USB Hub and Fan Speed Control
If you’ve had the opportunity to read my wish list of features for the perfect notebook cooler, then you’ll know that I not only want to have a fan (or two) pushing cold air at my laptop; I want to be able to control the fan speed. Zalman accomplishes this with a simple dial at the rear of the product. I would have preferred the dial to be on the side, since it’s easier to access, but at least it’s there. Unfortunately, there is no power button and turning the dial all the way down doesn’t turn off the fans either. The option to completely power down should be there.
You’ll also notice that power, as mentioned earlier, can be provided either via the mini-USB port or an optional DC wall adapter. In between these two is the three-port USB 2.0 hub, which certainly comes in handy for all the accessories and peripherals we rock these days. As objected earlier, the fact that you can’t turn off the fans and the fact that a cooler with a notebook hard drive inside draws far more power than a standard cooler, makes this optional DC adapter necessary with all guns blazing. It should have been included in this product.
Is It an Effective Cooling Stand?
For testing purposes, I used my Dell notebook with an Intel Core2Duo T5300 processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 500GB Seagate Momentus 7200.4 SATA hard drive. The idle temperature is taken when a “cold” notebook has been fully booted into Windows XP and the hard drive is idle. The temperature is recorded (in degrees Celsius with CPUID Hardware Monitor) for about 15 to 20 minutes, noting the minimum and maximum temperatures during this time. The “load” temperature is taken with PCMark05 running its complete benchmark suite, which takes a little over 30 minutes on the Dell. Again, the minimum and maximum temperatures are recorded with CPUID Hardware Monitor.
No, you are not reading that incorrectly. Some of those temperatures are actually higher when the Dell notebook was placed on the Zalman ZM-NC2500Plus. There are some temperatures that are slightly lower on the cooler, but it’s inexcusable when there are any ratings that are higher. It seems that in the process of creating this “innovative” design, this notebook cooler doesn’t quite live up to expectations. It should also be noted that the fans were cranked up to max using the integrated control dial, so this is about as much cooling as you can get from the Zalman. Contrast this to the highly effective CoolerMaster NotePal Ergostand with its single massive fan directing cool air directly into the center of the laptop.
With a notebook at the upper end of its size range, the holes are completely covered. Our theory is that since the hot air simply circulates in the chamber below with no escape, the temperature just goes up. Similar tests were performed on a pre-unibody MacBook Pro 15.4 inch and unfortunately, seems to corroborate these results. It makes us wonder if the simple solution would simply be an adjustable vent so the hot air has someplace else to go?
I applaud Zalman on taking a slightly different approach to the notebook cooler market by opting for a different way to channel the cool air. However, this different design leads to diminished cooling performance as well as some key issues.
The hard drive bay, fan speed control dial, and USB hub are nice features to have and the overall construction appears to be quite good. It is a shame, though, that there is virtually no height adjustment. You only get those tiny little “prop” things that you find on the bottom of keyboards. Notebook stands should have more adjustability than that. You also can’t completely turn the fans off and using all the ports, fans and the hard drive bay could cause some USB power brown outs which would be solved with the inclusion of the optional power adapter.
In the end, we can’t recommend this product not only because it doesn’t cool well, but it’s more expensive than better performing alternatives. After all, this is a notebook cooler, not a notebook USB hub and hard drive dock. Cooling is a test that it cannot fail, regardless of all the features. More disappointing is the fact that we know Zalman for such excellent CPU coolers. We expect the same high level of performance of all their products. Hopefully they take the feedback and can redeem themselves with something excellent the next time around.
- Unique dual fan channeling design
- Integrated three-port USB hub
- Solidly-built, accommodates larger laptops
- Hard drive dock can be quite useful
- Very minimal height adjustment options
- Cooling design appears to be less effective
- Rear-oriented hub/dial is less convenient than side-mounted
- Relatively expensive compared to other coolers
- AC adapter not included
Overall Rating: 5.5 / 10.0
Love This Review? Hate This Review? Leave a Comment or Hit The Forums!