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Peter Witham
Peter Witham

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Clamshell Mode with my MacBook Pro

I wrote up a post on my site and felt it was appropriate to share it here as well.

Clamshell What Now?

So let’s get the basics out the way, what is clamshell mode? This is when you are running your laptop with the lid closed and an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor are used.

And this taught you what?

Glad you asked. So considering I almost always use an external mouse and keyboard with my laptop’s, the transition was painless. I thought at first I would miss having two screens (remember, the laptop screen is now off and closed). Not the case!

Thanks to the desktop spaces on macOS, I mostly use full-screen views for applications, so all I had to adapt to was switching spaces more often as opposed to just looking at the other monitor.

I use a Dell 27” external monitor plugged into my USB-C hub along with the keyboard, mouse, ethernet, and a couple of external hard-drives. My desktop resolution is a nice 2560x1440 so I don’t have to worry about windows jumping around when I switch back to the MacBook Pro screen. Yeah, that really bugs me too!

The most interesting thing I have learned is that my MacBook Pro runs approximately 11 degrees cooler when the lid is closed (101 degrees average), which caught me by surprise as the heat was my major concern with the lid closed (MacBook Pro 2018). Now I’m thinking this is because it only has to ask the GPU’s to power one screen instead of two, but I have no scientific data on that.

By the way, I use iStat Menus to monitor things like temperatures and fan speeds in the system bar.

My next thought was that the fans were running at a higher speed to keep the temperature down, so I checked those. Nope, still running at a nice quiet 2680rpm.

The last remaining question for some might be “But what about losing the Touch Bar on that MacBook Pro?” Well, to be honest, I barely use the thing, so it’s no big concern other than losing the touch sensor for unlocking 1Password.

The Wrap

So here I am a week later, very surprised by the test results and doing a total switch around on my concerns and viewpoint on using the MacBook Pro with the lid closed. I will be doing this way more going forward to recapture some desk space. I also want to give a shout out to the Apple engineers for doing a great job on heat management.

If you have ever wondered if clamshell will work for you, I now say, give it a try you may be surprised by the results.

I am adding a vertical stand to my setup now that I know it will work for me.

A couple of reasons for my choice include the ability to change the width of the gap to support other devices in the future, plus the color matches my Space Gray MacBook Pro. Not to mention the price is great too.

Thanks for reading.

Top comments (2)

ryanzay3 profile image

But how do you turn on the computer when it's shut down.

peterwitham profile image
Peter Witham

For me, it turns on automatically when I plug it in so I do not have to open it.