Introduction, Specifications, Availability and Pricing
We are all used to the Antec name and the products we have all had in our own rigs over the years. I remember buying a Neo Power PSU, 500W if I remember correctly. Long story short, the PSU let the magic smoke escape, but Antec handled the situation quickly and within a few days I had a brand new power supply. When it came to choosing a chassis shortly after, I again went back to Antec; finding a version 2 Antec 900 at my local Best Buy. Since those times we have seen many samples come through our doors with many, many, improvements in their chassis and now some new coolers to offer soon.
Last year, due to excessive heat in the upstairs where my desktop PCs are, I bit the bullet and bought myself a laptop. It's nothing special; I really only needed it for Outlook and to be able to find a cooler spot to write my reviews in the summer. With that in mind, I found that I tended to get a hot lap when using the notebook even when the ambient temps were low. That drove me to locating a foam product that would get the laptop off my lap and solve one of the issues. While it got the heat off my legs, It did very little for ridding the laptop of its own heat produced. In this laptop, the hard drive poses the biggest heat issue as it can almost burn the palm of my hand when typing.
This led me in the quest for the total solution to my needs. With a few emails to Cameron to get the go ahead, I sent out some requests and Antec answered my call. They have taken the leap as have many others into providing an ergonomically engineered cooling solution for notebook computers. Today I am going to take a look at the Antec Notebook Cooler Designer and see just what this cooler has to offer laptop users.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The designer is made from all plastic on the outside. The top is silver and has venting to allow the blower type fan inside to draw air from the bottom of the laptop and push the air out the back of the bottom of the cooler. Think stock GPU fan on a larger scale. The Designer is powered by a USB connection and draws minimum voltage to operate the 110mm fan while providing minimal impact on your laptop battery. The unit measures 13' x 11" at the corners and the back rises 1.7" to add slope to the keyboard. The reason I mentioned that that is a corner measurement is because the Designer is an "X" shaped notebook cooler.
The fan incorporated in the Designer has pretty low specs. 4.5 CFM of air is very little when it comes to cooling, even if it is a 110mm fan. However, with that CFM rating, the fan does produce pretty good static pressure to keep the draw pulling through the unit. With a maximum speed of 800 RPM, the noise levels are at an ear pleasing 23 dBA. This cooler offers up to 20,000 hours of run time for the fan and is listed to be used with any Mac or PC notebook with a 15" screen or less.
The Designer is already on shelves almost anywhere you look. Looking at Google shopping confirms this as all of the major e-tailers and a lot of those that aren't have them for sale. Pricing does vary; I see the Designer listed for between $20 and $30. Right smack in the middle of the price listings I see the Designer is listed at Newegg for $24.99. With that there is a $4.99 shipping charge, so even here the total is just below $30 to get the Designer.
Let's be realistic here. There isn't much you can do to improve performance and ergonomics for your laptop that I have seen much below $30. Even the foam concept I bought was near that price at the box store. In reality, the price of $30 is almost irrelevant as long as it can do what is expected of it.
Packaging and Notebook Cooler Designer up close
The designer sits front and center of the all white packaging with the familiar yellow racing stripe. At the bottom, there is a rendering denoting the use of up to 15" notebooks and an image of the designer in use on someone's lap.
On the back of the packaging there is a flow chart for the Designer, a shot of the underside, and an image denoting the ergonomic positioning. In four various languages, Antec adds feature lists to the bottom.
There isn't any separate hardware to find when you open the box. Just plug in the USB connector and put it on a table or on your lap for use. Pretty simple!
The Antec Notebook Cooler Designer
The top of the almost "X" shaped Designer is made of plastic and is an almost gun metal silver color. In the middle there is a ventilated area backed by the 110mm blower fan. The rubber feet on your notebook will stick to this surface and keep it in place.
From the side, the Designer starts very slim at the front. It rises as it moves over the fan and to the back, ending in 1.7" of height. This will allow for better hand position on the keys, and also raise the screen just a bit.
The exhaust vent is placed under where the screen will sit. The edges of the black bottom half are rounded to feel a bit better on your legs, while the top stays flat to fully support your notebook.
