Supplemental Cooling and Performance Testing Guide

  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock air flow MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display workstation
  • SVALT D2 Cooling Dock cooling airflow with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina
  • SVALT D2 Cooling Dock cooling airflow with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina
  • SVALT D2 Cooling Dock cooling airflow with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina
  • SVALT D2 Cooling Dock cooling airflow with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina
  • SVALT D2 Cooling Dock cooling airflow with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina

This guide is provided for SVALT reviewers and those interested in learning more about how to conduct accurate and repeatable cooling tests.

    Conventional benchmark tests typically gauge performance by testing for a few minutes at most and then compare results to a database of previous tests. The process of testing supplemental cooling systems differs from typical performance benchmark testing in the following ways:

    #1 Throttling
    Processor throttling has a dramatic impact on laptop temperatures and performance. If not familiar with throttling, then please read SVALT’s Laptop Throttling page. Tests conducted to measure temperature should avoid processor throttling, while tests conducted to measure performance require throttling to be present in at least the CONTROL test. The TYPES tab covers this topic in greater detail.

    #2 Repeatability
    Accurate measurement of supplemental cooling is achieved by conducting two tests with workloads and conditions that are as close to identical as possible, one test without supplemental cooling as the CONTROL test that determines the laptop's built-in cooling system capacity, and one test with SVALT supplemental as the SVALT test that determines the supplemental cooling power. The CONTROLS tab covers this topic in greater detail.

    #3 Duration
    A single test session will often take at least an hour to show the influence of internal heat buildup and the effects of supplemental cooling. The PROCESS tab covers this topic in greater detail.

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    As described in SVALT’s Laptop Throttling page, temperature and performance are directly connected and so cannot be easily tested and measured at the same moment in time. Depending on the testing workload and methods used, temperature and performance can either be tested and measured in separate tests or within the same test that divides the test results into pre-throttling and post-throttling data sets.

    Temperature Testing
    Since supplemental cooling increases the system's total cooling capacity, the system can then run processors at higher power for a longer period of time with little to no throttling, which will in turn generate more heat because the processors are working harder. This means that temperatures in the SVALT test can be as high or higher than the CONTROL test when throttling occurs.

    If separate tests are used to measure temperatures, then the testing should apply a workload sufficient to generate heat but not so high to induce throttling. Possible tests might be playing/streaming a video for around an hour or more.

    If the same test is used to measure temperature and performance, then the testing data will need to be divided into separate data sets, such as 1) a pre-throttling data set, 2) a post-throttling data set with an increasing rate of throttling, and 3) a post-throttling data set with a steady rate of throttling. Each of the data sets can be tagged with start times in the CONTROL test and then synced up with the SVALT test data to allow for accurate comparisons. At that point each data set can be analyzed for peaks and averages, with the first pre-throttling data set used for temperature comparisons and the third post-throttling-steady-rate data set used for power, speed and performance comparisons. The second post-throttling-rising-rate data set cannot be easily used for comparisons. The CPU Test on SVALT's Performance by Design page is an example of a single test that has been used for both temperature and performance measures.

    Performance Testing
    Supplemental cooling helps to reduce heat buildup, however, it can only improve performance when the CONTROL test has enough heat buildup to cause the system to throttle processor power and in turn cause a reduction in temperatures, speed and performance. So to measure performance, throttling must occur in at least the CONTROL test. The time required to trigger throttling can vary from a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on the laptop’s built-in cooling system capacity relative to the laptop’s performance capabilities, the applied workload intensity, and the ambient temperature.

    Performance testing can target either the CPU or GPU separately, or can simultaneously target both the CPU and GPU. One way to test performance is to apply a heavy workload to the CPU or GPU by using a high-demand application or by running a stress test program for around an hour or more, and then either run appropriate CPU or GPU benchmarks programs while the workloads are applied or immediately after the workload ends. Some example applications and programs are provided below.

