One of the problems with laptops is their tendency to overheat, which can damage internal components. Their small size doesn’t allow a lot of venting nor big cooling fans to keep down heat. And their portability often means that people are using them places that can block the cooling vents – like on laps or teenagers who use them while lying on the bed. There are a lot of products that try to address the cooling problems inherent with laptops. Some products are as simple as little plastic feet to elevate the back of the laptop and allow airflow on all sides. Some are more elaborate lapdesks or stands with fans to blow air across the laptop, but those often draw their power from the laptop and shorten battery life. ChillBed Industries has an aluminum laptop stand that they say is designed to absorb and dissipate heat without the use of fans. I received a 13” ChillBed for review. Let’s give it a closer look.
The photos in this review, including the top photo and the tabular data, can be clicked for an enlarged view.
The ChillBed laptop stands are made of solid aluminum. They have a Z-shape that’s lower in the front. The front and bottom edges are wrapped with rubbery black plastic to prevent scratches to the laptop and the tabletop. The back also has four little silicone feet. The front two also help protect the table, and all four protect your laptop when you are carrying the stand and laptop in a bag. There’s a large, green logo on the top; it appears to be silk-screened on. There’s also a small “Made in Canada” sticker on the bottom.
The ChillBed stands are available in sizes for 13”, 15”, and 17” laptops; the ChillBeds themselves are a bit narrower than the stated sizes. ChillBed Industries say their stands are designed “with Mac notebooks in mind, but will keep any laptop running cooler”. They are also available in the natural aluminum and in powder-coated jet black. I asked for and received a 13” ChillBed in natural aluminum.
The ChillBed stand I received weighs 13.4 oz on my digital scale. It is 12.4” wide, and it is about 0.5” tall in the front and 1.4” tall in the back. My 13” MacBook Pro fits on the stand with only the smallest amount of overhang on both sides. The laptop is very stable on the ChillBed stand. The ChillBed itself can slide around on the table a bit, or at least it does on my molded plastic-topped table I use as my laptop stand and on my retro Formica kitchen table. It doesn’t slide as much on my wood coffee table, so the rubber strip and the silicone pads “grip” some surfaces better than others.
I like the angle the ChillBed lifts my laptop. Typing is comfortable, and the angle seems to be a good one to prevent my wrists from tiring quickly. It also lifts my screen up a bit, and that makes the viewing angle more comfortable. I feel I can sit a bit straighter in my chair.
The ChillBed is also designed to travel in your laptop bag and provide some extra protection. You just flip the stand over and lay your laptop screen-side down on those four silicone feet. Put both pieces into your laptop bag, and the aluminum stand provides some extra screen protection. I have a couple of laptop bags now, including a Tom Bihn Zephyr that the ChillBed fits easily. I bought that Zephyr for the 15.4” Dell I used to have, and lately I’ve been using the Cocoon Kips Bay bag designed for the 13” MacBook Pro. The Kips Bay is much smaller than my other bags, and the laptop compartment is sized just for the laptop. I didn’t think there was room for anything else, but you can see the laptop and stand both fit in the compartment. The stand was a bit taller than the compartment, but I was able to close and zip the Cocoon bag with no problem. The Kips Bay bag is hard-sided to protect the laptop, but extra protection never hurts. And I’ll have my stand for comfortable typing anywhere I go.
Okay, so it’s a comfortable stand and a protective travel companion. It’s time to evaluate cooling. I have a MacBook Pro purchased in May 2011. I use it for writing, photo editing, email, and surfing most of the time; in other words, I don’t usually use it teetering at the edge of bursting into flames. Even when I am doing something that causes the computer’s case to feel warm to the hand, I’ve never heard a fan.
I needed a way to quantify cooling function, so I found the MagicanPaster application in the Mac App store. In addition to a lot of other parameters, the MagicanPaster application monitors various internal temperatures. I left the MagicanPaster app running in the background while I used the laptop without the ChillBed for several days. I took screenshots of the temperatures randomly as I used the laptop. I then put the laptop on the ChillBed and took temperatures at random times as I used it in my normal patterns. You can see from the tabulated data there isn’t a clear pattern of temperature reduction while using the ChillBed.
I decided to find a way to exercise the laptop a bit harder. My husband was watching golf on his computer recently, and the Flash video worked the computer so hard you could burn your hand on the bottom of the aluminum chassis. I had found my method! I took a starting temperature reading, then I took the computer off the stand and ran the video for 9 minutes before checking again. MagicanPaster was showing a red reading for the CPU temp, flagging it as overly hot. I put the laptop on the ChillBed and ran the video for six minutes before checking. The temperature was even higher with the ChillBed. I stopped the test.
Perhaps it was unfair to let the computer get overheated before putting it on the ChillBed. I thought a better test of the ChillBed would be to see if it could prevent the temperature from getting that high. I waited until the next day for the next test to be sure my computer was back to normal – and golf tournaments go on forever, so I could use the same Flash feed for the second test. I again took a starting reading with the computer on the ChillBed, then I started up the golf game video again. I waited six minutes before taking a temperature reading. Again, my CPU reading was in the red. The ChillBed stand didn’t prevent the computer from overheating.
I like the ChillBed as a stand for my laptop. It’s stable, and it holds my laptop at a comfortable viewing and typing angle. I didn’t see any cooling benefit, but my laptop is new and tends to run cool anyway. I think you’ll find the ChillBed comfortable to use, and your cooling mileage may vary if you have a laptop with vents on the bottom or a laptop that tends to run hotter than mine.