Philips SDC5100 notebook CushionSpeaker review

Admit it, you sit there, laptop on knee, browsing the Internet whilst watching TV and eating spaghetti hoops. We're sure a lot of people run the gauntlet everyday, suffering warmed legs and audiological horrors. As a result there are a number of accessories for just such a situation and the Philips CushionSpeaker is one such object.

Looking to combat the horrors of hot-notebook-on-knee and slay the demons of poor-sound-from-your-notebook, the CushionSpeaker offers up a top panel of plastic on which your notebook will sit, and a bottom generously padded and covered with neoprene.

The front edge of the CushionSpeaker sees the speaker, and around the back is a retractable USB cable, so it hides neatly out of the way when not needed. The CushionSpeaker doesn't go the whole hog and offer a cooling fan too, which would have rounded out the specs nicely for those that like to lie in bed and fiddle with their computer.

The flat surface is designed to give your laptop the same clearance it would get on a table, so the ventilation holes can all do their job and keep it cool. Use a normal cushion and your laptop will soon get hot and start complaining. It's a sound principle and we have no problem with it.

We'd have liked to see a rubberised finish on the surface to give better grip however. We tested the CushionSpeaker with a MacBook (13-inch) and an Acer Aspire (15-inch) and neither had any grip. To get around this problem Philips supply four self-adhesive rubber blobs that you can stick onto your computer to give it better grip.

A raised strip at the front of the CushionSpeaker aims to stop any slippage, so if your rubber feet are sturdy enough, you should be able to use it something of an angle. We decided we didn't want to add extra rubber to our MacBook and found the raised strip was insufficient to stop the computer sliding off.

The cushion itself is perfectly comfortable, but it seems a little too big. Given that the aim is to provide a comfortable platform for your computer, we'd have thought that half the height would have been sufficient. As it is, once you have the CushionSpeaker on your knees and your computer on the top, it puts you at a funny angle for typing. At least on your knees you can rest your arms on your legs, but try as we might, we just couldn't get comfortable.

Running along the front of the CushionSpeaker is the speaker. The box highlights this as having "surprising sound". We were expecting it to jump out and shout "boo!", but alas, it was not to be. The speaker is powered by USB, so it is active rather than passive as a normal 3.5mm connection would have been. This does mean that you lose a USB port in the pursuit of audio magic.

And is the audio magic? Well not really. It is better than your average notebook, offering a stereo neodymium magnet system, bring a richness to the bass that you don't normally get from your notebook. Yes, you could use headphones, which would give you an even better result, but this does allow you to improve the audio output of your computer whilst listening out for the phone or doorbell.

There is one problem however. Placing the speaker in the front of the assembly, and making the cushion so fat, means that your hands or arms almost always fall over the speaker grill, muffling the output. If you are just lying in bed watching The Wire or something then this doesn't matter, but if you are typing away listening to Spotify, you might not get the music output you expect.

Verdict

The Philips notebook CushionSpeaker does have a place in the world of laptop accessories and for some it will meet the need of providing a comfortable platform and improving the sound. But for those that actually want to type a great amount, it just seems too big, the surface is too slippery and the speaker will be blocked by your arms.

The quality of the construction if good as you'd expect from Philips, but the design doesn’t hit the mark for us. For a relatively simple concept, there is too much here that doesn’t sit right.