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Old 07-13-2009, 03:04 AM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Are Notebook Coolers Worth the Cash?

From our front-page news:
As you could probably imagine, companies approach us often regarding review ideas for products of all stripes, from motherboards to graphics cards to chassis' to whatever else is technology-related. Over the course of the past year, though, there's one product-type that really seems to have caught on, and a week doesn't go by when we're not thrown some review ideas for them. What could I be talking about?

As the picture no doubt gave away, I'm talking about notebook coolers. On Friday, I was asked once again if we'd ever take a look at that particular company's coolers, or at the very least a roundup, and as usual, I said we'd like to in the future, but time won't allow it right now. And while time is quite limited lately (while we focus on our most important content), I can't help but ponder the idea a little bit, because many vendors are beginning to produce notebook coolers, and where Cooler Master is concerned, they even dedicated an entire line to all-things notebook (Choiix).

I've only dabbled in notebook cooling a few times before, but each time I did, I was left underwhelmed. While I do think some notebook coolers look nice, I don't think many of them have the ability to cool your particular notebook that well. After all, notebook designs aren't universal, so it's understandably difficult for a vendor to create one that's going to take care of the majority out there.


After thinking about it for a while, I began to wonder... even if notebook coolers were effective for a given model, how many people actually use them? I've had notebooks in the past that have run warm, but even then, I've never thought about picking up a product to help cool them down. Generally, if you're using a notebook on a desk, the heat isn't going to be so extreme that you simply couldn't use it, and where cooling would prove most useful (in bed), the coolers themselves are too hard and have rough edges, so they aren't exactly comfortable (and they could tear up your sheets - not in a good way!).

While I don't have an immediate need for such a product, and don't quite understand why they're popular (or so I'm told by various companies), I'd like to ask you guys what you think. Do you used a notebook cooler? Would you if you knew it would genuinely improve temperatures? Have your own experiences with one? Let your voice be heard in our related thread! If you're not yet a member of our forums, the sign-up is quick and painless, I promise!
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:34 AM   #2
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I used an Antec notebook cooler on my DTR laptop... the DDR2 RAM underneath had no active cooling and so the machine was borderline on being to warm to even keep in my lap comfortably... and forget about being anywhere near the RAM modules.

Unfortunately Antec's notebook cooler was pretty cheap, and the fans wore out in just a year. Due to their warranty policy I didn't have the receipt (nor could I get another) from where I originally bought the thing,

This combined with the build quality on their cooler (and what I've seen of other notebook coolers) has pretty much left me with the impression all notebook coolers are pretty worthless, even in situations such as mine where it had a large impact on cooling the memory modules I no longer consider them worth the money. Most laptops today tend to run much cooler, especially the power efficient ones, so they especially aren't needed.
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:49 PM   #3
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I agree with most of your points, although I do think that even some new notebooks could benefit from active cooling. Even the low-powered HP dv2 I have here gets pretty warm after a while (I wasn't expecting that at all). Still, it seems like more of an inconvenience than anything to use one, and there's no extreme draw. Even if your notebook did burn up, I really can't see a notebook cooler making much of a difference.
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:34 PM   #4
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I didn't write down the numbers (cooler was bought during a 2005 CompUSA black friday sale for $5) so I can't give them. As I best I remember the memory modules saw 10c+ drops in temps just from a tiny bit of airflow. The way the machine is built the heat from the DDR2 modules goes straight up into the center of the motherboard and into the chassis... so cooling the memory modules down did affect temps for everything else to a small degree.

Not the best image, but imagine those two memory modules putting out a ballpark figure of 50W of heat. Under the machine, just a few millimeters above a desk. The heat buildup after an hour is incredible. Link to photo
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Old 07-14-2009, 11:00 PM   #5
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Coolermaster makes one that would have been perfrct for that laptop... the X1.

Puts a fan dead center on the laptop.

They have another model I believe that has the venting to the sides for the laptops that have their intakes more towards the edges.

I may be reviewing one of the side discharge units (as I have 2 Dells whose intakes are on the back corners), and I will let you know what I find out.

I've always wondered myself too....


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Old 07-15-2009, 05:36 AM   #6
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I believe most are powered by USB from the notebook/netbook. And the main concern is not cooling, but battery usage. If you have one of the large notebooks that do generate a lot of heat, then the battery life REALLY goes to pot.
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
I believe most are powered by USB from the notebook/netbook. And the main concern is not cooling, but battery usage. If you have one of the large notebooks that do generate a lot of heat, then the battery life REALLY goes to pot.
To some extent, yes. But nobody should need to be running a notebook cooler when on battery power... when on battery power mine automatically underclocks the GPU and I configured it to underclock and undervolt the CPU as well. I'd love to do the same to the RAM, but that's just not possible without the BIOS options to do so.
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Old 08-04-2009, 04:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
After thinking about it for a while, I began to wonder... even if notebook coolers were effective for a given model, how many people actually use them?
I've always wondered how much of the market out there is a response to real need or provides a genuine benefit and how much is just an attempt to part you from your hard earned cash.

Notebook coolers are a JOKE... Yeah I know, "tell us what you really think".

90% of the cooling problems I've seen on notebooks are "user induced"... using the things on a bed or couch where the vents are blocked, holding them on your lap, where the fan intake is blocked... etc. One customer even taped over the hot air exhaust complaining it bothered his hand while "mousing"... then tried warranty claims when it cooked the CPU and finally came to me to fix it.

If you want a little extra cooling for your notebook:

1) use it sensibly... on hard surfaces, keeping the airflow vents clear
2) Keep it clean... it takes only a few seconds to brush the dust out of the vents every so often.
3) if you want extra cooling... put a ruler under the back legs.

There seems little or no reason to spend $20 to $150 for something you can fix with a bit of simple common sense.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2Tired2Tango View Post
90% of the cooling problems I've seen on notebooks are "user induced"...
I agree with that for the most part, but that's not always the case. I have a friend with a 12" notebook, and that thing gets hot. He told me so, but when I actually used it, I couldn't believe it. And he's using it on a flat surface, and keeps care of it like no one else. Thankfully, notebooks like these are hard to come by.

Even in his case though, I'm highly doubtful a notebook cooler would make an ounce of difference.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
I agree with that for the most part, but that's not always the case. I have a friend with a 12" notebook, and that thing gets hot. He told me so, but when I actually used it, I couldn't believe it. And he's using it on a flat surface, and keeps care of it like no one else. Thankfully, notebooks like these are hard to come by.

Even in his case though, I'm highly doubtful a notebook cooler would make an ounce of difference.
Indeed it is a good thing this sort of problem is rare... Has he checked with others of the same make and model? Do they get as hot as his? It is possible there's a problem with the cpu cooler. A little dab of Arctic Silver and a blast of compressed air may be all the machine needs...

Then again, there were a bunch of laptops put out that did normally run extremely hot... Fortunately they got the message and started working on lower powered CPUs and GPUs for laptops. AMD's latest offerings are using less than half the power they used only 2 years ago... and that's a giant step in the right direction.
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