Laptops are both 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, Razor 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 a bit 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.
Best laptop coolers:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best laptop coolers regularly as new devices launch.
Do laptop coolers actually work?
The answer is yes, but not in the way you might think. There are a variety of variables when it comes to cooling a laptop. The most basic is keeping the bottom of the laptop off of 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 laptop to help it cool further.
However, laptops don’t just cool down when you provide extra cooling. Most laptops without a cooler simply 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 laptop takes its extra thermal headroom to run without a thermal throttle and the cooling you get is just a cherry on top.
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 not only how well a cooler cools, but also the effects it has on performance during stress tests.
Thus, it is very 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, the majority of laptop coolers cooled around 5C (give or take), but our testing laptop also ran at 0.4-0.7Ghz faster during stress testing. Having a laptop reach the 80-90C range is not dangerous for the components. They are rated to survive much higher temperatures and will shut down long before they reach those temperatures. 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.
Thermaltake Massive 20 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 definitely 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 struggled a bit with gaming but still managed to pull down our temps by a few degrees. 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 different ways. Thermaltake includes the instructions in the box and it’s quite 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 the large laptop space. You can read our review here for more details and all of our testing data.
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 pass-through, and fan controls offer more value to gamers and power users. 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 what the blue LED version looks like.
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 definitely fit 15-inch laptops, but anything much smaller is going to 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. You can check out all our testing results in our full review. 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 U3
The Cooler Master NotePal U3 Plus is probably our favorite laptop cooler for the 15-17 inch laptop range. It offers some of the best cooling of any cooler we tested and it’s full of power user features. It comes with some desirable stuff like USB pass-through and fan speed controls. However, this one stands out from the pack by letting you position the fans where you want. Each of the cooler’s three fans clips onto the frame and you can very easily detach and move them at your leisure. It lets you put the fans exactly where they need to be to match your laptop vents for optimal cooling.
The result is some of the best cooling we’ve seen. It dropped the temperatures by nearly 10C on all of our tests and that’s pretty special. The three 85mm fans only push out 45 CFM of air, but you can direct it wherever you want and that helps a lot. It’s not a perfect. The metal frame is a bit basic and the rubber accents attract dust quickly. However, Cooler Master makes up for it by making a product that actually works really well. Check out our full review to see our testing results. This one easily fit my 17-inch laptop and should fit any size thanks to its movable fans. However, 19-inch laptops will be a tight fit depending on how bulky it is.
TopMate C302 laptop cooler
The TopMate C302 is among the best budget laptop cooler options on the list. It usually clocks in at under $20 on Amazon and that’s not bad at all considering what you get. The lightweight plastic frame comes with two 125mm fans and a total of 70CFM of air flow. Like the Thermaltake Massive 20 RGB, that air flow is spread out over a larger area, but as long as your laptop vents are covered, it should be okay. It performed admirably in our idle test, average in our CPU test, and a little below average in our gaming test, but these fans also didn’t line up well with my vents so your mileage may vary.
TopMate did cut a few corners. There are no fan controls or off switch. You have to manually unplug the thing to turn it off. You also can’t turn off the blue LED lights without turning off the cooler. We would’ve liked an off switch at least, but bargain pricing makes a lot of the omissions understandable. This is easily the best budget option on the list. You can also read our full review here to check out the cooling numbers.
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 instead tries for a more comfortable experience while using your laptop on your actual 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 definitely looks good in public.
It’s also made for a very specific 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 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. You can see more in our full review here.
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 pass-through 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.
In terms of cooling, Kootek did an above average job. We got our best results during the CPU stress test and idle tests, but the cooler struggled a bit 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 double USB pass-through ports is 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. Check out our full review to see all the data.
Opolar LC-06 Laptop Fan Cooler
I honestly did not expect this product to work at all and I wouldn’t believe it now if I hadn’t physically used it myself.This little gadget attaches to the back or side of your laptop and pulls hot air out of your laptop instead of trying to direct cool air in. It does this by loosely sealing onto your laptop with silicone opening. You can install the thing onto your laptop with M3 tape and a brace or you can fasten it to your desk with suction cups.
The cooling is about average and that’s better than I expected for this weird contraption. It has 13 fan speeds, a screen that shows the temperature of the air passing through it, and it connects to your computer via USB. Plus, it’s not even that expensive. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t fit every laptop. Your laptop has to be thick enough and flat enough for the silicone openings to fit. Thus, super thin laptops may not work and oddly designed laptops may not fit either. Opolar has a helpful graphic to show what kinds of laptops it doesn’t support. You can also buy two if you have separate vents for your CPU and GPU. You can check out our full review for more about this one.
See also: Best Apple MacBook accessories
Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim
The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim is the smaller, lighter, more fashionable sibling of the NotePal U3 Plus. It features a single 160mm fan capable of pushing 60CFM of air. That’s not bad for how thin and light this thing is. The plastic and metal frame looks quite good. Cooler Master says this thing fits up to 17-inch laptops, but it’s mostly good for 15-inch and smaller laptops. It also features USB pass-through along with two tilt settings.
The cooling is much like other smaller, thinner coolers. It works well at idle and during CPU intensive tasks but may struggle during gaming a little bit. In terms of performance, it’s very similar to the TopMate C302, but we think the X-Slim does a slightly better job during gaming. It’ll mostly depend on where your intake vents are on the bottom of your laptop. In any case, for $20, this is one of the best cheap laptop coolers, especially for smaller laptops.
If we missed any great laptop coolers, tell us about them in the comments and we’ll give them a try!