Computer components generate heat when working, inhibiting components from operating at peak efficiency unless dissipated. Laptop manufacturers equip laptops with fans for thermal management and to blow out the heat generated. Much like desktops, a CPU fan is usually dedicated to keeping the processor cool, and chassis fans blow out the heat generated from other components.
Most laptops have vents around their body, and on close observation, they can be spotted either under the display hinge, at the sides, or on the laptop’s base. In actively cooled laptops, cooling fans are strategically placed in notebooks for efficiently venting out the heat generated by the components running at high frequency.
However, did you know that a few laptops are not actively cooled and do not come with fans for thermal management? These laptops are passively cooled and don’t even have a CPU fan which is the bare minimum in some laptops. These laptops don’t have vents around them and moderate the working of the heat-generating components inside to cool the computer passively than use fans to intake cool Air from outside.
Table of Contents
- Passively Cooled Laptops – Top Picks at a Glance
- Why Choose Passively Cooled Laptops?
- 1. Apple MacBook Air 2022 – Our Most Hi-Tech Pick
- 2. Apple MacBook Air 2020 – Our Most Stable Pick
- 3. Samsung Galaxy Book S – Our Thinnest Pick
- 4. Asus VivoBook 17 – Our Best Windows Pick
- 5. Microsoft Surface Pro X – Our Best Pick in Convertibles
- 6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Our Cheapest Pick
- Top Fanless Laptops – Our Buying Guide
- Top Fanless Laptops – Frequently Asked Questions
Passively Cooled Laptops – Top Picks at a Glance
|Apple MacBook Air 2022||Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina|
Processor: Apple M2 SoC
Storage: 256GB SSD – 512GB/1TB/2TB
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Thunderbolt 3, USB 4, USB 3.1 Gen 2
|Buy on Amazon|
|Apple MacBook Air 2020||Display: 13.3-inch Liquid Retina|
Processor: Apple M1 SoC
Storage: 256GB SSD –512GB/1TB/2TB
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Thunderbolt 3, USB 4, USB 3.1 Gen 2
|Buy on Amazon|
|Samsung Galaxy Book S||Display: 13.3-inch Touchscreen|
Processor: Intel Core i5-L16G7
Memory: 8GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 512GB eUFS
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 2x USB Type-C, MicroSD
|Buy on Amazon|
|Asus VivoBook 17||Display: 17.3-inch|
Processor: Intel Core i7-1165G7
Memory: 16GB DDR4 SDRAM
Storage: 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 2x USB 2.0, USB 3.2 Gen 1, HDMI, USB-C 3.2, MicroSD
|Buy on Amazon|
|Microsoft Surface Pro X||Display: 13-inch Touchscreen|
Processor: Microsoft SQ1/SQ2
Memory: 8GB/16GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB SSD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, LTE Advanced, 2x USB-C, Surface Connect Port
|Buy on Amazon|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 7||Display: 12.3-inch Touchscreen|
Processor: Core i3-1005G1, Core i5-1035G4, Core i7-1065G7
Memory: 4GB/8GB/16 GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 128GB/256GB SSD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, LTE Advanced, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, USB-A, MicroSDXC, Surface Connect Port
|Buy on Amazon|
Why Choose Passively Cooled Laptops?
Laptops are portable, lightweight, and easy to carry anywhere. For people who are always on the go, there’s nothing worse than lugging around a heavy, bulky laptop. Enter passively cooled laptops. With passive cooling, your laptop can be thin and light, making it perfect for people with a lot to do.
You may worry about sacrificing performance, but your battery life will likely be better than actively cooled laptops. A passively cooled laptop also saves on energy consumption and can help prolong its lifespan as a result. Passive cooling allows laptop designs to be super-thin, allowing for thinner and lighter products. Passive cooling also decreases power use by the laptop, which reduces heat dissipation while surfing the internet, playing games, or doing work.
Let us look at each of our fanless laptop picks in detail.
