Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim review

The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim is a stylish laptop cooler.
It falls under the budget category with its $19.99 price tag. It’s relatively difficult to find good laptop coolers in this price range because good parts cost more money. Cooler Master makes an attempt at it with the NotePal X-Slim, the smaller sibling of the much more expensive
NotePal U3 Plus. Does Cooler Master nail it like the company usually does or is this one a non-starter? Let’s find out.

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What is the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim?

Cooler Master NotePal X Slim in the box 1Credit: Joe Hindy / Android Authority
The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim is the cheapest option in Cooler Master’s NotePal lineup. It’s also one of the thinnest. It features a single 160mm fan capable of pushing 60 CFM. The body and frame are plastic and the cooler is covered by a thin metal grate on top. The design is sleek and minimalist, but otherwise unremarkable.

The USB cable is permanently attached. Additionally, the cooler comes with USB pass-through: an admittedly difficult feature to find at this price point sometimes. The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim also has two tilt options. You can pop the feet out to tilt the laptop or leave them closed for the flat experience. The tilt is not offensive in any way and should work for most people.

Otherwise, the cooler is fairly unremarkable. It’s entirely hidden by most laptops with only little bits peeking out of the sides. Cooler Master does boast support for 17-inch laptops, but mine had some serious overhang on the back. Those with larger 17-inch laptops should therefore consider a different product.

There are no lights of any color and no fan controls. The 160mm fan hums along at the same speed all the time. In my testing, it’s louder than my laptop fans at idle but quieter than my laptop fans at full tilt. That’s about it, really. We really do appreciate the USB pass-through, but we would’ve preferred fan speed controls as well.

How to use the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim

Cooler Master NotePal X Slim USB passthrough
This one isn’t rocket science. You place your laptop on top of the cooler and plug it in with the permanently attached USB cable. There is a USB pass-through, but only with USB 2.0. We recommend using it for a mouse or similar peripheral. The fan spins on its own so there is nothing else you need to do. Those who do gamble that their larger laptops fit may need to adjust placement to make sure the fans actually blow air at the right parts, however.

Credit: Joe Hindy / Android Authority

How well does the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim perform?

Cooler Master NotePal X Slim USB passthrough 2
I tested the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim with my Asus ROG G731GW 17.3-inch gaming laptop with 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GTX 2070, an Intel i7-9750H, a 500GB NVMe drive, and a second 500GB SSD. My laptop’s vents are positioned at the top left and right. The 160mm fan aims at the center of my laptop so my vents received indirect cooling no matter how I situated it. Nevertheless, I did my best to get as much air into the machine as possible.

Credit: Joe Hindy / Android Authority

We ran a total of four tests with the Cooler Master NotePal U3 Plus:

  • BIOS test BIOS optimization is often very poor. We see if the cooler can keep up with it.
  • Windows 10 idle Once the laptop is fully booted, we test the cooler to see if it affects idle temperatures. We then leave it on idle for ten minutes to ensure it can hold those temperatures.
  • CPU stress test We use Intel XTU’s native stress test because we can easily identify things like temperature, whether or not it thermal throttled or power throttled, and the average CPU clock speed. We ran the test for ten minutes.
  • One game of Halo Wars 2 Halo Wars 2 is a surprisingly heavy game and, on my Asus ROG G731GW, temps often spike up to the mid-90C range with GPU temps reading the mid-80C range. It’s a good benchmark for a heavy game on a powerful gaming machine.
  • Something to note During the explanations below I often refer to power throttling and thermal throttling. Thermal throttling is the laptop forcibly lowering CPU speeds to cool itself down. Power throttling limits the CPU to its base TDP and prevents it from drawing extra (boost) power. We expect laptop coolers to prevent thermal throttling at least.

The laptop used Windows Balanced for all tests. We did not modify any settings to game the tests. The laptop cooler was obviously at its maximum setting for the highest amount of cooling. The temperatures were recorded and double-checked with HWMonitor, Asus Armoury Crate, and Intel XTU.

Without further delay, here are the results of the tests.

Test CPU temp GPU temp Fan speed
BIOS without cooler 50C NA 2800RPM
Idle in Windows 10 without a cooler 45C 39C 2400RPM
CPU stress test without a cooler 85C 42C 6400RPM (max) Power throttle after 60 seconds, thermal throttle after 90 seconds. Throttled CPU speed of 3.2Ghz
One game of Halo Wars 2 without a cooler 90C 80C 6400RPM (max) CPU spikes up to 96C, GPU spikes up to 84C
BIOS with cooler 50C NA 2800RPM
Idle in Windows 10 with cooler 39-41C 37C 2400RPM
CPU stress test with cooler 80C 42C 6400RPM (max) Power throttle after 90 seconds. No thermal throttle detected. Throttled CPU speed of 3.6-3.7Ghz
One game of Halo Wars 2 86C 80C 6400RPM (max) CPU spikes up to 92C, GPU spikes up to 81C.

The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim didn’t do a horrible job, but it’s far from the best. The biggest difference was a 6C swing during the idle test. From there, it drops 5C during the CPU stress test and 4C during the gaming test. Basically, the more my laptop worked, the more the NotePal X-Slim struggled to keep up. The cooler objectively works as the numbers show. It just seems to do its best work with lighter loads on laptops with lower specs.

Still, there are some encouraging numbers. We did not detect a thermal throttle with the cooler during the CPU stress test an improvement over the laptop’s performance without the cooler. Additionally, the CPU stayed at 3.6-3.7Ghz with the cooler during the stress test when it would ramp down to 3.2Ghz without it. It stays relatively warm, but it still helps eek out a little extra power.

What I liked about the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim

  • The slim design looks really good in almost all settings.
  • It’s lightweight and easily portable for use on airplanes, coffee shops, or your office.
  • The $19.99 price tag is quite inexpensive for a laptop cooler.
  • There is a USB pass-through. We always give a thumbs up for that!

What I didn’t like about the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim

  • There are no fan controls so the 160mm hums at a constant speed.
  • The cooler struggles with heavier workloads on powerful laptops.
  • It definitely didn’t fit my 17-inch laptop very well. I had to adjust the laptop multiple times to make sure the fan was hitting as much of it as it could.

Is the Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim good?

Cooler Master NotePal X Slim 17 inch laptop
The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim is average. We mostly recommend this one for devices like MacBooks, Ultrabooks, and netbooks. Believe it or not, this is actually an excellent cooler for other devices like routers as well. You can plug it in, forget it’s there, and it dramatically helps with devices that don’t have a fan but should. The fan isn’t very loud so it doesn’t add much to the ambient room noise.

My 17-inch laptop noticeably overhangs from the back of the NotePal X-Slim

Credit: Joe Hindy / Android Authority

Those with higher-end gaming machines should definitely look elsewhere. The more pressure I put on this thing, the less it cooled. It’s just not designed to pump air into a powerful laptop. It helps a lot more for devices that run hot naturally at idle and need a bit of extra airflow versus laptops that run hot because you’re stressing them.

Read next: Fascinating Laptop 2020

Luckily, it only costs $19.99. That makes it an excellent budget option for folks who want something that looks nice and cools enough to take the edge off. Just don’t expect any miracles and you should be happy with this one.

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