Does Anybody Really Need a Laptop Cooling Pad?


Tech accessories can range from extremely useful to completely ridiculous, but there are a few that fall somewhere in the middle, luring you in with their ostensible utility and enticing you with glowing LEDs and angular designs. Laptop cooling pads are one such item. If you spend enough time browsing computer and gaming websites or stores, you’ll come across some amusing items.

Some even have built-in USB hubs, adjustable fan speeds, and whisper-quiet operation. These elevated platforms come with built-in fans that promise to improve laptop performance by providing better cooling.

Is it worthwhile to spend the money on them? Are they, however, useful? We gathered a dozen of the best-selling laptop coolers on the market and put them through rigorous testing to see if any of them are truly worth the hype. Is it possible for them to boost the performance of your laptop?

How We Tested

Because laptop coolers are marketed to a wide range of users, we put them to the test on three different laptops: a small budget 2-in-1, a more mainstream general-purpose laptop, and a gaming laptop.

For our budget system, we used the

11-inch HP Pavilion x360

Its performance isn’t great, and it gets hot, so it’s tempting to think that a cooling pad could help it do a little more than it could otherwise. , a small convertible 2-in-1 with an Intel Pentium processor, integrated Intel HD Graphics, and no cooling fans built in.

We used the for a more mainstream, general-purpose laptop. HP Envy 17It’s exactly the type of system you’d use. , a 17-inch laptop with a dual-core Intel Core i7-7500U processor and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card that’s good for light photo editing but not gaming. want If only you could get a slightly higher frame rate out of it, you’d be able to game on.

Finally, we used a 15-inch MSI GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro gaming laptop, which is similar to the one shown. we reviewed in July.. The slim laptop is VR-ready thanks to an Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, but it gets hot, making it a good candidate for a cooling pad.

Because the laptop cooler’s raison d’être is cooling – cooler Our testing focused on three main aspects: cooling, performance, and noise. isWe focused first and foremost on temperature control, as stated in the name. We used an IR temperature gun to measure surface temperatures and CPUID’s HWMonitor, a free tool for monitoring system sensor data, to measure internal temperatures. We put it through a variety of tests to determine this, including the same heat test that we put all of our laptops through during reviews.

While some pads have adjustable fan speeds, we always set it to the highest. On all three of our test laptops, we measured external and internal temperatures while running at room temperature, and then repeated the tests while using an active cooling pad. We wanted to squeeze every last drop of cooling performance out of each laptop cooler we tested.

We also put the computer through its paces, examining both general processing and gaming. For a more ambitious gaming test, we took the average frame rate of Rise of the Tomb Raider, a recent AAA title. We used three tests for this. Geekbench 4 is a CPU-intensive benchmark test that yields a simple score, with higher being better. Dirt 3 includes a low-level graphics test that simulates a short segment of gameplay and generates an average frame rate report at the end.

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The processor is the laptop’s hot heart, producing the most heat while also being the component most affected by overheating. If you’ve ever had a computer crash due to overheating, you understand how critical it is to keep the temperature of your CPU under control. We kept track of the internal temperatures of the laptops throughout the process, paying special attention to the processor-package temperature.

Noise levels were also measured. While there are some advantages to using a blowing fan, noise can be a significant disadvantage. We measured the decibel level of the cooling fan while it ran during our testing with a MasTech MS6700 Digital Sound Level Meter. Because we tested each cooling pad at the highest fan speeds possible, we were able to determine the loudest noise level it could make in normal operation.

Evaluating Laptop Coolers

Each of the tests we ran has a different outcome depending on the hardware it’s running on, and while cooling has an effect, we weren’t sure how well it would show up in test results. All of the tests we conducted yielded a significant amount of data, but determining whether or not those test results tell us anything — and what — was a challenge. Each of our three laptops has its own set of characteristics that influence the effectiveness of external cooling.

You might think that these figures would reveal what benefits cooling pads provide and which product offers the best combination of benefits, but that isn’t the case. Finally, we boiled it down to five numbers: external temperature changes, internal temperature changes, processor performance changes, and two sets of gaming performance numbers. quite the case.

To begin with, laptop cooling pads provide varying levels of effective cooling. There are two things that are obvious. Internal and external temperatures were effectively reduced, with internal heat levels dropping by as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit when averaged across our three laptops. The average temperature drop was 13 degrees, but some laptop coolers only dropped 1 or 2 degrees.

Second, you’ll probably notice a minor performance boost as a result of the cooling. The issue is that the gains in performance are minimal. In all of our benchmark tests, all of the pads we looked at performed better on average. extremely This is the kind of improvement you won’t notice in your everyday life. For example, processing performance improved by less than 2%. a small size

Gaming performance improved as well, but let’s be clear: there is no magical cooling pad that will enable your laptop to play games it currently cannot. The HP Envy 17 and the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro both saw improvements (up to 20 frames per second), but both were already producing playable frame rates, so the difference in experience will be minimal. We saw improvements in Dirt 3, which can be played with integrated graphics, most of the time, but frame rates on the low-cost HP Pavilion x360 dropped slightly (less than 1 frame per second) on every cooling pad we tested.