1. Apple MacBook Air 2022 – Our Most Hi-Tech Pick
The Macs rarely disappoint, and the latest Air is no different. This one comes with the latest Apple processor, the M2. The new MacBook Air comes with a newly designed display with a notch for the camera resembling a wide-screen smartphone. The display is a high-quality IPS 13.6-inch panel supporting a native 2560x 1664 resolution and fairly high 500 nits brightness. The panel has a good color gamut and comes with True Tone technology with support for a billion colors.
Speaking of processing power, the M2 has a better peak core clock speed in both the performance and efficiency cores, making it the best SoC in Apple’s portfolio for single-core performance. The graphics clock has also been boosted to almost 1400MHz, and the famed Neural cores can now execute 15.8trillion operations per second. The processor also has a new media engine and support for multiple ProRes streams.
The M2 has a flabbergasting 100GB/s memory bandwidth, and the base and the new Air’s base model can be configurable for higher capacities. Similar configurability options are available with both the processor and storage features. The MacBook Air still comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port, and the M2 processor supports up to 6K displays. Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6 are the supported wireless connectivity options, while USB 4 and 3.2 Gen 1 ports make up for physical connectivity options.Our Take
The new M2 processor does a great job of powering this year’s MacBook Air with its high clock speed and better-powered GPU. Even with passive cooling solutions, the Air rarely gets hot, and its portable size makes it an ideal companion for those who like to carry their work everywhere. We were expecting better connectivity options and were disappointed with Thunderbolt 3, but new display design commands applaud every time.
- Compact and Portable Design
- Notch Display on IPS Panel
- New M2 Processor
- High Bandwidth Memory Support
- Powerful Neural Network Hardware
- Still Thunderbolt 3
- 30 Preloaded Applications
- Reduced battery Life
2. Apple MacBook Air 2020 – Our Most Stable Pick
The older MacBook came with impressive specs and is still one of the best-selling Apple laptops. Similar to the new 2022 MacBook Air, the older Air was the flagbearer of the Apple M1 chip. It has a slightly smaller 13.3-inch IPS display and supports multiple resolutions from 1024×640 to 2560×1600. The True Tone technology-powered panel displays up to a million colors, but the brightness levels are slightly low at just 400 nits.
Performance-wise, it has the famed M1 processor with four each performance and efficiency cores and a 7-core GPU. The M1 Air is equally good at managing heavy productivity workloads and entertainment with smooth 4K playback and gaming. The one-generation older Neural core can manage 11 trillion AI operations per second and automatically retouches photos to be used for content creation.
The M1 Air comes with 8GB of unified memory and 256GB SSD that can be configured up to 16GB and 2TB, respectively. It uses an ambient light sensor for the keyboards and regular wireless connectivity features like Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Physical connectivity features are severely limited, with only two Thunderbolt 3 ports that double up as USB 4.Our Take
Reviewing both MacBook Air reveals that the old MacBook Air offers more value to the user than the new release. There is support for more resolution and slightly less bloatware. Though the clock speed of the M1 is lesser than the M2, battery performance is marginally better. Physical connectivity options are limited, and you might have to spend on USB hubs separately if you have a lot of peripherals to connect.
- Power Efficient M1 processor
- High-Quality Display18-hour Battery Life
- Last Generation Technology
3. Samsung Galaxy Book S – Our Thinnest Pick
There aren’t many passively cooled laptops, and finding one on a super thin chassis is even rarer. The Samsung Galaxy Book S comes in an aluminum chassis and weighs just over 2 pounds. The laptop features a prop-up hinge design and a 13.3-inch Full HD display with touch support. The Galaxy Book S is ultra-thin and offers supreme portability features. It can be held effortlessly on your palm while you work and is a device truly meant for working on the go.
Although light and fanless, Samsung’s thin laptop does not disappoint in performance. It is powered by an Intel Core i5-L16G7 processor clocking at 3.00GHz with a base TDP of just 7-watt. The processor has Intel UHD integrated graphics but is not hyper-threading enabled. It is an SoC meant to power tablets and uses one high-performance core and four smaller cores to achieve average single and multi-threaded performance.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Book S does not come with a backlit keyboard, and its thin chassis makes it impossible to house USB-A ports. Internal storage is limited to a 256GB SSD that can be replaced with a 2TB module and 8GB DDR RAM. The laptop comes with only two USB-C ports, one for charging and the other for transferring data. It has the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.Our Take
The Samsung Galaxy S tries hard to be a laptop, but the processor is good enough for productivity tasks, and though it has many styles, the value of money factor is pretty low. Battery performance is solid thanks to a low processor TDP. The bloatware on the device is way too much, and all the Samsung applications in the Galaxy and Samsung ecosystems offer more clutter than utility.
