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ATPM 10.04
April 2004

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Review: iBreeze

by Chris Lawson, clawson@atpm.com

good

Developer: MacMice

Price: $30

Requirements: any laptop computer

Trial: None

Sometimes passive cooling simply isn’t enough. Anyone with a recent G4-based laptop knows how warm they can get, and probably knows how loud the fans get when they’re on high. Of course, cooling isn’t the only problem with laptops. As mentioned in last month’s Contour NoteRiser review, ergonomics is also a major issue. Enter the iBreeze by the MacMice Workspace Products Company, the latest venture of the rather infamous Jack Campbell.

ibreeze-front

To digress briefly from the review, allow me to explain the “infamous” comment. Jack Campbell began making a name for himself in the Mac sphere by ripping off Green Designs’ product line at his MacTable.com site. He followed this up by threatening MacInTouch with legal action for publishing the linked report. After the MacTable venture was blown wide open, Mr. Campbell moved on to DVForge.com and began a rumormongering site called MacWhispers. Around the same time, he started MacMice, which appears to be the only venture still active. MacMice’s modus operandi for its first several months of operation seemed to be finding dirt-cheap products elsewhere and either building ripoffs of them or simply reselling them for much higher prices. For example, the iTilt bore a remarkable resemblance to an adjustable display easel sold as a book stand by many merchants. Mr. Campbell and MacMice seem to have cleaned up their collective act, but readers are encouraged to explore the entire MacInTouch Reader Report for informational purposes.

ibreeze-top

Now, back to the review. The iBreeze consists of a folded acrylic sheet, two translucent 60 mm fans, and a short length of USB cable. Eight translucent rubber bumpers sit on the upper surface of the acrylic to keep the laptop from sliding off, though the extremely shallow angle of the iBreeze should largely prevent this in the first place. Compared to the compound used on other laptop stands this reviewer has used, these bumpers are substantially less sticky, and thus less effective at holding the laptop in place. They do, however, keep the laptop and iBreeze from rubbing directly on each other, preserving the attractive surfaces of each.

ibreeze-rear

So how does the iBreeze perform? Its primary goal is cooling, and the two 60 mm fans send a steady and fairly quiet stream of air across the bottom of the laptop, where Apple’s recent laptops have their primary heat-dissipating plates. This is a great design in theory. In practice, it isn’t quite as impressive. Heat rises, and on the 15" TiBook (as well as most other Apple laptops with the flip-up keyboard design), a large portion of the heat generated is dissipated through the keyboard. This isn’t to say the bottom of the laptop doesn’t also get hot—it does—but the extra airflow doesn’t prevent the TiBook’s two internal fans from coming on while thrashing on the CPU with SETI@home or the Distributed.net client. In this reviewer’s opinion, this failure is nearly fatal, as it is a failure of the product’s primary feature: quiet active cooling.

ibreeze-fan

Like the CoolPads, the iBreeze is fairly portable, though it weighs more than either CoolPad model. As with all portable laptop stands, the ergonomics leave something to be desired. In the case of the iBreeze, they leave a lot to be desired. The NoteRiser largely rules this roost, but even the Podium CoolPad easily out-ergos the iBreeze, which elevates laptops about as much as a one-inch loose-leaf binder. The saving grace of the iBreeze is its price. You could do a lot worse, style-wise, for $30, and the price is fairly typical of active-cooling laptop stands, like the Bytec Aluminum Notebook Cooler which appears to have been the, ahem, “inspiration” for the iBreeze.

If you thrash your laptop’s processor hard and find the internal fan noise bothersome, this attractive stand should keep your fan(s) from coming on above the lowest speed. But if you’re looking for a go-everywhere laptop stand, well, there’s a reason everyone likes the CoolPads, and nobody questions Jim MacEachern’s motives.

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