Blog Post

Chill Mat for Mac Cools Your Laptop and Your Lap

Have a MacBook that is a hottie, literally?

Today’s laptop computers, from the 1.6 GHz MacBook Air on up, have more performance than most of us need, but the downside is heat. When I first reviewed Targus’s Chill Mat product nearly four years ago, it was a utilitarian-looking device that did its job efficiently enough, but wouldn’t win any beauty contests or industrial design awards. The original Chill Mat was a rectangular slab of hard ABS plastic with a matte metallic finish and two embedded large-diameter, slow-turning cooling fans which drew heated air away from the laptop mounted on it, exhausting them through a wide, rear-facing port.

As part of its new “for Mac” line of computer accessories, Targus has completely restyled and re-engineered the Chill Mat. It’s still rectangular (albeit now with rounded corners), and still incorporates two USB-powered internal fans, but pretty much everything else is changed.

Instead of hard plastic top end bottom surfaces, the new Targus Chill Mat for Mac is faced top and bottom with soft, breathable nylon mesh that will be comfortably gentle to your laptop’s bottom and to your own lap or other support surface upon which it rests, protecting them from scratching and chafing as well as insulating from and reducing heat.

The old Chill Mat was flat, orienting the computer parallel to the support surface, but the new model’s upper body is tilted so that the notebook rests angled higher at the back, a configuration many users prefer. A potential downside of this, so to speak, is that the tilted design makes the new Chill Mat substantially thicker than the old one was, and consequently harder to store and carry.

Measuring 15.16″ x 11.22″ x 1.45″, and weighing 1.6 lb., the new Chill Mat is now about 20 percent larger in general than the preceding model, reflecting an increase in widescreen notebook footprints these days, and it can comfortably accommodate all Apple laptop models including the 17-inch MacBook Pro and PowerBook. Instead of the older design’s industrial-looking matte silver finish, the hard surfaces of the new Chill Mat have a glossy-finish “lunar grey” plastic, which aside from a Targus logo is clean except for a pushbutton on/off switch at the center of the back upper housing.

The new design’s two, single-speed internal cooling fans now push cooling air toward the bottom of the computer rather than drawing heated air away as was the case with the older unit. Power for the fans is supplied by one of the computer’s USB ports via a supplied 28″ USB cable that plugs into a corresponding port on the back of the Chill Mat. The fans don’t draw a whole lot of power, diminishing a battery charge life by about 15 minutes, and no issue at all when plugged in to wall current.

From a functional standpoint, the Targus Chill Mat fulfills its intended roles. The cooling fans can lower the operating temperature of the notebook significantly, and when used in lap desk mode it’s much more comfortable than operating the laptop directly on your thighs — and not just because of the thermal benefits. It also looks nice. The new styling is smart and tasteful, and the standard of finish much higher than with the original product.

Aside from its greater bulk, which does make the new Chill Mat considerably less amenable to storage and carriage in a computer bag or backpack than the old one was, my main complaint is that the fans, which were whisper-quiet and barely audible in the original Chill Mat, are substantially noisier in the new one. They appear to be approximately the same diameter, so I deduce that the higher noise level is due to them turning faster, perhaps consequent to the change in mode from sucking heat away to blowing cool air inward and upward. They’re not nearly as loud as an internal MacBook fan at high RPM, and the noise is mercifully lower pitched and thus less irritating, but you certainly notice the sound, which wasn’t an issue with the old Chill Mat. Other than those caveats, it’s pretty much all good.

The Targus Chill Mat for Mac lists for $49.99 and is covered by a 1-Year Warranty.