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Do Laptop Cooling Pads Actually Work?

Written by: April M.
Do Laptop Cooler Cooling Pads Actually Work

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. Today we’re going to dig a bit deeper into how laptop cooling pads work. We’ll then cover the actual benefits they bring.

How Are Laptop Cooling Pads Built and How Do They Work?

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.

How Effective Are Laptop Cooling Pads?

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 [1]. 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.

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 [2]. 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 [3]. 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 [4].

What Are the Best Gaming Laptop Cooling Pads?

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. For example, Thermaltake sells cooling pads that accommodate all different sizes of gaming laptops (even up to 19 inches).

Expect to fork out between $20 to $70 for a gaming laptop cooling pad. Pricier laptop cooling pads are normally made from aluminium 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.

We’ve gathered the best cooling pads for gaming laptops here. We tested 10 cooling pads on the market – including many from the brands above –  and narrowed it down to three. In the guide, we also discuss the main factors to consider when picking out a laptop cooling pad.

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.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXvKiy65pwg&t=445s

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_thermal_conductivities

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30373975/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853603/