CMStorm has been very busy, and in turn, they tend to keep me pretty busy with the vast line up of products that they have in the past, and are currently offering. We have seen some of the best in mechanical keyboard offerings, cases, mice, padz, and even an occasional oddity like the Skorpion mouse wire retention device. What I like about most of these CMStorm products is that they tend to all stick to a similar theme, so no matter if you bought a keyboard from them two or three years ago, their mice and other accompanying offerings will still match the rest of the kit you already own. This isn't always true with other manufacturers; they just expect you to keep spending to get matching components.
So, where is CMStorm taking us today? Well, they have delivered us a new notebook cooler. If you follow my reviews, or have done so for some amount of time, you may remember when we took a look at the SF-19 that coincided with the release of a specific notebook from Dell that it was designed and engineered to be used with. This time around I have caught no word of any specially released products that were designed to go with this new model, but it does get quite a bit of its DNA from the SF-19. And just like that design, CMStorm is pushing the bounds of what a truly ergonomic notebook cooler should offer.
This time around we are again dealing with a rather bulky device with thick components, harsh lines, and chunky bits of rubber that make up most of the styling of the newest SF-17 gaming notebook cooler. As we get up close and personal with this SF-17, its genealogy can easily be traced back to the original design, but there are a couple of tweaks done here and there that to me makes this edition to the SF series of coolers the best overall offering that CMStorm has put together thus far.
For those of you looking for a serious cooler that won't be dwarfed by the notebook that sits atop it, like a bit of LED lighting, and require a notebook cooler with more ergonomic adjustment options than I have seen from any other maker, this new SF-17 may just be the cooler needed to fill those shoes. Stick around as we cover the specifications and packaging, so we can then show you this new cooler and point out all the things that make this a much better solution than many of the others we have looked at previously.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
In the chart provided by CMStorm above, we can see that the SF-17 also goes by the name of R9-NBC-SF7K-GP, if you need to look it up by the model number. This cooler supports up to 19" laptops, and just like Henry Ford said, you can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black. The body of this cooler is plastic, and it uses thick rubber to house some of the features, used as padding to help secure the laptop, and it is even just used to add some of the styling that this SF-17 offers.
There is also a large steel mesh top on this to allow the 180mm fan to push air into the laptop. There are four levels of adjustment from flat, as the top rests on the base, or it can be elevated to seven inches tall in the back in the fourth setting. There is not an AC plug included; the SF-17 is sent instead with a 5V DC USB plug that draws power from the notebook.
What the chart doesn't cover is that this SF-17 is designed to be silent, as well as having some wire management features that the SF-19 never had. They also, since this cooler can rise to high in the back, decided it was a great addition to add two flip up legs to actually rest the front edge of the laptop against, so you aren't depending on friction alone to keep your laptop on top of this cooler. One other thing about the SF-17 is that this time there is a long light bar applied to the front edge that glows red from two LED bulbs to add some ambient lighting to the surrounding area. They also offer expanded connectivity to your laptop with the 4-port USB 2.0 hub on the right side of the SF-17, right next to the step-less fan control dial.
So, what is this new notebook cooler going to set you back? Well, that depends entirely on where you decide to buy yours from. For instance, while Amazon is asking right near $75 for this with free shipping, a better deal can be had at Newegg for $59.99 and that also includes shipping. Right out of the gate you can easily save $15 on the SF-17, and that is just the first two places I looked.
For the purposes of this review, I will be basing my writing on the latter price tag, and even while a bit pricey compared to many other solutions out there, I think that CMStorm put enough into the SF-17 that users who desire a notebook cooler with hits kind of feature set, the pricing becomes more irrelevant as the SF-17 from CMStorm is worthy of a price like that in my humble opinion.
Keeping in synch with other CMStorm products, the packaging is entirely black, as it houses a large image of the SF-17 on it. Below the naming of this gaming notebook cooler, there are features like the silence, height adjustment, and the 4-port hub listed concluding the information given here.
This smaller panel of the packaging is one of the sides. It only shows the SF-17 name in the stylized and chrome-like font.
The long panel at the bottom of the packaging tells us that this is a gaming notebook cooler, the SF-17, and to visit their site for more information. After this is repeated some twenty-two times, there is a dark image of the SF-17 with the LED lighting on off tot he right.
The other small side offers only the Cooler Master and CMStorm names and logos. The top of the packaging with a handle in it for easy carrying has this handle in the middle and what we saw on these smaller sides on either side of it. This is why I did not deliver an image of it.
The back is where you are going to find out the most about this SF-17. You are given a look at the top of the SF-17 next to four smaller images covering features like the 180mm fan, the USB hub and controls, wire management and adjustability. As you move further right, you are also given a specifications chart. There is also a list of nine features listed at the bottom, and they are delivered in eleven languages this time.
Inside of the box, the SF-17 is first wrapped in a plastic liner to keep all of the surfaces from being abraded in transit. Then to keep the cooler centered and protected from drops there are dense foam end caps used for this. There is also a user manual and cable that are set on top of the cooler for transit. The packaging is sufficient for their needs and was able to deliver my sample to me in perfect condition.
CMStorm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler
Looking at the top of the SF-17 out of the packaging shows you all of my descriptive terms previously were right on point. This is a large and chunky designed with a large area for the air flow in the middle and lots of plastic and rubber used around it.
