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Laptop Clamshell Setup

  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display Apple Thunderbolt Display Apple Wireless Keyboard Workstation
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock with MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display open for powering on clamshell mode

The SVALT Cooling Dock was designed to transform closed-screen clamshell mode laptops into high-productivity desktop workstations without requiring any laptop modifications.

What is Clamshell Mode?

For anyone who isn’t familiar with clamshell mode and how to operate a laptop in clamshell mode, then fret not - we’ll break down what this means and why it’s useful. Put simply, clamshell mode is an Apple supported configuration that allows you to treat your laptop like a desktop tower, disabling the laptop’s built-in screen, keyboard, trackpad and speakers so that you can use larger, more powerful and more ergonomic external monitor, keyboard, trackpad/mouse, speakers, and any other accessory you require to create a full featured desktop workstation (see Workstation Ergonomics).

Clamshell Mode Setup

To operate an Apple laptop in closed screen clamshell mode the following accessories are required:

External Display
You will need one or more external display. One of the advantages of a clamshell workstation is that it disables the laptop’s built-in screen to help optimize graphics performance for driving multiple full-sized and high-resolution external displays. The two or more identical external displays can be placed side-by-side to provide a cleaner digital desktop setup, and these displays can be located at eye level to avoid looking down and help improve workstation ergonomics. The display connection type, resolution and compatibility will depend on your laptop model. To learn more please see SVALT's External Display Buyers Guide posting.

External Keyboard and Mouse
You will need a wired or wireless keyboard, as well as a wired or wireless mouse, gaming mouse, trackball, trackpad, drawing surface or other input device. One of the advantages of using a clamshell workstation is that you can use the input device of your preference to provide required functionality and improved ergonomics. If you choose to use wireless input devices then you will need to establish a wireless connection with the laptop when the screen is open and before attempting to enable clamshell mode. In addition, whenever you want to enabling clamshell mode you will need to make sure that the laptop’s wireless connection is enabled and that the wireless devises are powered on and in discovery mode. Checkout photos of Apple's new Magic wireless keyboard and trackpad with the SVALT Cooling Dock in Workstation Accessories posting.

External Power Supply
You will need to connect the laptop to external power supply. One of the advantages of a clamshell workstation is that disabling the laptop’s built-in screen can free up a lot of system power for the processors to use and avoid performance throttling induced by a limited power supply when running top-end CPU and GPU processors at maximum speeds. Another one of the advantages of a clamshell workstation is that the laptop includes an internal battery that acts as an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS). In order to protect normal desktop computers from RAM and HD data loss during a power event (power lost or power surge) a UPS needs to be purchased separately and maintained, often at considerable expense. However, by using a laptop the RAM and internal HD data are protected from power loss. Note that a surge protector is still required but do not use a UPS to provide power to your laptop. See Apple’s article Troubleshooting MagSafe Adapters for an explanation of why a UPS should be avoided when using a laptop. If power is lost while running in clamshell mode, either from a power utility event or from accidentally disconnecting the power cable, then the laptop will instantly enter sleep mode, and in most cases you will only need to reconnect the cable and press the space bar on the keyboard. Disconnecting the display or keyboard/moues also causes the laptop to enter sleep mode. To resume work you will need to reconnect the cables and hit the spacebar on the external keyboard.

Enabling Clamshell Mode

Enable clamshell mode through either of the following methods:

Enabling Clamshell Mode When Powered Off
When the laptop is powered down then you can connect the external display, keyboard, mouse/trackpad and power supply. Once those connections are made (hard cable connections or with wireless devises powered on and in discovery mode) then you open the laptop screen, press the power button and quickly close the screen. There is no need to wait for the external screen to light up before closing the laptop screen, in fact, if you choose to wait until the external display lights up then the laptop will enter dual-display mode, which means that when you finally do close the laptop screen the computer has to switch back to clamshell mode, causing a slight delay in the startup process.

Enabling Clamshell Mode When Asleep
When using a laptop with the screen open you can put the computer in sleep mode by selecting it from the top left Apple logo menu or by simply closing the screen and waiting for the glowing Apple logo to turn off. Once asleep, connect the external display, keyboard, mouse/trackpad and power supply. Once those connections are made (hard cable connection or wireless powered on and in discovery mode) then a single press of the keyboard spacebar is an effective way to quickly wake the computer and initiate clamshell mode.

