People are always concerned with keeping their laptop computers running cool. Laptops can run hot because they usually have small fans to save space inside, and they are often used on soft surfaces that can block the cooling vents. There are a variety of products designed to cool laptop computers. Some, like lap desks, are designed to keep you and your computer cool while you use them sitting on your legs. Others, like the Zefyr 2 from Moshi, are better used on your desk, or even on that lap desk. I was sent a Zefyr 2 High-Efficiency MacBook Cooler to test with my 13″ MacBook. Does it keep my MBP running cooler?
The Zefyr 2 is designed for use with MacBooks of all sizes. Moshi says the Zefyr 2 will work with the white 13″ MacBook, the 13″/15″/17″ MacBook Pro, and with the 2010/2011 13″ MacBook Air. The Zefyr 2 is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and white plastic. It’s about 12.9″ long X 2.8″ wide at the widest point X 0.9″ tall at the highest point when opened up. It closes to about 7.25″ long X 4″ wide. It weighs 12.4 ounces.
As I mentioned, the Zefyr 2 folds at the middle for storage. As you open it, you’ll see a USB plug is stored inside. You can tell from the top picture that a small magnet is located inside that pulls the USB plug out of it’s storage cavity as you open up the Zefyr 2. I wasn’t thrilled about putting a magnet of any size under my laptop, but it doesn’t seem to have done any harm. There are two rubber pads, the darker gray half-circles at the left, that protect the bottom of the laptop and keep it from sliding off the stand. (By the way, the small black smudge you see near the bottom right corner is discoloration where the bottom of my MacBook rubbed against the Zefyr 2. Perhaps they should put some rubber pads on that end, too.) The disk-shaped metal piece on the right is the pivot point for opening the cooler.
When opened, it becomes evident that the Zefyr 2 has a wedge shape. This slants the laptop while it’s sitting on the Zephyr.
In addition to the half-circle pads on the top, the bottom has rubber ridges that keep the cooler from sliding on the tabletop. One side of the stand is all white plastic (bottom image). Here you’ll find the power switch for the fan and the storage silo for the USB plug. There’s a groove in the end and along the side of the plastic piece that the USB cable fits into for compact storage. The other side of the cooler has two rectangular openings (image 2nd from bottom). These are funnels that channel the air from the fans across the bottom of the laptop as it sits on the Zefyr 2.
You place the Zefyr 2 under the laptop so that the plastic piece on the Zefyr is facing the back of the laptop and the funnel openings are facing under the laptop to the front. The laptop is slanted, but it’s not lifted completely off the tabletop. You can see the front end of the laptop is still touching the table in the above photo. You can also see that the USB plug has a USB port on the end. It’s nice that you can use the Zefyr 2 without giving up one of the 2 USB ports on the MacBook Pro.
I tried using the Zefryr just as a stand at first, so I could get a feel for typing with it. The laptop is held at a much lower angle than some of the stands I’ve tested. Typing is comfortable, but the screen isn’t as elevated as with some stands. I then tried it for a while with the fan on low. The fan at the low speed was fairly quiet, but I could hear it when the room was really quiet. I could hear the fan well when it was running at the high speed. When the room was noisier, the fan noise blended in. In a quiet room, the sound was enough to really irritate me. I’m the sort of person who panics when I hear a fan noise at all. My laptop is almost always dead quiet, and when I hear a fan noise from it, I know something’s not right. That said, the fan noise probably won’t bother most people.
I’ve done a few laptop cooling stands lately, so I’m just going to quote myself a bit to describe how I measured the temperatures. To test the cooling claims, I used the MagicanPaster app from the Mac app store to measure the CPU, battery, and disk temperatures to quantify the cooling function of the stand. I used the MagicanPaster app to see the internal temperatures of my laptop as I used it in normal conditions. I don’t use my laptop under carefully-controlled testing facility conditions. I do use it in a temperature-controlled room. I do a lot of surfing, photo editing, word-processing, emailing, and the like on my laptop. I am not a gamer. I started out with the laptop just sitting flat on my laptop table. I never took a temperature reading immediately after waking up the laptop. I would wait until I had been using the laptop for more than an hour before I took a temperature. After I had collected several temperatures with the laptop sitting on the table, I put it on the Zefyr 2 stand and took several temperatures (collected as described above) using the stand with the fan completely off.
These temperatures show that there is little difference in operating temperatures when the laptop is on a tabletop or when it is sitting on the Zefyr 2 with no fan running.
My next set of readings were collected with the fan running at the low speed. I then took a set of temperatures with the fan running at high speed. It does seem that the battery and disk temperatures seem a bit lower overall with the fan running than without a fan. I don’t see an obvious reduction of the CPU temperature when compared to the temperatures collected with no fan running or with no stand at all.
I also ran a flash test to see how the stand cooled while my laptop was being used at heavier load than normal. I used the Flash Stress Test at the Munsie Games website. The stress test exercises your computer by displaying a lot of images on your screen in a 30-second burst. I started by testing with no stand. I took a starting temperature reading, then I ran the test two times, immediately back-to-back, then re-checked the temperatures using MagicanPaster. I waited a couple of hours before I was back at my computer to run a test with the Zefyr 2. I only checked cooling using the high-speed fan setting. You can see my computer started out a bit cooler with the Zefyr 2 test. You can see the stress test didn’t seem to have any effect on the battery and disk temperatures. The CPU temperature seems a bit lower with the fan, but the starting temperature was lower and the difference between starting temp and ending temp is virtually the same for both stress tests.
The Zefyr 2 is well made, and their aluminum construction looks nice with the MacBooks they are designed for. They fold up nicely so you can take them along in your gear bag. It won’t completely elevate the laptop off your lap to keep your legs cool, but it can elevate the back of the laptop to slant the keyboard into a more comfortable typing position. It draws power from your laptop to run the cooling fans, which won’t be a problem if you’re near a power source for your laptop but may be a problem if you’re trying to make the battery last while traveling. Once again, I’m just not able to definitely say that the Zefyr 2 keeps your laptop significantly cooler.