Active cooling pads for MBP 16″, do they really do much?


macrumors newbie

Original poster

Apr 13, 2014

25

2

I’m waiting for my new MacBook Pro 16″ to arrive, and I’m hoping to keep temperatures low to prevent battery aging.

I’ve spent a long time researching cooling pads, and the results are mixed, with many reviews being completely unscientific and missing the point – or worse, not even comprehending basic physics.

Do cooling pads have much of an effect? I already have a lap cushion with a hard top.

Another issue appears to be that some designs may obstruct airflow at the Macbook’s intake or exhaust ports.

I’ve looked at everything on the market and there’s simply too much choice and too little objective, intelligent information, so I’d be grateful for your input. I’d also like something that’s relatively small and light, as I travel a lot for work and am likely to want to play in hotels and other public places. .
 

jamespb78

macrumors member

Apr 18, 2015
70
44

In my opinion, if you need a cooling pad, there is something wrong with your laptop. Just my two cents.
 

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PatrickCocoa

macrumors 6502a

Dec 2, 2008
742
121

I’m waiting for my new MacBook Pro 16″ to arrive, and I’m hoping to keep temperatures low to prevent battery aging.

Don’t read MacRumors or other depressing message boards. Don’t waste mental energy trying to anticipate problems that may arise. Don’t put the computer’s requirements ahead of your own. Simply use your laptop and have fun. Allow yourself to be free. Don’t be concerned about anything. Do not believe that dancing under the full moon, eating your vegetables, or charging with only electrons from wind energy will *significantly* improve battery life. My response isn’t directly in response to your query, but here it is anyway:

 

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macrumors 68040

Mar 29, 2009
3,240
628
USA

They don’t do anything because the device’s case isn’t a heat sink.
 

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jerryk

Contributor

Nov 3, 2011
6,949
3,856
SF Bay Area

I’ve spent a long time researching cooling pads, and the results are mixed, with many reviews being completely unscientific and missing the point – or worse, not even comprehending basic physics. Do cooling pads have much of an effect? I’ve looked at everything on the market and there’s simply too much choice and too little objective, intelligent information, so I’d be grateful for your input. Another issue appears to be that some designs may obstruct airflow at the Macbook’s intake or exhaust ports. I’m waiting for my new MacBook Pro 16″ to arrive, and I’m hoping to keep temperatures low to prevent battery aging. I already have a lap cushion with a hard top. I’d also like something that’s relatively small and light, as I travel a lot for work and am likely to want to play in hotels and other public places. .

Consider a gaming laptop if you want to play games. There are a number of companies that produce portable gaming systems with good performance.

 

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ultrakyo

macrumors member

Apr 12, 2015
88
44

They don’t do anything because the device’s case isn’t a heat sink.

That’s really the point; the cooling in the MBP16 is adequate in most cases, and a slight lift will suffice to ensure proper airflow.

 

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Nebrie

macrumors 6502a

Jan 5, 2002
591
108

If I want to use the MBP on the bed, I use one (not plugged in) to keep the fabric from blocking the air intakes, but anything that raises the MB will do that.
 

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bill-p

macrumors 68020

Jul 23, 2011
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Thermal improvements are beneficial, but they are primarily used to maintain stability. And, once that’s done, the casing acts as a massive heat sink, so a cooling pad isn’t necessary. Although neither is particularly good at keeping up over long periods of time, I’ve heard the 5300M is a little more stable. If you get the 5600M, the memory clocks don’t have to run at higher frequencies, so it seems to perform better. It isn’t awe-inspiring. If you’re going to use a 16″ for gaming, you’ll want to look into the VRM thermal pad mod (just Google it). It helps a lot. When the CPU is the only thing being stressed, it can at least maintain stock clock speeds, but when the dGPU is loaded (as in gaming), it’s a different story. If only eGPU had been available, but Microsoft screwed up eGPU for Bootcamp. In the end, I’d call the 16″ “adequate” for gaming. Under high temperatures, the dGPU throttles aggressively, resulting in significant performance loss when gaming. Anyone who claims that the 16″ cooling is adequate hasn’t gone far enough. At worst, it matches or slightly outperforms an Xbox One S, and the 5600M might even come close to an Xbox One X. Especially if your model is the 5500M. It appears that many of the responses in this thread are not based on personal experience.
 

