Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Review
Reviewed by: Wesstron
Reviewed on: May 29, 2013
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Introduction:
Since its creation in 1992, Cooler Master has become a major name in the PC components and peripherals industry. The company offers consumers a solid performing line of products including – but not limited to – cases, mice, power supplies, and cooling solutions. I personally opted for a case, a power supply, and a keyboard from Cooler Master for my main system. These items are still running strong after years of abuse, so I expect nothing less than solid performance and great quality from Cooler Master products.
For the history lovers, you may already know that Cooler Master introduced its first aluminum laptop cooler back in 2003. Fast-forward to 2008, the company introduced its Mobile line of accessories. The unit I will be reviewing today is the most recent addition to the Notepal U2 family from Cooler Master Mobile: The Notepal U2 Plus Movable Fan Aluminum Cooling Pad. What "Plus" does this unit bring to the already established U cooler pads lineup? Let's unpack it and see!
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Closer Look:
As expected from Cooler Master, the box design is attractive and well thought. The color theme, font choice, and design give the packaging a “classy” aura. Cooler Master is not afraid to give a potential buyer a peek of the goods; the fairly large clear window on the right side of the box proves it quite well. The front of the box shows the company logo, the product name, and a few photos of the actual cooler. The photos show that the NOTEPAL U2 PLUS comes in two choices of colors, black or silver. The unit I will be looking at is the black variant, I can already confirm that with any Laptop/Ultrabook bigger than 14” the color is irrelevant since it will be totally hidden. The back of the box has more action going on. Four small pictures showcase some highlights of the Notepal U2 Plus cooler, and a larger “staged” picture gives a feel on how cool the unit looks on a real-life setting. Under the picture a table is stating the specifications of the unit. The bottom part lists the features of the cooler in no less than eight different languages!
The Notepal U2 Plus is secured in position inside the box with multiple pieces of protective foam. The accessories bundle included consists of a pamphlet style manual, an elastic strap, and two fans permanently connected to the USB pass-through plug. The fans are enclosed in a plastic casing and secured in place by four screws. The casing is equipped with a handy mechanism that snaps in place and secures the fans to the circular holes. Rated at 2000RPM and 21dBa noise level, the fans are only 10mm thick and claimed to push 31CFM each. Pretty good specs knowing that the fans are virtually inaudible with a laptop on the cooler pad and some regular ambient noise. All I noticed during the redaction of this review is a faint vibration when resting my wrists on either side of the touchpad. These fans list part number A8010-20RA-2JN-F1 and seem to be the sleeve bearing type. A quick online search shows that replacing the pair will cost almost the price of the cooler itself.
So far things look good, so let's take a closer look at the Notepal U2 Plus itself.
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Closer Look:
The Notepal U2 Plus is made of sand blasted aluminum, which gives it solidity and light weight at only 1.34 pounds. This cooler pad measures 13.6 x 11.1 x 2.4 inches and is capable to accommodate laptops up to 17 inches in size. It’s solely made to be used on a desk and felt quite awkward when I tried it on my lap. The cooler pad stands at an angle of approximately 30 degrees offering quite comfortable typing position. The edge is solid metal while the inside is perforated with circular holes for airflow. For the OCD amongst you, there are exactly 913 perforations in there. Looking at the bottom of the unit, nothing much is going on here except the two raiser feet stabilized by another small piece of solid metal.
The rubber used on the Notepal U2 Plus did a great job keeping the Ultrabook used as the testing system in place. It feels soft to the touch and does seem durable as far as I can tell form the short period of time I handled the cooler pad. The rubber however is a lint magnet and very hard to clean; it will try to hold on to anything you touch it with. The only thing that worked for me was a lint-free microfiber cloth dampened with some 99% alcohol. The rubber pieces cover the front part and the two feet, with an extra rectangular piece attached to the back of each foot and serving as a cable management for a peripheral device. As far as I can tell that's the only "Plus" this cooler pad has over the previous model, the Notepal U2 Fan Edition. This feature did not work well with the few mice or keyboards I had around. Most peripherals come with cables that are quite thick and usually do not play nice with any coiling attempt, thus rendering the cable management integration in the Notepal U2 Plus unusable.
The USB pass-through used to power the two fans is quite bulky; it will also obstruct the ports next to the one it’s plugged in to. Preferably it should be connected to a USB hub out of the way if possible; otherwise you might have to bend the cable powering the fans, which increases risks of damage. The fans have enough clearance when installed towards the back of the Notepal U2 Plus to draw cool air and push it through the mesh. Trying to install the fans all the way towards the front will make the cooler rest on them instead and loses stability.
