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Tech Accessories

Best Laptop Cooler

There's a fair bit of debate among many laptop owners about whether coolers actually do anything in terms of laptop performance and longevity. However, lot of evidence supports the idea that a good cooler can reduce internal operating temperatures for a laptop, especially while running demanding software such as PC games. A good laptop cooler should provide a level surface for the laptop to keep ducts clear and move air to the bottom of the laptop to help promote heat transfer.

We’ve chosen the following best laptop coolers because they have at least one very large fan or multiple smaller fans at least 80mm in size working together. More important than just the number of fans is how much air these fans can move which is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM, determined by the size and speed of the fan. All of these laptop coolers move at least 34CFM of air and their fans spin at a minimum of 1,000 rotations per minute (RPN) or higher.  They also offer great connectivity options with at least one USB port on each of these coolers (in addition to one needed for power) which keeps you from losing a port during use. Lastly, these picks are large enough to support at least a 15 inch laptop.

Cooler Master CM Storm Gaming Laptop Cooling Stand

Cooler Master designed this cooler for gaming laptops and everything from the size to cooling performance really shines. This model offers two 140mm fans which gives you a consistent cooling stream at almost 35 CFM per fan which should be sufficient for just about any gaming laptop and/or demanding software. This one is large enough for a 19 inch laptop and the base includes anti-slip rubber to keep your laptop in place during use.

This laptop cooler also comes with a single mini-USB port, a micro-USB port, and four USB 2.0 ports, so you get a ton of connectivity options. You even get customizable LED lighting which you can match to your laptop and other hardware for a personalized look. Keep in mind that due to the built-in USB hub this model requires a wall outlet, but otherwise it's an excellent option for consideration.

Thermaltake Massive TM Cooling Pad

In general, this is a very good laptop cooler, but there are just a few things that keep it from being the very best of the best on the market. Designed with a sturdy aluminum frame, this model has a pair of 120mm fans which offer about 61 CFM of airflow to keep even powerful and demanding laptops nice and frosty. The fans spin at about 1000 RPM with turbo speeds up to 1300 RPM, but it lacks much in the way of fan speed controls.

You only get one extra USB port with this laptop (in addition to the one used for a power connection) which is decent but certainly not as nice as a small USB hub that some other coolers offer. This model is designed to handle laptops up to 17 inches, but anything above 15-inches might hang over the edges of the cooler just a bit.

Cooler Master NotePal U3 PLUS Laptop Cooling Pad

One of the best things about this laptop cooler is it gives you the unique ability to position the fans however you need them while the lightweight aluminum design offers plenty of ventilation for passive cooling even if the fans aren’t turned on. While the three fans are more than what’s offered by most other models on the market, they aren't especially powerful. Said fans are only 80mm in size with about 15.4 CFM of airflow each, spinning from about 950 RPM to up to 1800 RPM.

This pick measures about 17 inches wide and can support a laptop up to 19 inches in size. This model only has a single extra USB port in addition to the one that connects it to your computer for power so connectivity options are limited. However, a nice extra is the included strap for carrying this cooler and your laptop together by a single handle, effectively making this pick a simple portable laptop case as well.

ZALMAN Ultra Quiet Notebook Cooler ZM-NC1000

This laptop cooler offers two fans and hundreds of vent holes that keep air moving through your system to maintain low temperatures. Although the fans are rather small, you can adjust the speeds of the fans (between 1100 and 1500 RPM)  with an adjustment wheel located near the power button. It runs entirely off power from the laptop it supports, through a USB connection but you do have an extra port to work with. While this model doesn’t have an adjustable height, the ergonomic design is intended to minimize neck and shoulder strain during use. Made of solid yet lightweight aluminum, this cooler is designed for a 15 inch laptop which limits usability somewhat, but it’s a perfect fit for smaller laptops.

Cooler Master CM NotePal X-Lite II (R9-NBC-XL2K-GP)

Although this laptop cooler features a pretty basic design, it actually performs surprisingly well. There's just one fan in this unit but it's the largest you’ll find in a laptop cooler. It measures 330mm in size with airflow reaching up to about 46 CFM. You can also adjust the fan speed between 700 and 1400 RPM. This pick is a little more generous with its connectivity options, including two USB 2.0 ports plus a mini-USB port which gives you a bit more freedom. One issue with this model is that it only supports up to 15 inch laptops, so it is not a good choice if you have a larger computer. Otherwise, for users with smaller laptops it works great.

