If you spend a lot of time Web surfing on the couch—or on the patio, or in bed, or anywhere else where there’s no tabletop in front of you—you know that one of the biggest liabilities of laptop computing is a burned-out lap. In the past, I’ll confess to making ample use of plump living room pillows to block the considerable heat generated by my laptop, but that’s not the optimal methodology (especially since it actually made the laptop hotter—just not on my legs).
I have now reformed my ways thanks to Targus’s $50 Chill Mat for Mac. The Chill Mat, as its name implies, sits directly on your lap while your furnace of a laptop sits on top of it. The Mat weighs about 1.6 pounds and is constructed of a light piece of rigid-mesh plastic on the top (where the computer sits) and a flexible-mesh screen on the bottom (where it sits on your lap). It comes in a neutral color called lunar gray, which by itself is not appealing, but which looks nice with every Mac laptop available. Inside the Chill Mat’s two layers sit two USB-powered fans that run agreeably quietly. An on/off switch lets you control the fans, so you can still make use of the Mat if you choose not to run the fans. However, there’s no speed adjustment; the fans are either on or off.
If you mainly use your laptop around the house or office, you never need to detach the Chill Mat—I’ve found it quite convenient at home to keep the device tethered to the computer, storing them together. You can run the Chill Mat from a hub, as well, so you need not block a precious USB port to keep cool.
The Chill Mat has an angled-top design for comfortable laptop typing, and its dimensions (15.2 inches wide by 11.2 inches deep) can easily accommodate a 17-inch MacBook Pro. The Mat is just under 1.5 inches thick.
How well does the Chill Mat work? Just great. I’ve been using one for several weeks, and it always keeps my lap cool; more to the point, it lets me use my MacBook safely on my lap. I also found there to be little additional drain on the MacBook’s battery from the Chill Mat: in my testing, battery life was reduced by fewer than 15 minutes when the Chill Mat’s fans were enabled. Of course, if you’re using the computer at home, you may (as I do) just run your laptop off its power supply, so there’s no need to worry about battery life. The Chill Mat also works well with tabletops and other surfaces to prevent the computer’s hot bottom from damaging them.
The Chill Mat for Mac is an excellent product. It does what it says it will do, quietly and efficiently. For $50, you can have a cool, comfy lap and a lightweight, attractive platform on which to store your laptop.