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I have dealt with dozens of laptops over the years that simply cannot withstand maintained 100% CPU usage for more than a short while using stock cooling. Not one (although to be fair they're mostly mid-line laptops, no serious gamer-performance machines).

Mostly, laptops seem to do one of two things when pushed this way, (1) power down/overheat, or (2) throttle the CPU back to force temperatures down.

Is this simply a common issue with laptops (which often have little space for adequate fans), or what? I have never noticed this trend to the same extent with desktops. I have several desktop/servers that can grind away at 100% CPU for days under various stress tests or server applications and never break a sweat (so to speak), even though they almost all use stock cooling.

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The difference there is that desktops have much more air flow. One thing that I've seen to be true is that smoking around your laptop or desktop will eventually cake the insides. The heatsinks cannot transfer heat as well and are more prone to overheat. I've ran some processor intensive applications on my laptops before that would take 3-4 hours of render time at full CPU usage. I've never had any issues.

I did have a MacBook Pro (first gen) that had horrible heat issues. I ended up taking it apart and realized that they used 10x too much thermal paste. After reapplying the thermal paste to an appropriate amount, I was able to notice a 15 deg C difference.

[edit]

Come to think also. I had a few laptops (Centrino2) that were horrible with heat. I had to get heatpads to set the laptop on in order to maintain a somewhat normal temperature.

All of the Sandy Bridge Core i3/i5/i7 laptops that i've owned in the past and current have not had any issues with heat.

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Interesting note on the Centrino family, I've also noticed that trend. –  Unsigned Dec 24 '11 at 21:54

Yes, this is pretty common. Laptops are made for carrying and portability, not running intensive with CPU at 100% for prolonged periods of time.

And usually most are designed with that in mind.

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