On the leading edge of the cooler, to either side of the rubber strip with the CMStorm name on it, there is an optional set of feet. These are designed to hold the laptop in place when the angle of this cooler is increased.
There is a wide rubber strip on the left edge to help support the laptops on top of it, but that rubber then angles off and warps the edge as well. In the middle of those two bits if rubber, there is a deep groove added to keep cables tidy. They won't lock into it, but it is deep enough to help keep them in place.
Along the back there is a lot to discuss. The rubber bits at the edge in conjunction with the large chunk in the middle act as cable routing, as well as the larger bit being a carrying handle. If you look between the chunks of rubber, you will notice vents to allow air in the back even when this is in the closed position.
The right side of the cooler is much like the left where it still offers the wire tending groove. Under that is the control and access panel. This is where you will find the fan control dial, four USB 2.0 pass-through ports, mini USB power plug, a 5V DC plug with no cable provided, and the power button for the LED strip.
Under the SF-17, at the top, you get an idea of the handle offered in this design. The rubber that wrapped the sides of the cooler now become the feet, and there is a large square around the 180mm fan to allow the fan to raise with the top section of the cooler and leave enough structure to support it.
With all the talk of being able to adjust the angle, this image shows what I mean. The center section of the pad will rise in the back, leaving the chunky frame flat to support the weight of a heavy gaming laptop.
SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Continued
The SF-17 uses a steel bar that runs the entire width of the cooler to be set into one of the three slots here. With its "flat" position as the first, these three options make all four of the angles you can use with this cooler.
Just to give the SF-17 some perspective, this is a Lenovo with a 15-inch screen. The cooler under it is still poking out around the sides, but as you get a larger screen the body also increases, and less of the cooler will be visible then.
Even though most coolers I use for the reviews do not offer this sort of ergonomic usage of the laptop, I really have missed it. If for only one reason you should buy this cooler, this is a huge check mark in the win column for its purchase.
To supply power to the SF-17, you need to take the standard USB 2.0 end of the cable and plug it into the laptop. The smaller Mini-USB end plugs into the cooler and supplies both the light and the 180mm fan with power.
Along the front edge of the SF-17, they have used a pair of LED lights, one at each end of an acrylic tube, to give it this red glow that not only looks good, but adds a flood of light to the workspace in front of the cooler.
From a more typical viewing angle, much of the direct view of the bar of light is diminished. When you increase the angle more and more, the hard edge above the light will actually roll over it to leave more ambient lighting, rather than attractiveness from the actual shape and placement of the light within the design of the cooler.
Accessories and Documentation
With a user manual designed to look much like the packaging, for the CMStorm SF-17, this is where you will find all of the detailed information on this product.
When it is unfolded, the first thing delivered is a features list containing nine things that we have covered a couple times over at this point. These features are then repeated, to better serve their customers, in 11 various languages.
Flipping the guide over, CMStorm then offers a specifications chart, contents, a short bit on the two year warranty, where to go for tech support, and finishes the page with some product placement images. The right side then covers the warranty information in finer detail giving you a better idea of what is, and what is not covered.
The last bit of the kit is the 27-inch cable. This has both USB and Mini-USB ends on it, and will allow you enough length to wrap it from one side of the cooler from the power source (the laptop USB port) to the connection on the right of the cooler. This is also why there are three wire management clips along the back as well.
On a technical level, I feel that even though the SF-17 was only able to reduce the temperature of the CPU in my Lenovo by two degrees, there is much more to like about this over most others. The thick, chunky, and even heavy design by comparison to others is definitely what I need for my specific situation. Since I always have a laptop running next to my main rig, I need a stand that will keep my laptop where I left it.
Another thing I like that builds from there, is that on may coolers, you have to give up stability to use the tiny flip out feet - not with this SF-17, the base is solid as it was out of the box in any orientation. Also, there are many users out there that require more than the five to 15 degrees that other coolers offer. This is again where the SF-17 comes in, you can get the screen way up in the air and the keys at a much better angle, the whole time allowing your neck and back some stress relief from the better posture you are in while using this cooler.
When you look at it from the aspect of a gaming laptop base and cooler, in this instance, you really need something very solid under that investment. Not only did you spend a ton of money on the gaming laptop, but they tend to be much heavier than the rest of the laptops out there. You don't want to depend on some flimsy POS to hold and cool it. You are going to look for a product that is worthy of the trust of holding your laptop, and CMStorm is stepping up to take on that challenge and do it with no issues that I found in my few weeks of use up until this point. Then, of course, there is the cool red bar of light running across the front matching the CMStorm theme of colors, but it also will likely go well with the backlit keyboard or illuminated logo on your gaming laptop.
Considering there are gaming laptops out there that can skyrocket in price to well over $1000, what is another $60, when you get something as versatile as what the SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler has to offer? They claimed the 180mm fan is silent in operation, and I cannot hear it even when the fan inside of my Lenovo is in an off cycle, so they definitely hit the mark there. It also offers more ergonomic modularity than many other coolers we see here at TweakTown, and just getting the laptop more than 15 degrees off the table can make everything much more enjoyable to use, and what is something like this worth?
The bottom line for me, it that even though the Thermaltake we last looked at performed much better, I much more enjoy using the SF-17 on my desk, and I'm assuming it will be here for a long time to come. I gave away my older SF-19 and even the U-Stand I had, but getting the SF-17 to test made me realize what I had been missing all this time; increased angle support, a solid foundation, expandability and lighting.
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