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Gaming Laptop Cooling Systems: A Comprehensive Guide

Gaming laptops pack some seriously powerful hardware into a portable form factor. The latest models featuring Intel Core i9 processors and Nvidia RTX graphics can offer performance rivaling many desktop gaming PCs. However, all that horsepower comes at a cost – heat. Excessive heat buildup can lead to thermal throttling which hampers performance. This is why having an effective cooling system is critical for any high-end gaming laptop.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about picking the right cooling system for your needs – from the basics of how laptop cooling works to deep dives on advanced vapor chamber and liquid cooling solutions.

How Gaming Laptop Cooling Systems Work

Gaming laptops require more robust cooling than typical laptops because of the beefier components stuffed inside – namely the CPU, GPU, RAM and voltage regulators. These parts can output a lot of heat when working hard, especially for gaming. Without effective cooling, they may start thermal throttling (automatically lowering clocks) once temperatures get too high.

Cooling systems use a combination of physical heatpipes, heat sinks, fans and advanced materials like vapor chambers or liquid coolants to pull heat away from components and dissipate it. Some key principles:

Heatpipes – Copper pipes filled with liquid that vaporizes and condenses to transport heat via phase transition.

Heat Sinks – Collections of fins that increase surface area for more effective air cooling.

Fans – Use forced convection by physically moving air across surfaces to remove heat. More fans operating at higher RPMs improve airflow.

Vapor Chambers – Flat heatpipes that spread liquid across a surface through capillary action. More efficient than heatpipes.

Liquid Cooling – Liquid coolants directly contact components and transport heat to external radiators. Most effective for heat removal.

Now let’s examine some real-world implementations across popular gaming laptops…

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Cooling System

ASUS uses multiple innovative solutions across their Zephyrus lineup optimized for thin and light form factors. For example, the potent 2022 ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 implements a tilted AAS Plus 2.0 cooling system with the following highlights:

  • CPU & GPU liquid metal thermal paste from Thermal Grizzly – 10X more heat conductive than standard paste
  • Six heat pipes – 4x 6mm & 2x 8mm
  • Upgraded Arc Flow fans move 18% more air with 84 blade structure
  • 33% more intake via bottom & side vents; 30% more exhaust out the back
  • Takes advantage of secondary screen to improve airflow

This robust thermal solution allows the Duo 16 to sustain excellent performance without excessive noise or throttling. In Toms Hardware testing, CPU speeds only dropped by a max of 2% after 30 minutes stress testing while peak temps reached reasonable 96C.

Gamers Nexus measured a peak 96C CPU and 89C GPU during their thermal test with some throttling kicking in around the 13 minute mark. Still, performance remained consistent throughout thanks to the capable cooling.

The end result is great sustained frames when actually gaming. The Duo 16 averaged 105 fps on Metro Exodus with Extreme settings in Toms testing. Performance should hold up well during long gaming sessions thanks to ASUS’s intelligent cooling design.

Alienware Cryo-Tech Cooling Technology

Alienware leverages a proprietary Cryo-Tech cooling solution across their latest laptops like the m15 and x models. Their 2023 update brings all new Gallium-Silicone liquid metal from Thermal Grizzly as well as other enhancements.

Some standouts of Cryo-Tech include:

  • CPU, GPU & voltage regulator liquid metal application for max heat transfer
  • Quad fan design with 90+ fan blades per laptop
  • Dense copper fins on vapor chambers and heat pipes
  • Specialized foam, thermal pads & thermal interface material
  • Smart fan control via Alienware Command Center

In Mike‘s Unboxing review of the m15 R7 with i7-12700H and 3070 Ti, Cryo-Tech kept temps reasonable though there was significant thermal throttling after minutes of 100% load. Actual gaming performance remained high and consistent nonetheless.

The x15 R2 with Core i9 greatly benefited from Cryo-Tech and averaged 117 fps gaming in Farcry 6 according to NotebookCheck. Performance stayed impressive over time thanks to Cryo-Tech optimizations.

2023 Razer Blade Upgrades

Razer‘s sleek Blade laptops also received cooling upgrades this year. The new Blade 16 and Blade 18 models now both sport:

  • Vapor Chamber Cooling System
  • Enlarged fan inlet/outlets for improved airflow
  • Dual opposite outlet fans for less turbulence
  • 30% more fan blade surface area
  • Hexagonal fan shape for less noise

The Blade 14 sticks with standard heat pipes and a single fan while the Blade 15 includes liquid metal thermal paste from Thermal Grizzly.

