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The quest for a cooler lap

7:10 PM Wed, Sep 30, 2009 |
Posted by: Walt Zwirko
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If you have occasion to use a modern full-size laptop computer — on your lap — you already know that extended use can make said lap feel a little toasty.

The processor chip that gives the computer its smarts is called on to do a lot of thinking in a very short time, and that generates an ample supply of heat.

 Until recently, I’ve had a good solution to the problem: The original Laptop Desk ($25). It has been shielding my thighs since the turn of the century, and it outlasted three or four notebook PCs along the way.

The Laptop Desk is made out of lightweight plastic and is hinged so it can fold for storage or transport. It is an elegant design that has some shallow ridges to give the bottom of the computer some breathing room in order for it to passively help dissipate the heat.

Alas, after years of almost daily use I finally managed to break the hinges (well beyond the product’s six-month warranty, it should be noted) and computing was starting to get uncomfortable.

LapWorks, the company that developed the Laptop Desk, has introduced other models over the past decade — some smaller (for tinier notebooks), some bigger (to accommodate models with king-size screens or to provide a platform for your mouse). I’ve not sampled any of them, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend LapWorks products based on my experience.

There are other designs professing to deliver heat relief for the road warrior, and I saw a lot of them in local computer stores over the last couple of days.

Several manufacturers offer up a high-tech design that incorporates fans (powered by your notebook’s USB port) in a plastic casing that goes between your lap and your computer to exhaust the hot air. I rejected that outright; I don’t want to be bothered by yet another cable (the power cord and the mouse are quite enough, thank you).

Other options include something that looks like a plastic tray tilting the keyboard up to provide some clearance between the laptop and your legs. My preference is for a horizontal keyboard.

 Then I saw the answer.

It was already in my home, something I had purchased a couple of years ago at Ikea.

It’s the Inreda DVD Rack, a flat, gray, synthetic rubber mat with thin but sturdy vertical ridges spaced about a half inch apart and about a half inch high. It was designed to organize DVD cases in a drawer or on a shelf, but it didn’t really work as well as I had hoped for that purpose, so it had been languishing on a shelf… until my Eureka moment.

I popped it under my blistering notebook and found that it provided just enough clearance to insulate me without being obtrusive. The mat is flexible enough to be comfortable while the ridges provide the necessary stability.

The Inreda DVD Rack is about four or five inches too wide to be perfect for my Dell computer, but the Ikea catalog suggests that it “can be cut to desired size to fit in different spaces.”

 While this product does not appear in Ikea’s current online catalog, I found an ample supply in the company’s giant Frisco store for $7 (check the second floor in the section that has TV furniture).

This exercise should serve to illustrate that it’s always best to keep an open mind when trying to solve a problem.

Have you found an offbeat or unexpected solution to a computer problem? Please share it with us by leaving a comment below!

E-MAIL: askwalt@wfaa.com

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