(Reprinted from my Epinion. Note that there are several different types of gel coolers on the market, such as Thermaltake, Targus, et al.)
I’ve owned several fan-based laptop coolers. After going on the third one because the fans are cheap and die after several months, I decided to look for something different.
I had read a review on a computer news site and was intrigued about cooling without fans. After looking around at several others sites, I decided to give this cooling pad a shot. Being cheaper than most other fan-based coolers, it wasn’t like I had anything to lose.
This cooler has a phase-change material in it. As it gets hot, it changes from solid pellets to a near-liquid gel, much like ice melting into water. And like ice, it requires a lot of latent heat to actually affect the phase change.
What this means is that the laptop cooler will reduce the heat on the bottom of your laptop nearly as well as a fan-type cooler. Even after using my Macbook Pro (MBP) all day, my temperature software reported that the bottom of the laptop was averaging 32 degrees Celsius or less. This is consistent with my fan-based cooler. Even at the hottest, it didn’t get above 35 degrees.
Using the Targus cooler, my MBP only rarely has to speed up its internal fans; even with a fan cooler, my internal fans would speed up, so there is no real difference between the coolers.
The MBP is a good test machine for heat output because it has a solid aluminum chassis. Aluminum is a great heat absorber (many desktop cases are now aluminum to help dissipate heat). It also means the MBP bottom can get hotter than plastic cased laptops. If the Targus cooler can keep the MBP’s temps in line with a fan cooler, it means it’s just as capable in the cooling department.
The biggest benefit of the Targus cooler is that there is no hardware to it: no fans, no power supplies, no cords, nothing. Just the pad itself. Obviously this means there is no extra noise from the pad, which is one of the complaints I have about fan coolers. Even if my internal fans weren’t spinning up, I still had to contend with the noise of the cooler. The Targus cooler is completely passive.
The top part of the Targus cooler is quilted to allow laptops with bottom fans to function properly. Since the MBP doesn’t have bottom fans, I can’t state how well the quilting works. Some reviews on the web say it doesn’t impede airflow while others say it does. I guess your mileage will vary, depending on your usage patterns.
The bottom of the pad (the part that sits on your lap or table) is covered in a type of mesh webbing to keep it from sliding off your lap/table. However, the top of the cooler (where your computer sits) is nylon or other synthetic material, so it’s slick. Even if the cooler itself doesn’t slide off, you still have to be careful about the computer itself sliding around.
The cost of the cooler was less than $20, which is comparable to fan coolers. The only thing it doesn’t offer than fan cooler often do is a USB hub. However, since you can buy a hub by itself, this isn’t a big deal.
Overall, this is a much better investment than a fan cooler. It’s much less bulky, it’s foldable, and it doesn’t add additional noise to the environment and doesn’t require external power. The cooling is just as effective as fan coolers and effectively lasts forever; the gel solidifies as it cools down so it can be reused over and over. Considering you don’t have to worry about fans dying on you, it’s a much better value for your dollars.