Avid readers of our reviews may have noticed that we’ve started testing temperatures on notebooks and netbooks. It’s a little shocking to see just how hot some of these systems get on the bottom, particularly for devices that are supposed to sit on one’s lap. This winter has been pretty harsh and I’m sure a few of you have been huddling around your laptops for warmth, but trust me, there will come a time when you won’t appreciate the heat.
Recently we reviewed a slew of cooling pads to mitigate heat issues when you’re working at home or in the office. Though they’re effective, we wouldn’t call most of them portable. Passive coolers like the Cool Lift can keep your laptop out of direct contact with your skin, at least, and provide air flow. But then you’re carrying yet another thing.
The ideal solution would be to have a cooling pad integrated into something you already carry like a bag or briefcase that somehow converted into a convenient lap desk. Thankfully, someone else had this brilliant idea, too. Meet the ChillCase, a notebook bag with a cooling fan inside.
ChillCases are designed so that you don’t have to take your notebook out of the bag at all. Straps attach the bottom of the deck and the top of the display to the case, which makes it easy to fold up and go when you’re traveling. The bottom area with the cooling fan is made of a lightweight but sturdy foam-like material that has an indentation that allows for proper air flow and venting that’s useful both when the fan is on and when it’s off.
The fan runs on USB power that uses very little energy — less than a mouse, according to the designer — and is also super quiet. The cord wraps around the fan and neatly stows away, so you won’t have to worry about managing or losing it. It has a blue LED on the connector to tell you it’s working, and, if you place a hand underneath, you can feel the fan drawing air up.
The idea is not to vent heat downward (it would just end up on your lap and you’d still be uncomfortable). Instead, the fan directs cool air at the bottom of the notebook which then flows out from the sides and back evenly.
You can completely unzip the case and just use the bottom on its own if you want the cooler but already have a favorite bag or if you’re at home and want to put the bag away. It’s firm enough to use as a lap desk and even includes small feet at each corner to lift it up a bit on any surface.
The idea is great, but what about the execution? Can a bus-powered fan make that much of a difference? We decided to test the effectiveness of the ChillCase with some of the hottest notebooks and netbooks we currently have in the office. We wanted to see how well the cases were able to keep the excessive temperatures away from users and how much the notebooks themselves cooled down. We chose the following systems for the test: 16-inch Dell Latitude Z600, 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E205, and 10-inch Dell Inspiron Mini 10.