There are few things more frustrating than a hot notebook. Try typing, and your wrists start to sweat from the humid air belching out of the computer's air vents. Notebook coolers help, but they can be ineffective if they direct their airflow to the wrong part of the chassis. Cooler Master's NotePal U2, designed for desk or tabletop use, has two movable fans that can target any area of a hot notebook, while tilting the chassis upward for improved typing.
The NotePal U2 has a minimalist metal and rubber design that looks good in any home or office. Its thin aluminum body features a mesh pattern, with plenty of holes to let air flow into the bottom of your notebook, while its curved back props the pad (and your notebook) up at about a 30-degree angle, both to increase airflow and to give users a better typing position. A rubber strip along the bottom lip and rubber feet on the top edge allow the U2 to stand still on even the most delicate surface without scratching it.
With its 1.3-pound weight and angled design, the NotePal U2, which supports notebooks up to 17 inches in size, is ideal for desks, not laps. And though it doesn't add too much to your load, its 2.3-inch thickness (at the back) makes it too fat to slip into the side pocket of smaller notebook bags. Rather than taking it everywhere, you might be better off leaving the U2 on your desk or stowing it in your suitcase to use in the hotel on business trips.
Typing and Ergonomics
Mounting it on our desk at work, we found that we were able to achieve a strong typing score of 86 words per minute on a ThinkPad X301 (using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test). Though we were able to achieve this strong score, we found the tilt a little severe for the 13.3-inch X301 and wish we could have adjusted it downward a bit. The U2 is designed to accommodate notebooks up to 17-inches in size, so your comfort level and typing angle will vary based on the system you use.
The most unique feature of the NotePal U2 are its dual movable fans. The two fans can detach completely from the cooling pad if passive cooling is all you need, but better still they can be moved to different areas on the bottom of the pad that correspond with the hottest spots on your notebook. So, if the wrist rest and keyboard on your notebook are always scorching hot, you can position one fan below the keyboard while the other sits below the deck. Since the fans are attached to each other by wire, you cannot opt for a single-fan set up. As the fans are powered by USB, you only need to plug them into a port on your notebook, not the wall outlet. There's a pass-through in the back of the USB connector to make up for the USB port the U2 takes away.
To put the NotePal U2 through its paces, we tested it on three of the hottest notebooks we have in our lab right now: the 16-inch Dell Latitude Z600, the 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E205, and the 10-inch Dell Inspiron Mini 10. To test each system, we streamed a full screen video from Hulu.com for 15 minutes and then measured the heat on five areas: the space between the G and H keys on the keyboard, the touchpad/palm rest, the hottest area on the top, the hottest area on the bottom, and the vent(s). We ran these tests with and without the NotePal U2 to see the difference. During the NotePal tests, both fans were on and positioned in the middle of the pad.
Default Temp/NotePal U2 Temp (Fahrenheit)
|Dell Latitude Z600||92/87||85/82||113/107||113/103||106/97|
|Toshiba Satellite E205||94/94||98/95||95/93||108/91||107/107|
|Dell Inspiron Mini 10||95/92||100/102||107/103||114/87||109/85|
As you can see, the improvements were quite dramatic in most cases. Considering that the NotePal U2 is designed for using your notebook on a desk or table, the top, bottom, and vent temps are much less important than the keyboard and touchpad/palm rest. In most cases, that temperature dropped by a significant amount. We consider temperatures of 95 degrees and above on the keyboard and touchpad uncomfortable. So it's great that the Satellite E205 went from 108 degrees on the bottom to 91 degrees. We might have achieved even better results if we fiddled with the fan location, rather than leaving both fans in the middle of the pad.
These temperatures were significantly lower than those produced by the ChillCase cooling cases we tested. However, the ChillCase products are meant to be used on the lap and double as notebook bags. Throughout the testing, the NotePal's dual fans were audible, but just barely. If your computer already makes fan noises, you may not be able to tell the difference between the NotePal U2's fans and your notebooks'.
The Cooler Master Notepal U2 currently retails for $24.99 at Amazon.com. For that price, you get a USB-powered cooler that gives you solid typing angles and much cooler temperatures that are more comfortable and better for the long-term health of your notebook. There are other products that will help you use a notebook on your lap, but if you place your notebook on a desk, the NotePal U2 is a compelling choice.