Cooler Master NotePal X3 17-Inch Notebook Cooler Review - Design and Testing

Design

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The Notepal X3 certainly has gamer appeal, as the huge 200mm fan with blue LEDs is complimented by a clean black mesh surface, an edgy profile, and small blue accents on the upper and lower edges.  Cooler Master's logo neatly adorns the center of the cooler in a silver color.

 


Moving onto the edges, we see that the Notepal X3 has a relatively bulky profile.  The basic shape is intended to provide a slight tilt, which benefits ergonomics, as well as providing adequate clearance for the large 200mm fan.  Looking closer at the left side, we see the LED power button, the fan power button, a fan speed dial, the mini-USB power input, and a single USB 2.0 port to prevent you from losing a port when using the cooler.  I'm happy to see the ability to toggle the LED, as there are several instances when they could be seen to be more of an annoyance than a feature.  Although you'll see in the image below that Cooler Master has deliberately placed plastic "shields" which prevent the LEDs from lighting up the entire room, and instead subtly illuminate the clear fan blades.

 


I'm also a huge fan of 200mm fans in laptop coolers, as long as they aren't intended to be used in some portable fasion.  The reason is that laptops are more "intimate" than a desktop.  They're front and center, no more than a few feet from you, so you can't really hide a noisy computer or peripheral like you can a desktop.  A 200mm fan allows you to move more (or an equivalent amount of) air than a 140mm fan or smaller.  Lower RPM means you're doing less to push the air, and the air you move is accelerated to a slower speed.  Slower airspeeds mean lower noise, without compromising on the amount of air you're moving, which is the critical factor.  The fan speed dial also means you'll be able to dial the fan down to a faintly-audible 500rpm and 16dB while still provide an adequate whisp of air.

 


The "corners" of the X-profile consist of feet which elevate the cooler to allow for air intake.  Small tabs may also be rotated out of the feet to provide for another tilt setting for your notebook.  Rubber feet keep the Notepal X3 firmly on you desk or other surface.  The bottom is vented underneath the fan, and a front vent provides a light breeze which passes (mostly) between your hands.  As someone who hasn't found the need for personal cooling while using my computer, it doesn't remarkably enthrall me, but I'm sure there are some out there who will appreciate the detail nonetheless.  The bottom also features posts for cable management, and clips which stow the USB cables for storage or transport.

 

Testing

Testing notebook coolers can be a bit tricky, as we have yet to find a reliable fan speed controller for our Dell XPS laptop (readers, throw us a comment if you know of something we can use!).  Fan speeds on notebooks often work like this:  a load is applied and temperature goes up, then the fan kicks up a bunch and cools the CPU back down, so the fan speeds relaxes, then the temps go up, and that cycle tends to oscillate during temperature testing.  As a result, we've been better off monitoring the fan activity of the notebook, which has its own benefits.  If the fan in your notebook (which is highly integrated and difficult/expensive to replace) isn't working as hard, it's a fairly safe bet you should see some lifetime improvement from it.  Our old torture-test notebook has since succumbed to a graphics card failure, and so we'll observe fan speed behavior in different usage environments.

 

Cooler Master Notepal X3 Blue LED

 

With the fan speed at its highest setting, the Notepal X3 is still pleasantly quiet, more quiet than the notebook fan when under full load.  We noticed that during normal usage consisting of browsing, music and video playback, as well as other light tasks, the fan remained in essentially the idle state, which was great to see.

 

During gaming and benchmark runs, we saw the fan oscillating between 75-90%, and only occasionally spiking at 100%.  In the absence of the cooler, it runs at full speed constantly and at slightly higher overall temperatures.  Usability benefits were also seen, as the surface of the notebook was much cooler, and the locations where my palms rest often get very warm to the touch (front fan to the rescue?).

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