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macrumors regular

Nov 15, 2019
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When the CPU is the only thing being stressed, it can at least maintain stock clock speeds, but when the dGPU is loaded (as in gaming), it’s a different story. In the end, I’d call the 16″ “adequate” for gaming. Thermal improvements are beneficial, but they are primarily used to maintain stability. If only eGPU had been available, but Microsoft screwed up eGPU for Bootcamp. It appears that many of the responses in this thread are not based on personal experience. Although neither is particularly good at keeping up over long periods of time, I’ve heard the 5300M is a little more stable. Under high temperatures, the dGPU throttles aggressively, resulting in significant performance loss when gaming. And, once that’s done, the casing acts as a massive heat sink, so a cooling pad isn’t necessary. It isn’t awe-inspiring. If you’re going to use a 16″ for gaming, you’ll want to look into the VRM thermal pad mod (just Google it). It helps a lot. At worst, it matches or slightly outperforms an Xbox One S, and the 5600M might even come close to an Xbox One X. Especially if your model is the 5500M. If you get the 5600M, the memory clocks don’t have to run at higher frequencies, so it seems to perform better. Anyone who claims that the 16″ cooling is adequate hasn’t gone far enough.

I’ve taken temperature readings with a cooling pad and found no difference.

 

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Fean0r

macrumors newbie
Original poster

Apr 13, 2014
25
2

A useful and interesting discussion, thanks everyone!

Allow yourself to be free. Don’t put the computer’s requirements ahead of your own. My response isn’t directly in response to your query, but here it is anyway: Don’t waste mental energy trying to anticipate problems that may arise. Simply use your laptop and have fun. Don’t read MacRumors or other depressing message boards. Do not believe that dancing under the full moon, eating your vegetables, or charging with only electrons from wind energy will *significantly* improve battery life. Don’t be concerned about anything.

That’s something I need to hear from time to time! My greatest strength, but also my greatest weakness, is the ability to think things through thoroughly. And I usually ignore it at first, only to realize a week or two later that it’s a complete waste of time. To be honest, I think you’re right.

Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re talking about – did you accidentally paste the wrong link?

They don’t do anything because the device’s case isn’t a heat sink.

If it isn’t, I’d like to know the physics behind why you believe that. That doesn’t quite match how hot the metal cases of Macbooks get under heavy load – I’m pretty sure this is an important part of the cooling system, and it’s self-evident that the case is effectively a massive heatsink that complements the internal heatsink and fans.

Consider a gaming laptop if you want to play games. There are a number of companies that produce portable gaming systems with good performance.

I also want a machine for work and Lightroom, among other things. I considered getting one, but for a similar spec, the price is comparable, and they’re generally larger and heavier. And after switching to MacOS in 2014 and having an all-Apple household for phones and tablets, I don’t want to go back to Windows for anything except games that MacOS doesn’t support.

That’s really the point; the cooling in the MBP16 is adequate in most cases, and a slight lift will suffice to ensure proper airflow.

I’m more concerned with keeping the heat away from the costly internal battery. The words “sufficient” and “in most cases” are key. I’m not concerned about the chips getting hot; I believe people are overly concerned about this.

Anyone who claims that the 16″ cooling is adequate hasn’t gone far enough. When the CPU is the only thing being stressed, it can at least maintain stock clock speeds, but when the dGPU is loaded (as in gaming), it’s a different story. Under high temperatures, the dGPU throttles aggressively, resulting in significant performance loss when gaming. And, once that’s done, the casing acts as a massive heat sink, so a cooling pad isn’t necessary. It appears that many of the responses in this thread are not based on personal experience. At worst, it matches or slightly outperforms an Xbox One S, and the 5600M might even come close to an Xbox One X. If only eGPU had been available, but Microsoft screwed up eGPU for Bootcamp. If you get the 5600M, the memory clocks don’t have to run at higher frequencies, so it seems to perform better. Especially if your model is the 5500M. Thermal improvements are beneficial, but they are primarily used to maintain stability. It isn’t awe-inspiring. Although neither is particularly good at keeping up over long periods of time, I’ve heard the 5300M is a little more stable. In the end, I’d call the 16″ “adequate” for gaming. If you’re going to use a 16″ for gaming, you’ll want to look into the VRM thermal pad mod (just Google it). It helps a lot.

