Applying new thermal paste on a GPD Pocket 2 for better thermals
The GPD Pocket 2 (P2) has decent thermal paste applied coming out of the factory, but thanks to modders and tinkerers it became rather evident that you could get quite a substantial decrease in temperature if you re-apply the thermal paste with your own, higher grade paste.
While I generally try to avoid opening up somewhat expensive gadgets and fiddle with CPU cooling, A promised ~10 degree decrease was quite tempting and effectively the difference between having to use the P2's internal fan, or being able to turn it off when using it more casually.
I captured a few photos detailing the process, even though it is fairly straight forward without any surprises. As I personally enjoy watching photos of processes like these before deciding to perform them myself, however, I am sharing them here in hopes I may help someone else who is contemplating performing this upgrade.
This steps taken here will likely be identical for the Amber Black model, and mostly the same for the original Pocket 1 too, although its internals are slightly different in layout.
Be warned though; if you make an oopsy, you might end up breaking your pretty P2. If you're not completely comfortable both with electronics/computer hardware and with you potentially destroying your new gadget, I'd recommend you not try this.
Proceed at your own risk.
Start by removing the six screws found at the bottom of the P2. The sixth screw is hidden behind a small sticker, which you'll have to remove to gain access to the screw. The screws themselves are very small Philips screw-head screws. Make sure you use the right size, as you don't want to wear out those tiny screws. Once all six screws are out, you can lift off the bottom panel. There is nothing attached to the panel, but do be careful regardless.
Once you're in, you'll notice the heatsink on the left-hand side of the unit. The CPU is near the bottom (or front) of the P2, with the heat sink being held in place there with just four screws. The tail of the heat sink moves upward and around a fan, but is not attached anywhere else other than those four screws.
Remove the four screws, and very carefully lift up the entire heat sink assembly. You'll notice there's a small lip of sorts attached to the fan that is overlaying the heat sink somewhat, so move the heat sink in such a way that you can clear this overlay.
With the heat sink assembly removed, you'll now be greeted with a somewhat nasty looking CPU. You'll have to clean this completely, so grab some paper tissues and cotton swabs and get to work. Be careful not to spread the thermal compound onto the motherboard, as that would probably be quite difficult to clean off if you do.
With the CPU cleaned as best you can, move on to cleaning the heat sink assembly. Fortunately that'll be easier to clean. Once you've cleaned this too, you're all set. Fortunately it's only these two bits that need cleaning.
Now it's time to apply your new thermal paste. I have used Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound, but there are many choices out there. Just be sure to pick one that is well tested and reviewed, you'll want to make sure you're replacing the factory installed thermal compound with something that's actually better, otherwise this entire ordeal is rather pointless ;-).
Oh yes, and be careful with how much you apply. Basically do what I didn't do; take it easy. As a general rule, however much you think comes out of one of those little thermal compound syringes; double that will actually come out. I had to wipe off a bit of compound or I would've drowned the CPU.
And with that done, it's time to re-install the heat sink assembly. If you for whatever reason removed the fan, you should re-install it before installing the heat sink. The top-left screw of the fan is covered by the heat sink, so this must be screwed in place first.
If you want to make absolutely sure you did not apply too much thermal paste, look around the heat sink as best you can, and look for any possible leakage. If some paste spilled out, open it up again and clean the outer edges of the CPU area with cotton swabs, and re-apply the heat sink afterwards.
Now all you have to do is close up your P2 by putting the bottom plate back on with its six screws, and that's it. Pretty easy, right?
While other people have taken things one step further and applied thermal pads over the heat sink assembly, to give it a better connection with the bottom plate which, in turn, helps get the heat away from the computer faster, I have chosen not to do this for now. Mostly because I was curious what effect —if any— re-applying just the thermal paste would have.
The results are very pleasing, I must admit. I noticed a temperature difference of upwards of 10 degrees —down to about 32 degrees from around 41-2— when the Pocket 2 is idle or performing light tasks, which is quite a big difference. While idle temperatures are nice and all, you're obviously not going to not use your P2, but I'm happy to say that even under load the results are far better than before.
I am, for example, able to keep the fan off for basic tasks like browsing, coding, or watching a movie, which is exactly what I was hoping for. Whereas before the P2 would hit 55 degrees quite easily while watching a movie —which is in the range where the fan kicks in louder— I can now watch a movie without issue with the fan turned off.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but I would be very surprised if you performed this upgrade and noticed no noticeable results. If you'd like, performing both upgrades should yield even better results (though the laws of diminishing results apply here — don't expect another drop of 10 degrees).
There is more you can do to improve thermals, especially after re-applying thermal paste or adding the extra thermal pads. Undervolting is a common practice used to get longer battery life and lower temperatures when using laptops or other portable devices. The benefits with the Pocket 2 are no different in this regard.
I used Throttlestop and created a low-power profile that lowers the CPU and CPU cache voltage by about -75mA, and the iGPU voltage by about -57mA. I also disabled turbo boost and set the Intel Speedstep variable to 255. What works best for your particular needs and specific device is something you should find out on your own, so please use these numbers only as a general direction.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to the gpd_devices Discord member who goes by the name of @ragusaucy who helped me with these settings. Thank you kindly!
With these aforementioned numbers I could run Cinebench R15, without fan on, and the P2 hit 55 degrees maximum, which is incredible if you ask me. Watching a movie with these settings resulted in about 48 degrees, again with the fan turned off. Before these changes and using the P2 in its stock configuration the P2 could easily hit 70 degrees under (heavier) load, so this is a substancial drop to say the least.
At the cost of performance, of course. The nice thing about Throttlestop is that it has preset support built-in, so you can very quickly and easily switch to higher powered modes should the need for this arise.
If performance is needed, you'd want to turn off all these settings —or even go the other way and raise the TDP settings— and turn the fan on, so that he P2 has enough breathing room to go wild, proverbially speaking. I have not yet ventured in that direction though.
I have found but not yet tested a small Python library that lets you apply voltage changes, just like Throttlestop. In fact, it natively supports reading Throttlestop's configuration file, so once you've dialed in on the settings you like most, you can copy your
.ini file over to Linux and under- (or over, I guess)volt the exact same way. While I have not personally tested this just yet, Black-Seraph did confirm on the gpd_devices Discord that it works for him. Give it a try if you'd like, the more people that test and confirm these solutions, the better.
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