CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Review

Wesstron - 2013-07-11 17:29:41 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: Wesstron   
Reviewed on: August 5, 2013
Price: $59.99

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Introduction:

In 2008, Cooler Master established the CM Storm subsidiary brand with a focus on the gaming crowd and an objective of "Arming the Gaming Revolution". Cooler Master offered the consumers a solid performing line of products ranging from cases to mice to power supplies. The CM Storm brand did not neglect the gaming laptop owners and previously offered the SF-19 Strike Force cooler. This was an expected move since the mobile computer industry is eating away at the market share of the desktop computers; any manufacturer with some forecasting skills will want to get a piece of the pie.

Today I will be looking at the latest CM Storm entry in the realm of portable computer cooling, namely the SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler that was unveiled at Computex 2013. The CM Storm SF-17 has the same rugged look and feel that's very unique to the CM Storm products. Supporting laptops up to 19" in size, this all black behemoth is built around a 180mm, low RPM - and hopefully silent - eleven-bladed fan. It also offers a USB hub with four USB2 ports and fan speed control. Let's take a closer look at this giant of a cooler and see how it performs.

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Closer Look:

The CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler comes in a sturdy box that stays true to the CM Storm brand. I was a bit surprised by the absence of the red accents in the color theme; it seems that Cooler Master opted for more subtle purple highlights this time. The front of the box displays the brand and a large picture of the unit, with the name and the main features toward the bottom. The back provides more detailed specifications and features in no less than eleven different languages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flipping the lid open unveils the unit and the very slim accessories bundle that comes with it. The CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler is covered by a quite thick plastic bag, then secured by two large pieces of foam to avoid any possible damage during transportation. The box also contains a user guide and a USB to Mini-B USB cable. There was no package content list on the box, so I was a bit surprised when I emptied the box and still no power adapter to be seen. Going through the user guide, I found the list and as you might have guessed by now, no power adapter is included.

 

 

Let's get this big boy out of its box and see what it looks like.

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler:

Right out of the box, the sheer size of the unit is intimidating! This all black behemoth is made of plastic, mesh, and rubber. It measures roughly 470x327x55 mm (18.5"x12.8"x2.1") and weighs a hefty 1.9 kilograms (4.1 pounds). You better have the desktop real estate to accommodate the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler. In addition, a larger-than-standard laptop bag is mandatory if the cooler is to be lugged around with the usual array of laptop accessories. 

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler is very similar in terms of looks to the SF-19 Strike Force. It sports a rugged angular build that reminds me of the ASUS ROG G series laptops. The top of the unit is dominated by the mesh section in the center that protects the 180mm fan rated at 700-1200 RPM. With such specifications, the fan should move enough air around without much noise. The top and bottom rubber pieces are CM Storm branded, while the side ones are pure black. The 180mm fan is visible through the mesh although it's not removable; disassembling the whole unit is mandatory if maintenance or replacement is needed. The back of the unit has a large square cout-out in the centre where the casing of the fan fits in. The intake cut-outs are whirlpool-shaped and do not seem to take advantage of the area available. A mesh section on the back would allow for a less restricted airflow. On each corner, a piece of rubber serves as a raiser and stabilizer for the cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front contains the hinge that enables the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler to be set up at four different typing angles. A red Tron-like light runs across the bottom for some eye candy, if you so desire. Fortunately the option to turn the light off is available. At the back of the unit is a large rubber piece that doubles as a carrying handle as well as a cable management groove. A smaller rubber piece for cable management is located on each side. The cable management concept seems to be more efficient than what was implemented in the CM Notepal U2 Plus that I looked at a few weeks ago.

 

 

The left side of the unit is solid black plastic, while the right side is where all the action is going on. First is a stepless fan speed dial that also provides on/off functionality; the dial feels solid but somehow lacks smoothness. To the right of the speed dial are four USB2 ports for extra connectivity. Out of the box, the ports are powered by the laptop and the battery life will pay the toll without the non-provided power adapter. Next in line is a Mini-B USB port to connect the CM Storm SF-17 to the laptop with the provided USB cable; in the same area is located a Micro-B USB port rated at 5V to connect a power adapter. Last in line is an on/off button for the red lights on the front. On top of the connectivity area is located a cable management groove, with the same design mirrored on the left side of the unit.

