San Francisco (CA) – Living in the fast lane these days usually means toting a laptop through TSA screening lines and into hotels. But how do you keep those important computers clean and cool? We review a few inexpensive products that promise to keep your laptop and your lap in top condition.
Notebooks are fairly fragile things and you know that three things will happen. First of all, it will collect dust and dirt, just like every computer component out there. Secondly, there is a really good chance of keyboard leaving a horrific imprint on LCD screen and thirdly, many notebooks will heat up like there’s no tomorrow, so keeping them in laps becomes quite uncomfortable. My former office was using PowerBook G4 laptops and we were calling them “manpill” (for explanation of this, research what happens with male reproductive organs once thermal threshold is exceeded).
So, instead of reviewing a single part, we opted for a short review of a cheap, but efficient travel kit. We’re happily using these components on a 12-inch HP Pavilion tx1001, 15.4-inch Toshiba Satellite A200 and a 17-inch
MacBook Pro. The kit contains LappyMats (PC121,
PC154 or PC17) and Thermaltake iXoft thermal pad. This is a one time expense of around 40 USD (per laptop), and only need to be changed if you change a notebook to something significantly different.
Personally, for travelling I prefer to carry a 12-inch wide-screen notebook due to the fact that I catch around 200.000 miles in air on annual basis.
LappyMats PC121, PC154, PC17
Product: LappyMats PC121, PC154, PC17?
Price: USD 11.95, 13.95, 15.95
LappyMats are actually manufactured by a fellow journalist, Mathew Everett of Icrontic.com fame. Matt was just another journalist that was irritated as keys would leave imprints on LCD screens and after a while, that just started looking ugly.
So, Matt figured out that the best way to keep the screen clean is to put cloth as a barrier between keyboard and the screen, so he came up with a design that will not just keep the screen clean, but also leave the dust away. This is not the first product on the market (most laptop makers include a cloth barrier with most laptop purchases), but it is very convenient to use.
What LappyMats actually are pieces of ultra-microfibre cloth. All you have to do is put the LappyMat on a keyboard once you’re done with your work. After that, close the lid on a laptop and you’re set for travel. Screen will be wiped from one side, and protected from keyboard scratches on another.
Over the past six months, we have extensively tested these mats, and not a single keyboard scratch appeared, no matter how we transported the notebook… when comparing our MacBook Pro to other Macs in press room, lack of scratches on the screen and on the bottom part only gives right to this small and cheap combo.
Also, fairly disguising feature is the fact that cloth will clean up the grease from the keyboard. Yep, we’re talking about the not-so-nice part of computer keyboards, and the fact that they have more germs is being picked up from the top of our fingers, so keyboard also left a rather good and clean impression. Sadly, it cannot do anything to protect the brushed aluminium case of MacBook Pro, since that one is left on mercy (or should we say, lack of any) by airport officials.
All three worked flawlessly with our notebooks, and did their job just as they’re supposed to. Now, when it comes to cleaning the pads from dust that gathered over the course of time, receipt is very simple:
take the LappyMat by one side with two or three fingers (of course, in open environment, don’t do it inside your house or office…), and just make couple of energic reactions up-down, left right, and cloth will let dust go.
Price: USD 21.99
Second part of our easy-going travelers’ kit is Thermaltake’s iXoft.
This product presents a nice departure from all the metal or plastic based notebook coolers that are present of the market. Ixoft functions on very simple phase-change gel that changes its form from solid to liquid, similar to ton of silica gels that you see when you buy a new product (to check was the product exposed to too high temperatures or not). Ixoft is actually quite easy to carry around because it’s thin and flexible. The pad will fit nicely beneath your laptop in almost every travel case/bag/backpack we tried.
Installation was really complicated: you open the “bleed-your-fingers” blister
package (hint: use scissors or anything sharp), put the laptop on top of iXoft and start working. We worked with this pad on HP Pavilion tx1000, Toshiba Satellite A200 and MacBook Pro – and in the past couple of months, we had no issues at all. When one side of the pad goes really soft (meaning gel turned into liquid), all you need to do is rotate the pad and you can continue to work hours ahead, without feeling discomfort. Of course, if you work for eight hours straight on a notebook, and you’re not delayed at the airport, something is seriously wrong with you 😉 When it comes to short side of iXoft, it is not exactly the most efficient pad on the market. In fact, you’re probably looking in one of worse performing components, but it is the most comfortable one – and there is no possibility of getting burns or red skin on places where overheated laptops of today exhaust their heat.
At the end of the day, both parts work perfect. LappyMats will keep the screen clean from dust and all those nasty keyboard imprints, while iXoft is without any doubt, most comfortable cooler aid for your laptop. Of course, lack of active cooling leaves this product far from being the most efficient one, but it will cool down your notebook by several degrees Centigrade. Given the fact that neither product costs an arm and a leg, we don’t feel any regrets into recommending these products. They simply work and they’re probably going to make your travel life a bit easier.