JetArt XCool NP5000 Notebook Cooler
The modern "desktop replacement" notebook is an amazing thing - high-speed CPU, relatively large screen, lots of memory and storage, a swathe of connectivity options and, in many cases, quick enough onboard video to play most games at acceptable detail. Cramming all this performance into an object you can carry under one arm as you run to catch the bus makes for an interesting exercise in heat dissipation, so it's no surprise we're seeing notebook vendors experimenting with tiny heatpipes and watercooling systems in their high-end products.
If your notebook isn't coping with the heat, Taiwanese manufacturer JetArt think they have the solution in the form of their NP5000 Notebook Cooler. It also serves as a laptop stand and contains a four-port USB 2.0 hub.
Inside the box you get a sheet of instructions, a power adapter (with converter for Australian sockets), a USB cable and the laptop cooler itself.
The cooler is pretty basic - a plastic laptop stand with two fans blowing up onto the base of a laptop sitting on top of it. There are fold-out rubber feet on each corner to hold the laptop in place slightly above the unit. There's two status LEDs on the unit, but with a laptop in place you can't see them.
The underside of the unit shows the intake side of both fans and two small compartments for storage. I'm not sure what exactly you're meant to put in those - JetArt suggest the USB cable in one, but it would have been nice if the power adapter fit in the other. Maybe you keep your Minties in there for late-night snacking. There's also two fold-out feet on the bottom of the unit - they only go to one position, so the height and angle of the laptop isn't adjustable any more finely than "raised" or "flat".
Having a laptop on the cooler in the raised position does actually improve the comfort level when typing. My main PC for over a year now has been a Sony VAIO PCG-FR700 notebook. I've had the NP5000 Notebook Cooler on my desk for a couple of months now and have become quite used to the slight forward tilt and raised height of the keyboard.
From right to left across the back of the unit we have four USB ports, the USB connector port which goes to your laptop, the power jack for the cooler, a fan-speed dial and, outside the silver area, an on/off switch for the cooler. The USB ports still work when the cooler is turned off. I'm not sure if the USB hub is a "powered hub" or not. The documentation on the back of the box simply calls it a "4-port USB 2.0 Hub" and I have no devices that require a powered hub so I can't test them on it.
Installation is very simple. You fold out the rubber standoffs on top of the unit, the plastic feet beneath, then rest the notebook on top. Connect the USB connector cable from a USB port on your notebook to the connector on the cooler. Plug in the power to the cooler, turn it on and adjust the fan speed to your liking.
New & Improved?
I actually looked at an earlier version of this product back in February, the XCool NP2100 Notebook Cooling Pad. I ended up deciding not to review it and instead returned some feedback to JetArt to help their development of the product. My main concerns about the earlier model were:
JetArt have obviously gone away and had a re-think for this new version.
- the fans are too loud. even in the slowest mode, they can clearly be heard and are distracting. at full speed it is much too loud.
- adjustment of the fan speed is too fiddly. the knob is difficult to reach because the laptop screen is in the way and various cables from the laptop or unit block access. the knob is too small and seems too recessed to find easily without looking. if you could relocate this to the front of the unit or have some kind of automatic fan speed (perhaps controlled by a remote thermal diode) it would be much better.
- the USB connection seems to drop out occasionally. i have seen this with my mouse and a Nikon camera. unplugging the mouse and plugging it back in again fixes the problem, but there is obviously an issue there. if it were to fail during transfer from a USB flash drive, for example, the drive could be corrupted.
- The laptop needs to be more securely connected to the cooler. when I adjust my screen forwards or backwards, the base of the laptop lifts off the cooler and I have to re-seat it.
- the fans blow upwards. i would think this would promote blowing dust onto the bottom of the laptop from the table. have you tested the thermal performance from fans blowing down, away from the laptop? they would be carrying hot air away from the bottom of the laptop and still promoting cooling this way, while not blowing dust from the desk up. perhaps your engineers could test to see if it is worthwhile.
In terms of cooling performance, a simple hand-test shows the temperature of the notebook's exhaust air has dropped noticeably. The two fans use ball-bearings and can be adjusted from 1800 to 2600rpm.
- Fan noise is much more acceptable. In low-speed mode, the fans are barely audible. They're still pretty loud at full speed, but that's fair enough.
- The fan-speed adjuster was a rotary knob on the old model, while this model has a flat dial. It's definitely easier to adjust, but it's still buried away among cables and behind the laptop screen at the back of the unit. Having adjustment at the front or side of the unit would be a big improvement.
- I've been running my mouse on one of the USB ports and haven't observed any issues with the USB dropping out on this unit. I've also run my Nikon digicam and a few other devices from it. Without actually sitting down and benchmarking it, it feels identical to the laptop's ports in terms of transfer speed.
- Adding rubber standoffs to the top of the laptop stand has made it much more stable and stops the laptop moving around so much on the unit. I did find that two of the rubber feet have come unstuck and moved around. This is possibly due to the glue failing from the heat of the laptop above.
- The fans still blow upwards on this unit. A bit of dust on the bottom of your laptop is probably not a big deal, I guess.
My notebook has a Mobile Athlon 1800+ in it, which is certainly a lot hotter-running than the more recent solutions such as Centrino. However, even during the heat of Australia's summer I had no problems with the laptop overheating. The exhaust gets hot, the laptop turns the fan up and the unit cools down. If your laptop IS exhibiting heat-related problems, either the cooling unit was badly designed or is in need of maintenance - perhaps it's clogged with dust or the fan has failed. You could argue that running the laptop cooler will enhance the long-term reliability of your portable PC, but that's pretty hard to quantify.
Maybe it's meant to protect your lap from sizzling laptop heat, but it's not the most comfortable thing to rest on your thighs for a long time. It's pretty obviously meant for desktop use - the mains power requirement is a bit of a giveaway. Because this cooler needs mains power to turn the fans, relying on it will limit the portability options of your notebook. It's hard to see why the whole unit couldn't be powered by the USB ports on the laptop.
Someone once described a product I reviewed earlier as "an interesting solution - let's see if we can find a problem for it." That's pretty much how I feel about this product from JetArt. It works exactly as advertised, but I'm struggling to see the point of it. If your laptop has an overheating problem, it needs repair or maintenance, not a bandaid solution of some fans blowing at the bottom of it. This cooler requires mains power, so you can't use it everywhere you might want to use your laptop anyway. As a USB hub it performs perfectly well, but there are smaller and more elegant ways of adding USB ports to your laptop. It raises the laptop up to a more comfortable height and angle, but I'm sure I could produce a similar effect by using some books or magazines.
Overall it does the job, and if you have a particular issue you feel will be resolved by using this product, I imagine you'd be very happy with it. Perhaps the focus of marketing this unit should be more on "notebook stand with USB hub" rather than "notebook cooler". Personally speaking, I can't really see them flying off the shelves at the USD $45 RRP.
Thanks to JetArt for providing the review unit. I'm not aware of an Australian distributor at this time, but I believe it's also being sold as a Vantec-branded unit in some markets.
All original content copyright James Rolfe.
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