Asus' GX700 gaming laptop sure turned a lot of heads when it was introduced at the IFA trade show, but the reason wasn't the hardware—or at least, it wasn't the type of hardware that people usually fawn over.
Sure, the GX700 has an overclockable, quad-core Skylake Core i7-6820HK CPU, Nvidia’s bad-ass GeForce GTX 980, a buttery-smooth G-Sync panel, and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, but the real story on this laptop is the water-cooling.
Yes, a water-cooled laptop. We’ve known about the water-cooling existence since the laptop's first unveiling, but Asus is starting to finally spill some details on how it works.
How it works
If you’ve seen pictures of the GX700's bulbous rear-end, you know the water-cooling's not exactly portable. Asus knows this, of course, so the water-cooling can come undocked. The question is how did the company pull it off?
The dock itself contains all of the liquid-cooling components. There are two 90mm radiators and fans under the vents, along with a pump and reservoir. The liquid-cooling dock connects to the laptop using a pair of quick-disconnects. You can see them in the image below.
To mate the laptop, you slide it onto several guidance pegs and then push it down, where it locks in place. Asus said it spent extra engineering resources to make sure you can’t screw it up, and the company doesn’t expect people to be able to.
Once once you’ve locked the laptop in place, the quick release nozzles open up and the liquid flows into the laptop. One question I have is how well those quick release nozzles seal. I’ve used them on custom water cooling loops in the past and there’s usually a drip or two leaking out after they're disconnected. On the GX700 I decided to see if I could reproduce that by doing removing and inserting the GX700 from the dock 10 to 15 times. Even after that many attempts, I couldn’t get one single drip to spill.
Still, Asus does anticipate possible maintenance at some point: Even without the liquid dripping out on occasion, water goes away over time. Asus officials said the laptop will be able to alert you if the reservoir gets too low.
When it does get low—and this will chaffe customers—service is not something it wants customers to perform. Instead, the dock will have to sent back to the company for servicing. That’s a bummer, but fortunately the laptop still works perfectly fine without the dock.
Inside the GX700
The GX700 relies on a pair of conventional heat pipes for cooling inside the laptop itself. It’s easy to confuse a heat pipe with a conventional water-cooling system, but they’re not the same, and the water from the dock doesn’t actually flow through the system inside the GX700. If Asus did that, the cooling on the laptop wouldn’t be effective when not docked.
So Asus used a hybrid system that features dual heat pipes for the GPU and CPU and some kind of proprietary thermal interface that helps the water cooling system suck as much heat out of the heat pipes as possible when you're docked. Here’s a look inside the GX700 that helps you understand that the water doesn’t actually mix with the heat pipe. This shot also gives you an idea of how the radiators are arrayed in the dock.
Will a hybrid system like this work? Asus seems to think so. With the laptop docked, the company says you can achieve a 20 percent overclock on the GPU as well as healthy overclocks out of the CPU, as both are water-cooled.
What we still don’t know about the GX700 is the price or availability. It’s expected to hit the streets in time for the Christmas shopping season but the price? Expect it to be pretty penny. This kind of system appeals to a small, select crowd of gamers who want to be cooler than everyone else—and with the GX700, they can actually be water-cooler than everyone else. (Sigh--Ed.)
This story, "Asus GX700 deep-dive: Here's what's inside the world's first water-cooled gaming laptop" was originally published by PCWorld.