 

 

The CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler can be adjusted at four height settings to accommodate different typing or viewing angles. The mechanism is pretty simple yet does a great job keeping everything stable. The cooler did not feel wobbly during the testing. Toward the front are located two retention tabs for extra support when the higher positions are set. Nice touch from Cooler Master considering that the anti-slip rubber pads might lose to gravity when it comes to heavier laptops.

 

 

 

To illustrate the unit in a real life setup, below are some pictures with the laptop that will be used for testing. I found the lowest height setting to be perfect for my comfort. The 15.6" laptop is a perfect match for the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler; it will easily manage bigger laptops as stated by the manufacturer without any stability issues. The whole light show is a waste of energy in my book and the cooler drawing power from the battery makes it even more of a questionable feature.

 

 

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Specifications:

Compatibilty
Supports up to 19" laptops
Available Color
Black
Materials
Mesh + Plastic + Rubber
Dimension
470.66*326.88*54.94 mm
Weight
1.89 kg
Operation Degree
4 levels of height adjustments
Power
USB 5V DC
USB Port
USB2.0*4 / MiniUSB*1 / MicroUSB*1
Fan speed
700~1200 RPM+/- 10%
Warranty
2 years limited manufacturer warranty

 

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Features:

 

All information courtesy of Cooler Master CM Storm.

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Testing:

I will be using the Acer Aspire V3-571-6884 as a test system to perform temperature monitoring at different load levels. The variable fan speed of the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler is a great feature and I made sure to capture any performance increase - if any - depending on the speed setting. From previous experience, laptop coolers have a mild effect on CPU or GPU temps, so let's see what the SF-17 is capable of.

Temperatures will be recorded at idle and load states. The fan speed on the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler will be set respectively to off, 50%, and 100%. The Notepal U2 Plus will be running both fans at 100% for the purpose of this review since it's not possible to control the speeds on this specific cooler without modification. Load state will be reached by running Prime95 for a minimum of 15 minutes. All temperatures are in degrees Celsius; lower is better.

Test setup:

Comparison Cooler: 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the charts, it's clear that the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler succeeds at shaving off a few degrees of the CPU temperatures. Which is a great feat; knowing that no matter how much air you blow at the outside of a laptop, it will not change the efficiency of the internal cooler. On the other hand, the bottom of the laptop and the wrist rest felt noticeably cooler than usual, which provides a greater comfort while working or gaming.

The stepless fan speed control came in handy when I wanted to fine tune the RPM. The CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler is not a silent unit and it's very noticeable over the normal ambient noise at 100%. Dialing it down under 50% makes it a pretty quiet cooler that still performs decently. Also, the unit generates a slight vibration that's consistent no matter the fan speed setting. This shouldn't be a huge issue for most users with powerful gaming laptops, since they usually use external peripherals for gaming.

All four USB ports worked perfectly when used with different USB devices. The build quality is great and reflects a certain standard that I have come to expect from the CM Storm brand. The different materials used fit nicely and the end result feels very sturdy. The height adjustment mechanism is simple yet efficient and should be tough enough to support heavier systems even at the most inclined setting. I felt that the lowest setting was the most comfortable for my typing style, so for this one feature your mileage may vary. Tip of the hat to Cooler Master for the great job with the anti-slip material used here; even at the highest position setting, the effect of gravity was kept in check and the test system didn't really slide. However, I secured the laptop with the retention tabs just in case since they are available.

CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler Conclusion:

The more laptop coolers sit on my desk for reviewing, the more I realize that the heat dissipation gain is minimal at the best. Manufacturers of laptops and coolers should sit down and come up with some kind of innovation that enables the internal cooling system to take advantage of the extra horse-power provided by the external fans. The mobile computer market is growing at an explosive rate and innovation is the key to keep the pace. That's why I was a bit disappointed by the choice of Cooler Master to equip the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler with only USB2 ports. Devices that are USB3 compatible are pretty much the standard in this day and age, even more when talking about high end gaming laptops. The bundle of accessories is also missing a power adapter, so providing enough juice for a 4-port hub might be a bit problematic if power hungry devices are connected simultaneously.

That being said, Cooler Master did a good job with the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Notebook Cooler. Great build quality and looks that will definitely appeal to those that like a rugged style make this cooler very unique. The fan speed control is a welcome feature that will enable users to bring down the generated noise to acceptable levels. And the four height adjustment settings provide some flexibility depending on your typing style. The anti-slip material used on this cooler is simply great; even at the highest setting the laptop did not move the slightest. Finally, the cable management integration is more efficient than what was available on other laptop coolers.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: