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.

Gadling’s 10 days of gadget giveaways – day 2 – The NotebookBuffer

Welcome to day two of Gadling’s 10 days of gadget giveaways.

Today’s prize is for the NotebookBuffer. This lightweight notebook cooling pad is perfect for using your computer on your lap, without getting too uncomfortable from the heat. The pad rolls up, and weighs next to nothing, which makes it perfect for taking along with you on your next trip.

The NotebookBuffer was reviewed here on Gadling last month, and was recently featured as one of our best travel products of 2008.

Don’t forget to enter our other giveaways!

  • To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us about one gadget you never leave home without.
  • The comment must be left before Tuesday November 25th 2008 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Three prize winners will be randomly selected to receive one free NotebookBuffer each.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • The total value of each prize is $18.99.
  • Click here for the complete official rules of this giveaway.

Product review – The Notebook Buddy

In this product review, I’m going to give you a quick look at a simple, yet effective product that makes using your laptop on the road a little easier (and cooler).

The Notebook Buddy is a 13.5″x9.5″ mat designed to place under your laptop. The mat is about half an inch thick, and is comprised of what I can only describe as thousands of little plastic springs.

On the top of the mat is a fabric mesh and by creating this open design, you can put your laptop on the mat, and heat will be transported away from it without blocking the vents.

If you have ever used your computer on your lap for any period of time, you’ll know that after about 30 minutes the heat can become unbearable. In the past, I’ve used all kinds of active cooling pads with little fans, but the major disadvantage of those, is that they drain your battery really fast and that they are a nuisance to carry around, The Notebook Buddy weighs just 3.2 ounces, and slips right into your laptop bag.The product is about as simple as it can get; you don’t need to plug it in, it does not require much space and it is ready to use right away. Another added advantage is that the padding makes it a comfortable product to use on your lap.

I put the product to the test by letting my laptop run for 30 minutes without a cooling pad, and measured the temperature. When it was directly on my lap, the temperature of the bottom of the machine was 114F.

After letting the machine cool down for 2 hours, I tested it again, using the Notebook Buddy. In this test I could not measure any rise in temperature on my lap, even after the laptop had been powered on for 30 minutes.

Naturally, the half inch gap between my lap and the notebook helps insulate things, but the special material used in the product helps circulate air from under the computer. If you have ever placed your computer on a bed, you’ll know that the bottom of the machine is where most of the vents (and heat) can be found.

The Notebook Buddy retails for $18.95 and can be purchased directly from their web site. Shipping is with UPS Ground, and is just $5. With Christmas slowly approaching, you might also be interested to know that the company behind the Notebook Buddy can customize the product with your logo, turning it into a nice corporate gift.

There are other cooling products out there, but this is by far the lightest, easiest and cheapest product I’ve found. The design of the Notebook Buddy really follows the “keep it simple” principle, no moving parts and nothing to bend or break. The price may seem a little steep for what you get, but when you consider that overheating on your laptop can cause the entire machine to become unusable, it’s a pretty justifiable investment.