Underneath the Designer there are four rubber feet that keeps it from slipping off any flat surface. You will also notice various trails for the USB connection and the wire. This will allow the wire to be locked into place while offering a way to get the connection cleanly to any side of the Designer.
This is where I grabbed my Lenovo 15" Ideapad and set it on top of the Designer. With the front of the Designer being very low profile, there isn't much to visually see of it from the front.
Looking at the Lenovo from the side, you can see how the angle of the Designer elevates the screen about 2". This not only offers a better ergonomic position for your hands, but by raising the screen it may make you want to stop slouching in your chair. To power the unit, I just picked the appropriate trail and plugged the connector into a spare USB port.
With my 15" Lenovo it almost makes the Designer look undersized, but the Designer is just big enough. I will get into this a bit more in the conclusion, but the Designer is just big enough to do exactly what it is designed to do.
Test System & Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
Testing with the Lenovo took a bit of creativity. The Intel T5900 processor is quite a warm chip. So after a bit of fooling around, I found that using Prime95 for stress testing combined with CoreTemp for a temperature reading we could get some good information to go by.
To run the testing, I allowed the Lenovo to sit for fifteen minutes, allowing the processor to find its base temperature. This will be shown in the CoreTemp window, under the "low" box. Then I started the testing. I allowed Prime95 to run the first series of 8 tests and took the number from the "high" box to get my maximum loaded temperature.
Due to the heat the Midwest is experiencing, I had no choice but to do the testing at 29 degrees Celsius. While it is a little on the warm side, it should allow the Designer a lot of room to show its potential. There is also the thought that these are portable units, so the ambient would be very similar if I was doing something like typing on my front porch.
Without the Designer, I started the testing after a brief cool down. The CPU started at 44 degrees idle and jumped right up to 80 degrees under the stress of eight rounds of Small FFT testing.
With the Designer in place and plugged into the Lenovo, I immediately saw a two degree drop in idle temperatures. That same gap kept the notebook at 78 degrees for a maximum load temperature. Not a great result, but there are other benefits to be had other than just CPU temperatures.
It was very hard to do sound testing. At idle, the Lenovo and the Designer are both below the scale. Under load, the fan speed of the Designer stays the same so there is no change. It is indeed silent cooling!
The cooling results are a bit on the unnoticeable side, but to be honest it didn't mesh well with the Lenovo. My Lenovo pulls air from the bottom of the laptop and exhausts out the side. The Designer pulls from the same area and tries to exhaust it out the back. Essentially for my testing, both fans are pulling against each other. To be completely honest, I am a bit surprised it was able to lower the temperatures two degrees Celsius as the fans were battling the whole time.
Testing aside, there is the day to day use of the Designer to take into consideration. In a couple of weeks of use, I found the Designer did put my hands in a better position and allows for easier hours than I spent with my Lenovo on the desktop. I mentioned earlier that posture may come into play as well. With me personally, I did notice it made me sit a little different in my chair. I also noticed less stress at the end of the night between my shoulders from being hunched over my desk. During portability testing, I ran around carrying both pieces together and used it a bit here and there on my lap. If you get a bit warm outside and have shorter shorts on, I did notice the Designer would slip a bit. With longer shorts or jeans, I found the little rubber feet will help keep the Designer in place with the friction against the material. The biggest plus to me was that it allowed me to get the roasting mechanical hard drive off my left leg. That alone is worth the asking price.
Speaking of the price, the $30 most retailers ask is definitely worth it. Let's recap. It kept my lap cool under operation in a mobile setting, and does make the notebook feel more secure. The fan, while low in specifications, was still able to show a drop in temperatures on even my furnace of a CPU. Like I said earlier, the Designer is on just about every shelf. If you are looking for cooler temperatures, more comfortable use, and a solid portable platform, Antec's Designer will do all of that and cost you a mere $24.99 at Newegg. The reality of it is that for the cost of a good dinner, you can go out and grab some longtime comfort while using your notebook. For those who don't want to spend a lot for added comfort, the Antec Designer notebook cooler is a great contender for your hard earned dollar.