Thin and sleek, the latest Apple MacBooks with the unibody aluminum chassis have been garnering praise from both critics and users alike. Yet these notebooks do get warm like any other, particularly the more powerful models like the MacBook Pro with its discrete graphics. For those feeling the heat, Targus has just the answer with its Chill Mat designed for the Mac.
According to the company, the Chill Mat accommodates all Mac notebooks, right up to the largest 17-inch version. Since we happened to have the 17-inch MacBook Pro, we tested the Chill Mat with it. This MacBook Pro comes with a discrete GeForce 9600M GT along with an integrated GeForce 9400M chipset, making it a fine candidate to test the cooling prowess of the Targus.
Once we placed the MacBook Pro on the Chill Mat, the cooling pad disappeared completely from view. Measuring around 15 inches in length, the Chill Mat barely manages to fit the 17-inch MacBook Pro. The notebook did stay in place securely, due to the non-slip rubber feet on the Chill Mat's surface and the substantial weight of the notebook itself. Despite that, we feel that a 15-inch notebook would be more suitable for this mat.
The Chill Mat has two fans to cool the notebook, located at the top middle. These fans are powered via USB, though a power cable. A power button completes this simple setup. When turned on, the fans were extremely quiet. Unless we put our hands on the mat to feel the slight vibrations, it was difficult to tell if they were actually spinning.
Tilted at a slight angle, the Chill Mat is designed for comfort when using the notebook either on your lap or the desktop. We found no issues with this and the soft mesh bottom also fit nicely on our laps, with a slight cool breeze generated by the fans.
As for the question on whether the Chill Mat actually helps to reduce the temperatures on the MacBook Pro, we restarted in Boot Camp and looped 3DMark06 continuously for an hour. Then we started to measure the temperature of the MacBook Pro, both at the top where the keyboard is and the bottom, which is in direct contact with your lap.
Without the Targus Chill Mat, the hottest spot at the top was between the keyboard and the screen, where we found temperatures of up to 46.5 degrees Celsius. The bottom was not any better, with a high of 46 degrees.
Once we plugged the Chill Mat and let it do its job, the temperatures went down, but only slightly. The bottom half in contact with the Chill Mat saw the temperatures drop to around 42 degrees but the top surface remained at 46 degrees. It seems that the Chill Mat could only do so much for the MacBook Pro and its influence is limited to the bottom of the notebook.
The Targus Chill Mat appears to be more suited for the mid-sized Apple notebook, though it can fit the 17-inch model. Aesthetically, its gray color scheme matches the white MacBooks and it is so quiet that you're unlikely to notice it.
Our testing however found that temperatures did not drop significantly. Perhaps a speed control for the fans could be useful for more powerful (and warmer) notebooks. At US$49.99, it's decently priced. At least now, even if the notebook remained warm, your laps won't be feeling the heat with the Chill Mat.