Laptop Thermals

    From Laptop Knowledge Database
    This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.This revision was approved by LokiR.

    Every computer on the planet has to deal with keeping itself cool somehow. The various methods, approaches, and implementations of cooling solutions directly impact the performance potential of a computer. When it comes to desktop computers, the situation is often "the quietest cooler" and less-so "the best cooler."

    When it comes to laptops, the efficiency and performance of the cooler determines things outside of just performance, such as the temperature of the outer chassis. As a result, it's important that laptops keep their chips at manageable temperatures. Plus, the heatsink needs to be efficient enough to prevent the heat from bleeding into the laptop's outer shell.

    Determining Thermal Performance[edit]

    First and foremost, a stress test can be used to determine how well the thermal solution in a laptop is working. Often, a 15-minute long test is enough to check for heat-soak and any odd throttling behavior. However, some weird throttling behavior can be observed in some laptops with a 30-minute stress test, such as the AMD variants of the HP OMEN 15 (2020) and Lenovo Legion 5 15". Regardless, a 15 minute combined CPU and GPU load should be enough to exhibit any bad throttling behavior.

    Recommended tools for CPU stress testing would be Prime95 or AIDA64's stress test in CPU+FPU mode. For the GPU, Furmark or a near-constant, looped benchmark load (such as UNIGINE Heaven Benchmark at max settings) will work. The goal is to put the CPU and GPU into the highest power state possible to see how their thermal management solutions respond. HWInfo64 is recommended for monitoring sensor data, but AIDA64 also has a handy graph printout in the CPU stress test window.

    Data that should be monitored during a stress test include...

    • Average CPU and GPU temperatures
    • Average power consumption on the CPU and GPU
    • Any throttling/overheating indications past the first minute of the test

    For the CPU, you're looking for sustained temperatures around or below 90C while maintaining power consumption levels at or around the rated TDP of the CPU. For the GPU, the same applies for power consumption. However, for temperatures, staying below 80C is your best bet. Also, check both the CPU and GPU sensor data for any throttling switches that were switched to "YES" at any point during the test. Having this occur during the beginning of the test can be okay, but if it keeps happening during the test, this can lead to stutters and dropped frames.

    Examples of Thermal Performance[edit]

    A good stress test result from the Lenovo Legion 5i 15

    While a lot of laptops struggle to perform well thermally, there are few golden eggs out there with thermal performance that practically blows the rest of the competition out of the water. Surprisingly, these laptops aren't more expensive than their competition - often they're a fair bit cheaper. Regardless of pricing, these laptops tend to offer class-leading levels of performance due to their highly-optimized cooling solutions, and as a result, are often difficult to find in-stock. Below are some examples of good stress test results.

    Lenovo Legion 5i 15[edit]

    A good, recent example of this is the Lenovo Legion 5i 15. Hilariously, this laptop has noticeably better thermal performance than its more expensive counterpart, the Lenovo Legion 7i, despite being hundreds of dollars cheaper. The laptop keeps its CPU and GPU at cool and comfortable temperatures, which you can check in its stress test data image. This laptop is a great example of how to keep your laptop cool and comfortable for extended sessions of gaming.

    Intel Whitebook QC7[edit]

    A bad stress test result from the Eluktronics Mag 15. Notice how low the GPU power consumption is - this is due to thermal throttling.

    An example of bad thermal performance is the Eluktronics MAG 15, also known as the Intel Whitebook QC7. This is a Tongfang-manufactured laptop that had some engineering influence from Intel. The exact extent of their participation is still rather ambiguous, but it's very clear that they had their hands in the thermal management of this laptop.

    As seen in its stress test image, you can see high temperatures across both the CPU and GPU. Not only does this result in inconsistent CPU throttling, but this also impacts GPU performance. The QC7 cannot keep the GPU at low enough temperatures to prevent throttling due to both an inadequate cooling solution and an excessive level of power consumption allowed on the CPU. Even though the CPU performance may be impressive, everything else is sacrificed as a result.

    Improving Cooling[edit]

    There are some ways to try to improve the number of watts the laptop can dissipate.

    Raising the rear[edit]

    The easiest way to try to improve the thermal system is to raise the rear of the laptop to increase airflow into the bottom fan intakes. This can be done with various methods, whether to DIY using an object to lift the rear, or to purchase a stand for the laptop. Anything can be used as long as the bottom intake is unrestricted.

    Some stands and feet to raise the laptop[edit]

    Portable stand


    Laptop flip-up feet:

    • US:
    • UK:

    Cooling pad[edit]

    Do laptop cooling pads work? Tl;Dr, yes. Although it depends on the laptop and results will vary. In terms of cost effectiveness, raising the rear is the most effective. Laptop coolers do work to decrease temps though. Keep in mind some laptops like the acer Helios 300 do not have a power brick that is sufficiently large enough to provide the extra power that the cooling pad uses, so these laptops may experience battery drains while gaming with a cooling pad connected.

    • Jarrod'sTech tests laptop raisers and multiple coolers on multiple laptops:
    • Notebookcheck tests the MSI GP65 on the Havit HV-F2056 cooler: