Targus Chill Mat follow-up

2009-05-24 11:45:53 UTC

I wrote previously about the Targus Chill Mat. Two Chill Mat generations later, it’s time for an update.

When I wrote the previous post, I had only the first-generation Chill Mat, and Targus had just introduced the second generation. I finally bought one a few months ago.

It does seem more effective at cooling than the first-gen, but the price I paid for that is that it’s loud—so loud that I would intentionally put it aside and go back to the first-gen for my monthly trips to CocoaHeads Lake Forest.

Last week, visiting Walmart for the first time in a long time (they remodeled it! it sucks less now!), I noticed that there is now a third generation. I picked it up for $20, partly out of curiosity regarding just where they stashed the cable, since I couldn’t see it from outside the package.

For those of you not familiar with the Chill Mats, they’re powered by USB. One end looks like the end of a DC power cable (as from a wall-wart), and the other end is a USB A connector.

The first and second generations had a problem where bouncing around inside your laptop bag with the DC connector plugged in would cause the connector to become loose, and eventually stop making reliable contact. The first-generation also had an inline power switch, which was even easier to break; they knocked that off with the second-gen, so let us not speak of it again.

The third-generation adds a nifty feature: Set into the underside of the mat is a hollow cleat, with a clip on each side of it. You wrap the cable around the cleat and hold it in place by snapping it into the clips, and you put the USB connector inside one end of the cleat and the DC connector inside the other end.

This cleat feature should help relieve the fragility issues that plagued the DC connector on previous Chill Mats, because now I have a better place to store the cable than plugged into the jack.

The third-generation is also much better about noise (to the point that I’ll feel comfortable bringing it to CocoaHeads), but the trade-off is that it cools much less effectively than the second-gen. Even so, I think it’s good enough. (In case you’re wondering, it is a little louder than the first-gen.)

All told, this is the best Chill Mat yet, and it will be my Chill Mat for all uses from now on.

UPDATE 2009-05-24: When I went to add links to this post, I noticed the Chill Mat for Mac on their website. I haven’t seen this in any store. If you find or order one, I’m curious to hear how well it works (you can set iStat Menus to show your MBP’s external temperature) and how loud it is.

3 Responses to “Targus Chill Mat follow-up”

  1. John Says:

    Rather than active cooling, I’d suggest a great passive cooling solution that I’ve been using for a few years with my PowerBooks/MacBook Pros. It protects your lap very nicely against even the hottest machine and has the additional benefit of very comfortable and functional padding for your legs, lap and forearms. And it won’t suck down your battery or cause extra noise like the active cooling mats.

    There are models for all sizes of laptops, even the 17″ MacBook Pro ‘Aircraft Carrier’.

    http://www.raindesigninc.com/ilap.html

    John

  2. Peter Hosey Says:

    John: The problem with passive cooling is that it doesn’t cool as well. I don’t just want to not burn myself; I also want to keep my laptop cool.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hopefully this comment will be useful: I own a Targus Chill Mat for Mac, and it’s pretty good at keeping my 15″ Powerbook G4 cool. (5 years old, yes.) I use iStat menus to monitor temps and CPU as well.

    At under 50% CPU, average temperature is about 133 degrees.
    At up to 80% CPU, temperature reaches mid-140 degrees, and default fan settings will turn on my internal fans.
    At up to 100% CPU, fans run at higher speeds, and with the help of the Targus mat, temperatures are kept under 150 degrees. Without the mat, temperatures can reach up to 160 degrees, and cause my internal fans to make loud rattling noises.

    The mat is rather quiet upon first purchase, but if you’re running it constantly it gets noticeably louder over time (I’ve had mine for about four months now, and I’m beginning to get annoyed). I don’t like the noise very much, so I’ll be looking for a new mat, but if noise is not an issue, this mat does a great job at cooling.

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