Holiday gift ideas: home and office gear

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Laptop cooling systems (Targus, NZXT, ThermaPAK)

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Notebook cooling devices get a bad rap -- I've had readers send me e-mail that it's just as easy to take a sheet of metal and create your own system rather than pay $50 or more for something that basically elevates your notebook to cool it and make it somewhat more ergonomic. If you're handy with tools, then go for it, but I still enjoy seeing different features being made to help cool laptop systems, which continue to run hot -- especially if you have a large notebook.

I received three different cooling devices this year, with different approaches. My favorite was the Targus Lap Chill Mat ($50), which combined the best features of some of the other devices I've tried over year. First, two USB-powered fans deliver quiet cooling to your notebook. Second, a soft pad around the mat provides comfort for you and the notebook, and the angled design helps make it more comfortable on your arms when you're typing. The Chill Mat also is lightweight, making it somewhat easy for traveling.

The second device I liked was the NZXT Cryo LX aluminum notebook cooler ($68 street). Designed more for gaming and multimedia notebooks than you'll use in the home, the Cryo LX is a solid aluminum frame that includes three adjustable fans powered by a separate adapter. This cooler also includes four USB ports on the rear of the device, creating a USB hub for notebooks up to 17-inches in size. The unit does fold up slightly, but it's so heavy that I wouldn't recommend for traveling. It's more aimed at the gaming market.

Finally, I enjoyed the simple HeatShift Laptop Cooler by ThermaPAK ($35 for 17-inch model). The simple space-age pad is slightly larger than a mouse pad that you place your notebook on, and it dissipates heat without needing power or fans. The company says that organic crystals inside the HeatShift dissipate heat when a notebook is placed on it. Grooved channels in the pad help enhance airflow. It's extremely lightweight for travel purposes. The only downside: It's not angled, creating some ergonomic issues.

Cool Yule Ratings: 4 stars for all three.

Product Web sites: Targus, NZXT, HeatShift.

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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