We just got done looking at a notebook cooling solution with the NotePal U Stand. This is quite the laptop cooler; it offers all sorts of bells and whistles like extra USB ports and even a fully adjustable top to give you five angles to be able to use your laptop of choice. It's aluminum has great fans. I could go on for a while about this one, but I need to return to the task at hand and change gears into a more simple train of thought for the latest submission to our labs.
We have another notebook cooling solution here with us today, or I wouldn't have mentioned the U Stand. This time instead of going all out with options, Cooler Master has moved back to the K.I.S.S. principle of making a product. It isn't going to wow you with LEDs, it doesn't look amazing even though it is more attractive than a lot of those I have tested to date, and you aren't getting fan control. What you will get here is a more no frills approach to cooling a laptop. I hate to judge things without testing them, but to be honest, this new arrival doesn't look like it has what it takes to cool my heat box, I mean Lenovo laptop, but we shall see.
The cooler in question is the NotePal X-Slim from Cooler Master. This time the main idea was to offer a very reasonably priced solution to notebook cooling. On top of this basic concept, Cooler Master is claiming that what they delivered this time will not only cool my laptop, but will do it silently while keeping within its slim and lightweight design. I have seen a few coolers built similar to this, but not exactly with the way this is implemented. Let's see if more air intake, a good sized fan with better than average ratings and an overall simplistic concept is up to the task!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The X-Slim is made mostly from plastic for structural support as well as where the fan gets mounted on the inside. There is a full panel top made of thin steel mesh with small holes to allow for the air flow to pass through it. This steel is bent and shaped so the center can support the weight of smaller 7" laptops, while the outer edges are plastic so it can take the full weight of a 17" laptop if you choose to. There are rubber bits on the X-Slim as well, but they are used only around the bottom of the cooler as feet or pads on the adjustable feet. All encompassed, the all black X-Slim weighs in under two pounds and can easily be carried and moved around.
Between the steel mesh and plastic back, there is a 160mm fan installed in the X-Slim. This fan can run at near 1400 RPM while delivering 70 CFM of airflow. The noise levels are rated at only 21 dBA and even with a conversion, 40 to 45 dB is still pretty low by my standards. The fan is the only thing to power with this cooler and power is drawn from the laptop via a USB 2.0 pass through plug. While one end of course plugs into the laptop to draw 5V for the fan, it has a USB port on the back of the connector to replace the one it's using. I know so far the specs seem to say that this is capable of doing a pretty decent job at attempting to cool the Lenovo, but the testing will give us the real answer.
As I sit here typing this up, I am taking my usual trip to Google to find the X-Slim. What I am finding is that there are about ten or eleven e-tailers vying for your money and they are all close in price. With or without shipping, you are going to find the pricing is right on the $20 mark anywhere you look. You may save a couple of dollars here or there, but realistically it isn't worth the hassle. Just buy from who you trust and wait it out and you can have a shiny new X-Slim at your door.
Let's be real honest here. I have blown $20 and not even remembered on what! Even if this ends up being just an ergonomically inclined rest for a laptop, the price isn't going to break you in the least. I actually am hoping for a bit of magic in a bottle, and hoping that Cooler Master can change my pre-emptive thoughts on the NotePal X-Slim.
The X-slim is in the typical purple and white box with an image of the X-Slim with and without a laptop placed on it in images. There are also three features listed that cover the slim and lightweight design, the adjustable height, and the 160mm silent fan.
The side panels match each other and give you the name and basic description of what it is along with another image of the X-slim.
On the back Cooler Master offers all of the pertinent information on the X-Slim. On the left are two charts, on contains a list of seven features, and beneath it are the specifications. On the right there are six images that show features that aren't covered in the list at the left.
On the long side opposite the handle is information pertaining to this being a laptop cooler and company information and web addresses at the right end.
On the inside the X-Slim is packed just like all of the other Cooler Master samples like this I have received. Both ends of the unit are supported with dense foam that keeps it in the middle of the box. Just in case something does break the packaging, or there is a lot of vibration in transit, there is a plastic liner as the last line of defense against abrasions.
The Cooler Master NotePal X-Slim
Looking down at the top of the X-Slim, we see a lot of steel mesh in an X shape that has bends in the middle o help support 7" laptops. The mesh ends in a thick plastic frame and this is where most of the structure is derived, and also offers enough room for up to 17" notebooks. At the bottom you will find a black and chrome badge with the Cooler Master name.
Under the X-Slim, things are kept pretty basic. There are four rubber feet that sit on the base of the cooler. On top of these there is a pair of flip out feet that will add almost 19mm of height to the back. The 160mm fan is powered via the long USB cable that is set in the cable management track on the right side of the cooler. As you can see it can also go to the left.
On both sides you will find a pair of wire management hooks. Just as this cable is shipped, you could also use it for your mouse or cell phone cables. A couple of wraps around these and your wires can be kept tidy and out of the way.
If you do desire a better angle to write with while using the X-Slim, the flip out feet are handy to have, but somewhat dysfunctional in this instance. If you shift the cooler around at all on the table, the hang point for these are too weak and allowed mine to collapse when I moved the unit away from me.
Both sides are pretty plain, and don't offer any extra functionality, power switches, or LEDs. The design is made stepped back to allow for better airflow to the fan, but also to allow room to grab both the laptop and the cooler securely in the large gaps on both sides.
USB connectivity in the X-Slim is purely power related. The USB 2.0 pass through connection at least offers a replacement for the one USB port it is going to take up.
The user guide does go through step by step on how to get this cooler installed and cooling your laptop. I didn't really see a need for a manual really. I think we all know how to plug in a USB connection, and since it is the only wire we can do anything with, it's pretty self explanatory.
Once the 15" Lenovo laptop is set on top of the X-Slim, there isn't too much of it left to see. If you were using a 17" laptop, I assume there will be nothing of the X-Slim to see, yet you can reap the benefits.
Front he side we can see it leaves the Lenovo in a nice incline. I have found that since testing and using these coolers, I can't live without them for the long term. To me this angle is much better on my hands and wrists and offers me the ability to keep on typing for much longer intervals.
Testing & Results
With a 25.5C ambient temperature, I went about testing the Lenovo with and without the NotePal X-Slim. To monitor the temperatures I used Core Temp 0.99.7. To stress test I used Prime95 in "blend" mode for the first pass of tests. While I could leave the test to run longer, I find the twenty minutes or so it takes to get through the first seven tests is plenty of time to heat things up.
The idle or "low" temperature is obtained after turning the laptop off and rebooting, waiting ten minutes, and then I open Core Temp. I allow it to sit for just a couple minutes more to settle out at the lowest temperature. I then commence testing with Prime95 and once the first set of testing is complete, I took a screen capture to show my results.
In the low column you can see without the X-Slim, the Lenovo idled at thirty-five degrees and with Prime95 kicked in temperatures rose right on up to seventy-four degrees under the loaded conditions. I know this seems warm, but it is typical and what I expect to see out of this laptop.
This is what I did not expect to see! Most of these laptop coolers don't really make any difference on the idle temperatures of the Lenovo, but the X-slim dropped temps to thirty degrees at idle! That five degree drop is felt right on up to the abusive end that Prime95 delivers - the highest temperature I could reach with the X-Slim's 160mm fan spinning away with very little noise as the air makes some noise passing through the mesh.
Chalk up another time I need to be sure not to judge a book by its cover. While this unit is simple, and at first I was thinking, "Oh great, another laptop angle changer that isn't worth its weight to even bother to deal with", here that simply is not the case. Whether on your lap or on the table, as long as you don't move it around too much you should be fine, and you will experience some of the best temperature reductions I have seen in this segment of coolers. I know Cooler Master isn't really designing these specifically for me, but it really seems that they listened to what we want in this sort of product and in the simplest fashion, really delivered big time.
While the X-Slim is made to be silent, simple, easy to use and completely functional in the main concepts when designing this cooler, it only missed on two small points as far as I can tell. I can get over that there isn't an LED to show me it's on, or that it doesn't offer extra USB connectivity, but there are these two things that I find may be a deal breaker for some. The first one is the "locking mechanisms" for the flip out feet. The tension is loose and makes it easy to flip them out and back down when you need to, but for me they are too loose when I just want to move the unit back a half of an inch, and I hear the leg click as it closes on its own. Once in place the feet were fine, but you have to be sure to fully lift this and the laptop even if just to move it slightly.
The second issue I have is a personal one, but something that should still matter. The only way to gain access to the fan to clean it is by removing the top mesh panel. The tabs that lock it in place are easy enough to get undone and the sides of the mesh pop right up. The issue is it is stuck in a track at the top and bottom and I couldn't remove mine without severely bending the mesh. That sort of makes this a disposable fan cooler if you can't clean it easily.
That being said, the X-Slim is priced right in my opinion. No matter where you look currently at the ten or so locations I found the X-Slim, it teeters on both sides of the $20 mark and for what it offers in cooling it to me is worth every penny. Even with the small flaws I found, I can forgive it on something that is going to cost me less than what a tube of thermal paste is going to cost me shipped to my door, I mean why not right? Just the five degree drop across the board is impressive enough for me to say yes to anyone on the lookout for a simple laptop cooler that can actually cool a laptop. Cooler Master showed me that for less than $20 you can get what you need to out of a notebook cooling solution!
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