Heat is a problem that many electronics are forced to deal with, to one extent or another. Push enough power through chips, and they’re going to get hot: the trick is what you then do with that excess heat. Many devices use a combination of fans and vents in order to deliver cooler ambient air to chips, but those solutions don’t exactly translate well over to smartphones. Instead, we’re largely forced to put up with phones that can get quite hot to the touch when running at full throttle. NEC might just have a workable solution to that problem, upon news arriving of its plans to release the first smartphone with a liquid cooling system.
Liquid-based cooling has been used by mainframe computers and customized PCs for decades, but it’s only in the past several years or so that it’s started to go more mainstream. NEC will be using such a system on its Medias X, set to launch in Japan this summer.
Since there’s still no fan or vent, use of liquid cooling with a smartphone like the Medias X is less about getting that heat out of the phone, and more about spreading it around. The liquid system helps move heat from the SoC to the other end of the handset, helping to avoid “hot spots.”
This mode of operation makes sense given NEC’s Medias X SoC choice, a Snapdragon 600 running at 1.7GHz. If it were trying something more extreme, seriously overclocking a chip, we’d expect a little more advanced of a cooling system, but this simpler liquid system NEC describes sounds like a good fit for a chip that’s not pushing too many thermal boundaries in the first place.
Now we just have to see if this makes a large enough difference for other smartphone manufacturers to consider adopting it for their own designs.