These days various manufacturers seem to be coming up with excessively more cheesy and silly ways to cool laptops.
The idea of the laptop cooler itself is a bit of a contradiction, as most people you see with them seem to have been convinced by a savvy salesperson that it is a necessary component to the continued operation of their four year-old IBM ThinkPad. Did they buy the extended service plan for this laptop cooler? You know, in case it sucks up the neighbor’s cat or sets someone’s legs on fire? The answer might surprise you…..
In case you hadn’t already guessed, the reason the laptop cooler is such a contradiction is that when you think of cooling a computer, you probably think of the guy a few doors down with the 185 gallon tank of LN2 in his hall closet. The computer enthusiast is the king of ridiculous cooling, which is why laptop coolers result in a little bit of classic role reversal. Most enthusiasts know that a laptop cooler probably isn’t worth it (it might shave off a couple of degrees, but so what?) so we generally stay away from them.
Unlike Joe Six-pack who seems to believe everything the salesmen says and considers it an integral part of keeping his laptop in a state of non-inferno. Of course there are some of us with laptops that run blisteringly hot and could iron jeans, but I’m fairly sure that isn’t the majority. So we GENERALLY avoid them.
For those of you with monstrous laptops that MIGHT benefit from additional cooling (your laptop can be overclocked? It has SLI? CrossFire? Lucky you!), there hasn’t really been a laptop cooler that is not only beefy enough to support the monster but at the same time gives off the always important “enthusiast” vibe. Most laptop coolers are flimsy looking slabs of plastic with a couple of tiny fans that couldn’t possibly produce a measurable improvement in cooling performance.
This is where the NZXT Cryo LX comes in. Not only is this baby constructed almost entirely of thick aluminum, but it includes three variable speed 120mm cooling fans and a four port USB hub. Do we enthusiasts finally get a laptop cooler that can measure up to our standards? Read on….
The Cryo LX is well packaged, as were all the other NZXT products I have looked at. While the box shows the unit in what might be considered the traditional silvery brushed aluminum finish, my review unit came with a slicker looking black brushed aluminum finish. The front of the box makes the bold claim that the Cryo LX is the world’s largest full aluminum notebook cooler. I don’t doubt it; the Cryo LX is the only full aluminum notebook cooler I have ever laid eyes on.
The back of the box gives us the relatively standard feature rundown and additional product photos:
This is what my review unit is going to look like. Very sexy!
So the features are:
Built with thick aluminum with sturdy construction
Brushed Aluminum Finish
Cools your notebook with three 120mm controllable fans
Five USB ports for your media, storage and input devices
Ability to power devices such as external hard drives
Foldable design for easy storage and transportation
Support for notebooks with 17” and 19” screens
Although technically there are five USB ports on the unit, one of them is used with the included cable to hook up the remaining USB ports on the Cryo LX to the laptop in question. Also note that the Cryo LX is designed to support laptops up to a 19” screen size, so the three people in the world with HP HDX’s may be out of luck.
Peeling open the box shows that the Cryo LX well secured with foam blocks and covered in plastic to protect the finish on the aluminum.
Included in the box is the Cryo LX, a USB to USB cable, a USB to DC cable and the “manual.”
The manual is just a sheet of paper, but does a good job explaining how the Cryo LX should be set up. Luckily there aren’t any mystery items in this NZXT product.
According to the instructions, this would be our USB data cable for use with the Cryo LX’s integral USB hub.
This would be our USB to DC cable, used to power the fans in the Cryo LX
Removing the plastic wrap and Styrofoam reveals the Cryo LX in its folded state. I’ve already managed to put a few fingerprints on it apparently.
Looking at the Cryo LX from the front shows just how thick it is when folded. Good luck fitting it into a briefcase with minimal fiddling.
On the right side of the unit is the fan control dial.
On the back are the DC-input and the five USB ports, four of which are usable when the unit is connected to your laptop.
The left side is rather unremarkable
When unfolded, the Cryo LX is truly gigantic in proportions; also notice the extensive rubberized elements that keep your laptop from sliding around on the Cryo.
The three 120mm fans blow air onto/into the laptop through these top vents
Changing the viewing angle we can make out the three 120mm fans that give the Cryo LX its cooling power.
Flipping the unit over gives an even better view of the three fans. The six super-soft rubbery feet that keep the Cryo LX well planted and also prevent you from scratching your work surface.
