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If you have a notebook computer and you use it for any stretch of time at a proper desk, then you should really invest in a good notebook cooler. They’re not all built alike, believe it or not, so you really should do your research just as you would with any other technological gizmo that populates your home office One of the more innovative designs is the Cooler Master NotePal U3. It addresses a very common problem that you may find with other notebook cooling stands: different hot spots. Not all laptops get hottest in the same areas, so why should all coolers target the same areas?

Features at a Glance

We were first introduced to the NotePal U3 when we visited the Cooler Master suite at CES 2010. At the time, I thought that they were going to rebrand it as a Choiix product, but it seems they’re sticking to the Cooler Master banner for the NotePal U3.

Compatible with notebooks with screens up to 19-inches in size, this cooler provides three removable 80mm fans. That’s right; removable. The big kicker is that you can “clip” these fans into just about any location along the series of holes. By doing so, you can place the fans closest to the three hottest spots on a notebook: CPU, GPU, and HDD.

You’ll also see that it’s constructed from aluminum and rubber. It’s not quite as thick and solid as the NZXT Cryo S, but it’s certainly higher-end than all those cheap plastic coolers on the market.

As for pricing, the Cooler Master NotePal U3 will set you back around $29.99 US which is pretty affordable. However, just because it’s affordable doesn’t get it off the hook. We’ll get to some tests later that should put any doubts to rest.

What’s in the Box?

Not surprisingly, the contents of the box are pretty sparse. You get the base aluminum stand with its rubber kung-fu grips, a trio of 80mm fans all tethered together to the fan speed clip controller and the USB power pass-through cable. There are no additional accessories, but that’s because you don’t need any additional accessories.

If you really need instructions on how to operate the NotePal U3, you can refer to the back of the box. Otherwise, it’s about as straightforward as it gets.

Initial Impressions

On the one hand, I really like how Cooler Master decided to go with aluminum for most of the construction for the NotePal U3. The metal is just so much better than cheap plastic. On the other hand, the aluminum sheet is a little too thin and the edges haven’t really been rounded off. Going through the list of criteria outlined in my perfect notebook cooler guide, you may also notice that the NotePal U3 comes up short in a few other areas.

First, there is no height control. It is fixed at a 10-degree angle, which may not be the best for certain users and certain situations. While I like the idea of the clipping fan speed control, there is no USB hub and no power switch either.

The unique custom fan location mechanism, however, wins some serious points in my book. No other notebook cooling stand, to my knowledge, allows for this level of true versatility. This is something that really sunk the Zalman NC2500Plus Notebook cooler: it looked good but the placement of fans made it into a heater instead of a cooler on some notebook configurations.

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