Laptops: Fanless vs. Traditional Cooling – The Right Tool For the Job

Laptop Cooling - Fanless or Traditional

One of the biggest concerns our clients have when purchasing a new business laptop is cost (of course it
is!). When discussing the “cost” of a laptop, I often steer the conversation to “cost over time” or the cost
a piece of computer hardware has for your company over its lifetime.

The cost over time of a business laptop can vary greatly depending on the amount of Support,
Downtime, and additional hardware costs it may incur during its deployment. This is one reason I always
recommend purchasing the storage and memory you will need 4-5 years from now, not for today. The
cost of additional hardware installation down the road “could double” the cost of purchasing it up front
and with no future hassles.

Another factor in the cost over time that is often overlooked is a laptop’s ability to hold up, or not have
hardware failures. As this often relates to heat distribution within the laptop and its ability to sustain over
many hours; the argument steers towards the way a laptop dissipates and distributes the heat it
generates. This is done in 2 primary ways in modern laptops: Internal Fan for cooling, or Fanless designs
which can incorporate “heat pipes” or metal tubing to distribute heat (in good examples).

My suggestion in this matter is simple. I look at each laptop as a tool for your business; you must get
the right tool for the right job/task. So first ask:

  1. For this job role is portability the most important factor?
  2. Or is the longevity and cost (over time) a more important factor in a laptop purchase for this job

If portability is a key “need” for the job role and subsequent purchase; then a fanless Ultrabook or tablet
laptop is likely the best tool for the job.

If instead, the job role will be mostly stationary at a desk with the option of portability; then a desktop
replacement laptop with internal fans is more than likely going to fit the need and be a better budget

This is the case as most Ultrabooks or Tablet laptops use internal heat distribution which can add “Wear”
to chips/boards within the laptop. This lessens the longevity you will see from the device before
hardware failure occurs. Another factor here is that these internal heat distributions methods are not as
effective as including a fan to remove heat from the chassis; this can lead to the system “down-clocking”
or throttling down to handle the heat. In basic terms, they slow down to cool down. This heat can also
impact batteries and screens on devices, causing early hardware problems.

On the other hand, we have more traditional desktop replacement laptops. These machines can be
heavier and bulkier, but often have internal fans and vents to remove internal heat from the chassis.
The portability of these larger machines can be a problem and make them far less desirable in many
cases. The advantages you will see (on average) though are a longer lifespan without hardware failures
and often much faster clock speeds and graphic processing capabilities. Some drawbacks do come from
“moving parts” within the chassis and the ability to collect dust and particulates in fanned designs. That
noted, they often have a greater repairability then their counterparts without fans which often use glue to
hold parts together and are not meant to have parts repaired/replaced.

When a client is purchasing a new business laptop, I always discuss the job it will be used for and choose
the right tool for that job. If you are looking for a laptop for light duty work (Word Processing, Web
Browsing and Email) and portability is a greater factor then cost, an Ultrabook or Tablet laptop is the
right tool for the role. But if cost is a concern and the job is mostly stationary, a client will see greater
returns (both financially and machine performance) from a desktop replacement style laptop.