In Dave2D‘s review of the Razer Blade 16 with RTX 4090, the updated cooling hit a max temp of 86C on the CPU and 78C on GPU when gaming – quite reasonable for the power on tap. The fans did have to work fairly hard and get reasonably loud to achieve this though.

Razer has clearly stepped up cooling for their latest models judging by early impressions. We‘ll update with more thermal benchmarks over time.

Liquid Metal vs Liquid Cooling vs Vapor Chamber

Now that we‘ve covered implementations from some top gaming laptop brands, let‘s directly compare some of these advanced solutions…

Liquid Metal Thermal Paste

Conductivity: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Application: Easy
Reliability: ⭐⭐

Replacing standard thermal paste with exotic liquid metal alloys like gallium can significantly drop temperatures thanks to 10-100X higher thermal conductivity. However, liquid metal risks leaking over time and short circuiting motherboards unless applied correctly. Most manufacturers like Alienware and ASUS apply liquid metal safely at the factory.

Vapor Chambers

Conductivity: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Application: Internal
Reliability: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Vapor chambers offer efficient lateral heat distribution by spreading liquid internally across hot spots via capillary action. This lets them move heat away faster than heatpipes. Vapor chambers are fully sealed and safe for long-term use. Some downsides are higher cost than heatpipes and mostly proprietary designs.

Liquid Cooling Systems

Conductivity: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Application: External
Reliability: ⭐⭐

Liquid cooling directs coolant directly over hot components and away via tubing to external radiators for most effective heat removal. However, having liquids flow through laptops risks leaks over time unless perfectly implemented – an engineering challenge. Most DIY efforts are best left to desktops. Some boutique manufacturers like Origin PC offer carefully designed internal liquid cooling though.

Best Gaming Laptop Cooling Systems By Budget

With all the technical details covered, let‘s simplify things back down to some top recommendations at various price points.

Budget Under $1500


The 2023 TUF Dash keeps cool via a triple fan design and self-cleaning thermal fins. It avoided throttling in tests and can game AAA titles with ease.

Mid-Range $1500-$2000

Lenovo Legion 5i Pro

The Legion 5i Pro 16" adopts Coldfront cooling with vapor chamber, 4 thermal sensors and anti-dust tech to allow the 12700H and 3070 Ti to shine.

High-End $2000+

2022 ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17"

The Strix Scar 17 doubles down on cooling with liquid metal, 6 heat pipes, 84-blade Arc Flow fans, and a handy vapor chamber. Delivers desktop-class performance thanks to the robust 12950HX + 3080 Ti combo.

Maintaining Gaming Laptop Cooling Performance

Even the very best cooling system can‘t fight back dust, debris and wear-and-tear indefinitely without some basic maintenance. Here are 5 quick tips to keep your laptop running cool and avoid degraded performance over time:

  • Clean fans/vents regularly using compressed air
  • Replace thermal paste annually
  • Update BIOS & monitoring software
  • Use cooling pads for added airflow
  • Repaste GPU/CPU after 2 years of heavy use

Following these simple guidelines will ensure your pricey gaming laptop retains thermals on par with day one. Re-pasting dried out thermal paste and clearing dust buildup works wonders.

FAQs – Your Gaming Laptop Cooling Questions Answered

Is liquid metal safe for long-term laptop use?

When properly factory applied, liquid metal thermal paste offers the best conductivity for effective cooling with no real compromise as long as you don‘t tamper with the existing application. Brands like Alienware & ASUS carefully implement liquid metal. DIY liquid metal carries more risk.

Can I add liquid cooling to my laptop?

Only boutique manufacturers allow configuring internal liquid cooling since the process is quite complex with little room for error to avoid leaks. External modules with attached radiators are easier for DIY but offer less performance gain. You cannot easily add liquid cooling to ordinary consumer laptops.

How many fans are optimal for cooling?

More fans running at reasonable RPMs promotes better airflow which improves cooling efficiency. However, packs with 4+ fans often have diminishing returns and cause much more fan noise. Around 2-3 fans tends to offer the sweet spot for noise-normalized performance. Top-end laptops need extra fans to cool flagship GPUs like RTX 4090s.

Should I undervolt my CPU/GPU?

Undervolting reduces the voltage supplied to your components, thus causing them to output less heat. This temperature reduction usually allows for improved turbo boost headroom and clocks. Undervolting desktop CPUs is quite safe if tuned properly. However, many gaming laptops lock out this capability now due to past issues corrupting firmware. Undervolting does lower component longevity if taken to extremes.

I hope this comprehensive guide helps explain the importance of cooling for high-performance laptops and assists you in picking the best system for your individual needs and budget! Let me know if you have any other questions.