Hey kid, check out this notebook cooler. It’s like, totally the hottest thing right now. Get it? That was a pun. You know what else you should get? This notebook cooler. Or should you? That’s what we’re gonna tackle today.
So notebook coolers have always been around, and for good reason. Heat problems are inevitable, especially when you cram so much powerful hardware into such a tiny little package. Back in the old days, you needed a targus chill mat just to keep your laptop from catching fire. But now, many manufacturers including ASUS and MSI are implementing a lot of features dedicated to cooling such as vapor chambers, turbo fan modes, and even dedicated discrete heatpipes for the CPU and video card. I mean, are these things effective or just a bunch of marketing non sense?
That’s where we come in. We’re gonna take a look at whether modern gaming laptops need any special care in order to function at full speed. For our testing, we’ll be using Anthony’s MSI GS40 gaming notebook. It’s got the latest Intel i7 6700HQ processor and a GTX 970M graphics card, and on high performance mode plugged into the wall. It’s the mobile workstation he’s gonna be using at CES, so he needs this thing to perform as fast as possible.
We’ll be using 3dMark as our benchmark, since it’s a good representation of a somewhat high workload that most people would see with a gaming notebook. We won’t be doing Intel Burn Test or Furmark, since those tend to push hardware TOO hard and unrealistic loads. After all, we offer useful consumer advice, not stupid stuff like watercooling your macbook.
The first test is simple. We used the GS40 on a flat, wooden table. This is probably the most common scenario, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be wood. Metal and glass are acceptable too. With an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees celsius, our CPU and video card at idle sit at 55 and 45 degrees celsius respectively. Not bad, especially since the internal cooling fans are off at this point. We got a score of 3396 on Firestrike Extreme, and hit maximum temperatures of 75 degrees and 65 degrees on the CPU and video card.
For the notebook cooler, we decided to try the Cooler Master Notepal X3. It’s got a 200mm fan, USB passthrough, adjustable fan speed, adjustable height, LED lighting that you can toggle on off, and even a little vent at the front for cooling off sweaty hands. We set the cooler on the highest position and maxed out the fan at 800RPM.
Results? At idle, we see a decrease of 2 and 4 degrees. And performance? We got a score of 3428 in Firestrike Extreme and it lowered our max temperature by 5 degrees on both chips. It’s a nice drop in temperature, even if it didn’t really affect performance all that much. But more on that later.
Anthony decided to do one more test, as kind of a worst case scenario. A bed. A nice, soft, fluffy surface that completely plugs up every vent on the bottom of the laptop. And you know what? It wasn’t actually that bad. At idle, the processor was just 2 degrees hotter but the video card jumped up 9 whole degrees. After running the benchmark, we hit a score of 3392, and a max temperature of 78 degrees and 71 degrees. Realistically speaking, that’s still relatively safe and usable for short periods of time. He didn’t try this test for longer amounts of time, but we’d imagine the temperature would steadily increase.
Now, what do all these numbers mean? Well, it’s safe to say that manufacturers have gotten pretty darn good at implementing effective cooling systems on notebooks. Not to mention Intel and NVIDIA, the two chip makers at play here have both done a really good job at reducing their power consumption and therefore heat output over the last few generations. But as good as it is, we still DO NOT recommend using your laptop on your bed. After all, heat is one of the biggest factors when it comes to hardware failing.
But is a notebook cooler necessary? While it does help your computer run cooler, even in this worse case scenario with a very small machine but very high end hardware packed in it, it’s not going to make a huge difference in performance.