Laptop Stands vs Cooling Pads – Which Is Right For You?

Laptop stands and cooling pads have some similar characteristics, but they are far from the same. I own and have used both for a long time now.

In this article, we’re going to dive into what each of these accessories is good at in my experience, which will help you find out which one is best for you. 

Let’s get started.

laptop stand vs cooling pad (4)

Key Takeaways

  • Cooling pads push fresh air into your laptop using powered fans. They are a great solution for those with laptops that just run a little too hot. 
  • Laptop stands have a longer list of benefits with no moving parts which means they will last much longer. 
  • Those with cooling issues should probably lean towards cooling pads, and others should consider a laptop stand due to the larger set of benefits listed below. 

Cooling Pads Explained

A laptop cooling pad is a device that actively blows fresh air into your computer. They have fans that are powered by your laptop itself, typically via a USB port. 

This helps your computer remove heat and theoretically improve performance. 

I say “theoretically” because it depends on your laptop. Some have vents at the bottom, some don’t. If you don’t have vents at the bottom of your laptop, it will be less effective at cooling the internal components. It would just slightly cool your laptop’s body. 

More or less, most of the laptop cooling pads out there are designed pretty similarly. With fans that blow air upwards into the bottom of your laptop. 

That’s a general overview of cooling pads. Now let’s dig into some of their core benefits. Keep a mental note if any of these benefits are what you are after. 

Main Benefits of Cooling Pads

Actively Cools Your Laptop

What cooling pads do best is exactly that, actively cooling your laptop. Laptop stands don’t have any active cooling, so you won’t see a big performance boost there. 

Keep in mind that this depends on your laptop. You will get better results if your laptop has vents at the bottom that are made to intake air. The cooling pad forces more air into those vents and gets the fresh air to your laptop components faster. 

If you don’t have vents, you probably still have a metal base. Cooling the solid metal base without vents can still transfer heat away from your laptop. Solid metal bases are typically made to be a “heat sink”, so blowing fresh cold air on that heat sink should help. 

Raises Your Laptop Slightly

Cooling pads are pretty thick because they actually need to have fans inside. They also need free space to pull air from before sending it toward your laptop. 

This means it lifts your laptop just a little bit. Depending on the cooling pad, some actually have legs that angle the entire cooling pad from your desk. 

The cooling pads that lift your laptop higher have a couple of benefits. First, they make it easier for the pads to pull air. That results in some better cooling performance. Second, they lift your laptop screen upwards which makes it a bit more ergonomic. 

We should be looking straight when using our computers, not looking downward. 

When you have a cooling pad that raises your laptop, you get closer to that ergonomic position. It won’t be perfect, but it is better than having nothing under your laptop. 

Better Ventilation, Even Without Power

Cooling pads have perforations and a ton of ventilation so the fans can move air very easily when turned on. 

If you lost your power cable or are too lazy to plug it in, you will still benefit from a cooling pad under your laptop. 

Because of all the perforations and vents on the cooling pad, your laptop should still be able to breathe much better than when placed on a desk. 

When placing your laptop on a desk, there is typically a very small gap for ventilation. The cooling pad can still improve cooling even when not turned on. 

Main Drawbacks of Cooling Pads

Now let’s talk about some of the not-so-good things when it comes to cooling pads. 

Requires A Power Source

First of all, it requires a power source, usually from your laptop. Though we are using that power to cool our laptops, that can have a few drawbacks. 

First, your USB port that powers the fans will have a continuous current draw while it’s turned on. That means your laptop battery will drain a bit faster with a cooling pad. Not to mention most of these cooling pads also have LED lights inside of them too. 

Unless you have a cooling pad that uses a separate power adapter entirely like this high powered cooling pad.

The other drawback of requiring a power source is that you have to use up a USB port on your laptop. In today’s world, laptops are getting fewer and fewer ports. Taking one up just for cooling your laptop means you have less for more essential connections. 

Also, you need to find that cable whenever you want to use the cooling pad. That one layer of complexity can make you less likely to grab your cooling pad at all.  

Typically Large Footprint

Laptop cooling pads typically try to be larger than your laptop base itself. That way the fans inside the cooling pad can hit all areas of your laptop. 

