While I was checking out some of the latest and greatest of CES 2013, I started to see a trend in laptop cooling devices. There were quite a few companies offering up their own ideas and concepts of an audio system built into a laptop cooler. Why would they want to do this, you may ask yourself? Well, for anyone who has tried to sit and watch YouTube videos where hearing the tech speak is very important, only to be stymied due to the lack of volume that your laptop is capable of. To be very blunt about laptop coolers, most of them don't do all that well at cooling the laptop, but they do offer ergonomics, some have flashy designs and LEDs, but I have yet to see one drop my mobile CPU temperatures any more than two to three degrees.
If this market was to continue on the route it was going originally, and I think companies were seeing poor sales in this area, I don't think laptop coolers as they were could survive. So now, along with using bright colors, a mixture of textures and materials, there is a definite added bonus to newer developments in this market. Additional audio is always welcomed in my mind, the louder the better in most cases, but if you have a few of your friends around the laptop by itself to watch a video, you already know that while everyone can see what is going on, one guy has to pay attention to the words and tell everyone what was said after. With DEEPCOOL going this new route that I have seen other companies show only in beta form so far, I think they could stand a real chance to swoop customers from many of the larger and more well-known names already offering tons of solutions in this category.
What DEEPCOOL is bringing forward today is the M6 Audio Cooling Pad. Their site states that the M6 stands for Marvelous Sound, with the additional 2.1 speaker system to deliver more audio pleasure to its users. The shape and styling of the cooler is said to be inspired by Need for Speed, and takes on a pointy nose, red and silver "windows", and the back does seem like the rear of a Ferrari or other high-dollar exotic vehicle.
The M6 has plenty of other "cool" features, as well as offering a USB hub in the back, but to get to the finer details, you must keep reading to see if DEEPCOOL ends up in the Winner's Circle, or if it took to the wall with three laps to go.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The DEEPCOOL M6 is made mostly of plastic and measures 465mm wide (18.3") by 358mm deep (15.5") and stands 75mm tall (2.95") in the back. There is a ten degree angle on the top of the M6 that allows the near 3" height in the rear to slope down to point as the top and bottom halves meet. The majority of the top surface is covered with a black mesh to match the black plastic frame, but there is also a 57mm subwoofer centered at the top of the mesh insert. On the left and right sides of the M6 you will be looking at what is essentially a wedge shaped cooler, but there are silver framed "windows" that have red steel mesh inserted. While it looks like it is made for ventilations, both of the red areas are backed with 52mm tweeters to complete the 2.1 speaker system included in this unit. Around the back you will find the connectivity panel for the audio pass-through cable and USB power source, along with a fan speed dial. That only covers one side though, on the other side in the back, you will also find that there is a four port USB hub in place as well.
Delving into the cooling system, the M6 offers a 140mm fan to try to cool the laptop you are using. The 11 blade fan they chose in this cooler is capable of speeds in the 750 to 1100 RPM range with just the twist of that dial. This will allow the 140mm fan to deliver up to 47.35CFM of air flow with a sound rating of only 21 dB(A). While I don't feel that is enough air flow to sufficiently cool a laptop, the illustrations on their website make it seem like the air coming through the keyboard to cool your hands is where most of the air flow will go, and with my specific laptop, the intakes are small, and require much more force to properly cool my mobile CPU - but as I addressed earlier, I am sure these companies know this already. This is why there was so much development in adding audio; you have to give the customers more.
The M6 from DEEPCOOL is not currently available anywhere inside of the US, but it will likely hit shelves in some of the more popular "office" box stores across the country. I was able to find stock in both Australia and in India, but outside of them, I was unable to locate any even in the EU markets at this moment. In the Australian listings I saw, they were asking right around $41 AUD, and with the current conversion, that equates to roughly $38 USD. The listings in India are going for 2350 Rs, and even there the price conversion works out to a very similar number when changing over to US dollars.
For roughly $40, I am looking for clean audio, I am looking to see if the air flow is sufficient, and we need to see if it is useful on the desk before I can say for sure if the M6 is worthy of this price point.
The front of the box is very basic, but shows off everything you need to attract you to this device. A clean white background with the company and product naming including a very large portion of the cooler on this panel would make me want to pick it up for a closer look.
Both sides offer solid black panels with the DEEPCOOL name centered on them. As for the longer sides to the box, they are just white paperboard with no useful information offered on them, so I decided not to include images of all of the monotony.
On the back of the packaging you will find the user guide on the left with illustrations and text to help explain how it works and what is needed to connect the M6 to your laptop. The right half, under the M6 name, offers 13 languages of the specifications of both the cooler as well as the speaker system.
When you open the box you will find that the M6 is wrapped in plastic to protect the finishes and colors on the cooler. To protect it from dropping or throwing damages in shipping, both ends of the cooler use caps of dense foam surrounded in cardboard sleeves to keep the M6 in one piece as mine was when it arrived at my door.
DEEPCOOL M6 Audio Cooling Pad
Now that the M6 is unimpeded by any packaging, you get a much better look at the aesthetics of this cooler. It has an aggressive scoop style nose to it, offers the large fan in the middle along with the subwoofer, and the red and silver is a nice pop of color.
The top of the M6 will accommodate laptops up to 17" for starters, and the large 140mm fan should offer users a good breeze through their keyboards. The shape of the mesh panel and the "venting" on the sides of it are purely for design and offer no real functionality.
On the left side of the M6, what appears to be some sort of red and silver air vent is actually a mesh cover to cover the left channel's 52mm tweeter. The angle is also set to 10 degrees for two reasons. One is that it is more ergonomic for your wrists, but the other it to raise the screen that 75mm off the table to allow you to sit taller in the chair as well.
