Have you been looking for a highly portable way to prop up your laptop and improve its ability to cool itself while on the go?
This is a product that has actually been out for quite a while now but is still a staple in my gear bag when I travel and I even use it at home. It’s simply a bar of solid machined aluminum made by Just Mobile to prop up your laptop to allow air to circulate under it to keep it cooler, and to raise the keyboard to a more ergonomic angle for typing.
Quick note: This is the first of a few reviews I have planned to cover items that are regulars in my gear bag. I’ve realized that there are several items I use on a regular basis to maximize my ability to work efficiently when I travel that I haven’t reviewed and I wanted to share these with you.
As I mentioned, the Cooling Bar is made of solid aluminum with a strip of rubber along the bottom for grip and rubber strips encircling the ends so it won’t scratch your laptop. The Xtand/Just Mobile site goes a little further, describing that it has “a unique diamond-cut design to match the style of your MacBook.” I use it with my MacBook Air and it works very well with it and complements it nicely. Of course, the Cooling Bar can be used with just about any laptop, not just those in Apple’s product line-up.
The Cooling Bar is 15 inches long and just under 1/2 inch in diameter. The bottom of the bar is flat and covered with a rubber strip so it won’t slide around. Both ends of the bar are encircled with 3 thin black rubber strips that are meant to prevent your MacBook from resting directly on the aluminum to prevent scratches.
On the left side of the bar is a cut-out intended to hold your MacBook’s power cable out of the way. Since the power cable connector on my MacBook Air is different from those of the MacBooks and MacBook Pros, this slot is largely useless to me though this does not affect its functionality or usefulness.
The edges at each end of the bar are beveled to give it a little more panache – these are the shiniest parts of the bar while the rest is brushed aluminum.
The Just Mobile logo is imprinted on the center of the bar in a very unobtrusive way.
All in all, I think the Cooling Bar looks very understated yet expensive.
Using the Cooling Bar is as easy as pie – you just set it down on a table and prop the rear end of your MacBook up on it. Done! For my MacBook Air, it takes a little more effort to make sure the vent that’s in that area isn’t blocked by the Cooling Bar, but that’s it. The rubber rings on the bar prevent my MacBook Air from getting scratched by the Cooling Bar and it’s the perfect length to be able to grasp the ends of the bar and move it around under my MacBook Air if I need to reposition the computer.
The flat bottom keeps the bar stable enough so that it doesn’t roll around. It elevates my MacBook Air well enough to allow air to circulate underneath it. I haven’t done any rigorous testing of the temperature differences between using the Cooling Bar and not using it, but I have noticed that the fans seem to run less often when using the Cooling Bar, indicating that it is working to some extent and I’m happy with this. It also does prop the keyboard up to a better angle for typing.
The portability of the Cooling Bar is one of my favorite things about it. I have a Rain Design iLap that I use at home while I sit on the couch, and while the Cooling Bar is not meant for this kind of use and is not really comparable to the iLap in this way, the iLap is far bulkier and would not be feasible to carry around in my backpack to use while out and about. The Cooling Bar slips right into any of the laptop bags I use and takes up little room.
I have taken it to CES and on other trips, packing the Cooling Bar in my carry-on bag. I got stopped by airport security once – I knew there was going to be trouble when I was waiting for my bags to come through the X-ray machine and two TSA agents were peering at the screen and whispering back and forth. I heard one of them say “Just see what it is,” and then I was asked if they could check my bag. The agent pulled it out and asked me what it was. She didn’t seem to get it when I described it as a “laptop cooling bar” and I had to say it a few times and then demonstrate it for her since I had my MacBook Air in my hand anyway. She finally understood and then let me go, saying that they’d never seen anything like that and just wanted to check it out.
I had thought about potential issues getting through airport security with the bar since it is sturdy enough to be a weapon and could hurt someone pretty badly if used as a small club. But I figured that they would see with the x-ray machine that there’s no wiring or anything inside and it couldn’t be a bomb or other dangerous item disguised as something harmless.
I like the Cooling Bar a lot – it’s a regular staple in my gear bag now and I make it a point to take it with me when I’m going to do some work at a coffee shop or the library. It does appear to let my MacBook Air cool off enough to prevent the fans from running as often and it does help raise the keyboard to be more comfortable ergonomically. While it’s a little more expensive for what it is than I’d like, I’d recommend buying one if you want a very portable solution to let air circulate under your portable Mac or other laptop a bit more and to raise the keyboard to a better angle for typing.
You can find a few more pictures of the bar with my MacBook Air on my Flickr page. If you want to buy it (and support my site in the process), you can purchase it from Amazon here. I’m happy to answer any questions about the bar – just drop me a note through this contact form.