The Cryo LX folds using a pair of beefy metal hinges, one of which is shown here under the rubber foot in the center.
The bottom of the Cryo LX shows several marks of manufacture. The aluminum panels appear to have been manufactured using an aluminum casting.
To measure the performance of the Cryo LX, I used my Dell Studio 17 with the SpeedFan temperature monitoring and fan control suite installed. Then I set the laptop on the Cryo LX with the fans set to low and fired up Orthos + the Farcry 2 benchmark to stress the CPU, memory and graphics card. I left the laptop like this for 2.5 hours – at this point temperatures had remained stable for a good period of time.
For the other results I left Orthos and Farcry 2 running and simply changed between the four measurement conditions, giving the temps a reasonable amount of time to stabilize. The four measurement conditions were:
- On the Cryo LX, fans at max
- On the Cryo LX, fans at min
- On the Cryo LX, fans off
- On a table
So when all was said and done, the Cryo LX improved cooling performance by approximately 5 degrees Celsius on the central CPU diode, 5 degrees Celsius on core #1, and 6 degrees Celsius on core #2. All other system temps remained more or less identical (i.e. within the margin of error).
You may have noticed that I didn’t state the fan speed I used or if the fans were on at all. Strangely enough all my results with the laptop sitting on the Cryo LX (high fan, low fan, no fan) had temperature results within one degree of each other. No doubt this is because of the Studio 17’s highly restrictive fan intakes, the gap between the bottom of the laptop and the cooler, and the fact that my Studio 17 runs very cool in the first place (by laptop standards anyway).
To test if the gap between the bottom of the laptop and the cooler was resulting in a performance loss, I constructed a small foam gasket to force the airflow from two of the fans into the CPU and GPU vents. This measure shaved off another couple of degrees. Evidently the Studio benefits more from the increased breathing room for its own fans rather than the fans in the Cryo LX. If your laptop runs super hot, or has relatively un-restricted fan intakes, you will likely see a greater benefit from the Cryo LX fans.
Noise Spectrum Analysis
Noisr was measured from just above the front edge of the laptop, with the Omni directional studio microphone remaining in the same position for all three tests.
Magenta = Studio 17 without extra cooling
Red = Studio 17 with Cryo LX on low
Yellow = Studio 17 with Cryo LX on high
The Decibel scale is logarithmic; therefore a noise delta of 10 db represents one sound being 10 times louder than another, while a noise delta of 20 db represents one sound being 100 times louder than another.
The generally agreed upon range of human hearing is between 20hz and 20000hz.
The Cryo LX is a very solidly built and very attractive product. It even boosts cooling performance by a measureable amount while its fans provide more airflow than most other laptop coolers on the market. Unfortunately the jury is out on whether the included fans are really beneficial; it definitely depends on what type of laptop you happen to use.
One of the nice added bonuses of using the Cryo LX is that it angles and elevates the laptop in such a way as to make typing considerably more comfortable. The USB hub is also a nice bonus if you ever find yourself running out of USB ports.
One strange thing that I noticed during testing is that if you plug in only the USB data cable (without the DC-input cable) the fans in the Cryo LX receive power. I was under the impression that the DC-input was required for this, although I guess if you had a bunch of power sucking USB devices plugged in they would sap all the power coming through the data cable, hence the DC-input would be required to keep the fans spinning. So that all being said let’s get to the Pros and Cons:
Very solid aluminum construction
Attractive brushed aluminum finish in either silver or black
Soft rubber feet keep the cooler from sliding around or scratching your work surface
Three 120mm fans push a serious volume of air
All three fans have adjustable RPM (dial controls all three)
Built in four port USB hub
Laptop is held securely in place by the rubber pieces on the top surface
Elevates and angles the laptop, making for a much more comfortable typing position
Hinges are very solid
Enthusiast styling, unlike most laptop coolers which look cheesy
Fans additional cooling power depends on the laptop being used
Gigantic in proportions, don’t expect to take it with you when you travel
$79.99 USD price might be a bit much for some people
Design doesn’t really permit placement between your lap and your laptop
The Cryo LX is one monster of a notebook cooler. Its construction is solid and it packs three 120mm cooling fans. Its value at the $80 price point may be questionable, but if you’re looking for one serious enthusiast notebook cooler you may want to give this one a look.