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iStatPro and Antec CPU Cooler

A while back I mentioned buying this Antec Notebook Cooler. I didn't do a review on it because I hadn't used it long enough and it's the kind of thing you do want to use for a bit before forming an opinion. I bought it because it seemed to me that my MacBook Pro runs uncomfortably hot - sometimes I have it in my lap and it's quite uncomfortable. I was worried about it sitting on my desk because if I moved it, even the desk surface where it had sat seemed too warm.

This Antec unit is an aluminum base with perforated holes that a fan drives air through. Soft feet elevate the notebook about a half inch above the unit.

Noise

This thing draws fan power from a USB connector. That runs a fan, and when I first got it I was impressed by how whisper quiet it was. Well, about a month later it started making loud noises at startup. It does quiet down after a while, but it can be pretty annoying while it lasts.

Temperature

MacBook Pro's come with internal temperature sensors. Apple doesn't provide anything to read them, but iSlayer's iStat Pro Widget does. I don't like Widgets, so would have preferred to use their iStat menus, but that did not work for me at all: it installs the System Preferences Panel but any attempt to actually activate anything as a menu bar item fails. Oh well, a Widget is better than nothing. I donated $9.00 for this freeware download - I would have given them more if the iStat menus had worked..

Anyway - I tested this unit three different ways. In the snapshots shown below I have turned off most of iStat Pro's features and am showing only temperature and fan speed. For all measurements, I left the system unattended for thirty minutes running a sudo "ls -lR /" to keep the CPU and disk busy.

On Desktop

This is the system simply sitting flat on a wood desktop.

iStat pro Widget showing CPU A 169 F, 2368 RPM left fan, enclosure 92 F

On Antec with Fan

This is sitting on the Antec unit with the Antec fan running.

iStat pro Widget showing CPU A 157 F, 1073 RPM left fan, enclosure 86 F

On Antec without Fan

This is with the Antec fan shut off. The computer now just has the half inch air space between it and the Antec's aluminum plate.

iStat pro Widget showing CPU A 169F, 2038 RPM left fan, enclosure 94 F

It's easy to see that the major difference here is how fast the MacBook's fans have to run to keep the CPU cool. Without the Antec's fan, the MacBook fans run faster, and they run faster still when the Macbook simply sits on the wooden desk. The fans run at half those speeds or less when the Antec fan is run, and CPU temperature is 12 degrees Fahrenheit cooler.

It seems very plain that the Antec CPU Cooler really does cool the unit and require less work from the MacBook's internal fans.

Under more typical conditions of me working, the CPU A temperature reaches 187 degrees Fahrenheit and the fans run at 3500 RPM with the Antec. With the Antec fan off, the temperature stays about the same, but the fans jump to 4500 RPM or so.



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Tue Apr 8 15:16:32 2008: 3997   rbailin


Even with the Antec, that still sounds way too hot for an idle temp on a laptop. Do you own a cat or other small furry animal that wanders your home, shedding everywhere? You'd be surprised how much microscopic hair gets past the fan guard (if any) and ends up coating the fins on the heatsink(s). Or just clogging the air inlet altogether.

Was your laptop always this hot from day 1 or has it gotten worse over time?

--Bob



Tue Apr 8 15:23:58 2008: 3998   TonyLawrence

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That's not idle - there was a constant "ls -lR /" running to push it up.

MacBooks do run pretty hot..







Tue Apr 8 15:40:25 2008: 3999   TonyLawrence

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Oh, and remember - I'm set at Fahrenheit. Most of the time I see people report in Celsius..



Wed Apr 9 16:16:37 2008: 4017   BigDumbDinosaur


That runs a fan, and when I first got it I was impressed by how whisper quiet it was. Well, about a month later it started making loud noises at startup. It does quiet down after a while, but it can be pretty annoying while it lasts.

That's a common complaint with the type of fan used in the Antec unit (many of Antec's case fans do the same thing). After initial operation, it appears that the lubricant in the fan motor's ball bearing thins out. At startup, when the motor is cold, the bearing is loose and the fan blade oscillates, making noise. As the motor temperature rises, the bearing clearance decreases, the fan blade runs true and the noise subsides. As you pointed out, it's more annoying than anything else.

The only thing I wouldn't like about this arrangement is the fan power being drawn from a USB port. While most USB ports can provide the necessary current, the commutation spikes generated by the fan motor could find their way back into the laptop's power supply and possibly upset another USB device.



Wed Apr 9 16:22:46 2008: 4018   TonyLawrence

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I actually have it plugged into a powered USB hub..



Thu Jan 29 21:21:10 2009: 5271   TonyLawrence

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I realized today that wasn't completely clear: there's nothing BUT that fan plugged into that powered usb hub - the computer is not..



Thu Nov 4 12:56:44 2010: 9097   TonyLawrence

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I was talking to someone about dust buildup the other night, so I thought of this and fired up iStat to see if this machine runs hotter now than it did 3.5 years ago when I first wrote this.

It doesn't. The temps are within a degree at most of what they were then.

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