Review: SVALT D2 dock cools notebook for higher performance

Clean up your workspace and get a power boost at the same time

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Svalt Design
At a Glance
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock for Apple Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops

The scoop: SVALT D2 dock/cooling fan, by Svalt Design, about $200.

What is it? The SVALT D2 is a solid, pyramid-like device with a notch in front and a flat top. The idea behind the dock is that you take a compatible Macintosh notebook (check here for compatibility) and put it into clamshell mode connected to an external display (and a USB mouse/keyboard). While in this mode, the built-in heat sink on the SVALT D2 helps cool the notebook, bringing about higher performance for the notebook (the theory being that cooler notebooks allow for faster notebook performance).

svalt d2 back 1200 Svalt Design

The back of the Svalt D2 includes a fan that can cool down the attached Mac notebook.

Why it’s cool: Users who continually experience slowdowns due to high-performance activities on their notebooks (long gaming sessions, video editing and other graphics-intensive functions) might consider switching from a notebook in open-mode (with or without a display attached) to the clamshell mode of operation. The company says that in clamshell mode, the notebook becomes more like a desktop system in terms of its performance.

In addition, having the notebook in clamshell mode also improves the simplicity of a workspace environment – especially if you can attach two displays together, you can get the dual display effect while keeping the notebook cooled.

I performed some very basic performance tests (with the Geekbench 3 and 4 Mac benchmarking tool) to see whether performance improved with the dock and clamshell mode, versus having the notebook display open in dual-display mode. For the most part, performance did improve when the notebook was in clamshell mode, indicating that the dock was doing its job and helping to keep the notebook cool.

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If you don't like the idea of sacrificing your notebook's display by putting it into clamshell mode, you should get a second display/monitor.

Some caveats: The device has several modes of operation depending on how much cooling you want the fan to blast – this is indicated on the user guide as 2x Turbo, 3x Turbo, 4x Custom, etc. The mode is determined via a LED that is tucked inside the fan on the back side of the device. Switching the mode is done with the device’s power button – click twice for 2x, three times for 3x, etc., and the LED would flash fast, medium or slow to indicate the proper mode). But with the notebook attached to the front of the dock, it was nearly impossible to see what mode the device was in. Most users would likely give up on trying to determine what mode they were in, leaving it for the default setting, thereby eliminating the benefits of the other modes. Some kind of ‘mode switch” button with a light (or several lights) on the front of the device would go a long way to help users figure out what mode they were operating.

The other thing to consider is that if you move your work setup from a dual-display (notebook display plus one external monitor) to a single-display setup, you lose that extra display that you (or employees) were accustomed to having. Be prepared for this, or invest in a second monitor in order to retain that screen real estate.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five).

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At a Glance
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock for Apple Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops

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