Skip navigation

I recently had the chance to work with an Asus Vivobook X202E ultrabook (the S200E and Q200E are very similar models with only slight feature differences). I’d like to state upfront that these tiny laptops seem like pretty awesome machines. They can be had for less than $500, are quite thin and fairly light, constructed with plenty of metal instead of cheap easy-to-damage plastic, and pack a pretty scary amount of power under the hood. The Core i3-3217U CPU it uses is faster than most Athlon II X3 desktop processors, yet is designed for low-power applications where a standard laptop CPU can’t go. If this was a review, I’d go into more detail, but for now I would like to talk about one single aspect of these laptops.

The Asus Vivobook CPU constantly overheats and goes into thermal throttling at full load.

20140117_134300_scaled

Tritech Service System burn-in temperature display; originally hit 89 and throttled.

What is thermal throttling? When a modern CPU reaches a certain temperature near the maximum operating temperature it’s designed to handle, the CPU will slow down the clock that keeps everything inside working at the same speed. For example, a 1200 MHz chip might throw its clock down to 400 MHz, reducing the heat it produces to a little over 1/3 what it was at 1200 MHz. This is both good and bad; the CPU is keeping itself from crashing by overheating, but performance drops severely until the temperature drops low enough. When it happens, you usually notice “stuttering” in the video or sound due to the sudden drop in performance, and nothing is more annoying than watching a TV show that jerks and has choppy audio for no apparent reason.

For many owners of the Vivobook 200 series, this doesn’t matter. It’s rare that streaming Netflix or watching a 720p video on YouTube (the LCD is effectively a 720p screen) will spike both cores–or all four threads if you prefer–to their maximum load. Even if it did trigger thermal throttling, the Vivobook doesn’t do it unless the 100% CPU usage is sustained for a minute or more based on my experiments, and most tasks that spike the CPU don’t do it for more than a few seconds.

Unfortunately, this thermal throttling also means that the Vivobook 200 series can’t run the CPU at full blast without random performance losses. I’d like to share with you how I fixed an Asus Vivobook’s overheating/thermal throttling problem completely.

Disclaimer: This is done entirely at your own risk, but you know that already, don’t you?

You will need:

  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Lots of little thermal pads OR a cut-to-fit thermal pad sheet

20140117_123133_scaled

Remove the entire bottom from the laptop. With the motherboard facing up and the back facing you, look for the black square with the yellow warranty label stuck to the right-hand side.

20140117_123115_scaled

This square is what you need to cool off. Note that you will only be working with the square area to the right of where it “ramps” away to a small square indentation and the cooling fan assembly.

Cover the square (including the part that covers the RAM and also some of the “ramping” part) with thermal pads or a cut-to-fit thermal sheet.

20140117_123655_scaled

Cut (and remove any pointy bits remaining after cutting) a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil that is exactly the size of the area you covered with thermal padding doubled horizontally so it can be folded over itself.

20140117_123911_scaled

Lay half of the foil sheet over the thermal pads. Apply the exact same pattern of thermal padding on top of the existing padding and foil.

20140117_124425_scaled

Fold the foil over into a “sandwich” over those pads.

20140117_124507_scaled

Apply one last layer of thermal pads except where the vents on the bottom will be. This will be the top 1/3 of the square you’re trying to cool; you can look through the vents at the thermal pads you’ve placed to see if you need to remove or relocate them.

20140117_125658_scaled20140117_125744_scaled

When the unit is closed, these pads will make contact with a foil layer that is part of the bottom panel. Close the unit carefully, checking the “give” of the back panel against where the CPU sits! I cannot stress this enough, because thermal padding often varies in thickness and you might have to remove a layer of padding and foil to safely reassemble everything. If you have doubts, take the computer to a professional that knows what they’re doing!

After doing this modification, a burn-in test on the Vivobook maxed out at 85 degrees C with no thermal throttling, where previously it would float at 89-91 degrees C and repeatedly throttle itself.

20140117_150959_scaled

Idle CPU temperature in TSS after the fix. It was in the 50s before!

The only minor disadvantage is that the Vivobook’s bottom gets warmer in the back because the CPU is now making thermal contact with it, but this shouldn’t be a problem and the improvement in performance under load and overall reliability should be worth it.

Open Hardware Monitor readings taken during three days of non-stop use.

Open Hardware Monitor readings during/after 3 days of use, two months after applying the cooling fix and still running cool!

Please leave any questions in the comments and I will try to answer them quickly.

About these ads

16 Comments

  1. put a photo please, so it is not quite clear

    • I’ve now added photos of the entire process and cleaned up the descriptions a bit.

  2. there are heat pipes in the cooling system?
    the photo is not visible

    • No, there aren’t any heat pipes. The heatsink is just a single copper sheet bent into shape.

  3. Did you use 1 or 2 mm pads?
    Also, do you think that a single layer of this 3mm pad: http://mlm-s1-p.mlstatic.com/pad-termico-thermal-pads-10cmx10cmx3mm-reballing-laptop-mdn-3025-MLM3790174802_022013-O.jpg should be able to do the work?
    Even though it may not be able to touch the case it may work as a heatsink, what do you think?

