This week we’re going to cover the best cooling pads for gaming laptops, where we took our overblown MSI GE76 Raider and tested it on ten different cooling pads, after which only three of them ended up on today’s list.
Do Laptop Cooling Pads Actually Work?
Yes, laptop cooling pads generally work. They increase air circulation around your device, which helps to keep the CPU and GPU running cool. While you won’t see drastic temperature changes, you’re likely to see a drop in temperature of a few degrees – enough to keep your laptop safe and performing at its best.
Various tests have shown that laptop cooling pads can reduce temperatures by several degrees. Tech expert and Youtuber Jarrod’sTech tested several gaming laptops with 4 different cooling pads in an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees . The cooling pads reduced GPU temperatures by 5-6 degrees on average, and CPU temperatures by around 4-5 degrees. In some cases, temperatures even improved up to 11 degrees.
I tested my own gaming laptop — a Legion Lenovo 5 fitted with a GeForce RTX 2060 and AMD Ryzen 7 – with a budget cooling pad and found similar results. Under heavy load, the cooling pad lowered temperatures by around 3 degrees.
Of course, there are some variables that can affect a laptop cooling pad’s efficiency, including how the cooling pad is built, and the type (and condition) of your laptop.
For example, while the laptop’s chassis material doesn’t typically affect the level of efficiency, the location of the vents can. Most laptop vents are located at the bottom. However, certain gaming laptops, such as the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501, have vents located at the top or sides. The cooling pad can’t blow air directly into these vents, meaning it won’t be able to sufficiently cool the internal components. For such gaming laptops, a vacuum cooler or a stand that simply raises the laptop is better suited.
Which Brands of Cooling Pads Are Worth Mentioning?
While the market is flooded with laptop cooling pads, there are a few brands that are renowned for delivering superior quality: Thermaltake, Cooler Master, Kootek, Tecknet, and KLIM. These brands sell various laptop cooling pad models – each designed to accommodate particular laptops or needs.
Expect to fork out between $20 to $70 for a gaming laptop cooling pad. Pricier laptop cooling pads are normally made from aluminum and have all the “frills,” such as RGB lights, USB ports, and adjustable settings. Cheaper laptop cooling pads will still get the job done, but they’ll lack additional features and won’t be as durable. Budget cooling pads also tend to be noisier.
- Thermaltake has been giving gamers a competitive edge for over 20 years. They sell a wide range of esports equipment, from PC cases and gaming chairs, to headsets and custom liquid cooling. Thermaltake cooling pads costs between $30 and $60. Most models feature adjustable height settings and ultra-quiet fans. What particularly sets Thermaltake apart from the rest though is that it stocks cooling pads of all different sizes – such as 17 inch and even 19 inch – meaning you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your laptop.
- Cooler Master sells an equally wide array of gaming products, with cooling tech being their specialty. They sell various types of cooling pads for both notebooks and laptops, and each is covered by a generous warranty. Cooler Master also offers more budget-friendly options than Thermaltake.
- KLIM is another easily recognizable brand in the esports industry. They’re renowned for creating cooling pads that honor the “gamer aesthetic” – we’re talking edgy designs, vibrant RGB lighting, and customizable lighting effects. While a KLIM laptop cooling pad didn’t make it into our top picks below, they’re still worth checking out, especially if you’re after something flashy.
- Kootek is a bit of an underdog in the laptop cooling pad industry – it isn’t a gamer-orientated brand like Cooler Master and Thermaltake. However, the brand has still managed to “wow” us (and thousands of others) with its latest high-powered laptop cooling pad. We discuss exactly how it won us over – and knocked KLIM out of the ranking – below.
What Specs Did We Consider When Choosing the Best Laptop Coolers?
Not all laptop cooling pads are equal – here are the factors you need to consider when buying one.
- RPM Performance: The RPM (revolutions per minute) performance is how fast the fans spin. The higher the RPM, the stronger the fans will be. For light esports such as Hearthstone, a cooling pad with an RPM around 600 RPM will suffice, but if you’re into more hardcore, graphic-intense esports like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive? Opt for 1,500 RPM or higher.
- Fan Size: As a rough rule of thumb, the bigger the fans, the better; bigger fans will move more air than smaller fans with the same RPM.
- Fan Placement: The placement of the fans is equally important to consider. The fans should be in a position where they can easily blast cool air directly into your laptop’s vents.
