Top positive review
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The Best Cooler I've Tried (and I've tried a lot!)
on September 16, 2010
After literally trying 5 other notebook cooling fans and promptly returning them to the electronic's store from whence they came, I decided to spend some actual money and try THIS unit. Retail was $49 (I did recently see one on Overstock for $9 + $12s&h). Please note that the unit I'm referring to is rectangular, NOT the one which is hourglass-shaped (Targus seems to have 2 versions of this cooler with the same part #), and that this unit is the BIGGER of the two; one is for notebooks up to 13", the other (this one) is for notebooks up to 17". I tried the smaller/13" and it cooled decently but it was just too small and my laptop didn't sit well on it; the feet weren't even touching, which made the laptop rock like an uneven table when I typed, which obviously was NOT an option for the longterm.
I'd begun with the $9 fans and found that's about the quality of cooling they provided. They literally weren't helping cool the laptop. The 3-fan unit by GearHead was too small for my 15" Dell, and the fans were biased toward the front of the cooler, which is kinda dumb because in my experience it's the rear of the laptop which gets the hottest.
So I decided to try this Targus. I didn't really need the hub but decided to try it. I later realized Target sells the same cooler minus the hub for around $35, so I considered returning the Chill Hub and going for the fan-only unit from Tar-jay. But I figured a few extra USB ports couldn't hurt and decided to keep the Chill Hub. Plus, my wife and I were leaving for a 1-month vacation in Israel in the morning and I simply did not want to deal with more exchanging and whatnot. Also, a minor observation was that the non-hub version is grey, whereas the with-hub version is black. FYI.
I read reviews saying the hub didn't work. When I tried it, it worked for my camcorder but I haven't been able to get it to recognize properly my external hard drive I use as a back-up. But I do have 4 other USB ports on my laptop and wasn't buying the cooler to be used as a hub, anyway. If the Fry store had had this same unit minus the hub, I'd have gotten that one; but, like I said, a few extra USB ports can't hurt.
As far as the performance of the cooler, it is phenomenal in its cooling ability. The cooler has little feet which swing out from the rear/underside, allowing it to be propped up. This provides better cooling as well as tilting the notebook up a bit, which does make the keyboard easier to see because you're looking at it a bit more head-on. The little feet have a pair of secondary, smaller feet which swing out from inside the first set of feet, allowing the unit to be propped up even higher, about 1.5 inches. The two big fans (which are VERY quiet, by the way, something which for me was CRUCIAL because I detest noisy computers) move a lot of air. The cooler has a switch so you can turn the fans off, put them on LOW or HIGH. And with the cooler propped up to its highest, I have found over the past 2 weeks that the cooling pad cools the laptop so well that the underside of it is literally cool, as in not hot; it feels about the same as when the computer is not even on. It's that good. Without any fan at all, my Dell Inspiron 6000 (which I bought about 5 years ago) does get rather hot underneath, so for it to literally feel cool to the touch is remarkable. (Interestingly, my good buddy is a professional computer tech and he told me that these notebook cooling fans were invented after some guy allegedly burned his cojones while using his notebook on his lap. I think we know what HE was DOING, ie LOOKING AT which facilitated his computer getting close enough to the bare skin of his man-parts to, again, allegedly, actually cause a burn to his body.)
There is a nifty storage compartment on the underside of the unit where the USB cord can be stored. I personally am not using it because I have a special compartment in my backpack which I've been trained to use, but it is there and could be quite handy.
On the downside, and the only reasons I gave the fan 4 stars instead of 5, is for a couple of rather minor issues. At times the cooler does make a bit of noise, a bit of a rattling sound, like something is vibrating. Usually this happens only when I have the cooler & laptop on my lap rather than on a table. You can't really extend the little feet while the fan & laptop are sitting on your lap/legs, such as when you're sitting up in bed. So the fan rests directly on your legs(plus the fans suck in my leg hairs). With the decreased air space beneath the cooler, cooling effectiveness is reduced so the laptop internal fan kicks on periodically. It's either this or some weird angle which causes the noise. But it's seldom and can be alleviated by adjusting the position of the fan or the laptop or both, or by putting the fan on a book. On the upside with the noise issue, this unit is very well-built and sturdy, so hopefully it won't begin to bend or warp like my original fan did, an issue which causes the fan blades to begin striking the inside of the plastic case, causing NOISE.
Something else to keep in mind is not to move the fan too much while it's operating and the fans are running. The spinning fans act like gyroscopes. Spinning gyroscopes resist motion. I've found that if you move the fan around a lot while it's running, like if you're looking at the underside and flipping it upside down and stuff, the fans will twist slightly inside the case and the blades will touch the plastic slightly. This can't be good for the bearings on the fans. So apart from moving it on and off your lap, don't go swinging the thing around while it's running.
Also, if you extend the little plastic feet while the fan is on your lap, the feet dig into your skin and start to hurt after awhile. While at home and sitting on the sofa, I have a make-shift lap-desk I created using one simple piece of cheap fiberboard harvested off my cheap computer desk after the cheap fiberboard broke and the tracks for the rollers broke loose, rendering the keyboard tray useless. Or so I thought. Turns out that it's the perfect size (about 3 feet long and 14 inches in depth) to sit on my lap and hold my fan&laptop and mouse pad, with enough room left for the tv remote. You may want to find such a piece of wood.
Also, one other issue to watch out for rests with the USB power cable. The plug for the hub end is small, looks a bit like a firewire plug, or like the plug on a digital camera or camcorder. Something happened and the cord got smashed and the little metal plug is bent at an awkward angle relative to the plastic to which it's attached. It still works and seems stable despite the angle, so I'm hesitant to try and bend it back into place. I'm sure a replacement would be very inexpensive. But it's something to be careful with. I read another reviewer's review saying she had a similar issue with the little cable after her toddler got too friendly with and close to the laptop.
All in all, it's a great fan and the cooling capacity is the best I've seen, hands-down. I definitely recommend it.