Page 2 - A Closer Look, Usage
The Cooler Master Storm SF-15 is very difficult to describe in a single word. To me, it looks very industrialized and chunky, with sharp edges and intended cut outs. The cooler is fully black in color, which makes any accents very subtle. The construction of the cooler is mostly plastic, with mesh where the fan is located, and rubber lining the top and bottom. The plastic body feels cheap in the hand, and takes away from the more premium presence that is felt in the higher models of Cooler Master's lineup. However, it holds up the laptop sturdily. The mesh on the top surface allows for maximum airflow from the fan to the laptop, while also moving dissipating heat away from the bottom. The majority of laptop coolers utilize a mesh surface, as it does the job, while keeping other debris and particles out. The rubber at the bottom and the top of the cooler act as shock absorbers, useful when raging players take out their fury on the desk. It also grips that hold the laptop in place. The top two rubber bumpers also act as a cabling manager with inserts at the back of the rubber pieces. However, the location of these rubber bumpers is quite odd, as my own experience found my laptop to be quite unstable. Rather than letting the laptop rest on its own four corner feet, the raised rubber bumpers are in the middle, and therefore the laptop does not sit comfortably. Take in mind my laptop is 14.1”, and other notebook computers will vary based on their own design. The rubber also attracts quite a bit of dust, which is extremely hard to wipe off. The more you wipe with any cloth, even microfiber, the faster the dust comes back. This makes the cooler look quite a bit dirtier and run down than I would like. Even before I placed my laptop and started to use the cooler, there were already quite a few particles gathered on the cooler.
In terms of actual build quality, I would have wished that the CM Storm SF-15 was a bit more rugged. While it may keep up the appearances with the rubber holding the computer, the rest of the body feels very flimsy. On the back, a plastic grating is behind the fan and flexes quite noticeably, almost as if it would snap when enough force is applied. Because of this, I would not necessarily be comfortable with moving it around. Now in terms of portability, the CM Storm SF-15 weighs approximately 1.1kg, and is not too heavy to bear. Of course, I would not recommend utilizing the laptop cooler anywhere besides a table, especially as this product is designed for desk usage. It does still add some bulk; measuring in at 365 x 292 x 70 mm at largest proportions. The laptop cooler, as mentioned before, is able to handle notebook computers up to 15.6”, but personally speaking, I would not think anything larger than a 14” laptop would fit on this product. My laptop already covers the whole of the cooler, and it seems unlikely that anything larger would sit on top without overhang. The Cooler Master Storm SF-15 also has the ability to change the incline of the laptop, but I will expand on this more later.
The right side of the cooler is where all the USB ports and other buttons are located. From left to right there are four USB ports, the fan on/off switch, the LED on/off switch, a mini-USB port, and a micro-USB port. The four USB ports on the left are only USB 2.0, which is a bit odd. USB 3.0 is found in many devices nowadays. It is even coming to new smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It would be nice if Cooler Master were to upgrade their ports, but considering the price range of this product, USB 2.0 will do the job for now. Instead, we should be happy that this cooler has USB ports at all, as it targets one of the things that notebook computers do not necessarily have a lot of. The fan switch is as it is, with only two settings for the fan speed: On and off. It was a bit misleading for Cooler Master to put a range of 700 to 1200RPM when describing the fan speed. I tried to twist the button to no avail, until I realized something was incorrect. Personally, I think there was a typo in the specifications, especially since the cooler has no way of actually adjusting the rotational speed. The ability to change the rate of the fan would have been nice, as both the SF-17 and SF-19 have it. The LED on/off switch functions in the same way, without any variability included. Turning on the LED switch causes six lighting strips to glow a bright red. This is one of the cooler features that Cooler Master has included, and it adds quite a bit to the awesome level of this peripheral. Finally, the last two ports, the mini- and the micro-USB, can be used to power the fan. The mini-USB port is intended to be utilized with the included cable to connect to the computer. The user also has the option to use any micro-USB cable to power the fans. Since micro-USB is in many mobile devices, most users should have no problems finding some kicking around.
Turning to the back reveals the two feet that this cooler can stand upon. As prior mentioned, the Cooler Master Storm SF-15 has two settings for the tilt angle: High, and too high. Even if the user does not utilize these feet, there is already an incline based on the shape of the cooler. When the feet are further extended, it becomes almost too much of a ramp. The large button you see in the picture above is a release switch, which, when pressed, allows the spring-loaded foot to be popped out. If a user wants to push the feet back in, they must also press the button while pushing it in. I must say that the implementation of these feet are very well designed, with a smooth pop when stretched out, and an audible click to ensure the users that the feet are locked in. The other thing that is important to mention is the cable management, which is the notched area on the rubber pieces. This allows cables to be strung around the cooler, without making the laptop look messy. While it really only has room for one cable at a time, it is effective and holds the cable tightly.
Flipping the cooler over and we are able to see the bottom, where a few more interesting features lie. As revealed before, on the sides and bottom are the six LED strips, which glow a bright red when the lighting is turned on. These light strips are evenly lit, and looks very cool when placed on any desk. In my opinion, this adds a premium feel to what is intended to be a value-focused item. At the very top are the two pop-out feet, and in between those is another rubber insert that doubles as a handle. Since this is a portable item, the inclusion of a handle is well thought through. This will make it easier to travel with the Cooler Master Storm SF-15. Finally in the middle is the exhaust area, which allows air to draw in and out. As I have referred to before, this middle area is very flimsy, and should be fixed or improved upon in the next iteration. In terms of stability, the cooler is very sturdy on its feet, as the rubber grips on the bottom secure the SF-15 in place at all times.
Finally, we get to the main reason for buying the CM Storm SF-15: The fan. Normally, at this time, I would whip out my handy Phillips screwdriver, and I would start taking this whole thing apart. In regular circumstances, taking apart any computer peripheral would probably void your warranty, so proceed with caution. I soon realized though I did not have to void my warranty. After unscrewing all the screws, I thought a quick yank would allow me to get closer to the fans. Yet the enclosure would not come apart. Due to the nature of the rubber sidings that wrap around both the top and the bottom of the cooler, I would have to rip off all the rubber inserts. Since I was not in the mood to peel off each rubber insert and then reapplying them back to their original location while hoping they would continue to stick, I left the enclosure in one piece. Unlike the SF-19, which allows users to swap the fans for any other 140mm, the SF-15 utilizes a proprietary 160mm fan that wafts cool air. Cooler Master’s website states a variable RPM of 700 to 1200, but I am not certain of this, especially since there is no actual variable feature in the product. I can say they do spin fast, and draw in air quite well. We will see about actual performance on the next page.
Plugging my computer in and placing it on the cooler, I also took out my other peripherals and devices, and plugged them into the four USB ports. From top to bottom are the following: A Gigabyte Aivia Uranium Wireless Mouse, standard 4GB Sandisk Cruzer USB drive, HTC One X+ cable (Yes, I finally bought a smartphone!), and a Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Pro. As you can see, the ports are quite spread out, and allow enough space to plug in all the inputs. The fourth USB port is even more separated from the rest, so if you do have a wider-than-normal USB plug, you can fit it there without obstructing the other inputs. Other than that, they function similar to any other standard USB inputs, which is good.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specification
2. A Closer Look, Usage
3. Testing and Conclusion