    Mac Controlled Stress Tests
    • CPU: Prime95 Torture Test Go to Options menubar -> select Torture Test -> select Small FFTs to stress test the CPU -> enter the number of torture test thread to run. Prime95's default setting is the number of processor cores x2, which will create a maximum stress test scenario similar to what the system encounters with high-demand applications designed to use multiple core processors, such as most video editing software. Enter 1 for a heavy stress test of the system, similar to applications not optimized for multicore processors and workloads that rely more Turbo Boost activity. Being able to tailor the workload provides an easily controlled and repeatable testing scenario.
    • CPU: Geekbench 3 Pro Go to Benchmarks menubar -> select Run Stress Tests -> select Limit tests -> set limit to an hour or more.
    • GPU/CPU: LuxMark
    • GPU: Geeks3D GpuTest
    • GPU: Unigine Heaven/Valley

    Mac Benchmarks
    Mac High-Demand Applications
    • CPU: Exporting large 4K or higher res video files with Apple Final Cut Pro X
    • CPU: Exporting large 4K or higher res video files with Adobe Premiere Pro
    • CPU/GPU: 3D rendering for an extended period of time
    • GPU/CPU: Playing games for an extended period of time

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    To achieve useful and accurate results, testing conditions need to be as close to identical between the CONTROL and SVALT tests. This is accomplished by eliminating non-testing variables and setting up tests in a way that can be repeated as easily as possible with identical workloads and conditions. The following are the conditions and variables that SVALT controls for its tests:

    Laptop Compatibility
    Use a compatible laptop per SVALT’s Laptop Compatibility page.

    Laptop Setup and Operation
    Setup and operate per SVALT’s Setup and Operation page. Note that for testing, SVALT aluminum components will absorb heat, so do not setup until ready to prep for the SVALT test session. Also note that the SVALT D2’s Turbo+ cooling mode is recommended for the SVALT test.

    Laptop Clamshell Workstation Setup
    Setup a laptop clamshell workstation per SVALT’s Laptop Clamshell Setup page. Note that the laptop battery should be fully charged at least an hour before starting tests, as a charging or a recently charged battery can significant heat to the system.

    Laptop Background Activities
    There are a number of automated background activities that can consume system resources, generate significant amounts of heat, and reduce performance. The following steps can be taken to help ensure that nothing other than the intended test workload is stressing the system, and to help ensure that test workloads are consistent for all tests (note that some of these settings will automatically set, so check before each test session):
    • Disconnect Ethernet, external hard drives, and any other peripheries not required for testing.
    • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (use wired keyboard and mouse).
    • Turn off TimeMachine, DropBox and other backups.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Notifications -> click on Turn on Do Not Disturb in Notification Center -> Open Notification Center from top right of the menu bar -> turn on Do Not Disturb.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Displays -> deselect Automatic adjust brightness -> slide to max brightness.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> deselect automatic graphics switch.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> slide the Turn display off after to Never.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Desktop & Screen Saver -> Screen Saver -> switch Start after to Never.
    • Open OS X System Preferences -> Security & Privacy -> opt out of automatic reporting.
    • To avoid Spotlight from influencing testing make sure to let the computer run idle for a few minutes after startup or restart, or temporarily disable in Terminal.

    Laptop Component Monitoring
    To test the influence of SVALT supplemental cooling on laptop temperatures and performance, accurate laptop component temperature and power measurements need to be recorded and saved in a format that can be analyzed for comparison.
    • Intel Power Gadget is essential for measuring and recording CPU performance, throttling and temperature in a separate data log file. Go to Logging menubar -> select Log to File and confirm there is a check mark.
    • Paddle TG Pro measures and records the rest of the computer temperatures in a separate data log file. Go to menubar -> select Show Main Window.
    • Apple Activity Monitor provides real-time display activity (included with macOS)

