Posted by: kurtsh | July 5, 2012

INFO: In search of… the best home/office laptop cooling pad

imageI’ve bought several laptop cooling pads & the best I’ve bought to date was the “Targus Dual Fan USB 2.0 4-port Chill Hub”, partially because I love that it’s a USB 2.0 hub, but mostly because it’s lasted me a long time.  Most of these laptop cooling pads run into 1 of 3 problems:

  1. NOISE – The fans get clogged with dust or just start to warp from heat and wear.  The result is buzzing, clicking, and otherwise annoying noises that you have to deal with while you work.  Dealbreaker.
  2. FAILURE – The fans STOP.  This has happened on the majority of the cooling pads that I’ve used over the past 20 years.  I have historically run powerhouse laptops that run very hot and I don’t know if it’s the head dissipation that gets them or just that their MTBF sucks but they usually eventually die in a year or two.  Dealbreaker again.
  3. OVERLOAD – These units consume power off your USB bus, and if the unit is also a USB hub, you can bet that the power drain off your USB will stack.  The only resolution for this is if the unit supports a secondary AC power adapter, which only makes sense being that you’re not gonna move from place to placed with this cooling pad.  But alas, most manufacturers don’t supply an AC adapter and depend purely on the USB port.

I have 5 laptops in my home, all running and most of the cooling pads I bought were cheap and failed.  Why am I not just buying a new Targus unit?  Well, it’s cooling capability – while functional – isn’t really very good.  And the cooler your laptop runs, the longer it operates… and the better actual speed & performance you see from it.  (Ask any gamer)

So here’s the results of my quest for a new laptop cooling pad standard:

imageRosewill 15.4" – 17" Notebook Cooler with 4-Port USB Hub Model RNA-7600W ($39.99)
http://www.amazon.com/Rosewill-15-4-Notebook-Cooler-RNA-7600W/dp/B004PCB36E

While the unit can be powered directly off your laptop’s USB port, what’s interesting about the Rosewill is that it comes with an AC adapter to power the unit’s fans & backup the 4-port USB 2.0 hub.  Eff yeah.  No more "you’ve-plugged-in-one-too-many-USB-devices”.  It also comes with some rubber feet to ensure your laptop stays in place.  Nice touch.  The only thing is, the fan vents are clearly not very “open” and overall, the configuration, even with the USB 2.0 4-port hub is somewhat pricey.

imageThermaltake Massive23 ST Notebook Cooler ($29.95)
http://www.amazon.com/Thermaltake-CLN0009-Massive23-Notebook-Cooler/dp/B002JM1RLS/

Thermaltake is a renowned name in the computer cooling industry so they know their stuff.  The unit has a massive fan under it to ensure maximum cooling.  This is clearly targeted at folks like me that have quad core laptops with the potential for significant heat build up.  And it has a glitzy blue neon light that emanates from the fan area, which can be disabled if it bugs you.  It doesn’t matter where the vent is on your laptop’s underside:  The Massive23 ST will aerate it.  A little pricier than most units but if you want top notch cooling, you’ll pay top notch prices.  My only concern is the noise generated from the fan but Thermaltake historically knows how to keep the fans quiet and the feedback on Amazon about it’s lack of noise appears to be very satisfactory.  One drawback is that the power cable does chew up a USB port since it’s USB powered.

imageCooler Master X Slim Notebook Cooler (R9 NBC XSLI GP) ($16.23)
http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-Slim-Notebook-XSLI/dp/B005C31HC0/

Cooler Master is the “other” big name in the cooling industry famous for their PC chassis fans and water cooling technology.  Again, their X Slim offering has a massive fan under it with a mesh layer beneath to ensure good airflow and maximum cooling.  Interestingly, I’ve read that despite it being MUCH cheaper than the Thermaltake, it cools better.  Several comments stated that this unit for whatever reason produces significantly greater air flow and overall better cooling so this may be a big factor for some.  One thing about this unit however is that it’s THIN and appears to be designed to provide a lower profile than other units.  And it comes with a USB 2.0 passthrough connector to power the fan so while it has to plug into a USB port, you don’t lose the port for use with something else like a mouse.

imageCooler Master NotePal U Stand with USB Hub ($40.99+$6.49 = $47.49)http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/
B005KQ3AFG/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

WHOA.  Now we’re talkin’.  This appears to be the big brother to the X Slim.  Definitely not as low profile but with a 4 port USB 2.0 hub off of it, who cares?  Equipped with TWO 100mm fans, the unit is barebones to maximize air throughput like the X Slim above but also has the trademark Cooler Master grill.  One thing that is a little annoying:  The unit does NOT come with an AC power adapter for the USB 2.0 4-port hub which isn’t technically necessary unless you are concerned about USB bus power – which I am.  Ultimately, this is a separate purchase at about $6.49 making the total a VERY pricey $47.49:
http://www.amazon.com/Premium-External-Adapter-2-5-inch-Enclosure/dp/B001PUSERA/ref=pd_bxgy_e_text_b

imageCooler Master Storm SF-19 19" Laptop Cooler with USB 2.0 (SGA-4000-KKNF1) ($49.99)
http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-Storm-Laptop-SGA-4000-KKNF1/dp/B004G603E2/

Again, another Cooler Master with a USB 2.0 hub on it.  What differentiates it is that it comes with the AC adapter for the hub while also adding on LED lighting similar to the ThermalTake unit above with user selectable colors and ambient glow effects.  Interesting.  And excellent all around reviews as well as the fans are replaceable and the whole unit seems to be quite modular.  However, its pricey at $49 and even with the AC adapter included, it prices above the Cooler Master Notepal U stand.

imageThermaltake Massive23 LX Laptop Notebook Cooler Oversized 230mm Blue LED Fan USB CLN0015 ($27.90)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/
B003ZUXXWO/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

I’m not going to write much about this other than to say that with only 2 USB ports on it, and some rather all-over-the-place feedback on it’s performance as an actual cooling system, I’m probably just going to pass.   It seems very similar to the Massive23 ST though.

imageLogitech Speaker Lapdesk N700 ($97.99)
http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-939-000287-Speaker-Lapdesk-N700/dp/B0032ALZIQ/ 

$100 for a laptop cooler:  Riiiiight.  But this is different:  It’s got a multispeaker digital sound system built into it for high quality audio.  Intrigued?  Tell you more?  I thought so.  The unit requires only a hidden USB cable to be connected to your laptop and you instantly get both USB-powered cooling as well as digital audio-over-USB sound, including a subwoofer at the base.  Nice.  And there are integrated volume & fan controls on the side.  The one big issues is that… it’s big.  It’s designed truly for LAPS and not really for seated office use.  I might still look into this though… at least for my wife who computes on the bed a lot.

—————————–

CONCLUSION
In the end, I picked up 1 unit of Cooler Master NotePal U Stand with USB Hub and 3 units of Cooler Master X Slim Notebook Cooler.  I will report back after I’ve put them into good use however based on the feedback I’ve read, I think I’m going to be running a lot cooler and worry a lot less.

A WORD ABOUT CLEANING THE HEAT SINK:
As a side note, the best tool you can get is a $5 can of non-chemically based compressed air to clear out the heat sink on your laptop.  A single cleaning of the heat sink on your laptop by blowing air into the air vent will take 5 seconds & for those that haven’t done it before, can drop heat retention & build up by a good 400%.  It’s astonishing how dust on the heat sink prevents heat dissipation.


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