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How ASUS Design Center keeps slim notebooks, cool

If you walk into a computer store and look at the notebook PCs around you, you will notice a trend: they are getting thinner, smaller and lighter.

While we, as consumers, appreciate the sleek and sexy appeal of thin notebooks, achieving this slim form factor is by no means an easy feat. The reduction in size and thickness often means cramming smaller components into a tighter space, leaving little or no room for the heat generated by the internal components to escape properly. That heat can accumulate within the notebook and causes discomfort as we feel the temperature rise in our hands and on our laps.

Do you know that for every 10 degree Celsius increase of internal temperature, the lifespan of the components is reduced by half? That is what the ASUS Design team learned from the thermal engineers in the testing and development of a new heat ventilation feature for laptops.

Hence, the heat is not only bad for us; it is detrimental to the product durability.

So how do we achieve a balance between compact size and effective heat ventilation? Could we have both at the same time? Perhaps the answer lies in the situations where we need one more than the other.

Looking hard into how and where we use our laptops, an obvious fact surfaces: the small, thin and lightweight dimensions matter a lot when we actually carry the thing around, in our hands or in our bags. When we sit down and open up the laptop to use, how thick or thin, light or heavy it is doesn’t really matter any more.

With this insight in mind, our design team stumbled upon a crazy yet interesting thought while developing an eco-friendly laptop concept: “Hey, what if the laptop body can be expanded when it is opened up for use?” In that way, we would create more internal space for air to flow and heat to escape. But then, having a great idea is only half the success, getting the consumers to actually see the value and use it properly is the other half of the challenge.

So our next question is: how do we make this transformation easy and natural for the user to trigger, ideally without any additional, deliberate and conscious effort?

The solution we created is to make a separated keyboard that slides up as the laptop is opened, exposing a large perforated area underneath the keyboard, for hot air to escape (see Figure 1). The other interesting benefit of this slanted keyboard is that its angle provides ergonomic comfort for the wrists during typing. With this idea, we managed to achieve a concept laptop, codenamed the AIRO (Figure 2) that was showcased at the ASUS booth in the Las Vegas CES 2009. The profile of AIRO remains slim when it is closed; when it is opened, the keyboard rises up to improve heat ventilation by natural convection current. As a result, there is less heat produced and less noise generated by ventilation fans.

Figure 1: AIRO prototype showcased at 2009 CES

Figure 1: AIRO prototype showcased at 2009 CES

Figure 2: G53/G73, inspired by AIRO

Figure 2: G53/G73, inspired by AIRO

The principle of this natural cooling idea and the ergonomic angled keyboard inspired the design of the recently launched ASUS G53 and G73 gaming laptop (see Figure 2 above).

What the design team has learnt from this project is that a smart solution does not necessarily have to be a technologically advanced and costly one, especially if we look for answers in Nature around us.

So think about this, how important is slimness to you, and how much more premium are you willing to pay for it?

– WeeKiat Tan, Design Researcher, ASUS Design Center Singapore

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