    Laptop Fan Control
    SVALT supplemental coolings expanses the laptop’s cooling capacity to point that the laptop will export cooling from built-in cooling systems to SVALT cooling systems. That is can be beneficial for long term laptop component durability, but it does not help with testing the complete system’s maximum cooling and performance capabilities, and becomes a variable to control in order to isolate and measure the influence of supplemental cooling. The CONTROL laptop fans can run at 25-50% faster RPMs compared to with SVALT supplemental cooling, even though SVALT test temperatures remain lower. Locking fan RPMs at the higher CONTROL test speed normalizes this variable. In temperature testing with light workloads, the fan(s) should be locked between 30-40% of maximum RPM, so around 2500 for MacBook Pro laptops and 2800 RPM for MacBook Air laptops. In performance testing with heavy workloads, the fan(s) should be locked at maximum RPM. Controlling fan speeds is considered an advanced setting and fans should never be allowed to spin at speeds lower than the system default settings. There are free and paid applications that allow for the fans to be manually controlled, but Macs Fan Control seems to the best and most reliable option.
    Laptop Starting Temperatures
    Match internal component temperatures prior to starting tests. The easiest way to achieve this is to start the first test at normal working temperatures after conducting some light workloads while recording data or by taking a screenshot of internal component temperatures. This sensor data can then be used as a reference for the second test. After completing the first test, the laptop may need to sit idle or power down for a period of time before matching the screenshot reference temperatures. Note that SVALT supplemental coolers should not be used to cool the laptop if it will be used in the second test as aluminum components may absorb heat not associated with the testing workload.

    Ambient Temperatures
    Match ambient temperatures prior to starting tests and maintain through both the CONTROL and SVALT tests. Since most electrical components generate heat that can be transferred to the environment and laptop (external displays are major emitters of heat), it is critical that external ambient temperature gauges, the laptop and the SVALT supplemental cooler are all located so that external heating or cooling sources do influence temperatures. To maintain a consistent ambient temperature during testing, a manually controlled heating and/or cooling system will likely be required. Note that 75 Fahrenheit or higher temperatures have been used for most SVALT testing.

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    The following provides a sequential step-by-step guide for testing SVALT supplemental cooling. The CONTROL test can occur before or after the SVALT test, but is listed here as occurring after the SVALT test for easier post-test cool down. Either way, a sufficient amount of time is required to allow the laptop to cool down to pre-testing conditions before conducting an additional test session.
    1. Establish a testing ambient temperature that can be maintained throughout both the SVALT and CONTROL tests.
    2. Restrict laptop activities and maintain ambient temperature. See Laptop Background Activities and Ambient Temperatures in CONTROLS tab for details.
    3. Open laptop monitoring software, arrange sensor windows so that they can be captured in screen shots, and initiate data log recordings. See Laptop Component Monitoring in CONTROLS tab for details.
    4. Open selected testing application and prepare application for a quick test start, but do not start test. See TYPES tab for details.
    5. Test setup:
      • 1st SVALT test only: Set laptop into SVALT supplemental cooling device. See Laptop Compatibility and Setup in CONTROLS tab for details.
      • 2nd CONTROL test only: Match laptop temperatures with the 1st SVALT pre-test temperatures. If temperatures are higher, then wait at idle for temperatures to drop. If temperatures are lower, then apply light workload. See Laptop Starting Temperatures in CONTROLS tab for details.
    6. Manually lock laptop internal fan speeds. See Laptop Fan Control in CONTROLS tab for details.
    7. Start testing workload. See TYPES tab for details.
    8. Take screen shots at set times, or use a screen shot app.
    9. After testing workload is complete then end workload / quit application. See TYPES tab for details.
    10. Manually unlock laptop internal fan speeds and return to system defaults. See Laptop Fan Control in CONTROLS tab for details.
    11. Save data logs. See Laptop Component Monitoring in CONDITIONS tab for details.
    12. Test warp up:
      • 1st SVALT test only: Cool off laptop to return to pre-test temperatures, and then repeat testing for the 2nd CONTROL test with the same ambient temperature and laptop testing conditions. See Laptop Starting Temperatures in CONTROLS tab for details.
      • 2nd CONTROL test only: Return laptop settings to default and normal, see Laptop Background Activities in CONDITIONS tab for details. And then sort, average, analyze and compare testing data, see TYPES tab for details.

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