Lenovo Legion 9i's Biggest Boast Falls Flat: Liquid Cooling Under Scrutiny

Lenovo Legion 9i
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Lenovo Legion 9i's much vaunted liquid cooler has been tested and found wanting. In brief, YouTuber Dave2D fiddled with his Legion gaming laptop review sample and A / B tested the device with and without the liquid cooling pump connected to power, observing thermals and performance. Sadly, little to no significant worthwhile difference was observed when the pump was powered on.

Lenovo launched the Legion 9i last month, with plans to release this $4,000+ flagship gaming portable later this month. We had a look at it in September, and a few hours ago Dave2D published his review.

It is thought that Lenovo put in a lot of effort to pull something special out of the bag for its new flagship Legion 9i gaming laptop. It sports flagship components inside, an impressive MiniLED display, as well as a unique carbon fiber shell. Furthermore, it was heralded as "the world's first laptop with integrated liquid cooling." This may all have been deemed necessary to boast widespread improvements over the firm's own Legion 7 series.

Creating an effective gaming laptop cooling solution can't be easy, with concentrated amounts of power in such a small space. The Lenovo Legion 9i features powerful processors like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 at 175W, and the Intel Core i9-13980HX. As well as the headlining liquid cooler, it features a triple fan cooling system with several heatpipes to keep your gaming as fast and smooth as possible.

Dave2D revealed that the liquid cooler, designed with Cooler Master's collaboration, is set to power-up by default when sensors read 84 degrees Celsius. When it hits this quite toasty temperature the pump will start pushing its very modest ~10ml of liquid around.

As we noted from our own hands-on time with a demo unit in September, the pipes attached to the pump circle the GPU, over the VRAM modules. Dave2D tested the Legion 9i with and without power to the liquid cooling pump to generate the comparison chart below.

(Image credit: Dave2D)

Taking the numbers on face value, you can see a number of interesting things. Firstly, the GPU power draw, fan noise, Time Spy benchmark scores, and observed VRAM junction temperatures are basically unchanged in the A/B testing. The only real change is that it takes the system two or three minutes to hit the 101 degrees Celsius VRAM junction temperature (from cold) when the liquid cooler is working. That time is cut drastically to just over 40 seconds when the pump has had its power cut.

For a gaming laptop designed to support AAA gaming for hours at a time, it would be reasonable to say that the observed liquid cooling behavior isn't useful. Dave2D warns that his A/B testing method could have been more scientific, if he were to replace the liquid cooler loop with an identically sizes / shaped regular heatpipe, for example. Other analysis within the video highlights how the triple fan cooling system has an impact on the keyboard deck and touchpad positioning.

In conclusion, the liquid cooling here might not be much more beneficial to the overall laptop system's performance than an RGB backlit logo spelling "FAST." Lenovo's Legion 9i still has a lot of admirable qualities, but its touted liquid cooling benefit over a similar spec Legion 7 Pro (which is about $1,000 cheaper) doesn't seem very worthwhile.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • williamcll
    Looks like Clevo remains on top with their 6 pipe design
  • watzupken
    The result is not suprising. While you can move heat away from the source faster, you are ultimately hitting a bottleneck in terms of the size of the cooler in a laptop form factor. An exteral liquid cooler works very well simply because you can now transfer heat to a bigger heatsink outside the laptop chassis, and with just 1 heatpipe to circulate the water in the laptop.