- Ultra-Portable Design
- Solid Mid-Range Performance
- Strong Battery Performance
- Uninspiring Audio from AKG
- Low 330 nits Screen Brightness
4. Asus VivoBook 17 – Our Best Windows Pick
Barring the Apple laptops, we didn’t expect passive cooling to be a cup of tea for mainstream Windows devices, but that’s until we saw the Asus VivoBook 17. This monster of a laptop comes with a big 17.3-inch Full HD display with an 85 percent screen-to-body ratio and 178° viewing angle, but the bezels look a tad thick around the screen. The chassis is thin and props up the backlit keyboard resulting in a comfortable typing experience. The keys have a reasonable travel distance, and the keyboard even features a full number pad.
The VivoBook 17 features a Core i7-1165G7 processor with performance bettered only by the M2 in today’s picks. It is a wonder how Asus stuffed this hyper threading-enabled quad-core processor in this fanless beauty yet kept thermals at bay. The processor with a peak speed of 4.70GHz can manage heavy office productivity and has been used widely across a plethora of mainstream laptops. You can also game on the VivoBook 17 courtesy of its Intel Iris Xe graphics.
The laptop has a fast-charging battery and powerful Sonic Master-powered audio while multi-tasking is a breeze thanks to 16GB DDR4 memory, and there is ample storage thanks to a 1TB SSD. Besides Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, there are two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a USB-C port for physically connecting peripherals.Our Take
With a power-packed mainstream processor, ample memory, and storage, the Asus VivoBook 17 scores well with its performance. There are a few concerns with heat management during prolonged use, and the battery might not last an entire day during heavy usage.
- 17.3-inch Display
- Ample Memory and Storage
- Powerful Mid-Range Processor
- Number Pad Enabled Keyboard
- Unimpressive Battery
- No Thunderbolt
5. Microsoft Surface Pro X – Our Best Pick in Convertibles
Microsoft Surface devices are light convertibles that do not come with a physical keyboard, but you can purchase a separate Surface Pro X keyboard attachment to connect it to the device. These devices are basically powerful tablets with a stand that can be used as laptops as and when required. A tablet chassis allows the Pro X to work on a passively cooled mechanism on a sleek, slim, ultra-light build. The Surface Pro X comes with a 13.0-inch display working on a 2880×1920 resolution and features a 3:2 aspect ratio.
Powering the Surface Pro X is Microsoft’s own SQ1 and SQ2 processors that it co-developed with Qualcomm explicitly for the Pro X. The SQ2 is marginally more powerful than the SQ1, with four performance cores at a peak frequency of 3.15GHz and four battery-saving cores at 2.42GHz. The SQ1 features Adreno 685 as the GPU and manages 2100 GFLOPs. The SQ1 and SQ2 processors are multi-tasking and have low power usage allowing the Surface Pro X to return a decent 10-13 hours battery life.
The Surface Pro X is equipped with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD for storage. Its Surface Pen makes it easy to switch between laptop, tablet, and studio modes and is ideally suited for professionals who need to work on the go. Microsoft Surface Pro X comes with two USB-C ports, Wi-Fi 6, and provisions for connecting to LTE networks when Wi-Fi is not there.Our Take
Microsoft Surface Pro X is a versatile device suitable for almost any use. It can be used by professionals at work or students at schools and colleges. It is a Windows-powered device with a reasonably powerful mobile processor that aptly manages daily chores. The only reason to worry could be the additional costs one would have to incur for the keyboard to turn this tablet into a laptop.
