Although I was originally happy with the Belkin COOLMAX USB Laptop Cooling Pad NB-200 which I bought two years ago, I decided over time that it was really more trouble than it was worth. Over time, I began to really dislike the extra inch in height that the COOLMAX raised the laptop. I also found it awkward to carry it under the laptop when I moved from room to room (this may have been because I was using too small of a cooling pad for my 17 inch laptop). Finally, dealing with the USB power cord just became annoying. After quite a bit of thought, I decided that my powered laptop cooling pad had just been an impulse buy of a cheap item that I really did not need. Admitting my mistake was my first step towards improving my situation.
A cooling pad serves two primary purposes: 1) It improves air flow and reduces the temperature of the laptop, and 2) It protects the work surface (or body parts) under the laptop from heat damage.
Since neither my laptop or netbook get particularly hot, I was more concerned with protecting the work surface (and body parts) from prolonged low levels of heat. Because of my disenchantment with powered options, I decided to try a passive (non-powered) pad.
The rectangular 12" by 17.75" (approximate) rattan placemats from Sur La Table have been the perfect solution for my needs. It provides added airflow and protects the underlying surface. They require no power, and they don't look out of place if I leave one on the kitchen table, coffee table, or desk. It has a much lower profile (it is about one quarter of an inch high) than my Belkin one. They are easy to carry along with the laptop when taking it from room to room; simply put your fingers under the mat while holding the computer firmly on top with you thumbs.
When used on your lap when wearing short pants, the rattan provides a not unpleasant exfoliating massage action. The neutral tan color of the placemats tend to complement most decors. Additionally, you can use it under hot casserole dishes if you have a potluck party. Rattan seems to be an ideal material for a cooling pad, because it is fairly stiff and has adequate space between the woven rows to provide the required ventilation.
I am very happy with my rectangular rattan eco friendly laptop cooling pad. The complexity of my old one makes me appreciate the simplicity of my new solution.