I was planning on getting the 5600M, but it’s an exorbitant upgrade (in theory £700, but more like £1000 because it’s not available from Intel). Oh, I didn’t realize eGPU didn’t work with Bootcamp; that was my backup plan if the dGPU wasn’t up to the task. AmazonI’d have to order from Apple because I’m in the UK. Have you taken temperature readings with and without a cooling pad? I suppose a lot of games these days run on MacOS, especially strategy games (I’m currently playing Civ 6 with a little Total War thrown in for good measure). For that price, I can get a very good eGPU.

I’ve taken temperature readings with a cooling pad and found no difference.

I’m probably going to get this because it’s much more convenient for travel than other options, and it’ll at the very least keep me from hunching over my laptop and saving my back when I’m sitting at hotel desks late at night. Thank you, that’s very helpful information. One ludicrous YouTube review simply measured rendering times, which is a pointless test in and of itself – but the woman also thought the aluminum pad on one of the coolers getting warm was a *bad* thing. It’s strange that the majority of reviews fail to mention this. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CVZVXKX/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A33CHG0SPYT21U&psc=1 https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CVZVXKX/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A33CHG0SPYT21

 

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bill-p

macrumors 68020

Jul 23, 2011
2,412
897

I’ve taken temperature readings with a cooling pad and found no difference.

Have you taken any other measurements? TL;DR version: As a result, more airflow is beneficial. A heat wave is currently affecting California. The MacBook is protected from thermal throttling by being sandwiched between two large fans. Under sustained load, the overall temperature does not appear to change, but the CPU frequency does. I’m getting 90C 2GHz with no additional cooling fan and 90C 3GHz with those two additional fans. I recently moved into a new apartment with no air conditioning. Because the ambient temperature is around 30-33 degrees Celsius, my 16″ will heat up just by turning on. I believe you’re expecting 75C 2GHz, but I don’t believe that’s how it works…

 

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Fean0r

macrumors newbie
Original poster

Apr 13, 2014
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I’m getting 90C 2GHz with no additional cooling fan and 90C 3GHz with those two additional fans. Under sustained load, the overall temperature does not appear to change, but the CPU frequency does. The MacBook is protected from thermal throttling by being sandwiched between two large fans. Have you taken any other measurements? Because the ambient temperature is around 30-33 degrees Celsius, my 16″ will heat up just by turning on. I believe you’re expecting 75C 2GHz, but I don’t believe that’s how it works… I recently moved into a new apartment with no air conditioning. As a result, more airflow is beneficial. TL;DR version: A heat wave is currently affecting California.

You make an excellent point that temperature readouts won’t tell us much about the effectiveness of cooling pads if the machine is thermally throttling. However, he has not stated how this compares to its effectiveness. I can’t take anything else they say seriously because that demonstrates such a fundamental lack of understanding of basic physics. I’m not sure why; I just read it somewhere, I believe in the comments section of that video – so it could be incorrect. EDIT: After reading the comments on the second video, the guy claims that he no longer uses cooling pads because they are too noisy, and instead relies on a raiser to lift the Macbook off the desk. Have you tried elevating the laptop on some books to see how it compares, or are you already doing so? Are you relying solely on standard room fans? Despite extensive searching, I had not found the second video, so thank you for posting it because it is fairly conclusive and very interesting. That had not occurred to me. But it was one of the reviewers who said that the cooler’s aluminum getting hot was a bad thing that blew their credibility for me. But, in regards to the first, I was under the impression that, all other things being equal, rendering times vary significantly?

 
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bill-p

macrumors 68020

Jul 23, 2011
2,412
897

But, at least in terms of MacBooks, I’d say that more air flow is always beneficial. In fact, it appears that power draw constraints are limiting it more than thermal constraints at that point. When I’m compiling large coding projects, I notice it more. Spotlight always decides that now is the time to index, at least in my experience, so… there’s that. However, I believe that additional cooling will be beneficial when the ambient temperature is extremely high. Things do get loud, and the machine does get hot, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting performance. P.S. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test the impact on dGPU performance. Yes, rendering time can vary due to a variety of factors… for example, it may decrease by a few seconds if Spotlight decides it’s time to begin indexing. This is the ideal weather, but I recently deleted my Bootcamp partition… The 16″ MacBook can easily maintain 3GHz performance under sustained heavy load at my old place, even with AC on.
 

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Fean0r

macrumors newbie
Original poster

Apr 13, 2014
25
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I want to make mine as small as possible for two or three Windows games at most, and I usually encrypt my main drive, so I won’t be able to change partition sizes easily unless things have changed. I’m considering going for around 140GB? O/T, but I’m curious about the size of your Bootcamp partition. (Please note that I made some changes, but you were right on the money!) Thank you.
 