- Multiple Modes of Usage
- Good Battery Life
- Powerful Performance
- LTE Connectivity
- Accessories Increase Cost
- Poor Physical Connectivity Options
6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Our Cheapest Pick
Our last pick is again a Surface Pro device and is the cheapest of the lot. Similar to the Surface Pro X above, the Surface Pro 7 also features a tablet-like design that latches onto a velvet keyboard magnetically and turns itself into a laptop when needed. The Pro 7 has a slightly smaller 12.3-inch display running on a 2736×1824 resolution and sports great viewing angles. Even the brightness is much better at 500 nits, but the battery lasts the longest when it is set to 30 percent. Overall the display is good at color reproduction and has a decent response rate.
Powered by the Intel Core i5-1035G4, the Surface Pro 7 is one of the most potent Surface devices that excel at multitasking. It almost matches the immensely popular Dell XPS 13 7390 in performance numbers, even with its passively cooled mechanism. You can also create content on the Surface Pro 7 thanks to its Iris Plus GPU and 8GB LPDDR4x RAM. However, on the storage front, only a 256GB SSD is set to fall short too soon.
Thankfully the Surface Pro 7 is not as thin as the Surface Pro X, and we get to see a USB Type-A port along with a USB-C and MicroSD card slot. This convertible does not feature any LTE connector like the Pro X and is replaced by Bluetooth 5.0 in addition to Wi-Fi 6.Our Take
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a device similar to the Surface Pro X on most fronts. The keyboard is much better here with its velvet coating that leaves a pleasant feeling on the fingers while typing. We wished the convertible would provide better battery life and storage. Overall, with an IPS-grade display and stable performance, the Surface Pro 7 fits the bill and blends well in professional as well as academic environments.
- IPS Grade Display
- Sturdy Build
- Proper Physical Connectivity Options
- Average Battery Life
- No LTE Support
Top Fanless Laptops – Our Buying Guide
We will try to guide you to figure it out by assessing the essentials of a fanless laptop and hoping you will keep your expectations in check. At least until the unfathomable idea of generating more power without any byproduct is realized.
- A fanless laptop will not generate any noise. These laptops would be passively cooled and won’t even have a CPU heatsink, let alone chassis fans. Actively cooled laptops employ a heatsink fan for the CPU and chassis fans to manage thermals inside the laptop.
- Look for laptops that do not have cutouts at the side, on the edge under the hinge, or at the bottom panel. Actively cooled laptops draw cooler Air from vents and blow out the warm Air from the laptop chassis through other vents. Fanless laptops will not have any vents since they manage thermals passively.
- Look for metal builds as metals conduct heat faster than plastic. Passively cooled laptops with metal bodies would absorb the heat generated from the critical components and conduct the heat away faster.
- Do not opt for Hard Disk Drives in fanless laptops as they have a spindle inside for the platters and a needle to read the data. Continuous access to data even by the OS would generate significant heat that would increase the temperature of the passively cooled laptop. SSD store data digitally in flash memory, and there are no moving parts inside; hence, considerably less heat is generated.
- Understand the limitations of technology. A gaming laptop can run most AAA titles at high settings, but a passively cooled laptop won’t have a discreet GPU to begin with, and the iGPU inside would be suitable for mostly yesteryear titles and browser-based games.
- Keep your expectations realistic. A 5GHz laptop meant for content creation would generate a lot of heat which, if not dissipated, would damage the internal components, and hence almost every laptop with such high-frequency processor speed will be actively cooled.
Top Fanless Laptops – Frequently Asked Questions
Do fanless laptops make noise?
Fanless laptops make no noise at all, ensuring a peaceful work environment. These laptops do not even have a CPU heatsink and conduct heat with the help of interconnected metal components.
How do fanless laptops dissipate heat efficiently?
Fanless laptops regulate the frequency at which the internal components inside the laptop, mainly the processor, operates to control the amount of heat generated. Through internal sensors, they reduce the frequency of the processor when the heat build-up has increased. Fanless laptops have interconnected metal components that might use thermal pastes between each of the metal components to ensure faster heat dissipation.
Do fanless laptops use less energy?
Fanless laptops usually come with components that consume less power, thus reducing the heat output. Yes, fanless laptops do consume less power by not having fans, using low-power components, and throttling the CPU to allow it to operate in an ideal temperature range.