    • They’re quite thin. I don’t know the exact size. It shouldn’t matter because you will be crushing what you make with the back panel and can change the recipe depending on the thickness of the pads you get. The key is not making a sandwich of pads and foil that is way too thick, because you could hurt your motherboard. If you don’t make contact with the bottom panel, there’s really no point in doing this.

  4. Where did you get the pads buddy?
    And with this solution are you able to mantain both cores at constant 1.8GHZ?

    • The pads are from eBay. After running an hour long burn-in the CPU never went high enough to throttle down, so yes, full speed on both cores even after running full blast for an extended period. Few workloads will ever tax this chip this hard.

  5. Hi, a little confused about your results of “max of 85″ and the screenshot of temps showing 45-46. are you getting it at 46 when not over taxed? my stock laptop has never gone below 53 I think and goes to 80 when watching HD videos. Does this mod completely eliminate the throttling issue no matter what the workload and ambient temps are? What temps do you reach doing moderate activity like HD video streaming. What if the bottom vents are blocked as they usually are when using on the lap on the couch. Thank you .

    • Idle temps went from 50s before to 45-46 after; max temperature after running at least 30 minutes non-stop CPU burn-in on a shop workbench went from 89-90 (throttling) to 85-86. I haven’t run tests in areas above “room temperature” or in high humidity, but I have used it on my lap and the cushioned arm of a very large chair and seen no throttling under full load. My fix has completely eliminated all throttling at room temperature and with CPU at full load for a minimum of half an hour; that’s about as much as I have tested. Blocking vents doesn’t seem to alter much; the cooling is not very good, and my fix essentially uses the bottom of the case as an extra passive cooler for the CPU. I would never advise blocking the vents if it’s at full load in any event.

  6. Thanks a lot, I will try the mod. It should not void warranty too right, since the warranty tab is intact.
    I just recently picked up this laptop and was thinking of returning due to the posts regarding bad heatsink designs.
    I am new to core processors in general, and am coming from a 5 year old AMD but 70s -85 is still kind of high for a core processor compared to other laptops right? I see on desktops users are getting 45-50C while playing games. I am considering a lenovo yoga 11s ivy or haswell as well . either way thanks a lot for figuring this out

    • It shouldn’t void the warranty. This chip is specified to operate normally at a maximum of 105 degrees Celsius, but is apparently also designed to throttle at 90. The processor won’t be harmed at the temperatures that it reaches, and throttling is just a way for it to ensure that it can’t reach temperatures that WILL harm it.

  7. Could you suggest a way to do this without adhesive thermal pads? I can’t seem to find any (cheaply) available in my country. I was thinking of just using a thick layer of foil though I don’t know how to even keep it in place.
    I also have thermal paste: non-conductive cheap Chinese ones and a DeepCool Z9.
    I’m dying to properly play my games without constant hiccups after a few minutes of game time.
    I was even thinking of upvolting the fan somehow, replacing it with something else, or undervolting the cpu (which I don’t even know how to begin with).
    Thanks

    • I don’t think you can do it without thermal pads. I purchase mine on eBay. Is that an option for you?

        • Ayu
        • Posted March 13, 2014 at 12:38 am
        • Permalink

        I’d have to buy internationally which would add to the overall cost. I’d go for it though the next time since I’ve already opened up my unit and replaced the thermal paste. My unit has been out of warranty for a couple of months now anyway.
        After cleaning up the very sloppily-applied light gray paste, I proceeded to apply my own non-conductive cheap Chinese thermal paste. I also bent the metal part where the screwholes are in holding the heatsink down to the CPU so that they apply more pressure after being screwed on.
        Lo and behold! From a cold boot idle temp of 60-65c it went down to 47-53c! That’s a whopping 10c difference! Going from load to idle makes it sit at 56-61c now as opposed to resting at 73-78c before.
        I’m sure it could go even lower if I also did your technique and used better thermal paste too (AS5 or Z5, perhaps.)
        A little gaming with L4D that ended up in massive hiccups and throttling before (90c) is now stable and floats at 78c or so.
        I’ll do some stress testing and report back if you want.
        It would also be interesting to see what kind of results you would get if you also reapplied your paste.
        If your temps didn’t improve, I have a theory that it may be because of the downward pressure your pads applied and how I bent the screwholes to make the contact tighter.

        • nctritech
        • Posted March 13, 2014 at 6:33 am
        • Permalink

        Just remember that increasing the pressure on the processor increases the risk of fracturing the ball grid connecting it to the motherboard. If that happens, you will have to perform a reflow to fix it, assuming that there isn’t any physical damage to the components.

        If you want to try my fix, you may be able to use thermal paste between aluminum foil layers to do it. You will need to be careful to only use the amount of foil minimally required to make solid contact with the base plastic. Excessive foil will allow shocks to the bottom to feed directly toward the processor. Given the very fine pitch of these ball grid arrays, I am personally not comfortable with anything that adds stress to them, especially due to the repetitive thermal cycling they experience during use.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: