Having a MacBook Pro means you have to deal with heat. The MBP is built with an aluminum case, which is becoming a popular option among the desktop “home-brew computing” world. However, in a laptop it means much of the heat that would be absorbed by a plastic case is now transferred to the case; the case effectively acts as a large heat sink.
Though the fans on the MBP are sufficient to keep the interior of the laptop cool and operating, they aren’t good enough to keep the bottom cool. This means the metal bottom will start to get hot, which is obviously not a good thing for electronic components but also not a good thing for your legs.
I bought the Belkin laptop cooling stand to help address this issue. Using a monitoring program, I can tell what the temperature of various parts of my computer are. Under normal operating conditions, the base enclosure of the MBP is 30-32 degrees Celsius. If I don’t use the laptop cooler, the temperature can reach 36 degrees if I’m doing something intensive like playing a FPS game or running a virtual operating system.
However, when I do use the cooler, even though the temperature will still increase above normal, it’s usually not more than 2 degrees, while the CPU temp can jump nearly 20 degrees. The laptop cooler won’t necessarily prevent the laptop’s internal fans from kicking on, but it does limit how often they have to be used.
The stand has a small flap on the base that can be opened when using the stand on a desk or similar surface. I don’t recommend using it on your lap because it’s small surface area will bite into your legs.
There is another flap opposite of the first which opens to reveal a storage compartment. Normally the USB power cable is stored here but there is still room to store small items such as thumbdrives or other tools.
The cooler is powered by USB, meaning you have to have at least one USB port available. This can be frustrating if you happen to have a lot of items to connect, so I recommend investing in a small USB hub just in case. If it’s small enough, you could probably store it in the cord compartment.
The fan itself is located directly in the center of the cooling stand. If sucks air from underneath the stand and blows it across the bottom of your computer. This is contrary to what I expected because it means you have to ensure the bottom of the stand doesn’t get covered, especially by “flowy” things like tissue paper, clothing, etc. This means it can be difficult to use in bed if you like to have the covers pulled up on your lap.
One other mention about the fan. The fan itself appears to be a rather cheap model, in that it uses a standard sleave bearing rather than a more expensive ball bearing. After several months of use, the fan will start to buzz, squeal, and otherwise make noises that sound like it will die. Though it’s moderately easy to replace the fan (you should be able to find a replacement at a good computer supply shop), it is irritating. However, a little “mechanical agitation” (read: bump it) will cause the noise to stop.
The stand cost me only $20 or so. Replacement fans can be found for just a few dollars so it’s really up to the user whether they want to go to the trouble of swapping out the fan or just buy a new stand.
Finally, you have to be careful when reaching underneath the cooler while the fan is on. It’s incredibly easy to put your fingers into the fan hole if you’re groping for the desktop flip-cover. They’re literally 1/4 inch apart. It may not hurt you or the fan, but it will definitely give you a good scare. So either turn the fan off when reaching underneath or take a look when flipping the stand.