If you've ever known the literal sting of a notebook overheating in your lap, it may be time to invest in a notebook cooler like the StarTech USB Powered Laptop Cooler (NBCOOLERSE), which can help prevent unwanted temperature rises. It doesn't cool quite as effectively as the competition, or pack as many USB ports, but it's a portable, affordably priced notebook cooler that gets the job done.
Design and Aesthetics
Measuring 12.5 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches and weighing a featherweight 0.8 pounds, the StarTech Laptop Cooler is roughly the same size and weight as the 1.0-pound, 12.0 x 7.1 x 1.1-inch iHome IH-A706CW ($29.99), but noticeably smaller than the 1.8-pound, 13.6 x 11.8 x 2.0-inch Zalman Cool Innovations ZM-NC1500 ($39.90). Unlike the others, the black Laptop Cooler has a curved, arched design that keeps your notebook at a nice typing angle without the need for legs, as it sits under the back of a system. Its rubber bumpers allowed us to center a 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5738PG on top with ease.
Like the ZM-NC1500, the Laptop Cooler features just two USB ports, one of which is used to connect the cooler to a notebook. If you're looking for more ports, the iHome IH-A706CW offers three additional USB ports for attaching other peripherals. We also didn't like its flimsy vents, which bent with just a minimum amount of pressure.
To test the Laptop Cooler's ability to prevent overheating, we measured the heat radiating from the Aspire 5738PG with a temperature gun in several heat-prone areas immediately after powering it on: the bottom (dead center), the touchpad, the lid, and between the G and H keys. We saw readings of 82.0, 78.0, 76.5, and 79.5 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. We then fired up a digital copy of Smokin' Aces and let it play for 15 minutes with the notebook's brightness and volume at 50 percent. Afterward, we measured temperatures of 97.0, 87.0, 78.0, and 91.5 degrees.
We let the notebook cool down for 45 minutes, and then once again fired up Smokin' Aces with the Laptop Cooler turned on. This time, the notebook measured 89.0, 86.0, 78.0, and 90.5 degrees, which was in the same ballpark as the iHome IH-A706CW (89.5, 87.0, 78.0, and 90.5 degrees), but better than a passive cooler (93.0, 87.0, 78.5, and 91.0 degrees).
On the bottom of the notebook--the place where you'd want a laptop to run coolest--the Laptop Cooler ran 2.0 degrees hotter than the Zalman Cool Innovations ZM-NC1500 (87.0 degrees). Overall, the temperature of our system increased by 6.9 degrees, which is better than the iHome IH-A706CW (7.3 degrees) and the passive cooling device (8.4 degrees), but not as good as the ZM-NC1500 (6.3 degrees).
After letting the notebook cool down to its base temperature, we converted a 115MB MPEG-4 file to AVI while compressing a 4.97GB folder of mixed media. We saw an average increase of 5.8 degrees; that's less than the 8.0-degree difference of the notebook running alone, but it's much higher than the IH-A706CW and the ZM-NC1500, both of which kept the temperature increase to 4.4 degrees.
Priced at $24.99, the StarTech USB Powered Laptop Cooler (NBCOOLERSE) costs less than the iHome IH-A706CW ($29.99) and the Zalman ZM-NC1500 ($39.90), but we recommend the former over this accessory because of its extra USB ports, and the latter because of its sturdier design. Still, if you dig the Laptop Cooler's small footprint and glossy shell, it's a solid pick.