4 March 2008
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Author: Eric Hanson
4 March 2008, Comments: 0

While the NZXT Cryo LX’s size and large carrying shape make it impractical for the road warrior with the ultralight notebook, it does do an excellent job of serving as cooler, stand, and additional USB port source for 15-inch and larger notebooks. 

Eric Hanson

One Massive Cooler

The Cryo LX reminds me of a launching pad: its twenty degree angle triangle construction, cool brushed aluminum surface, and the ribbed rubber grips arranged in a U shape on the Cryo LX’s surface look like they could send your computer into space if need be. Vents in the Cryo LX’s surface allow air flow up from the trio of 120 mm fans suspended from the thick part of the triangle; the fans, which have their own protective shroud, work on a speed control knob on the right side of the unit.

On the back is the LX’s DC power input, which connects to your computer through an included USB to DC cable. In addition, NZXT included a 4 + 1 port USB hub that also connects to your computer through a separate USB cable. The LX’s segmented design folds around a hinge a quarter of the way from the bottom of the pad; the hinge is supposed to facilitate carrying, although in my experience the LX never folded up enough to be very portable.

Although from the top, the Cryo LX folds up to a tidy package…

...from the bottom, things tend to stick out. There also aren't any storage compartments.

…from the bottom, things tend to stick out. There also aren’t any storage compartments.

Of course, portability may not be the point: NZXT designed the Cryo LX to support notebooks that are up to 17 inches in width, and at that size, portability is much less of a consideration. That said, the Cryo LX’s full aluminum construction does make it very light (slightly heavier than it would be if built in plastic) and presumably very sturdy to boot, so you could take it with you if you felt the need. Of course, with its built-in hub and ergonomically-pleasing wrist angle, you might find the Cryo LX to be more appropriate at the center of a dock-like notebook station, particularly because the Cryo LX does not come with storage compartments for its two cables.

This 15-inch notebook fits handily on the Cryo LX's large surface.

This 15-inch notebook fits handily on the Cryo LX’s large surface.

Usage

We’ll be looking at some temperature data below to get a more scientific sense of how well the Cryo LX works as a cooler, but from a usage standpoint, I found the Cryo LX to be much more practical on a desktop than on my lap – and that was while using it with a 3.5 pound notebook, and not one of the 17 inch monsters of the cooler’s target market. However, if you do use the Cryo LX on your lap, you’ll notice two perks: first, the conductive aluminum construction of the Cryo LX really helps the cooler live up to its name: not only will you feel some air flow – particularly from the sides – but the metal itself gets quite cold, and very quickly feels like the air coming out of an AC unit. Second, the combination of the hinge and the steep angle in the design turn the Cryo LX into a perfectly flat table when placed on your lap, providing a good measure of stability.

Speaking of air flow, I found the Cryo LX’s fan control switch to be a useful addition. While NZXT’s choice of fan isn’t ear-jarringly loud, it isn’t whisper quiet either, particularly at full speed. Overall, turning the fan’s speed down, particularly after the fans had already cooled off the Cryo LX’s chassis, made for a good combination of cooling and quiet.

A trio of 120mm fans keep the Cryo LX very cool.

A trio of 120mm fans keep the Cryo LX very cool.

The Cryo LX’s USB ports are an interesting addition, not only because they add an additional feature, but because of how they work: despite the inclusion of two cables, it turns out you only need to sacrifice one USB port on your computer to set up power and connectivity, because the standard USB cable will power both the fans and the hub. My guess is that NZXT included the DC option for those people who either want to power USB toys that need no computer connection, or don’t want to waste system resources on USB ports they don’t need. In any case, the Cryo LX’s five ports all draw a healthy 500 mA per port, which theoretically gives the Cryo LX enough power for the needs of almost any USB device.

The Cryo LX from a rear angle; note the triangular design and the USB hub.

The Cryo LX from a rear angle; note the triangular design and the USB hub.

A close up for the 4 + 1 USB hub and DC connection.

A close up for the 4 + 1 USB hub and DC connection.

Temperature Tests

Perceived comfort is one thing, but how well does the Cryo LX really work? To find out, I used an infrared non-contact thermometer with a -20ºC to 320ºC temperature range and a piece of software called Hardware Sensors Monitor 4.4.0.2 to measure the external and internal temperatures of my Dell Latitude D430 notebook.

First I ran an external test, letting the computer sit in active but idle mode for 30 minutes with the Cryo LX off, then active but idle for 30 minutes with the Cryo LX on. At the end of each 30 minute period I took a series of temperature readings, and then averaged the results. Here’s what I found:

  • Average temperature without fan: 90ºF
  • Average temperature with fan: 82ºF
  • Average temperature of bottom of Cryo LX base with fan: 77ºF

As you can see, the Cryo LX does a good job cooling off the base of the computer and – should you choose – your lap, too. Even better, that 13ºF difference in temperature between bare computer and the Cryo LX with fan does not include the added benefit of having the cold air blowing through the aluminum to cool your legs.

After finding that the Cryo LX makes using a laptop nine percent more comfortable, I was curious to see how much the fan affected temperatures inside the computer. With the size of the Cryo LX making lap use a little impractical, I’m more concerned about the Cryo LX making the difference between a malfunction and smooth operation on a warm day. First, I let the computer sit active but idle for half an hour without the fan, then sit active but idle for half an hour with the fan. After each thirty minute period, I measured the temperature of the processor and the motherboard. Here’s what I found:

  • Temperature of motherboard with no fan: 118ºF
  • Temperature of processor with no fan: 117ºF
  • Temperature of motherboard with fan: 100ºF
  • Temperature of processor with fan: 91ºF

That drop in processor temperature is particularly impressive, and is no doubt a direct result of the Cryo LX’s conductive aluminum construction.

Finally, I measured the temperature of the hard drive under continuous load, by using Audacity to record thirty minutes of silence without running the fan, then thirty minutes of silence while running the fan. After each thirty-minute interval, I measured the temperature of the hard drive. Here’s what I found:

  • Temperature of hard drive without fan: 95ºF
  • Temperature of hard drive with fan: 88ºF

A less significant result here, but even when the hard running is running full speed for a long period of time, the fan still has an effect on the temperature.

Recap

Although most users will probably find the Cryo LX more useful as a laptop stand and USB hub, it also proved itself to be adept as a cooler. Even though I found the relationship between the two types of cables is a little confusing, and the lack of wire storage – not the mention the Cryo LX’s size, even after you’ve folded it – to be troubling, the Cryo LX’s other features make it worth of consideration for those looking to cool their larger laptops.

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