The elastic strap; Cooler Master calls it a safety belt for a reason, will secure a portable computer to the unit for enhanced portability. The concept is great but only laptops of 14" in size are a perfect fit; smaller than 13" ones will pretty much fall between the two raiser feet, and larger than 14" ones will stick out too much on each side. Also, this feature implies removing the fans and transporting them separately, having a laptop bag with enough room for the fairly thick back section of the cooler is a necessity otherwise it will not fit in most regular bags. The two bags I have are equipped with a padded section for improved protection while transporting a portable computer. These padded pockets are tailored to fit the unit being transported with little to no extra room left, so a laptop wearing a Notepal U2 Plus body armor will not fit.
The design of the Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus has some flaws but the overall build quality and usability are great. Let's see how all this translates in terms of cooling potential.
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Specifications:
Aluminum, metal mesh, plastic and rubber
346 x 282 x 60 mm
NotePal U2 PLUS, 2 fans and a safety belt
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Features:
Passive and active cooling:
Sore wrists and a hot notebook is something we all experienced after working on a notebook for consecutive hours. With its angle and cooling the NotePal U2 PLUS contests those negative factors of working on a notebook. Thanks to the space underneath the NotePal U2 PLUS the notebook has more environmental air to use for cooling which results in a lower temperature by just placing the notebook on top of the NotePal U2 PLUS. Next to this passive way of cooling there is also an active cooling option, thanks to the two additional fans.
Both fans are easy to place and replace on the bottom of the mesh structure of the NotePal U2 PLUS. This system allows every notebook, up to 17″, to be cooled in the most efficient way, since every notebook has a different layout when it comes to the air intake and hot spots, like the position of the processor.
Protect and go:
Since notebooks are portable we also designed our NotePal U2 PLUS to be portable. A notebook can be placed inside the U-shape underneath the surface in order to be protected on one side, while the included strap holds the notebook in place. Thanks to the fact that the NotePal U2 PLUS is made out of aluminum it is ultra-light and thus easy to carry. In addition to the aluminum rubber has been used in order to provide grip for the notebook and the notebook cooler itself. On the back of the NotePal U2 PLUS two knobs allow for cable management.
All information courtesy of Cooler Master @ http://www.coolermaster-mobile.com/notebook/notepal-u2-plus/
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Testing Setup:
I always had a feeling that full blown laptops with more vents would benefit better from a cooling solution than an Ultrabook made with low power consumption and low heat generation as a priority. But since the Ultrabooks are all the rage nowadays, I will test the Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus using the AVATAR Mercury Ultrabook AVIU-145A2 that I reviewed a few weeks back and which seems to be a perfect fit for the cooler pad size wise. I used Prime95 on it's default settings as a stress test to enduce heat generation on the testing system. The testing will envolve monitoring the temperatures of the Chipset and CPU on Idle and under load. Three scenarios will be tested: cooler pad with fans, cooler pad without fans, and test system straight on the desk. All tests were conducted on a controlled temperature environment of 23 °C.
- Processor: Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz
- Chipset: Intel HM77
- Memory: 8GB DDR3, 1333MHz
- HDD: WD 500GB, 5400 RPM
- SSD: 32GB SSD
- OS: Windows 8 SL 64bit
- Battery: Li-Ion, 6000 mAh
- Ultrabook set on the Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus with two fans installed
- Ultrabook set on the Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus without fans
- Ultrabook on the the desk
- Idle and Load temps for processor and chipset
- Load achieved using Prime95 stress test
- Ultrabook plugged to charger with Performance Mode enabled
- Temperatures in °C / Lower is better
- Ambient temp of 23 °C
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus with two fans installed:
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus without fans:
Ultrabook on the desk without cooler pad:
It seems like my guess was close enough. On idle the temperatures are very close. The Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus brings the heat down a few degrees but nothing spectacular as far as the testing system is concerned. The reason seems to be the absence of side intakes and the location of the exhaust vent all the way at the back of the Ultrabook. However the cool air blowing from the bottom helped keep the system cool to the touch, which will help with the longevity of the internal coponent on the long run.
Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Cooling Pad Conclusion:
The Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus Movable Fan Aluminum Cooling Pad is a nice piece of hardware. A simple yet efficient design and light weight build makes it a perfect companion for your valued portable computers while providing a comfortable typing angle for your wrists. The rubber strips work as expected to maintain any system in place without sliding or shifting. The unit serves also as a body armor for a portable computer by removing the fans, slipping the system in the U shape inside the cooler and securing it with the elastic strap. In terms of cooling, which one would argue being the main reason we are looking at this unit, the Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus does what it's meant to do. It did not "blow" my mind away, but a system that runs very hot and have more vents will benefit greatly from the cooling potential of this pad.
The knobs located at the back of the raiser feet do not provide much in terms of cable management, due to the thickness of most cables attached to peripheral devices. The movable fans are a good concept but their positioning is limited towards the back of the cooler where there is enough clearance for an optimal airflow. Finally, the availability of the product seems minimal in the North American usual retail and online channels. Current pricing falls into the $30 price range along with many of the comparative products.
- Great build quality
- Comfortable typing angle
- Light weight
- Cool removable fans feature
- Better ergonomics
- Bulky USB passthrough
- Cable management knobs questionable efficiency