The left half of the back side of the M6 is what we are looking at in this image. Here you will locate a four port USB hub to allow you to still connect all the peripherals needed to not be worried about giving one up on the laptop to power this.
The right half of the back side offers the connectivity and controls for the M6. You have a DC IN jack, but no cable provided, and to connect this to a laptop you need the 3.5mm audio jack and the USB port to be connected, so it can source audio and power from the laptop. There is also the fan control dial that will turn completely off, or allow you control of the fan from 700 to 1100 RPM.
Just as I explained about the left side of the M6, the red and silver addition to this right side of the cooler is to cover the right speaker in the system, while adding just a bit of flash to the design.
Looking at the underside of the M6, you will see four small rubber pads near the corners to give this device a bit of stick on almost any surface. You can also see that the back is designed as the only inlet to the fan, and it is channelled right over the fan intake so nothing that comes is will escape the intake and be pushed into the bottom of your laptop.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside the box along with the M6 you are given two cables. The one on the left is a simple UBS 2.0 to USB 2.0 cable that is two foot long and allows you to power the fan and the additional four ports. The two foot of cable on the right is a 3.5mm pass-through cable that takes the laptops output and sends it to the 2.1 speaker system in the M6.
If you do need instructions for connectivity, refer to the back of the external packaging. There is where you will find two images of the cooler and one of a laptop showing how the cables are to be connected to get both fan and USB power, but also audio.
If the images weren't simple enough for you to follow, under those images you also have written descriptions of the connectivity and usage of the various features found on the back. At the very end, DEEPCOOL states that you would need to buy your own 5V 1.5A power cable if you wish to use the DC IN port.
Inside the DEEPCOOL M6
After removing a few screws, I was able to split the halves of the cooler apart to have a look at what is going on inside the M6. In this image above, you can see the fan that offers the air flow to the laptop. You can also see that the slotted intake is open enough not to impede on the air flow or cause any whistling or whining.
Just above the fan is a plastic bass box if you will. There is a 57mm woofer in this one and the box even offers a pair of tuned ports, one on either side of the speaker.
On the right side of the M6, you will find the right channel of the 2.1 system that is included. These boxes are smaller, but are supposedly tuned as well to increase the sound of these speakers.
Still on the right side, just behind the speaker, you can now see the PCB and the four USB 2.0 ports that are offered inside. This PCB is powered by the four pin plug at the right as it connects to the PCB on the other side of the M6.
On the left you will find that the 52mm speaker here is also in a tuned box, and is aimed out the side just as the right channel was.
The PCB here is the control hub side of the M6. You can see there are three speaker wire plugs at the back, and the fan power plug is off to the right a bit more. Along with the ports near and on the front edge you also have the 4-pin jumper that powers the USB hub next to the dial speed control wheel for the fan.
Connectivity and the Finished Product
My 15" Lenovo laptop that I have been using for years now is a good fit on the DEEPCOOL M6. It leaves a bit of room around the edges where a 17" laptop would likely cover the majority of the top. The textured surface of the M6 also gives the rubber pads on my laptop no issues with it staying in one place.
There is no way to adjust the angle of the top surface of the M6, but as you can see, the 10 degree angle provided makes the keys easier to use, while raising the back of the laptop near three inches, raising the screen so it is easier to see too.
I wasn't so happy about the wiring, though. They give you what could be a really cool looking laptop cooler, and with wires having to be tied up and routed out in the open, it left me feeling it was a bit tacky. Maybe some wire routing channels or a retractable plug would have kept it cleaner, but I feel like we went from Ferrari to a Ford here.
Now we have the M6 connected to the Lenovo, and you can see what I mean about the awkwardness of the wiring. All I have left to do is to plug the laptop into the wall, break in the speakers, and get to the thermal testing.
I took a bit of a break before I decided to write this part of the review, as I was torn as what to say. In the end, I think there just isn't enough going on to warrant anyone to really ponder purchasing this product over any other offering out there. Scratch that, there is one reason, louder sound from the M6 than from my laptop, but it was nothing nice to hear - let me take this a bit deeper for you. The cooling portion of this M6 did allow for my laptop to run two degrees cooler than without it, but so does lifting the back of my Lenovo with a brick. It really is too bad too, because I really liked the looks and feature set when I looked at this online, then in my hands as I took images and looked at what was being offered.
That was until I plugged in the 3.5mm audio cable and found that the speakers sounded worse than anything I have ever owned in the last decade that could produce sounds. What started out sounding like I turned Pandora on my phone and set the phone in a cardboard box with a tiny hole to listen through (it really is that bad), even after days of playing music to break them in, the speakers never got any better. The only two things I can say that were good here is that the fan is silent and does not overstep the audio at any level, and the second it you do get a 10dB increase of sound levels without the need for a driver just by plugging in the cable.
At a price near $40, I really think most buyers would be better off with a cheap pair of headphones with something like 30mm drivers. Even with cheap cans, you are going to get cleaner sound, better bass response, and a more full sound stage in general than you do with the M6. Not including the power cable is just silly to me as well. So, if I were to go portable, now I have audio and a fan drawing from my already short battery life of the laptop.
The 4-port USB hub is nice, the styling is nice, but if you are in the market for a laptop cooler with an audio solution built into it, if you like your ears at all, I think you should wait to see what else shows up in the future, or just grab a brick and some headphones and be happy for now. DEEPCOOL needs to go back to the drawing board with its next product in this category.
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