Aside from the office environment, a lot of people have decided to abandon the traditional desktop computer for the added versatility of the notebook. Unless you need a lot of power for video processing or other resource-intensive tasks, a regular old laptop should be able to do the trick. Unfortunately, most consumers forget about one very important aspect of keeping a notebook: keeping the temperature down.
In shopping for laptop accessories, a lot of us look for a nice computer mouse, a carrying bag, and maybe a protective sleeve of some kind, but many people glaze over the cooling department. Myself, I have at least a couple of these coolers kicking around, but I find that most people don’t bother. That just won’t do, now will it?
Most Notebooks Have Inadequate Cooling
When you look at a lot of desktop computer configurations, you’ll notice that they are always equipped with a fan or two. The more hardcore among us may make use of a water-cooled solution and some may even go for open-air. No matter what the configuration, we seem to pay more attention to the temperature of our desktops.
Looking at the majority of laptops on the market, you’ll usually notice a small exhaust vent on one side of the notebook. This is really the only place where the heat is being properly dissipated, depending on the exact design of your computer. Some are designed better than others. My Dell, for example, does not prop up the bottom of the laptop from the desk, so any vents on the underside are essentially blocked. That’s not good at all. Other notebooks use little feet to prop up the base, so the air can flow a little more easily.
By and large, though, most notebooks do not receive adequate cooling, especially under heavier loads like when you are running several USB accessories and copying a lot of data to your hard drive. That’s where a notebook cooler comes into play.
Lapdesks Are Not Cooling Stands
In shopping for a notebook cooling solution, you will typically find that they fall into one of three categories. The first of these are lapdesks, but they are not at all meant to bring the temperature down on your portable computer.
Instead, lapdesks are more for the comfort of the user. I usually find myself using a laptop on a desk or a table of some kind, but there are occasions when I use a laptop by its namesake: on my lap. As anyone who has done this will attest, a hot notebook on the lap is not a pleasant experience. These lapdesks act as an intermediary, displacing or blocking the heat as to not burn your thighs. However, most of these do not actually do anything to cool your laptop.
The Passive Approach
The second kind of laptop cooler are the passive coolers. These do not have any mechanical parts and do not require a power source of any kind. These come in a variety of shapes and forms, but their common goal is to dissipate the heat on your notebook.
Some are made with a special cooling material that naturally carries a temperature below that of room temperature. They could be made from aluminum, for example, which is usually pretty cold to begin with. Depending on their design, they may also have cutouts and slots to improve airflow. They are passive solutions, though, so don’t expect a world of difference. To see what kind of heat you’re running, consider a (free) program like SpeedFan.
Well-Placed Fans for Active Cooling
The best solution for laptop cooling are the active coolers. These desktop stands for notebooks typically come with at least one fan (some have as many as three) and they usually get their power from your notebook’s USB port. The idea is that these fans can direct cool air to the “heat zones” on the underside of your notebook. You may also see some of those cheaper eBay fans with the bendable arms.
It’s important that you find an active laptop cooling stand that suits your particular laptop. The fans need to be placed in the right areas (adjustable is best, but rare). You may also want to make sure that there is improved airflow beneath the laptop, meaning you want to look for vents and cutouts in the design.
Your mileage will vary, but I’ve been able to reduce the overall temperature of my Dell by as much as 10 degrees using the right cooler. This is good for performance and it’s good for the longevity of my portable computer.
A Small Investment with Worthwhile Rewards
Considering that most notebook coolers can be found at a variety of retail stores for $30 or less, they are a small investment into the performance and longevity of your much more expensive laptop. It’s up to you whether you want to find one that is best suited for your desk at home or one that is best suited to be carried with you on the go, but I think that all notebook owners should make use of some kind of cooling solution.
Even if the difference is slight, I feel it’s a worthwhile investment.