- Noise: After a cooling pad that won’t drain out the noise of you slashing your enemies? Then expect to fork out – budget laptop cooling pads tend to be noisy.
- Weight: For those who turn their laptops into metal lapdogs, weight is an important consideration; a heavy cooling pad will be super uncomfortable on your lap.
- Portability: Portability is a must if you travel a lot (spoiler alert: us gamers aren’t all “shut-ins!”). Stick to a cooling pad that’s light, non-bulky and has a USB cord.
- Size: Don’t forget to order a size-appropriate cooling fan – it won’t efficiently heat your laptop otherwise.
The Best Cooling Pad for Your Gaming Laptop: Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB
The Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB can accommodate gaming laptops up to 19 inches, making it one of the biggest cooling pads on the market. It sports a powerful but ultra-silent 200 mm fan that can push out speeds between 600 and 800 RPM. The pad itself can be elevated at three different heights (up to a 13 degree angle), allowing for better air flow and a more ergonomic experience. Thanks to the built-in rubber stoppers, the laptop also stays safe and secure, no matter the cooling pad’s angle. The rubber stoppers are particularly neat – a fair few cooling pads have clips to keep your device in place, but these clips are usually made of plastic, which can easily break or scratch your laptop’s chassis. Like its name suggests, the Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB lets you “glow up” your gameplay. It has a 256 color RGB LED strip that spans all around the pad, and there are 5 different lighting modes to choose between – pulse, blink, wave, RGB Spectrum, and full lighted.
Unlike most laptop cooling pads, it also gives you the option to switch off the lighting completely without disabling the fans. Although powerful and jampacked with features, the Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB does lack USB pass through. However, this shouldn’t be much of a concern unless you’re in dire need of some extra ports.
The Second Best Gaming Laptop Cooler: Kootek Cooler Pad Chill Mat 5
The Kootek Cooler Pad Chill Mat 5 lives up to its “chill” name: with 5 built-in fans spread across the entire cooling pad, there’s no spot on your laptop that won’t be hit with cool air flow. The fans boast an impressive 2,000 RPM – more than enough to keep temperatures low even when playing the most intense, esports titles – and the meshed metal surface keeps the pad cold to the touch. The Kootek Chill Mat 5 can accommodate laptops up to 17 inches and also provides gamers with a handy dual USB hub. The middle fan is 120 mm and the outer fans are 70 mm each. While the Chill Mat 5 lacks the flashy RGB lighting the Thermaltake cooling pad has, each fan does have LED backlighting. Plus, the Chill Mat 5 offers double the amount of height settings, allowing you to find the perfect viewing angle, no matter what game you’re playing or what position you’re in. Even at full tilt (around 25 degrees), your laptop still stays (and feels) safe and secure. The Chill Mat 5 also has a built-in cable storage compartment, which will let you keep your gaming desk clutter-free.
The Chill Mat 5 isn’t as silent as the Thermaltake cooling pad, and the middle fan does have some noticeable vibration when on full blast. However, the Chill Mat 5 is still impressively quiet, and you can actually switch off some of the fans if you don’t need the maximum cooling, which will definitely reduce noise levels.
Cheap Cooling Pad Worth the Money: Cooler Master Notepal XL
Despite its budget-friendly price tag, the Cooler Master Notepal XL doesn’t sacrifice on power: it’s equipped with a giant 230 mm that can pump out 89.9 CFM and 1,000 RPM. It even features a front vent to allow for more air flow, and the breeze the vent lets out also helps keep your hands cool and dry (meaning no more sweaty palms). The fan is whisper quiet. The Cooler Master Notepal XL is suitable for laptops up to 17 inches, and weighing only 1.87 lbs, it’s one of the most lightweight cooling pads out there. It has a unique but stylish X shape LED in the center, and its ergonomic typing angle provides optimal comfort. To top it all off, the Notepal XL has a built-in USB hub with three – yep, three – USB slots, making it ideal for those with limited laptop ports. Sadly, the Notepal XL’s mesh surface is not exactly slip-resistant, and the pad also doesn’t have stoppers. Nevertheless, for the performance and features you’re getting at such a budget-friendly price? It’s a worthy tradeoff – as long as your laptop’s chassis isn’t slippery!
How Are Laptop Cooling Pads Built?
A laptop cooling pad is essentially a mesh laptop stand with integrated fans. The raised, meshed design allows for better airflow, and the fans push hot air away from your device. Cooling pads are made from plastic or aluminum (or a combination of both), and usually have 1 to 6 built-in fans. There’s a motor that keeps the fans running, and the fans themselves are normally made out of plastic. Most cooling pads are USB-powered.
