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ATPM 14.01
January 2008





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Accessory Review

by Chris Lawson

Fin Laptop Handle/Stand


Developer: Fins-Up

Price: $30

Requirements: Aluminum PowerBook G4, MacBook, or MacBook Pro.

Trial: None

Pop quiz: What’s the easiest way to keep a laptop cool? If your answer involved preserving or increasing airflow around the laptop, you get a gold star.

Apple’s laptops are real portable powerhouses, but along with that increased computing power comes a great deal of heat. Using metal cases and advising consumers to ensure the laptop is used on a hard surface help dissipate that heat, to be certain, but I’ve always thought those little rubber feet weren’t doing much for airflow under the laptop when they’re raising it off of the desk only one-sixteenth of an inch.

Fins-Up has a solution. Take one billet of aluminum, machined in the shape of a handle and finished to match Apple’s aluminum, white, or black laptops, and four extra-long screws, and you have the Fin, a laptop stand-cum-handle that makes it easier to carry your PowerBook around while providing better cooling when you’re using the ’Book.


The Fin installed on the bottom of the laptop.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a handle or handle/stand combination for a laptop. Apple built a handle, though not a stand, into the original iBook. QuickerTek developed a similar product way back when the TiBooks were new, and Case-Mate has since taken over the QuickerTek product, now called Handle-It. The Fin is much cheaper than the Handle-It and much more rugged than its spiritual predecessors.

Installation is pretty simple, but you need the right tools. Fins-Up thoughtfully includes two small screwdrivers—a #00 Phillips (for PowerBook G4s) and a #0 Phillips (for MacBooks and MacBook Pros) in the packaging, along with an instruction sheet that clearly explains the process.


The Fin from the back, as installed.

The included screwdrivers may slip—mine did—when breaking the factory screws free of the thread-locking compound used on them, so if you have a good #00 or #0 Phillips screwdriver, you might want to use it instead. If you don’t have one, you can buy a set of precision screwdrivers for a few dollars at most hardware stores. Or borrow one from a tool-loving friend. Kudos to Fins-Up, though, for including the screwdrivers it did, which are certainly better than nothing.

Once installed, there’s really nothing else to do but enjoy your cooler-running laptop. How much cooler? Time constraints prevented a full-blown scientific test or comparisons to other stands, but using the built-in temperature sensor in my PowerBook G4 (1.5 GHz, combo drive, 2 GB RAM), the Fin lowered temperatures about 15°C, depending on the surface. It also kept the fan from running as much when using the PowerBook on surfaces besides wood and glass.


The Fin installed, elevating the laptop off the table.

To be sure, the increased airflow provided by elevating the back of the laptop helps greatly in cooling it better. The Fin, however, is unlike most stands in that it is made of a solid chunk of metal and attached securely to the laptop. This allows the Fin to act as a fairly large heatsink and provides even more surface area through which heat can be exchanged to the ambient air.


The handle function of the Fin in use.

Of course, the Fin works as a handle for carrying your ’Book around, too. Most people, myself included, don’t carry bare laptops around very much anymore since there’s just too much risk. For the few times you need to do that, it sure feels better to have a secure handhold (like what the Fin provides) than to try to grip the slick skin of the laptop itself.


But, you might ask, is there anything I might not like about the Fin? Sadly, very few products that pass through the hands of reviewers here are perfect, and the Fin is no exception. A PowerBook with a Fin installed is not as comfortable for use on the lap, since the Fin digs into your thighs. The Fin gets quite warm—remember the heatsink effect just discussed—though not uncomfortably so for me. Perhaps most importantly, the Fin adds weight and significant size to a laptop. The weight (just a few ounces) isn’t too much of an issue, but if you use a form-fitting case or sleeve, you may find your laptop doesn’t fit as well (or at all) with the Fin installed.