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macrumors regular

Mar 25, 2010
174
253

If only eGPU had been available, but Microsoft screwed up eGPU for Bootcamp.

I’m keeping an eye on this model, so I’m curious if you mean they did something specifically for the 16″ model or for all of them? I have a Mac Mini 2012 server with one SSD running Win10 and an Akitio Thunder 3 with GTX Black Titan connected to a 4K monitor, and it actually runs better now than it did a year ago after all the MS updates.

 

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jaduffy007

macrumors regular

May 23, 2018
133
131

Another issue appears to be that some designs may obstruct airflow at the Macbook’s intake or exhaust ports. I’ve spent a long time researching cooling pads, and the results are mixed, with many reviews being completely unscientific and missing the point – or worse, not even comprehending basic physics. I’m waiting for my new MacBook Pro 16″ to arrive, and I’m hoping to keep temperatures low to prevent battery aging. I’d also like something that’s relatively small and light, as I travel a lot for work and am likely to want to play in hotels and other public places. I already have a lap cushion with a hard top. I’ve looked at everything on the market and there’s simply too much choice and too little objective, intelligent information, so I’d be grateful for your input. Do cooling pads have much of an effect? .

It’s not difficult to do, and there are plenty of video walkthroughs available online. I’m going to use thermal paste, which reduces temperatures by 15-20%. When I looked into cooling pads, the advantages appeared to be minor at best. Plus, the cooling pads have fans that make a lot of noise!

The MX thermal compound from ARCTIC has won numerous awards for its high thermal conductivity. ARCTIC thermal pads provide optimal heat transfer.
www.arctic.ac
 
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Fean0r

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Original poster

Apr 13, 2014
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It’s not difficult to do, and there are plenty of video walkthroughs available online. I’m going to use thermal paste, which reduces temperatures by 15-20%.

I’m comfortable doing that kind of work, but after having to have Apple equipment replaced under warranty in the past, there’s no way I’m going to void my warranty by doing so, especially since we get a 5-6 year statutory warranty against manufacturing faults in the UK, so if any solders go bad, it’s pretty easy to prove it’s due to poor manufacturing. I meant to respond to one of the previous posts, which suggested a mod that included opening the Macbook… Nonetheless, I appreciate the suggestion. Also, as previously stated, I’m not too concerned with the CPU temperature; instead, I’m more concerned with keeping the battery cool.

 

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macrumors 68040

Mar 29, 2009
3,240
628
USA

Your CPU/GPU does not make direct contact with the case. A plastic Windows laptop can get as hot as an aluminum Apple laptop, and both plastic and aluminum laptops are cooled by fans that exhaust the laptop’s host air. Remember this, kids: while aluminum is a good heat conductor (car radiators are made of it), Apple uses it because it’s easy to work with, environmentally friendly, stylish, and inexpensive!
 

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tim_mop

macrumors newbie

Jun 27, 2020
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I believe it was able to maintain a slightly higher clock for a slightly longer period of time, but it was not measurable in terms of performance. When I bought a cooling pad, I ran some tests to see if I could get a little more CPU performance while working (Logic Pro Music Production). I decided to return the cooling pad. What I discovered was that the temperature barely changed (which was to be expected – I was hoping the system would simply run at a higher clock rate with the extra cool ‘headroom’), but the CPU clock speed barely changed.
 

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Fean0r

macrumors newbie
Original poster

Apr 13, 2014
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Your CPU/GPU does not make direct contact with the case. Remember this, kids: while aluminum is a good heat conductor (car radiators are made of it), Apple uses it because it’s easy to work with, environmentally friendly, stylish, and inexpensive! A plastic Windows laptop can get as hot as an aluminum Apple laptop, and both plastic and aluminum laptops are cooled by fans that exhaust the laptop’s host air.

Regardless, you prompted me to do some research on Google, and I came across something intriguing. I’m also skeptical that a Windows laptop’s plastic casing would get as hot as an aluminum laptop under the same conditions. According to my understanding of physics, even if the CPU/GPU is not in direct contact with the case, the aluminum case will still aid in the heat dissipation of the system. thermal pad modThat doesn’t appear to void the warranty, so I’ll give it a shot. By simply using smaller thermal pads, the OP’s experience of the bottom of the case becoming *too* hot should be avoided.

 

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