The result is a large footprint, bigger than your actual laptop itself. This is a deal breaker for people with small desks if you just like space efficiency. 

laptop stand vs cooling pad (2)

Just take a look at this image for one of the top-selling laptop cooling pads. It’s such a huge base!

I like the bare minimum on my own desk, so a cooling pad is not a great option for me personally. 

Bulky Aesthetics

Not only are laptop cooling pads large in their footprint, but they are also bulky in every other way! This is not great for very aesthetic desk setups.

Let’s look at some examples of cooling pads. You’ll notice that they all have some serious bulk to them. It would be a shame to put a nice-looking laptop on top of one of these monster cooling pads. 

Laptop Stands Explained

A laptop stand is a bit simpler than a laptop cooling pad. This is a very simple stand that elevates your laptop. That’s pretty much it. 

laptop stand vs cooling pad (1)

If you think such a simple device can’t have many benefits, think again. We have a dedicated article on the benefits of laptop stands, but I’ll reiterate the main few here. 

Main Benefits of A Laptop Stand

Raises Laptop To Ergonomic Heights

The biggest advantage of a laptop stand is that it raises your computer to a proper viewing height. You want to be looking straight at your laptop, not down at it. The laptop stands help you do this. 

Ergonomics are critical to productive desk setups, and a laptop stand helps here. More comfort means more energy focused on your work. 

Gives You More Desk Space

Unlike the cooling pads, laptop stands can actually give you more space back. This of course depends on the type of laptop stand you get. There is a large variety out there. 

Because they don’t have fans and other electronics, they are typically pretty minimal and just need to hold a small section of your laptop to be stable. 

And when they lift your laptop vertically, they make space underneath your laptop! This frees up some desk space. 

Most laptop stand designs have this benefit. 

Better Ventilation

Compared to just placing your laptop on your desk, most laptop stands give your computer more ventilation. This is not to be confused with vertical laptop stands. We talk about the safety of vertical laptop stands here

I say “most” because some laptop stands don’t give you that improved ventilation. For example, this wooden one would not make a difference at all. 

However, most other designs will have lots of free space for better airflow. Your computer fans won’t have to work as hard if there is better airflow. Here’s an example of one with a ton of open space for good airflow.

Large Variety of Aesthetically Pleasing Options

Laptop stands come in way more shapes and sizes than cooling pads. So you can choose from a ton of different types of designs. 

There are wood versions, fixed height versions, adjustable height models, you name it. Whatever aesthetic you are going for, there is a laptop stand for you. You can choose from way more designs compared to cooling pads. 

Fewer Cables – No Power Required

Laptop stands are small pieces of desk furniture, essentially. No cables, power, wires, or anything like that. That makes them work anywhere and anytime. 

Seems like everything needs power these days, so nonpowered devices are a huge plus.

Main Drawbacks of Laptop Stands

Now let’s talk about the disadvantages of laptop stands. 

No Active Cooling

Laptop stands won’t give you the same cooling performance as cooling pads. There are no fans, and without fans, your laptop is more or less on its own. 

Requires Dedicated Peripherals

Raising your laptop to a proper ergonomic viewing height means you will need a separate mouse and keyboard. This could be a bit inconvenient but is a blessing in disguise. Full size keyboards and mice can be a bit more ergonomic too.

There are also affordable wireless peripherals too, so it’s not that much of a negative. 

Which One Is Right For You?

When it comes to deciding which is right for you, it pretty much comes down to one main question. Does your laptop suffer from severe cooling issues?

If it does, a cooling pad might be the way to go. A laptop stand won’t offer those active cooling benefits. 

For everyone else that has a laptop that is not overheating all the time, a laptop stand would be the way to go. It has considerably more benefits. 

You don’t have to worry about power, you get more desk space, your laptop can be lifted to a comfortable viewing height, and more. 

If you are interested in laptop stands, you should see how these stands compare against laptop arms that clamp onto your desk.

Why Not Both?

Are you dreaming of a laptop stand that also has a fan built in? Well, you’re in luck.

This laptop stand actually comes with a fan built in! 

Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

Leave a Comment