Provides: Laptop cooling and elevation
Developer: Lapworks, Inc.
Compatibility: 17″ or smaller laptop computer
Price: $79.95 (currently on sale for $49.95)
Notebook computers with today’s Core i CPUs are satisfyingly powerful, but the yang to that yin (or vice-versa) is that they typically run very hot by historical standards.
The front line foil against excessive heat buildup is a computer’s thermostatically-activated internal cooling fan or fans, which run a lot more frequently on current machines than they did in the old G3 and G4 PowerBooks. This is less than satisfactory, because the anorexically thin form-factors of today’s notebooks means that fans have to be small diameter units turning at very high RPM, consequently emitting a lot of extremely irritating high-pitched noise. Not pleasant, and a severe annoyance to those of us who are noise-averse and who cut our teeth on the old, quiet (the earlier ones fanless) Apple laptops of yore.
One workaround to cut down on heat and still keep those cacophonous internal fans silent (or at least toned-down) is to use a laptop desk or laptop stand, of which there are a great many from which to choose. Lapworks, Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga, California offers a number of relatively inexpensive laptop desk and laptop stand solutions, including the Diplomat Laptop Stand, which combines several technologies to create an elevation and cooling platform for today’s hot (in at least three senses of the word: speed, temperature, and looks) notebook computers.
A feature that distinguishes the Diplomat from run-of-the-mill laptop stands is that its main computer support tray is a solid aluminum plate that is durable, light, and attractive, and acts as a large passive heat sink that draws heat away from the computer. The aluminum plate is formed in a shallow, concave, curved arc, creating an open air space or “convection cell” under the computer through which air can circulate, dissipating heat picked up from both the laptop’s bottom surface and the aluminum heat sink.
The Diplomat stand also incorporates two relatively large diameter, slow-turning, 2200 RPM, USB-powered cooling fans in the unit’s support base. Unlike other actively-cooled laptop stand or lap desk products I’ve tested which suck heated air downward and blow it outward from the computer’s bottom, this fans’ air flow is upwards toward the computer and thence outward through the convection cell aperture formed by the stand’s curved tray, carrying heat away from both the computer and aluminum sink.
Aside from its cooling functions, the Diplomat stand also elevates the open notebook display screen to a more comfortable and ergonomically-sound eye-level when used in conjunction with an external keyboard and mouse, although the unit can also be used flat for typing on the laptop’s own keyboard with the passive or active cooling functions still in play.
Yet another Diplomat stand feature is a built-in, four-port USB 2.0 hub in the left upper corner of its support base, which should prove very handy for use with Apple’s port-challenged notebooks and the proliferation of USB peripheral devices.
In use, the Diplomat’s elevation support arm is adjustable to any of four levels from flat to full elevation, with two intermediate steps. To change the level, you push a large, spring-loaded button on the back of the unit, swing the support arm to the desired position, and release the button, which locks the arm in position. Elegant and simple.
The notebook is supported on the unit by two flip-down pads at the bottom of the face-plate, which are padded with a rubbery material to protect against scratching and to hold the computer in place.
A downside (so to speak) to this is that the support pad blocks the optical drive slot on some older Mac laptops that have front-loading drives, although that’s not an issue with today’s MacBook models which are either side-loaders or, in the case of MacBook Airs, have no optical drives at all.
The Diplomat stand can accommodate any current Apple notebook from the 11.6″ MacBook Air to the 17″ MacBook Pro, as well as legacy machines.
In order to use the stand’s active cooling function, it is necessary to plug the supplied USB cable into a USB port on the computer and into the dedicated small-format input port on the Diplomat’s USB hub. Happily, this does not use up any of the hub’s four standard USB 2.0 ports. There is also a DC power input female jack through which you can externally power the USB hub, although no AC power adapter is supplied. I tried it with a standard 5-volt power adapter, and it worked just fine. A blue indicator LED glows when the hub is powered.
The Diplomat’s cooling fans are controlled by a handy on-off power switch, and they have a rated air flow rating of 20 cubic feet per minute (CFM). If you’re worried about fan noise, rest easy; the Seagate 100 gigabyte 4200 RPM hard drive in my old Pismo is pretty quiet, but at first after switching the Diplomat’s cooling fans on, I wasn’t sure whether they were working, as they were quieter than the hard drive. They are even hard to hear with the computer’s hard drive spun down. The official noise level specification is less than 23 dBA. The fans draw a modest 0.9 watts of power, which could be significant if you’re running off the computer battery. However, the Diplomat is most likely to be used when the computer is in desktop substitute mode with wall current available. The fans operate on a hydraulic ball-bearing system that is claimed to be very dependable, quiet and long lasting. The cooling fans also automatically shut off when the laptop they are connected to is turned off, overriding the On/Off switch by dint of cutting power to the USB port. However, this automatic shutoff when the computer is asleep or shut down does not obtain when the USB hub is powered externally with a power adapter.
Build quality of the Diplomat is up to Lapworks’ usual high standard, and it should last a good long time with reasonable care.
The Lapworks Diplomat Laptop Stand measures 12-7/8″ wide x 11-3/4″ deep x 1-5/8″ thick with the adjustable support arm folded flat, and weighs 2 Lb. 7.5 oz.
I really couldn’t find anything not to like about the Lapworks Diplomat Fan-Cooled Laptop Desk Stand stand other than the minor criticism about access to front-mounted laptop optical drive slots.
The list price of the Diplomat stand is $79.95, but Lapworks currently offers it on sale for $49.95