For me, the best aspect of the Fin is that it behaves exactly like a factory extension of my PowerBook. I don’t have to carry an extra piece with me when I travel, which is pretty much all the time. I don’t have to remember to set it up after removing the PowerBook from its case (a MaxUpgrades MaxSleeve which, though fairly form-fitting, is also just stretchy enough to fit with the Fin installed). And it allows me to use the PowerBook in the open sleeve without worrying about heat buildup. Perhaps the most telling thing about the Fin is that my Podium CoolPad, formerly my go-to stand for travel, has gone completely unused since the Fin arrived.

Thirty bucks is cheap insurance against heat-related problems down the road, especially since the stand doubles as a handle. The Fin’s convenience factor, as long as it won’t force you to buy a new laptop bag, is extremely high. Fins-Up gets two human thumbs up from me for this laptop stand.

Reader Comments (6)

R Bohn · January 2, 2008 - 13:45 EST #1
I have to warn about using such products with MacBooks. Apparently because the iCam was added to the bezel, the screens only fold back about 120 degrees. I have a long torso, and the limited angle means that when my Macbook Pro is on my lap, the screen is at too shallow an angle to my eyes. (An LCD screen has a limited viewing angle, so it becomes hard to see.) It's a major problem when I stand up (eg doing a presentation), and even a marginal issue when the machine is on my desk.

Products like Fins-Up make the problem worse, by tilting both the keyboard and the screen forward. It's not their fault - it's Apple's poor design - but we have to live with the effects. As far as I have noted, this problem happens with all portable Macs with built-in cameras.
Chris (ATPM Staff) · January 3, 2008 - 08:14 EST #2
The inability of the AlBook and later Mac laptops to open past about 120 degrees has nothing to do with the integrated iSight and everything to do with the redesigned screen hinge. My AlBook, and all iBooks of similar design, has no integrated iSight at all, but is still "cursed" with that hinge.

I say "cursed" in quotes because the previous hinge designs in Mac laptops had a lot of problems which all seem to have been solved since Apple went to this new design. The downside, of course, is that you can no longer open the laptop as far as you formerly could.

If the screen becomes difficult to see when sitting on your desk because of a 1.5" increase in the height of the screen, you are using a very ergonomically poor workspace and probably have your computer far below where it should be relative to your eyes. Furthermore, your comments would apply pretty much equally to all laptop stands ever reviewed here at ATPM, as they all force a greater screen angle than simply setting the laptop flat on a desk. Referencing my earlier comment about height, though, you should probably look into something like an iCurve (or a taller desk).

RBohn · January 3, 2008 - 17:48 EST #3
Thanks for the information - that hinge explanation does make more sense.
In my normal office, I use an iCurve, a standing desk, and a second monitor. But I'm often not in my office (and right now I'm away for 2 years)! And at that point the issue comes up.

If only they could have added another 20 degrees to the hinge.... but I am sure there were design tradeoffs, since Apple does pay attention to such details.
Kim Lee · January 9, 2008 - 11:32 EST #4
Heatsink qualities aside, I'm not hot on the Fin Laptop handle/stand. I don't miss a handle on my notebook and I think it wrecks the aesthetics of an Apple laptop, especially if you don't have an aluminum model. Besides, it creates an awkward shape for packing. I frequently haul my notebook around and the Fin won't work with any of the cases or laptop bags I've got. And the bother of screwing and unscrewing it when I need to travel with it...!

There is a simpler solution in the Speedball, which has been around for some years and is now available in three different versions. I have used the classic Speedball, the Snapball, for several years now. It can be easily affixed, removed, and packs small and light, slipping in easily with the adaptor and cables.

More on the Speedball at:
Sceek Eller · November 28, 2008 - 14:36 EST #5
There is a new handle in town. Check out the ToteGrip laptop handle at the site with the same name. It's great! You slip it on over the screen, around the hinges and away you go. It fit my Apple just fine and I bought several more for my wife and kids.
Hank H. · January 30, 2009 - 16:42 EST #6
I've had a Fin on my PowerBook for well over a year and love it. I've never had any problems with the viewing angle, and it fits easily into my laptop case. I've become so used to having it on my laptop that that I always wonder what's wrong with my mom's iBook when I help her out. (I guess I ought to buy one for her!)

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