Whether it is video rendering, massive image editing, or hardcore gaming, laptops are inevitably going to heat up quickly and require some intense fan spinning action. Sometimes, that doesn't even help. Your MacBook feels like an oven anyways. Cooler Master is known for their computer peripherals and accessories, and their NotePal Ergo 360 Laptop Cooler is here to potentially save the day. Designed to keep your laptop cooler than usual during highly-intensive operation, the Ergo 360 does the job with a couple of interesting twists. The 360 in its name highlights the fact that you can spin your laptop 360 degrees while it is on the cooler and hidden underneath is a tablet holder as well. All of these unique features are begging for Gadgetmac's seal of approval. Check out the full review after the cut to see our final verdict.
The unboxing is very straightforward. You have a quick start guide with warranty and such, and the laptop cooler itself. Surprisingly, the Ergo 360 has a brushed aluminum surface that I was expecting to be some sort of cheap plastic material. This gave the laptop cooler a much more modern aesthetic look but also, aluminum is a much more effective material when it comes to releasing heat than compared to plastic. However, there is still plenty of plastic used on the bottom of the cooler, which just doesn't feel as sleek. The overall size of the NotePal can accommodate most 15-inch or smaller laptops as my retina MacBook Pro took up just about the entire surface area.
There are two 80mm plastic fans that spin at 1700 RPMs consistently and powered by a single USB to keep your laptop from overheating. There are no additional USB ports on the laptop cooler itself, which I was very disappointed about. This took up a USB port which my retina MacBook Pro only has two of, and most laptops today have only around two to four anyways. Cooler Master claims that these fans are virtually silent but in fact, they are actually fairly loud. While it is nothing that would drown out your music or anything, it is still very noticeable when you are in a quiet environment.
The NotePal includes two flip-up tabs on the bottom of the cooler that is designed to prevent your laptop from slipping off the cooler when you have it tilted upwards. This is a neat feature to ensure that your laptop doesn't slide off or do a face plant while you're working. The tabs are also padded with rubber pads to further add grip to hold onto your laptop but also to prevent the tabs from scratching it.
The interesting feature that gives the NotePal Ergo 360 its name is the swivel-arm attached to the bottom of the cooler that can spin 360 degrees with your laptop on it. This arm works as a stand to prop up your laptop as well as a tablet stand when you detach it. When it is used to prop your laptop up, the texturized rubber grip sits firmly on your desk's surface and is relatively secure to prevent any slipping. There are also two rubber feet on the bottom of the cooler to prevent movement while the cooler is lain flat.
I personally found the 360 twist feature to be more of an annoyance than anything because this caused my laptop to sometimes move when I wanted to plug in a USB or anything else into a port. Other than showing the person next to or across from you what you are working on on your computer, I cannot come up with any other reason for this feature. Additionally, to allow the laptop cooler to spin, Cooler Master opted to not place any rubber feet in the front area of the body, which means even when you have the cooler placed flat on a desk, it is not as stable as it could be. It occasionally slides on my desk, especially since my desk is made of glass.
There are four different angles that you can set up for the most comfortable experience, ranging from a steep 60 degree angle to completely flat. This is done through ridges built in the back of the removable plate and held up by moving a piece of plastic that holds the laptop and the angle of your choosing. I found that when I propped it to the more steeper angles, typing on my MacBook's keyboard could tilt the entire setup either to the left or right. My guess is because the rubber feet used to stabilize the setup is not wide enough to compensate for the uneven amount of weight of your hands as you are typing.
To utilize the tablet holding feature, there is a release switch on the bottom of the cooler that detaches the holder from the entire body. There is a ridge that is designed to securely hold your tablet, whether it is the iPad mini, or a regular sized tablet, such as an iPad. You then rest the back of your tablet onto the rubberized grip aforementioned to prevent any slippage. When using my tablet while it was docked to the holder, I found that I could go about and navigate from app to app without having the stand flex from the pressure of me pushing on the tablet. Again, there are four different angles for you to choose from as well.
Since the rubber padding is originally used to prop your laptop up, it is very common to find bits of dust and dirt from your desk stuck on the rubber grip. If you are as protective of your Apple devices as I am, I would recommend wiping down any pieces of dirt prior to placing your tablet on top of it.
Cooler Master's NotePal Ergo 360 packs some interesting features that may seem promising on paper but during our review, we found that there still needs to be certain tweaks done before it is perfect. However, as a laptop cooler, it performs its job fairly well. I found my MacBook's fans switch on less often and not as quickly with the NotePal pushing air from the bottom. The fact that the cooler takes up a USB port that I desperately need for other peripherals, such as an external hard drive and mouse, I would have preferred additional USB ports built-in to the cooler's body. Yet, for a easy $40, this may be just what you need when it comes down to cooling your laptop.
If you're thinking about adding an external display to your laptop setup, then you might want to take a look at Twelve South's HiRise stand. While it may not cool your laptop as effectively as a cooling stand with powered fans, the HiRise is a beautifully designed passive cooling stand with a smooth height adjustment designed to let you use your MacBook or any laptop as a part of a dual-screen arrangement.