by David Harries
Notebook coolers are often recommended to people who have problems with a laptop overheating, people who want to overclock their laptop or simply to people who want their laptops to remain in tip-top shape for as long as possible. Usually notebook coolers are powered, that is, they draw energy from a port, usually USB, to run a few fans embedded in the cooler. This active cooling is what makes a notebook chillpad work so well. There are a few disadvantages to a notebook cooler though: size, weight, noise, power consumption and moving parts such as fans that could break. Xmai Enterprise’s itoPad notebook cooler is a new product which might change all that. It’s an non-powered passive notebook cooler.
itoPad (view large image)
The itoPad arrived via USPS Priority Mail. It was packaged simply in plastic with an accompanying sheet of paper giving vitals: 11.7” x 12.48” x .78”. The instructions also hail the itoPad as weighing “less than a medium cup of coffee!” In fact, it weighs much less than that; I doubt any user would notice the added weight in their bag unless they are carrying an ultra- or sub-portable notebook. While the cooler is not heavy, it is a little on the thick side; make sure it will fit in your bag (I had no problems fitting it into my backpack along with other day-to-day belongings). The itoPad is constructed of expanded foam rubber with channels cut into the face and small canals on the bottom so that it fits comfortably on a lap. I had no trouble fitting my 14.1” Lenovo ThinkPad T60 on top of the cooler, however users should be sure that their laptop fits within the dimensions listed; while the itoPad is deep enough for a 15.4” and perhaps a 17” laptop, you’ll want to make sure the cooler is wide enough for your notebook. I would imagine users with 15.4” widescreens and larger might find that their notebooks dangle a little off the edges. The black foam pad is constructed well, no need to worry about it tearing or wearing out. The topside is textured with a sort of pebble-grained finish while the bottom has larger bumps underneath and in the canals to keep it secured on your lap. I have no concerns about my laptop falling or slipping off the itoPad.
itoPad with 14" screen ThinkPad T60 resting on top (view large image)
itoPad with ThinkPad T60 on top next to a mouse for thickness comparison (view large image)
The itoPad is really a pleasure to use if you’re somewhere where a desk or surface is not available. It’s comfortable and really isolates the heat of a notebook from your lap. The one thing some might want to consider is that the foam construction could possibly trap heat from the lap and cause a bit of discomfort for users in warmer climates. I encountered no such problems. The foam channels are wide enough to fit easily on my lap. It would be ideal for someone sitting on the couch, watching TV, or even on the go. If you’re a road warrior this product will let you compute in comfort on a train, plane or in an automobile. There is no real “installation”, you just place your computer on top of the pad and away you go. No wires to connect, no software to install, the itoPad is surprisingly idiot-proof!
I tested the cooler first on a desk without the itoPad. It was ran on AC power for an hour, idling. Afterward I shut the notebook down and let it cool completely before powering it up again. The second time I placed my Thinkpad on top of the itoPad and then on the desk. I used NHC’s monitoring feature to record temperatures. Temperatures were recorded every five minutes for an hour. Before any of this began, I used compressed air to clear the vents. The T60 has a pair of vents located around the left rear quarter of the notebook, one is an intake vent and the other an exhaust vent. I have not reformatted my notebook or applied AS5. All testing was done in Northern Virginia, the temperature ranged between 68 and 72 degrees F. In both cases screen brightness was set to maximum.
Specs of notebook as tested on the itoPad cooler
- 14.1” T60
- 5400 RPM
Results of temperature of notebook over time compared to use with and without the itoPad cooler:
As you can see from the graphs and tables above, the itoPad had little to no effect on the temperature of the notebook during my specific test. Hard drive heat actually increased a little more than a degree on the pad. However this may simply have been a statistical anomaly.
Disclaimer: As noted above, my laptop has vents located on the sides of the notebook, and as such the channels cut into the itoPad are not really effective at allowing air to move. Those with vents on the bottoms may have different results.
While the itoPad is certainly comfortable and great to have while computing without a desk, it did not make a significant difference in how cool my laptop ran. I can recommend the itoPad as a nice accessory to those computing on the go, but it’s not a viable solution for serious gamers or power users. Those folks should look into more traditional cooling mats utilizing fans. A better description for the itoPad might read: “A lightweight computing platform for those on the go, the itoPad offers a comfortable, heat-isolating pad perfect for the user without a desk.”
Where to Buy:
The itoPad can be purchased directly from itoPad.com for the price of $14.97.
- Easy setup & use
- Does not have any moving parts or require power
- Fast shipping
- Somewhat thick
- May not fit larger laptops
- Ineffective at cooling laptops; at least those with side vents.