Years ago, notebook cooling stands were remarkably unremarkable. All you had to do was fashion together some cheap plastic, throw in a fan and call it a generic day. That is definitely no longer the case, thanks to innovative companies like Cooler Master. One of the newest additions to their laptop cooling lineup is the Cooler Master NotePal ERGO 360, a product that has more than meets the eye. For starters, it can be used with your notebook PC and with your tablet or smartphone.
Cool Features and Specs
Let's start off with some of the basic specs. This is a notebook cooling stand that should accommodate laptops up to 17-inches in size, whereas the detachable tablet stand (which I'll discuss further in a moment) should fit most tablets and smartphones. I've written before about passive cooling stands don't always cut the mustard, so it's good to see that Cooler Master has included not one, but two 80mm fans in here. They're not adjustable in location or speed, however. You just plug in the provided USB cable and they turn on.
Most of the NotePal ERGO 360 is made of a pretty good quality plastic, but the top plate is aluminium. This further assists in cooling by allowing the stand to work like a heatsink. You'll also notice that there are two flip-up flaps at the front to help hold your laptop in place. These can become a little troublesome on some notebooks when it comes to typing, but I had no real issues.
The NotePal ERGO 360 is not exactly the lightest product at 960 grams, but it's not terribly heavy either. Overall dimensions are 39.9 x 29.7 x 3.5 cm with the detachable tablet stand measuring 20 x 11 x 1.7 cm.
USB Cable Management
Those 80mm fans need power, so the NotePal ERGO 360 naturally comes with a USB cable. It doesn't have a pass-through connector like some other stands, so it will be occupying one of the USB ports on your laptop. The good news is that this USB cable is housed in the center-back portion of the underside, so it doesn't matter if your laptop has USB ports on the left or right.
You might remember when I wrote an article on what I want to see in the perfect notebook cooler. It's good that Cooler Master used high quality materials here and I like the placement of the twin fans, but there are at least a couple of features missing. For starters, there is no fan speed controller nor is there an on-off switch. Further to the point of taking up a USB port, there is no USB hub here either. They're not deal-breakers, but they are notably absent.
Height Adjustment and the Lazy Susan
However, there is also a kickstand portion that can be extended from the center. There is a second flap that locks into three pre-defined slots. It snaps into place for a secure fit, easily supporting the weight of your laptop. All three of these pre-defined heights create too extreme of an angle for most normal use, but it's great if you're going to use your notebook with a separate keyboard and mouse in a desktop-like configuration.
The added bonus is that the foot of that kickstand is rubberized for grip, but it also spins like a Lazy Susan. I guess that's why they put the "360" in the name. Again, this isn't very useful when you're actually typing on the notebook itself, but it's like having a swivel on a monitor when you're using your laptop like a desktop.
The Detachable Tablet Stand
At the risk of sounding like an infomercial... but wait, there's more. That kickstand portion can be easily removed from the main notebook cooler body. There is a little sliding lock to release it and then this detached portion can be used as a stand for your tablet.
It's great for watching movies on an iPad, for example. They say that you can use it with your smartphone too, but I'd say it's almost bordering on overkill. It could be a good fit for something like the Samsung Galaxy Note II phablet though.
In a sense, the tablet stand is "upside down" from the use as a notebook stand, because the rubberized "Lazy Susan" that served as the base for the notebook stand because the upper prop for the tablet stand. This almost makes sense, since the rubberized pad allows the stand to better grip your tablet or smartphone. There is even a small indentation in the plastic base to hold your mobile device in place.
Notebook Cooling Performance Benchmark
All of these features seem pretty nice, but they don't mean a heck of a lot if you don't get some good cooling performance. After all, this is supposed to be a notebook cooler as well as a notebook stand.
To test its ability to keep a laptop nice and cool, I put the Cooler Master NotePal ERGO 360 through the same routine as I did with the Cooler Master NotePal LapAir and the NZXT Cryo E40, among others. I cold-booted my Dell Inspiron 640m without the cooler in place and let it run idle for 20-30 minutes, measuring the internal temperature with CPUID HWMonitor. I then ran the full PCMark05 benchmark suite (takes about 30 minutes) to simulate a load environment. Allowing the notebook to fully cool down, I repeated the process with the notebook cooler in place. I used the middle height on the NotePal ERGO 360 with the fans fully active.
As you can see from the results above (shown in degrees Celsius), this is one of the most effective notebook cooling stands to date. The idle temperatures when using the NotePal ERGO 360 are over 10 degrees less than without the cooler, and the maximum load temperatures have a similar level of reduction.
MEGATechie Out-STAND-ing or MEGATechie Cannot UnderSTAND?
The Cooler Master NotePal ERGO 360 notebook cooling stand isn't perfect. I would have liked to see some form of fan speed control or, at the very least, a simple on-off button. I also would have liked to see the inclusion of a pass-through USB cable, since there is no on-board USB hub to gain back the used port. Some ability to adjust fan location would have been nice too.
However, these are all minor quibbles when you consider how many great things are in this notebook cooler. The active cooling performance is impressive, the build quality is commendable, the aluminum plate stays cool, and the innovative use of a detachable tablet stand is truly novel. Considering that this retails in the $30-$35 range, it's reasonably priced, especially when you consider its dual functionality. The NotePal ERGO 360 is a solid choice for anyone looking for this type of notebook cooling stand.