On the other hand, GPU-intensive performance in games like Rise of the Tomb Raider improved on most of the cooling pads, but not to the level of a full additional frame per second, let alone the kind of significant changes one might expect with gaming performance. Cooling a gaming laptop will help keep temperatures under control and will improve performance. technically Sorry for the inconvenience, gamers. improve performance, but the truth is that putting a couple of fans under your laptop will not improve your gaming experience.

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A typical desktop computer produces around 40 decibels of noise, whereas a refrigerator produces 50 decibels of noise. If noise is an issue, models with adjustable fan speeds may be able to operate quietly at lower speeds. In both cases, you’ll be able to hear it, but it’s unlikely to be loud enough to be noticed in most situations. We also noticed that the noise levels were fairly consistent across all 12 cooling pads, ranging from 48 to 55 decibels. That was loud enough to be heard when near the operating cooling pads in our lab, which has an ambient noise level of 40 to 43 decibels, but not so loud that it was distracting.

So Who Does Need a Cooling Pad?

There are times when a cooling pad is exactly what you need, and in those cases, they are a cost-effective solution to a few vexing issues. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t invest in a laptop cooler.

If you’re using an older laptop that’s prone to overheating – that is, it gets so hot that it shuts down or reboots, or it’s too hot to touch – a cooling pad might be able to help you get more use out of it. However, it is a band-aid solution to a long-term problem. If your laptop gets so hot that you can make a grilled cheese sandwich on it, it needs to be repaired or cleaned, preferably both. You might be able to use compressed air to clean it out, or you might have to open up the chassis to get rid of the dust bunnies. Dust is most likely to blame, as it can clog fan vents and suffocate internal cooling hardware.

However, our testing data shows that it will only cool your laptop; there’s no way for an external fan blowing air to magically make your laptop render more frames, but it will keep things a little cooler. Just because your Pentium-powered laptop can run the latest version of the Sims doesn’t mean it’s well-suited to it. In those cases, a cooling pad may be useful in keeping the laptop from overheating. When you’ve pushed an underpowered system to its limits, you might need a cooler as well.

A cooling pad can also help keep your laptop cool if you use it on your lap, in bed, or on pillows or blankets. youa smidgeon more at ease The majority of laptop coolers are meant to be used on a desk or table, but some, such as the Targus Lap Chill Mat AWE55US, This is especially important because a hot laptop can cause serious health problems, such as the evocatively named “ In these cases, the majority of the benefit comes from a cooling pad that provides space for regular ventilation, preventing pillows or blankets from covering the laptop’s fan vents. are designed to be used on a lap. Toasted Skin Syndrome” and a negative effect on male fertility.

If your laptop blows hot air at you like a steady stream of steam from a subway grate, you might want to direct it somewhere else. In this case, a laptop cooler can be extremely beneficial. Another factor to consider is your desk’s comfort. Raising your laptop screen off the desk and closer to eye level has some ergonomic benefits, and cooling pads with adjustable height and angle can actually improve posture and reduce neck pain by raising your laptop screen off the desk and closer to eye level.

If You’re Buying a Cooling Pad,

If you still want to buy a cooling pad after reading this article and learning what you can and cannot expect from one, here is some friendly advice to help you get the most for your money.

To begin with, there is no reason to pay a high price. We found no correlation between overall cooling or performance improvements and price or brand name during our testing. A $20 cooler from an unknown brand will likely chill your laptop just as well as or better than a $70 cooler from a well-known gaming brand.

There is no magic formula that will make this basic design significantly more effective, simply because it isn’t very effective even under ideal conditions. Unless you’re paying for extra features, there’s no reason to pay more than $30 for a laptop cooler, according to our research and testing. A cooling pad’s technology is straightforward: it’s a laptop stand with a few fans mounted on it.

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Look for a cooler that is small and light enough to fit in your laptop bag if you want something you can take with you on the go. If you need something to use away from your desk, consider the Targus Lap Chill Mat AWE55US, which features neoprene padding for comfort and no riser feet to stab your legs. You’ll have a better overall experience if the design is tailored to your needs. Second, consider how you’ll put it to use.

It doesn’t make the cooling any better or worse, but it does provide you with more usable ports. Third, even when cooling isn’t a factor, features matter. Consider a cooling pad with a built-in USB hub if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

Still thinking about getting a laptop cooling pad? We, on the other hand, reviewed and ranked the twelve best selling models available through major retailers.

Credit: Laptop Mag/Shutterstock