CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Page: 1
CoolerMaster Notepal U2
 
Laptops are, in theory, designed to be a completely self contained unit with no need for any external devices to keep them running. However, this doesn't always work, as cramming everything in a compact chassis leaves little room for large, elaborate coolers, thus leading to some rather toasty CPU's and GPU's. Whilst you can't change the cooling, or plumb in some water cooling, there are a few ways you can help to cool off your laptop.  
 
The concept of laptop coolers isn't new, with the basic principal of having some external fans or cooling surface which helps to draw the heat away from your laptop. CoolerMaster employs a number of different methods for drawing away heat in it's new Notepal U2 , helping your laptop to cope better when put under stress. Here is a list of those key features, taken from the CoolerMaster Site:
 
1. Slim
Slim shape and light weight design offers great portability.

2. Sturdy
Dependable sturdy structure for long-term laptop use.

3. Protection & Storage
Light weight notebook cooler that is also great for protecting and storing your notebook.
Accommodate most 14~15" laptops, up to 17" size.

4. Comfort
Ergonomic angle for comfortable viewing height and better working position.

5. Cooling
Efficient dissipation design to prevent overheating.

6. Removable and smart fan (Fan Edition)
Exclusively designed removable fan, easier to install and locks better on the notebook ;
Adjust and focus dissipation on the hottest spot of your notebook.
 
And here are the full specifications for the U2, taken once more from CoolerMasters' site:
 
Material Aluminium and rubber
Dimension (W / H / D) 343 x 266 x 58.6mm ; 13.5 x 10.5 x 2.3 inches
Weight 582g, 725g (Fan edition)
Available Colour Silver, Black
Compatibility Supports all 14-15" laptops, up to 17"
Fan Dimension 80 x 80 x 10 mm (Fan edition, two fans included)
    
The feature list and specifications look promising, with a large range of laptops supported (14-17"), as well as the optional dual fan solution, which should lower temperatures dramatically. The option of using the cooler to protect your notebook is an intriguing one, and one that I will look into as I progress through the review.  


CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Page: 2
Packaging and Contents
 
The Notepal U2 arrived in a large, hinged clear plastic sleeve. This doesn't really offer much protection, and is more for display purposes. The plastic isn't blister sealed, so opening it is easy and also saves you from having to rip it open like an angry bear. 
 
CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Packaging
 
Inside the box is the Notepal U2 itself along with a large elastic band. At first I was a bit confused as to what the band was for, but it's purpose will become apparent later. The anodised aluminium looks great, with the rubber feet helping to reduce vibrations and keep everything stable on your desk.
 
 CoolerMaster Notepal U2 contents CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Cooler
 
Flipping the U2 over we can see the fans used to help keep your notebook cool. The fans are slimline 80mm fans, and are hard wired into a USB cable. This is a bit of a shame, as it would have been nice to be able to change the fans, for ones with LED's or different levels of airflow/noise.  A push button allows you to remove the fans from the main stand, so that they can be positioned pretty much anywhere. The system is incredibly good, and moving the fans around is a simple 10 second job.
 
CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Fans CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Fans removed
 
As previously stated, the U2's fans are powered by USB. Thoughtfully, CoolerMaster have made this a pass-through connector, so you effectively don't lose any USB ports. I tested the U2 with my 16.4" Sony Vaio FW, which is pictured below. The stand is quite a lot smaller than the laptop itself, but it still offered fantastic support and the laptop was very sturdy when placed on top.
 
CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Power CoolerMaster Notepal U2 with Laptop
 
The U2's other purpose is as a support for your laptop when travelling. The laptop slips inside the U2, and is then held in place by the large elastic band. Unfortunately, you have to remove the fans to use the U2 in this way, and even when it is used it will only protect one side of the laptop. I got the impression this was a bit of an afterthought, and was simply added on as a tick box feature, rather than having any real thought over it. It is quite useful if you intend to transport your laptop and the U2, as it should save you a lot of space. Unfortunately, most laptop cases/pouches probably aren't designed for the extra thickness the U2 adds to your laptop, so it may or may not fit when carried in this fashion.
 
CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Protector  
 
I think you'll agree that the U2 is a pretty smart looking product, and the decision to make it out of aluminium was a good one, as it gives it a quality feel, whilst also helping with the heat dissipation. My only gripe is the inability to change the included fans, which would have been nice. However, we'll see how the included units perform in the testing page...     


CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Page: 3
Testing
 
Testing was conducted using my Sony Vaio FW31E. The laptop was subjected to an idle and load test across three different testing conditions; 
For the idle testing, the laptop was left to idle for 15 minutes, then the CPU temperatures taken. For the load tests, two Prime95 threads were loaded (one for each core), and the temperatures recorded after a further 15 minutes. The temperature recorded was an average between the two cores, which were taken from Coretemp. Here are the specifications of the test machine:
 
Intel Core2Duo T6400 @ 2.00ghz,
4GB DDR2 Ram @ 800mhz,
ATI 3470 Mobile GPU,
OCZ Vertex 120gb SSD,
Windows 7 Professional x64.  
 
Unfortunately it's hard to show the full extent of the differences in temperatures due to the laptops internal fan adjusting it's speed automatically (there is no disable options in the BIOS). However, the speed changes are fairly small, so the overall impact on results should be minimal. 
 
Idle Results:

CoolerMaster U2 Idle chart
 
Load Results:

 
Unfortunately there was no differentiation between the idle results - almost certainly due to the CPU dropping it's multiplier right down and thus producing an incredibly small amount of heat - well within the coolers limits. However, when a bit of load was applied the picture changed, as the fan was instantly wailing away at full revs to try and keep the heat down. As the fan was at full speed, the differences in results were entirely down to the U2. Although I was expecting a larger difference in results, the 3 degrees the U2 with fans gives you over stock cooling is reasonable. It's also worth noting that my Vaio isn't the most high end of notebooks, and one of the newer i7 laptops would probably benefit more from the added cooling.
 
Unfortunately though, the fans on the U2 are quite noisy, and are very much audible over my laptop's own internal fan when it was idling. With no way of reducing the fans rotational speed or swapping the fans, some could find it somewhat annoying.
       


CoolerMaster Notepal U2 Page: 4
Conclusion
 
It's difficult to sum up the CoolerMaster U2, as it doesn't really stand out as an outstanding product, nor does it do anything terribly badly or wrong. 
 
The noise is one of the biggest annoyances for me. My Vaio is fairly quiet, but is by no means silent, and the U2 was easily audible over the Vaio when idling. It wasn't so noticeable when the laptop was stress tested, but pushing laptops to their absolute limit is a lot rarer than doing so on a desktop. I feel that overlooking the ability to change the fans was a bit of an oversight on CoolerMaster's part, as it would be very handy to simply swap over the installed fans.
 
The temperature results could also have been better, with only a fairly unimpressive 3 degrees being knocked off the load temperature. I feel the benefits of using the U2 would increase with a higher end laptop though, especially if you are running one of the new 45w i7 mobile chips.
 
I believe the U2 would be a great product, providing you are one of the following people: Someone who owns a high end i7 or gaming laptop, which runs hot (and noisy) and is used regularly for games or encoding/Photoshop. It's these sorts of applications that  tend to put a lot of strain on laptops, pushing them right to the limit of their thermal capacity, and somewhere where the U2 would certainly make a noticeable difference.
 
Priced at £20.44 from Digital Fusion the U2 is pretty much where you'd expect it to be, and certainly isn't undercutting competitor products significantly. If you push your laptop heavily on a regular basis, then I would suggest you take a look, as it will not only give you piece of mind that your laptop won't over heat, but it should also increase the longevity of it.
 
The Good:
+ Fans can easily be removed and/or moved around the base of the unit.
+ Aluminium construction.
+ Sits firmly and holds your laptop nice and securely.
 
The Mediocre:
* Inability to change the bundled fans.
* Reduction in operating temperatures will probably only be worthwhile with high end laptops.
 
The Bad
- Fans are far from silent.
- Used as a protective covering, the U2's protection is pretty poor. 
 
    
 
Overclock3d would like to thank CoolerMaster for todays review sample. Discuss in our forums.