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The best laptop coolers for work and play
Laptops are thinner and more powerful than they’ve ever been. However, this comes with some problems — especially with heat dissipation. It’s a common ailment for premium laptops like Macbooks, Razer Blades, Dell XPS laptops, and many gaming laptops with powerful graphics cards. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch-22 with cooling. You need more space under the hood to move larger amounts of air. Thin, light laptops reduce that space and, therefore, the airflow. Luckily, laptop coolers can help ease the thermal strain and give you better performance. Here are the best laptop coolers for both work and play.
Do laptop coolers actually work?
The answer is yes, but not in the way you might think. There are multiple variables when it comes to cooling a laptop. The most basic is keeping the laptop’s bottom off things like carpets or blankets since most draw in air from the bottom and exhaust it out of the sides and back. All laptop coolers provide this function, so they all at least work a little bit in helping laptops get fresh air. Obviously, the inclusion of fans helps push air into the computer to help it cool further.
However, laptops don’t just cool down when you provide extra cooling. Most laptops without a cooler run out of thermal headroom and throttle themselves down to prevent overheating. For example, a laptop with a 4.0Ghz boost clock speed may throttle down to 3Ghz to keep itself around the 80-85C mark during a stress test. A laptop cooler may only cool the laptop down to the 75-80C mark, but the processor will most likely improve to 3.5Ghz. The computer takes its extra thermal headroom to run without a thermal throttle, and the cooling you get is just a cherry on top.
Also read: The best laptops you can buy
You can replicate those observations yourself by using Intel XTU (download link) or Ryzen Master (download link) and running stress tests with and without a laptop cooler. Both apps show you things like CPU clock speed, voltage, temperature, and other metrics while testing. You can see how well a cooler cools and the effects it has on performance during stress tests.
Thus, it is rare to see temperature differences north of 8-10C in most cases. However, you will also see a boost in performance, so it’s not all for nothing. In our testing, most laptop coolers cooled around 5C (give or take), but our testing laptop also ran at 0.4-0.7Ghz faster during stress testing. That said, every laptop cooler on this list prevented a thermal throttle during an Intel XTU stress test on my 17-inch ASUS ROG gaming laptop, something it could not do on its own.
Having a laptop reach the 80-90C range is not dangerous for the components. They are rated to survive much higher temperatures and shut down long before they reach those temperatures. That said, a cooler laptop will always last longer in the long run. Not to mention it will perform better in the short term.
The best laptop coolers
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this list of the best laptop coolers as new devices launch.
Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB laptop cooler
Your best bet for massive laptops is the accurately named Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB. This thing held my 17.3-inch laptop with a bunch of room to spare, and it’ll hold most 19-inch laptops (maybe even larger in some cases). The laptop cooler has a 200mm fan capable of pumping out 64 CFM of air. It sounds like a lot, but it’s spread over a larger surface area than most other coolers. It did quite well in our CPU stress testing and idle test but still managed to pull down our temps by a few degrees in games. This is also one of the few laptop coolers where you can turn the LED lights off without turning off the fans too.
The RGB part lines the outside of the frame and is configurable in several ways. Thermaltake includes the instructions in the box, and it’s pretty easy to do. The only potential caveat is the connection. Your laptop needs to exert more than 1.2A from the USB port where you plug this in, or else you’ll need to connect the second USB plug that comes with the Massive 20 RGB. Otherwise, it’s one of the few good options for ample laptop space.
HAVIT HV-F2068 5-Fan Cooling Pad
The HAVIT HV-F2068 5-fan Cooling Pad is another excellent choice for larger gaming laptops. The aggressive design, LED lights, USB passthrough, and fan controls offer gamers and power users more value. The cooler sports four 85mm fans in the corners and a single 110mm fan in the middle. They push a maximum of 65CFM of air. This one also comes in red or blue LED lights, along with a matching braided USB cable and matching fans. The image above shows you how the blue LED version looks.
The HV-F2068 actually cools pretty well. It did very well in our idle and CPU tests, and above average in our gaming test. The larger frame easily held my 17.3-inch laptop, but that’s about as large as this one goes. It’ll fit 15-inch laptops, but anything much smaller will waste the airflow potential of all five fans. You can’t turn off the LED lights, and it’s definitely not designed for professional use. It’s otherwise a solid laptop cooler. Another decent option for the 15-17 inch laptop range with some slightly less aggressive styling is the Pccooler PC-R6 laptop cooler.
Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim
One main issue with laptop coolers is that they tend to be large and bulky. The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim changes things up with a slimmer design that’s only 1.08 inches thick. That said, the single fan is also on the smaller side at 160mm.
