Laptops have come a long way since their humble origins and now there are entire lines of “gaming” laptops with high-end GPUs and CPUs that create a lot of heat. Right out of the gate, laptops have a distinct disadvantage over their desktop counterparts when it comes to cooling.
In general, cooling pads don’t do a whole lot to cool laptops off, especially during an intense gaming session. They do help some, however, and the amount of good that they do is dependent on other factors as well.
There are also some things that you need to understand about cooling pads that will ultimately make a lot of difference in whether or not you decide to go with one, especially in terms of choosing one.
We’ll cover all of this below to one degree or another so you know what you’re getting into before you press the “buy” button.
How Laptop Cooling Pads Work
The best laptop cooling pad can reduce the temperature of your laptop by 12°F and that’s just about it. There are Passive cooling and Active cooling laptop cooling pads.
The Active cooling pads reduce heat by moving cooling liquid or airflow to draw heat away from the laptop and passive cooling pads conduct it or draw it away from the laptop, becoming warm themselves as the heat is diffused into the pad.
Whether it’s an Active or a Passive cooling pad, the most important thing to remember is to never purchase one that depends on the laptop to generate power.
The problem with laptop cooling pads that draw power from the laptop itself is that transfer of power generates heat all on its own. If you are running a high-end laptop that generates quite a bit of heat, the last thing that you want to do is exacerbate the problem by creating an additional heat-producing resource.
Any cooling pad that you purchase needs to have its own, independent power source by either plugging into the wall or running off of its own battery. The material matters too.
The material of a cooling pad may end up trapping heat below the laptop and above the cooling pad as it works to transfer the heat. You’ll find that this is a problem with cheap cooling pads that are designed with soft, velvety edges that effectively seal the perimeter gaps.
Oftentimes, cooling pads like this can’t reduce the amount of heat fast enough. Gaming laptops emulate the raw power of desktop computers but also have to condense all of those components into a much smaller, tighter space and can get hot in a hurry.
Things You Should Do Before Purchasing a Laptop Cooling Pad
The narrow advantage of a laptop cooling pad can’t be utilized if you aren’t doing any preventative maintenance on your laptop. After all, the best cooling pads can’t minimize neglect.
Here are some things you should try before getting a cooling pad:
- Clean vents and rid the laptop of dust.
- Reapplication of thermal paste or liquid metal.
- Battery/charger management.
- Changing the settings on your Laptop.
One of the most important and often overlooked tools in your arsenal, in terms of keeping your laptop cool, is preventative maintenance through regular cleaning. Watch some tutorials before you start dismantling your laptop to hit it with compressed air, it may save some of your components.
You should routinely blow your vents out with compressed air and once in a blue moon, disassemble it just enough so that you can access the deeper areas of the laptop so that you can use compressed air there as well.
However, you need to be really careful using compressed air in your laptop when it is in a state of disassembly. You can easily damage a component beyond repair.
The most premium, high-level thermal pastes that go into laptops will last around five years before they begin to rapidly degrade. Of course, if you’re dealing with a gaming laptop, you will probably be upgrading before then, however, it’s something you should certainly keep an eye on.
The same goes for liquid metal, even though it lasts longer than traditional thermal pastes. If you suspect it’s losing some of its efficacy, you should take the laptop in and get the material reapplied.
When it comes to the battery, the last thing that you want to do is routinely overcharge it. For instance, putting it on the charger right before bedtime, when the laptop is already at 50%. You’ll seriously degrade the longevity of your laptop if you keep it plugged in all of the time.
Only charge it when you absolutely must, remove it when it reaches 100%, and invest only in compatible chargers that have overcharging cutoff technology.
Passive or Active Cooling Pads
Your choice of cooling pad boils down to where your vacuum and exhaust fans are located on your laptop. Passive cooling pads tend to work the best with laptops that have their exhaust on the bottom.
A passive cooling pad will allow your laptop’s bottom exhaust fan the room necessary to dissipate the heat, while the pad also cools the laptop.
Active cooling pads should never be used with laptops that have a bottom exhaust, as it will only create conflicting air currents that do nothing to cool your laptop.
There are also vacuum vents that plug into the side of your laptop and increase the airflow that pulls out through the exhaust vent. However, it draws its power directly from your laptop, which is a bit counterintuitive.
Regardless of which cooling pad you decide to go with, you should always power it from an external source if at all possible. Not only will it increase the efficiency, but it will also increase the longevity of your laptop’s battery between charges, which is always a good thing.
While laptop cooling pads aren’t the end-all-be-all of cooling solutions, they can be moderately effective. However, how well you take care of your laptop is far more important as neglect will heat up a laptop faster than any cooling pad can cool it down.