Fin Laptop Handle/Stand
Requirements: Aluminum PowerBook G4, MacBook, or MacBook Pro.
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.