By Aric W. , Toronto, Canada
Vantec and their logo on the Vantec LapCool 4 notebook cooler
The Vantec LapCool 4 is the 4th design of the LapCool series by Vantec. Vantec is a computer company that specializes in peripherals, from 3.5" Hard Drive enclosures to docking stations for notebooks. The LapCool is a line of notebook coolers, designed to reduce the heat buildup in a notebook. The following is a full review of the LapCool 4 product.
LapCool 4: Notebook Cooler
The specifications of this cooler are noted below according to the Vantec company website, www.vantecusa.com
Included in the package is:
Included accessories (view larger image)
The LapCool 4
The box itself was very small, which surprised me, was this really a notebook cooler? The footprint of the box was about the size of a shoebox (size 9) and after opening the well packaged and presented product, there it was, the LapCool 4. I had seen the previous models, the LapCool 2 and 3, and those were sized just like every other cooler, they're rectangular grids. But this LapCool 4 was special, it was small, thus it was portable.
The LapCool 4 compared to an iPod nano, Guitar Pick, AA Battery and Mini-CD (view larger image)
The thickness of the LapCool 4, compared to an AA Battery, iPod nano, and Shure e3c earphone jack (view larger image)
The unit is made out of plastic mostly, but it was quite rigid and it was polished to a very shiny case, which is a magnet to fingerprints.
The top, mostly plastic with an aluminum cover over the fans (view larger image)
The top of the LapCool 4 consists of two flippable rubber pegs which open to grip the notebook when it is in use. There is an Aluminum alloy faceplate where the quiet fans are located. The fans are amazingly silent, and I'll comment on that later in the review.
The rubber peg -- or nipple if you prefer
The left side consists of one On/Off switch. The right side has nothing there.
Just a simple switch on the left side of the LapCool 4 (view larger image)
The right side of the LapCool 4 has nothing on it (view larger image)
The back is very neat and stylish, with a mirror (not sure if it's made of plastic or something else, doesn't matter though, it's slick either way) plating which surrounds the ports. There is a wheel which you can use to adjust the speed of the fan, a very useful feature. The power port is what provides the unit with power, but the LapCool 4 includes two sources, the A/C adapter (which thankfully does not have a huge head that takes up multiple outlet spaces) and one from your notebook's USB port. The USB in is for the use of the HUB and card reader, that's right, the LapCool 4 provides an extra three USB 2.0 ports and a card reader (which includes CF, CF 2, MD, SM, SD, MMC, MS and MS Duo). With such port expansion features, it can also be called a docking station!
The back of the unit, fan adjust dial, A/C plug, USB power port, and USB 2.0 Port #1, #2 (view larger image)
USB 2.0 Port #3 and the card reader which supports 8 types of cards (view larger image)
The bottom of the LapCool 4 is complicated, it looks like a giant flap, so pictures should help you get a better idea of what's going on here:
The "tummy" of the LapCool 4 (view larger image)
It folds! (view larger image)
It opens! Yes, it is foldable, it opens up and increases its length by 35%! This lets the notebook securely sit on the cooler without tipping or sliding off. Not only that, the new bottom also has two hatches, where the two cords provided snugly fit into. This is a very impressive idea which is obvious but have yet to see more of this.
Two empty spaces (view larger image)
The two provided cords placed inside those empty spaces
There is also flippable legs at the back of bottom of the LapCool, which increases the height, as it helps the airflow, and adjusts your notebook to a better angle. Rubber feet would have been helpful, it could help prevent movement/sliding -- but it was not an issue for me.
Stubby legs, made of plastic though (view larger image)
The Fan action
Closeup of the Aluminum Alloy faceplate (view larger image)
The LapCool 4 has two fans located smack in the middle, which, for some laptops is an optimal location but others it is not quite so. The air is taken in from underneath the LapCool 4 and is then blown up through the fans, the vents and towards the bottom of the notebook. This is a good thing if the bottom of your notebook has vents or the middle area of your notebook is a heat prone surface -- for such notebooks the LapCool 4 will do wonders. But for some laptops such as my Asus Z70va, the bottom middle area has nothing there, just the RAM slot. The Asus Z70va hard drive is located at the bottom left, CPU at top left and GPU at top left so in my notebook's case the LapCool 4 concentrates mostly on the RAM slot that does not get too warm compared to the other main components.
But all is not lost, because the cooler air that hits the middle bottom of the notebook directly does of course spread out along the entire bottom, as I place my hands at the sides of my notebook, I can feel the cool air being pushed underneath. Furthermore, the rubber pegs on the top of the LapCool 4 allow you to move the laptop above a certain area if you feel cooling will be enhanced by doing so.
My Z70va on top, with rubber pegs securing it so it does not move (view larger image)
During these tests, the LapCool fan is on at max, it is barely audible so using it at anything less then max settings would be pointless really, you won't save on noise by doing so.
HD0 = Hard Drive (Hitachi 60gb 7200rpm)
Temp1 = Top Area of laptop
Remote2 = x700 128mb GPU
CPU = 2.0ghz Pentium M 533mhz
Local = Not certain -- I'm assuming the middle/lower area of laptop
Above, surfing on FF and using Photoshop/MSN/Azereus with laptop fans on 70%, LapCool at High
Above, surfing on FF and using Photoshop/MSN/Azereus without laptop fans on 70%, LapCool is Off
Above, playing WC3 @ max settings/resolution with background applications(MSN/Azereus/FireFox) with laptop fans on 100%, LapCool at High
Playing WC3 @ max settings/resolution with background applications(MSN/Azereus/FireFox) with laptop fans at 100%, LapCool is Off
I did not want to try gaming with low fans, and I don't want to risk overheating! But with these results, there is a 5 degree to 20 degree difference in temperature which is a very impressive improvement.
This unit is quiet. My laptop at 50% fan speed will still drown out the fan noise on the LapCool 4, and only by turning the fans on the laptop conpletely off will I actually hear the LapCool 4 fan. The only annoyance I have is that occasionally the fans would sputter -- this is more likely due to my leaving bread crumbs or other debris under the intake where air gets sucked in, only thing to do about that is wipe the table down!
Clean area under before using! (view larger image)
The Other Features
The USB Hub works great, just like it is supposed to. The ports are a bit too close together, and there is some space between USB port 3 and the card reader, so maybe things could have been spaced better. The card reader worked no problems at all, although I only have an SD Card that was tested -- I can not vouch for the other readers.
USB action! Note the Kingston USB Flash key, it occupies space and prevents the 2nd port from being used (view larger image)
This notebook cooler is an awesome idea, as regular coolers are way too big to be carried around, this is foldable and does not take a lot of space, perfect for travelers and almost everyone, as it can be used in various situations. It is also a 'part' docking station, as the card reader is useful to laptops without one, and even if one did, it normally only accepts a limited types of memory cards, not 8. The USB hub worked perfectly, and the addition of 3 USB 2.0 ports is always great. Overall, I really like this product, the flaws are limited, with a MSRP of $49.99 it is quite pricey. But considering the usage and the features in such a small unit, it's well worth it.
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