If you spend long stretches of time working with your laptop on your lap, you know how hot a computer can get. And if you've seen as many different laptops as we have, you know that some models run hotter than others. If your laptop runs hot, and especially if you work on a laptop all day long, a laptop cooling stand may have particular appeal. To the broad range of options available, both passive and active, Targus recently added the $50 Chill Mat for Mac--a dual-fan, active laptop-cooling pad that's designed to coordinate with your MacBook or MacBook Pro.
Measuring 15.2 inches wide by 11.2 inches deep by 1.5 inches thick and weighing 1.6 pounds, the Chill Mat for Mac is almost small enough to fit into your laptop bag. The pad features a white plastic top with mesh-like circular vent holes that let air circulate around your MacBook. Small rubber nubs at all four corners prove surprisingly effective at holding a laptop in place without sliding. A ring of gray plastic, about 1.5 inches thick, frames the pad's top surface; nonslip feet on all four corners keep the stand from sliding on your desk. The bottom of the pad is made of soft, fabric mesh that not only facilitates air flow, but also lets you use the pad on your lap as well as on your desk surface.
Visible inside the Chill Mat for Mac are two small fans, which are powered via a removable USB cable on the back of the pad. (In a welcome touch, a power button next to the cable connection lets you turn off the fans if desired.) Other fan-based coolers we've seen, such as the Antec Notebook Cooler, cool laptops by drawing hot air away from the machine. But the Targus Chill Mat for Mac actually blows cool air directly onto the machine.
We spent a day with the Chill Mat for Mac plugged into our previous-generation black MacBook, which once got so hot that it stuck to the finished-wood table we were using as a work space. The stand held the laptop at a very slight angle that was nevertheless comfortable for typing. And the fans ran so quietly that we had to double-check that they were even on. Though we were initially irked at sacrificing one of our few USB ports to run the Chill Mat, our anger was lessened after several hours of use, when our laptop had not even begun to approach its normal scalding levels. (We also found the fans useful for quickly cooling a cup of tea that was too hot to drink.) Fifty bucks is a steep price for a laptop stand, especially one that hogs a USB port without doubling as a USB hub. But the Targus Chill Mat for Mac may nevertheless be worth the expense to Mac users for whom heat is a major problem.