An often neglected accessory for computer users on the go is a suitable notebook cooler. They just assume that their laptop is going to be fine and dandy, but a cooler can help keep those temperatures down, improve performance, and extend the overall life of your notebook PC.
The trouble with some notebook coolers, though, is that they're not particularly portable. The Arctic NC from Arctic, on the other hand, is quite portable. Let's see how it works and whether it's worth your hard-earned cash.
What's in the Box?
As with other Arctic products, the packaging for the Arctic NC is pretty straightforward with very little in terms of unnecessary fluff. In this case, you get the cooler itself, the necessary USB cable, a couple of pads for extra grip, and an AC (Arctic Cooling) sticker, along with a single sheet instruction manual. That's all you need.
How Is This Different?
When you look at the vast majority of other active notebook coolers, you find that they are about the same size as an actual laptop. That's because they serve as a platform for your notebook. The Arctic NC isn't like that.
Instead, those two 60mm fans are used to draw air into the chamber and then cool air is blown outward through those vents on the front. In effect, your laptop "sits" on a blanket of cool air.
The rubberized finish of the Arctic NC helps to keep your laptop in place, but those two included grippy pads can offer some assistance if needed too. The trouble, though, is if you have a fatter battery extending out the back of your laptop. This makes it very difficult to use the "propping" design of this cooler. The curved ledge can also be a little problematic for certain notebook designs.
The Arctic NC measures 278mm (about 11 inches) wide. It says that it can accommodate 12-19" notebooks, but even my 14-inch Dell extended well beyond the outer edges. This isn't an issue, per se, but do keep that in mind when considering this product.
USB Hub and Fan Speed Control
There is no need for an external power source, thankfully, for the Arctic NC. That only makes sense, since it's meant to be used on the go. Power comes by way of a single USB connection, which is also used for the four-port USB 2.0 hub.
A hub is always useful and appreciated when it comes to notebook coolers. It's also very important to have variable fan speed control and Arctic provides that too with a simple dial, allowing the fan to adjust from 900rpm to 1700rpm. Move the dial all the way down and you can "click" it off. That's useful too.
But Does It Actually Work?
A notebook cooler is useless if it doesn't effectively cool your notebook. I ran the Arctic NC through the same testing procedure as other coolers I've reviewed.
The configuration involves my Dell Inspiron 640m with Intel Core 2 Duo T5300, 3GB RAM, integrated graphics, and 500GB Seagate Momentus 7200.4 SATA hard drive. The idle temperature is taken with a "cold" notebook fully booted into Windows XP with an idle hard drive. The "load" temperature is taken with a full run of PCMark05, which takes about 30 minutes. All temperatures are recorded using CPUID Hardware Monitor in degrees Celsius.
And yes indeed, the Arctic NC works and it works very well. As you can quite plainly see from the basic chart above, the cooler was able to drop about 10 degrees or more across the board for both the idle and load condition. I should note that I had the fans going at top speed too.
I think part of this has to do with the fact that absolutely no ports or vents are blocked by this product. The Dell is also designed to draw air in from the bottom and vent hot air out from the side, so the design of the Arctic NC fits with that model very well.
MegaTechie Cool As Ice or MegaTechie Lukewarm Rag?
I had my apprehensions about the Arctic NC. It looks pretty good, but I was unsure how effective this design would be. Well, the test results favor the product and who am I to argue with the numbers.
That said, the design isn't going to be for everyone. The "propping" configuration may not be a good fit for certain laptop designs and it necessitates a flat surface. This means that it can't really be used in your lap, so you really do need to find a table. At about $20, though, the Arctic NC is a good buy and I'd recommend it.
Arctic may have expanded its scope considerably beyond its core "cooling" line of products, but it's good to see that the coolers are still cool and still do the job.