The Basics (continued):
The next image shows the NotePal P1 in action, but also allows us to see some of the other basic features. On the side shown below, we can see the two USB ports, the silver braided USB cable providing the power, and the power button. Each side features a silver knob, like the one shown to the right of the USB cable, and pressing the one shown is what turns the fans on or off.
The power button comes in handy, as it is easier than unplugging the cooler when you don't really need it, but it would be nice to have a range of fan speeds other than on and off. I found the two fans to be a bit louder than I care to deal with all the time (not all that loud, but noticeable), and they were definitely louder than the three fans included on the recently reviewed notebook cooler from Hiyatek. The Hiyatek cooler features a fan speed dial so that you can choose your own level of cooling / noise production, but even on the highest setting it was quieter than the NotePal P1.
While testing the thermal performance, I noticed that lifting the notebook off the cooler changed the pitch of the fans, and actually made them a bit quieter. I believe my theory on the "o-rings" creating a seal is true, and that the air is not only being restricted, but also generating some back pressure because of it. If you have ever placed your hand directly in front of the exhaust side of a case fan you will know what I mean. Airflow is obviously blocked, and the sound changes due to the added resistance. Seems like the same thing is happening here. This is bad news for cooling performance, noise production, and in the long run it may impact the life of the fans.
Speaking of the thermal performance, it was tested and compared to that of the Hiyatek cooler mentioned previously, as well as with the notebook using no cooler. The notebook used during testing was a Dell Inspiron with a 2GHz Intel processor, 1024MB PNY DDR memory, and 120GB Seagate Momentus hard drive. Speed Fan was used to monitor the temperature of the hard drive, while an external thermal probe was used to monitor the external surface temperature of the notebook's base, just outside the CPU location.
With no cooler in place, Speed Fan reported a hard drive temperature of 51C during typical use (things such as surfing the web, using FTP, Microsoft Word, Photoshop). With the Hiyatek cooler on full speed the hard drive temperature dropped to 42C. With the Cooler Master NotePal P1, the hard drive temperature was back up to 51C. No improvement at all! Using the external thermal probe to check the surface temperature provided similar results. It was somewhat dependant on where I placed the probe, but in general the Hiyatek cooler could improve the temperature 8-12C as compared to no cooler, while the NotePal P1 would improve things 2-5C in the same areas. Even if the probe was attached to the notebook directly in front of the fan, the cooling provided about a 5C drop, and I think the "o-ring" design adversely impacts the flow. Eliminate the o-rings and provide a few millimeters of clearance, and I assume things would be much better. The Hiyatek design allows the air from the three fans to wash over the base of the notebook, while the Cooler Master design really doesn't.
The Cooler Master NotePal P1 does do one thing quiet well, and that is create a very comfortable, ergonomic typing angle. I found it to be much more relaxing to type with the NotePal P1 in place, and could go much longer without feeling like I had to take a break.