Buyer's Guide

Finding the Best Laptop Cooler

It's no secret that laptops can get extremely hot when they're worked hard. All of the circuits and devices of the modern computer are condensed into a space no more than 2 inches thick, which leaves very little room for cooling. Tower style desktop computers have ample open space for airflow, while laptops must rely on narrow ducts and convection in order to avoid overheating. On top of that, the compressed design means the case itself must dissipate heat, causing laptops to get uncomfortably hot when they're placed on your lap.

One of the ways of dealing with the heat issue is to place your laptop on a laptop cooler. Laptop coolers may seem simple at first glance, but these gadgets have much more to them than what meets the eye. Everything about a good laptop cooler is designed to provide maximum cooling, from the surface material to the fan placement and direction. Every aspect must be considered individually for your needs, or you may end up interfering with your laptop's cooling operation.

Cooling Power
What you want to look for is exactly how much specific cooling power the laptop cooler has. This is not necessarily a measurement of fan speed - rather, it's how the unit itself is designed. For example, the Targus Podium CoolPad offers decent cooling power - and does so without the aid of a fan. This is done by raising the laptop off the desk to allow air to circulate underneath. Most other laptop coolers position a fan between the desk and the laptop in order to provide airflow. Both methods work, but only the best laptop coolers can genuinely keep your computer running cooler.

Something else to consider is how the fans are installed within the unit. This deals with where they're placed, but also which direction they're mounted. Some laptop coolers feature multiple fans that move more air, but what's equally as important is which direction the air moves. If your laptop has a bottom-mounted exhaust port, you don't want to use a laptop cooler which directs air upwards onto the bottom of the computer. Likewise, if your computer has a bottom-mounted intake port, you'll starve your laptop's cooling system of airflow if you use a cooler that draws air downwards and away from the bottom surface. Fans can also produce high noise levels when the speed is cranked up. If you want a quiet laptop cooler, look for one which has a lower decibel rating.

Build Quality
Next, you'll want to examine the materials and the build quality of the cooler itself. Better laptop coolers are sturdy and usually feature aluminum surfaces which draw heat away from the computer itself. Make sure there is no rattling or flexing, or anything else which indicates poor build quality. The fans should not make any strange noises, nor should they be excessively loud during operation. If it feels cheap, it probably is. The last thing you want is for your laptop cooler to suddenly stop working only a couple months after you buy it.

Power Source
For laptop coolers which utilize fans, remember that they require a power source. This is done through a wall adapter or by using a USB port. If you like being able to take your laptop cooler with you wherever you go, one which is powered by a wall outlet may not be the best choice. On the other hand, if your laptop is short on USB ports, consider whether it's a worthwhile tradeoff to tie up a USB port for extra cooling. Some of the better laptop coolers act as a USB hub, or come equipped with a pass-through USB plug which enables you to connect another USB device through the plug itself.

Price and Value
It's quite easy to find both expensive and cheap laptop coolers, but price is not indicative of value. An expensive unit is not the best, and a cheap unit is not the worst. Some lower-priced coolers come with screaming fans which may or may not break, while more expensive models might offer features that you don't need. A cooler which costs $50 and offers excellent cooling and build quality is considered to be a better value than one which costs $30 and offers mediocre cooling and poor build quality. If you don't need speakers built into the cooler, it makes little sense to spend the extra money for them.

Greg Wiesen
With an AA in Computer Animation, I have spent years building computers and playing video games. I learned early on that the best way to figure out a new software program was to just start pushing buttons and see what happens (saving often, of course), and that is still my philosophy. From hard drives and motherboards to graphics cards and "holographic" keyboards, I enjoy checking out and playing with all the tech I can get my hands on. I have written hundreds of informative computer and technology articles in the past, and I believe that anyone can understand and use a computer. I'll worry about research and trying out different hardware, you just enjoy the results.
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