Gadling gear review – ThermaPAK HeatShift notebook cooling pad

There is one thing the current generation of laptop computers has in common with fast food coffee – they are both extremely hot. Especially in computers with an advanced processor, the heat coming from the exhaust fan can reach well above 140F, and while that may not be enough to give you burns, it really does become uncomfortable about about an hour.

There are a lot of different cooling products on the market. Some are as simple as providing a gap between your lap and your computer, while others use powered fans to draw the heat away. Cooling fans have one major disadvantage – they draw their power from your laptop battery, so while they may help cool things down a little, they’ll also take away valuable battery run time from you.
In this product review I’ll introduce you to a smarter way to keep your machine cool, without draining your battery. The ThermaPAK HeatShift is a mat that uses several technologies to keep things cool. The first is the easiest – it uses bumps and ridges to provide room for air to flow under your machine.

The second is the smartest – inside the HeatShift mat are organic cooling crystals. When cool, these crystals are hard and rigid, and when they start to heat up, they change to a gel, absorbing heat in the process.

So, how well does this work? I’m not a thermal engineer, but as a geek, I did find a reliable thermometer in my gadget assortment. In my entirely non-scientific test, I measured the temperature under a laptop after running the machine for one hour (no heavy applications were running, and the machine was set to balanced power, with sleep timers disabled). At the 60 minute mark, the temperature under the laptop was exactly 100.00F.

I then let the laptop cool down until it was back to ambient temperature. I placed it on top of the HeatShift pad, and put it through the same test as before (same power settings). After 60 minutes, the temperature under the machine was just 84.5F. The thermometer sensor was in the same location as before.

Now, as I mentioned, I am not an engineer, and my simple thermometer may not be the most accurate way to determine whether this product works, but in a real hands-on test, the difference between a hot notebook on my lap, or a hot notebook on the HeatShift pad on my lap was considerable – none of the scorching heat from the notebook made it to my lap.

The pad itself is covered in a layer of felt on the bottom, which makes it quite comfortable to use. Because of the air channels on the HeatShift Pad, you also reduce the risk of blocking air vents in the bottom of your notebook.

The TermaPAK HeatShift pad is available in three sizes – 13″, 15″ and 17″, and in three colors – black, pink and white. Prices start at $27.99 for the 13″ version. If you are already using a laptop cooling product, you can take advantage of a generous upgrade offer. By sending in your current product, you get access to upgrade pricing starting at just $13.99.

PROS: Works exactly as advertised, does not require external power, comfortable

CONS: Fairly heavy, pricier than some powered cooling pads

The HeatShift Pad can be rolled up, and weighs about 24 ounces. You can find the ThermaPAK HeatShift pad on their site, or from one of their various resellers.