Our thoughts: Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim review
Despite the smaller form factor, the laptop cooler has some nifty features. It still supports laptops as large as 17 inches, and you get USB passthrough. Additionally, you can keep everything organized with integrated cable management.
The TopMate C12 may be affordable, but it offers a lot for the price you pay. For starters, it features six fans for a broader cooling coverage. There’s also a control panel with a screen for managing both cooling and lighting.
You’ll even get a smartphone dock for keeping your handset in place while working on your computer. Additionally, this laptop cooler doubles as a stand, as it can be tilted to bring your screen closer to eye level. Not bad for a laptop cooler that costs under $35!
Targus Chill Mat
The Targus Chill Mat is made for a different type of user. Instead of focusing on raw performance and flashy lighting, it tries for a more comfortable experience while using your laptop on your lap. The cooler sits on a permanent tilt. In addition, the frame is made entirely of lightweight plastic with some fabric foam accents. This one looks good in public.
Here: Targus Chill Mat review
It’s also made for a particular kind of laptop, mostly Ultrabooks, Macbooks, and similar products where a little cooling goes a longer way. The cooler contains dual 75mm fans along the top middle of the cooler. If your laptop vents aren’t there, the cooling quickly drops from average to below average. It’s an excellent cooler for fans of minimalism who also want a more professional-looking appearance. People looking to cool their GTX 2070 and Intel i7 gaming laptops may want to look into something a little more powerful, but this one should work great for everyone else.
The Kootek LCP04 is one of the best options for fans of customization. This thing has five tilt settings (six if you include flat), two USB passthrough ports, and four fan control options. The fans include a single 140mm fan and four 70mm fans. You can turn off just the middle fan, just the four outside fans, leave them all on, or turn them all off. The lights turn off with the fans so you can see which ones are active and which ones are off. The frame is also lightweight and easily portable. This laptop cooler is pretty flexible!
Next: Kootek LCP04 review
In terms of cooling, Kootek did an above-average job. We got our best results during the CPU stress and idle tests, but the cooler struggled with heavy gaming. Honestly, the slightly below-average gaming performance is about the only real con we have with this one. It’s easily the most customizable cooler on the list, and its dual USB passthrough ports are unique in this space. As long as you’re not expecting miracles with super heavy PC games, you shouldn’t have any problems with this one.
Cooler Master NotePal X3
The Cooler Master NotePal X3 is a pretty big laptop cooling pad that can hold 17-inch laptops. Its call to fame is the 200mm fan, similar to the Thermaltake one. For some added flash, there’s a blue LED on the fan. That’ll be nifty in areas where you can’t see the USB port or built-in fan speed controller.
Can we also mention it happens to look really cool? We don’t tend to be fans of the exaggerated gaming aesthetic, but this one is pretty interesting and doesn’t go over the top.
KLIM Cool+ Vacuum-style cooler
For a more direct approach to laptop cooling, the KLIM Cool+ vacuum-style cooler sucks air straight out of your laptop’s vents to assist with heat dissipation. Unfortunately, however, due to the design of this cooler, it will only work with certain types of notebooks. This cooler will not work with newer ultrabooks and laptops with vents that get blocked when the screen is open. Instead, it works best with bulkier models with vents on the side for this cooler to attach to.
More: The best gaming laptops
If you have a laptop that fits the bill, coolers of this style generally yield great results as long as your vent is clear of dust. It features a few different fan speeds as well as some decorative lighting, and the fan is USB powered.
Do laptop coolers work?
Yes, but don’t expect them to perform miracles. They usually do an excellent job of keeping your laptop from throttling. And even if it throttles, the computer won’t have to work as hard to stay cooler.
How loud are these fans?
It depends on the device, how large the fans are, and how fast they spin. Fans from laptop cooler usually shouldn’t be louder than a slight hum. That said, larger fans are generally quieter, as they don’t have to spin as fast to push air more efficiently.
Can I turn off the RGB lighting?
You usually have lighting and fan controls somewhere in the laptop cooler. You can simply keep the lighting USB cable unplugged if you don’t.
Do laptop coolers improve comfort?
While not meant for this, some laptop coolers can make for a better posture and comfort. Many will raise the screen closer to eye level, or provide a slight angle for improved typing.
How do laptop coolers get energy?
Laptop coolers will usually need to be plugged into your laptop’s USB port. That’s their primary source of electricity.
Laptop coolers with fans work better, but they may be overkill for many users. These are usually good for gamers and video editors, but more common users might not need so much. Sometimes, all you need is to keep your laptop raised to improve airflow. Take a look at our list of the best laptop stands, as well as our favorite MacBook stands.