Antec's USB-Powered Notebook Cooler is a very good unit that is better than most alternatives. Cooling is essential for laptops. It can improve a computer's performance and useful life. No cooler will make your notebook ice cold, but this one will definitely lower the temperature. It works REGARDLESS of notebook design, and I will explain how.
The pros FAR OUTWEIGH the cons. I have added most of these cons after long term use. These are mostly nit-picky cons, and this unit is still a great value. That holds true for both the original unit and the updated design.
+ The plastic body and metal top are well designed for a solid feel
+ The nice aluminum top spreads heat very well and is durable
+ The USB cable is pass through with an extra USB port to connect other devices
+ The cable length is nice and short
+ There is a small compartment to tuck away the cable after use
+ The fans run VERY quietly at either high or low speeds
+ The rubber feet are solid and provide nice stability and grip
+ It now has surface holes for optional rubber pegs for more space to improve air-flow
+ The unit is stable enough that a well positioned laptop will sit flat and will not *rock* back and forth
+ Can also be used to cool AV components or to add air-flow around your HTPC
+ After using mine for several years and buying more as gifts, I can vouch for the durability
+ The 3 year warrantee that comes with the product gives you some comfort in the case the product does fail
- The fans and outer holes gather dust over time; just clean it with compressed air
- The USB power cord and base connector could be more durable, so handle with care
- The unit looks like air flows through the entire top, but it only flows through the 2 fans positioned in the center; It's more visible on the Antec Notebook Cooler (Pearl) version than the black and silver one
- The blue LED light may be too bright for some people, but it can easily be covered with electrical tape
- The cable may be too short for those without left side USB ports; purchase a USB extender cable
- The cooler is very thick, so you need a big laptop bag if you want to bring it with you
- The surface pegs can fall out if not inserted all the way; just twist when you insert them to lock them in
- The unit's smaller size makes it ideal for 14 - 16 inch laptops; for larger units you will need to use the surface pegs
- The item frequently goes out of stock and has price changes
- The list price of $50 seems unreasonable
How it Works
This cooler works in several ways. First of all, the fans create air flow under the laptop that will draw the heat away from the bottom of the laptop and onto the cooler surface. This works regardless of whether there is a small or large space.
In some cases your laptop may flex so that the cooler will slightly touch the bottom of your laptop. That's ok because the aluminum surface attracts and spreads out the heat to cool your laptop down. Most laptops can benefit from this *heat spreading*.
The fans are designed to draw heat from the aluminum away from the laptop. That is why the fans blow the way they do. They still circulate air under the laptop. You can feel the air with your hand if you hold it over the cooler. If the air blew the other way it would blow dust and heat into your laptop vents.
Contrary to some comments, this cooler cannot create a vacuum under your laptop. Similarly this cooler will not *fight* for air with your laptop fans. The air intake for both your laptop and the cooler is coming from the surrounding area. Unless you are using this cooler while orbiting the earth in a space station, there is plenty of air to allow for a few small fans to pull air in more than one direction. The aluminum will still pull heat from the bottom and spread it away from the unit. And the fans will still pull air over the surface of the laptop's base to cool it.
Common Issues and Solutions
1.) If the LED light bothers you, you can cover it with a small piece of electrical tape. I sleep with it on all the time. You can see it in the dark but it doesn't bother me.
2.) The little door that holds the USB power wire has 2 clips on the back and a button on the front.. Make sure you have pulled that release button forward again. You can just clip it back into place.
3.) The cooler can be used on your lap but it works much better with something like the Jumbo Lap Desk. Wood lap desks don't flex like the plastic ones but tend to cost more, so you have to see what works for you. Even Belkin's CushTop Notebook Stand might be an option.
4.) The newer units have added surface pegs, but they can fall out. Make sure you have fully twisted them when you insert them. That will allow the pieces that hold them in place to fully rest on the inside of the cover so they won't fall out.
Comparing to the Competition
This unit has a more durable aluminum top, stronger plastic, ergonomic shape, and quieter fan than the competition. This unit is much better than the original Targus PA248U Notebook Chill Pad which was made of very flimsy and thin plastic. Targus created a newer Targus Notebook Cooling Chill Mat (AWE11US) with harder plastic and also a Targus AWE12US Notebook Chill Hub with extra USB ports. Neither has an aluminum top, and they still don't perform as well.
There are completely metal versions that are available like the Cooler Master NotePal Widescreen Notebook Cooler ( R9-NBC-AWAK ) designed for larger or wide-screen units. Most of those cost more and still have their own cons.
There are also stands and inclined holders designed to let more air flow beneath your laptop, like the Logitech Alto Express Notebook Stand or the Logitech Alto Connect Notebook Stand. Those will help a little but not as much as a fan. I personally don't like typing on inclined stands and only use them for docked laptops.
The list price is excessive, but this cooler is a great deal at $20 or less. This item is also frequently sold at brick and mortar stores with mail in rebates. I hate those so I just wait for it to go on sale here. At this point I have bought 4 for myself and several as gifts.
I hope that this information has been helpful and has shown why this cooler is good despite the imperfections. At the right price this unit can be a great value so definitely check it out.