If you have a notebook computer of any size, you'll want to have an appropriate notebook cooler to accompany it. Catering to the smaller end of the market is the suitably named ZM-NC1500 mini from Zalman. It's one of the more compact laptop cooling stands on the market and that's because it's meant for more compact laptops. That makes sense. So let's check it out and see if it really does (or doesn't).
Basic Features and Box Contents
Yes, it's "just" a notebook cooler, but not all notebook coolers are made alike. In the case of the Zalman ZM-NC1500 Mini, you get a cooler that is designed for laptops with screens up to 12 inches in size.
There is a single fan towards the rear, but this doesn't actually blow the air directly into the base of your notebook. Instead, it channels the cool air through the 731 high capacity vent holes. The idea is that this will more evenly distribute the flow of cold air.
In terms of box contents, there's nothing too exciting here. You get the (mostly) plastic notebook cooler, a single page of instructions, and a miniUSB cable. That cable provides both the power for the fan and the connection for the single USB port on board.
The first thing that struck me about the Zalman ZM-NC1500 Mini was the fan design. I think this is one of the first notebook coolers I've seen with a fan towards the rear, channeling cool air through a series of vents. I can't say whether it's more effective than a more conventional notebook cooler, but it is certainly an interesting idea. The top surface (where your notebook will rest) appears to be good quality, but I can't say the same about the base.
The underside is made from some glossy black plastic. This is a fingerprint magnet (strike one) and it feels cheap to the touch (strike two). It's also too bad that we don't see any height adjustment whatsoever. This makes it difficult for you to make the cooler suit your desk height or you own personal preferences.
Only One USB Port? No Fan Speed Control?
And the Zalman ZM-NC1500 mini does... but it's just one USB port. You don't gain any extra ports and, seeing how just about every other cooler is offering more ports, I thought Zalman would do the same. Since smaller notebooks tend to have fewer ports, this would definitely be a welcome addition.
The other down side is that while there is a power button to turn the fan on and off, there is no dial to adjust its relative speed. This is a minor quibble, I suppose, but I do appreciate the ability to adjust the fan speed as needed.
Cooling Performance Benchmark
So, how well does it actually perform? In my highly unscientific test with a generic Dell laptop (DELL 700m), I found that the Zalman cooler did in fact do its job.
Measuring with SpeedFan 4.32, I used the notebook on my coffee table sans cooler for about half an hour. I went through with basic web surfing and some mild photo editing to get the temps shown above. Then, I placed the Dell on the Zalman cooler for about 15 minutes, continuing with the same tasks.
As you can see, the temperature sensor remained steady, but both cores on my Intel Core 2 Duo processor dropped down several degrees. Keep in mind that fan placement is a key and the effectiveness of coolers with fixed fans will depend on how close they are to ideal cooling positions on your particular laptop or netbook.
MegaTechie Awesome or MegaTechie Forgettable?
Considering that it retails for $34.99US or less, the Zalman ZM-NC1500 mini is pretty much par for the course when it comes to the notebook cooler market. And that's almost it's problem: it's really nothing special.
The build quality isn't exactly impressive, the single USB port is disappointing, and the lack of a speed dial is a shame. On the bright side, you get a more even flow of cool air thanks to the rather unique design.
In the end, I can neither recommend nor not recommend this cooler. It's very middle of the road. It'll do its job with few major complaints, but it's not exactly something to write home about either.