Laptop cooling pads have improved drastically over the years. A lot of the newer, high-end cooling pads on the market now come with built-in USB hubs. You can also find models with customizable fan speeds, SD card slots, temperature sensors, and LED lights. There are even ergonomic cooling pads that can be adjusted in height and angle, allowing you to game for long periods without sacrificing comfort.
Does the Laptop Cooling Pad Material Matter?
Most of the high-end laptop cooling pads are made out of aluminum: it’s more efficient at dissipating heat than plastic because it has a higher thermal conductivity . Now, the difference a metal cooling pad will actually have on your laptop’s temperature compared to a plastic one is close to negligible, but it will keep the pad cool to the touch. Aluminum is also more durable than plastic.
What Benefits Could I See After Using a Laptop Cooling Pad?
Besides lower CPU and GPU temperatures, a laptop cooling pad can bring several other benefits, including:
- Thermal throttling: Gaming for long hours generates a whole lot of heat. Once the internal cooling system isn’t able to efficiently combat this heat, the GPU begins to sacrifice performance to help keep temperatures within a safe range (thermal throttling). Of course, when the GPU drops in performance, your gaming experience takes a hit – you can say goodbye to your high FPS and chances of coming out on top. A cooling pad can help to delay thermal throttling, allowing you to game at a high performance for longer.
- Additional ports: Modern day laptops might be slim and light, but their portable design comes at a price: they sacrifice USB ports. Fortunately, many cooling pads come with a built-in USB hub, allowing you to connect all the essentials (like your gaming mouse and headset) while keeping your laptop cool.
- RGB lights: Let’s be real: no gaming setup is complete without an assortment of flashy RGB lights. Many laptop cooling pads come with customizable LED lights, allowing you to express your individuality and flex to “normies” just how dedicated of a gamer you are.
- Improves posture and comfort: Several studies have shown that heavy laptop use can lead to poor posture . This is because the low position of a laptop encourages neck flexion and shoulder elevation. A cooling pad can help alleviate posture strain, as it raises the laptop’s screen closer to your eye level.
- Prevents injury: A laptop pad doesn’t just keep your laptop safe, it also keeps you safe: an overheating laptop can put you at risk of a thermal burn, especially if you use the device on your lap .
What Else Can I Do to Keep My Gaming Laptop Cool?
As we mentioned earlier, laptop cooling pads don’t address the root cause of the problem. Here, we’ll cover the most common causes of an overheating laptop (and their fixes).
- Clear out dust: The main culprit of an overheating laptop is dust. Over time, dust can clog up the internal fans and prevent them from working properly. You can clear out the dust with some good ol’ compressed air.
- Shut down background processes: Always close unnecessary apps and programs before diving into a gaming sesh – the more power-hogging programs you have open, the harder your laptop has to work. You can find and terminate background processes in the Windows Task Manager.
- Check for miners and viruses: Viruses and miners can slow down your system and cause your laptop to overheat. If you haven’t already, install anti-virus software and regularly run virus scans to ensure your laptop (and everything within it) remains safe. To detect if someone is using your device to mine, check the Windows Task Manager and see if your CPU usage is much higher than normal.
- Update drivers: Out-of-date drivers can cause a whole host of problems, including overheating. Updating your drivers can even improve your laptop’s overall performance too (cya lag and stuttering).
- Replace the thermal paste: Thermal paste improves the heat transfer between the heatsink and your CPU (put simply: it keeps your CPU cool). Over the years, the paste can dry out and lose its effectiveness, bringing about a hot-to-the-touch laptop. Reapplying the thermal paste can potentially combat overheating, especially if your laptop is over 5 years old.
- Undervolting: Undervolting is the process of lowering the voltage used in a component, like a GPU or CPU. Undervolting can prolong your hardware’s life, and it also helps to prevent your laptop from overheating (generates less heat). You can find out how to undervolt your laptop’s system here.
- Upgrade your laptop: If none of the above work, it’s likely that your laptop’s cooling system has just been poorly constructed. The only “permanent fix” here is to splash out for a new laptop with adequate cooling.
Turning Down the Heat
An overheating laptop transforms your gaming experience into a stuttering and lagging mess. A laptop cooling pad will help you reclaim your FPS (and wins), especially if you also take measures to address the underlying cause.