waste of space in a MacBook that removable feet can cause. It suggests that when in the deployed position, the interior space used to store the feet can be turned into “usable by an antenna or a speaker.”
The design has the added advantage that the screen hinge provides more clearance to rotate, as well as improves the angle of the device for writing and raises the height of the screen for greater comfort.
While Apple’s patent applications cannot be taken as reliable evidence of what the company intends to add to its devices, there may be good reason to suggest that a feature such as distributable feet may be implemented on MacBooks at some point in the future.
Apple is demonstrably interested in passive cooling. The company has explored passive-cooled laptops starting with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015, and most recently with the latest MacBook Air, which has no fan or valves on the base for cooling. Also, as the internal components of MacBooks become more compact with Apple’s silicon, along with improved battery life, distributable feet may be more likely to be justified in a future Mac laptop.
It is believed that Apple is working on high-performance custom silicon processors for future MacBook Pro models. Unlike the M1 chip, which generally runs very cool and drives Apple’s entry-level Macs, the next-generation Apple silicon expected to arrive on the MacBook Pro is likely to have much more demanding thermal requirements.
Replaceable feet could be a way Apple is able to improve the thermals of its passively cooled MacBooks, as well as enable even higher performance on its Pro cooling machines with active cooling, sometime in the future.