Disabling Clamshell Mode

Disable clamshell mode by either of the following methods:

Disable Clamshell Mode By Shutting Down
Go to the Apple logo at the top left corner of the screen and select “Shut Down…” and once powered off you can either leave the connections in place to resume clamshell mode at a later time or you can disconnect the cables for mobile usage.

Disable Clamshell Mode By Sleeping
Go to the Apple logo at the top left corner of the screen and select “Sleep” and once asleep then you can either leave the connection in place to resume clamshell mode at a later time or you can disconnect the cable for mobile usage.

Disable Clamshell Mode By Unplugging
As noted above, removing laptop connections puts the laptop into sleep mode. Each operating systems handles this differently so you will need to see if it works for your setup. If it does work then you can simply unplug and head out with your laptop in sleep mode.

SVALT Workstation Setup

The following explains the process of setting up a SVALT Cooling Dock workstation with clamshell laptop:

Laptop Fit
Only use laptops that are compatible with the SVALT Cooling Dock, per Laptop Compatibility. Use the adjustable front pad to create a secure fit and tight air seal around the laptop’s central air intake vent. Remove the hex drive from product packaging and then loosen the two fasteners holding the front adjustable pad in place. Place a compatible laptop into the cradle with the laptop’s front cover and the display hinge facing down. Center the laptop from left to right. Slide the adjustable pad against the laptop and then press the laptop into the raised air seal lip. Finally, tighten the adjustable pad fasteners while maintaining pressure against the laptop. Do not over tighten fasteners, only tighten enough to restrict pad movement.

Laptop Startup
As described in the Clamshell Mode Setup section above, connect one or more external displays, keyboard, mouse and power supply to the laptop. And then as described in the Enabling Clamshell Mode section above, start the laptop while in clamshell mode. If the laptop is powered off then simply open the laptop screen while keeping the laptop safely and securely in the SVALT dock. Unlike other clamshell mode stands, there is no need to pick up the laptop while precariously connected to cables, risking a laptop drop or cable disconnection.

SVALT Power Setup
Insert the power adapter’s 2.1mm plug into the power jack on the left back side of the product, and the wall plug into a compatible wall outlet. Use the provided cable strap to bundle cables together so that when disconnected and removed, cables stay in place for easier setup.

SVALT D1 Operation
To turn on/off the D1’s cooling system press the push-button switch once. The D1’s fan fixed speed has been selected to provide a balance of cooling and audio performance.

SVALT D2 Operation
To turn on/off the D2’s cooling system, press the push-button switch once and the cooling system will start in default Auto cooling mode, or the last user saved cooling mode. In Auto cooling modes the cooling system responds intelligently to laptop temperatures for simple set-it-and-forget-it operation. An external sensor measures laptop temperatures and automatically adjusts fan speeds from 900 to 3600 RPM to meet audio and cooling performance requirements over the course of a workday. When temperatures are low enough the the fan will temporarily stop until higher temperatures are detected, at which point it will automatically restart.

A LED responds to switch inputs and visually signals the current cooling mode state. After changing cooling modes, the fan momentarily speeds up to provide an audio signal of the mode change. The LED stays on for 24-seconds after powering on the cooling system or making a cooling mode change. If the fan stops after enabling one of the Auto cooling modes, then the LED will continue for 24-seconds and the fan will automatically restart once higher temperatures are detected. The LED turns off 1-second after powering off the cooling system. The LED is located inside the rear screen, along the bottom of the fan. It’s positioned to be visible when leaning over the laptop and looking down the back side of the dock.

Use the following switch activations to immediately increase fan speed to 3200 RPM for an extra blast of cooling power. These cooling modes are temporary and do not change the saved cooling mode:
  • Turbo (very fast flashing LED) Press switch 2x to enable, and then system will automatically return to normal cooling mode after 5-min.
  • Turbo + (fast flashing LED) Press switch 3x to enable, and then press switch 1x to return to normal cooling mode.

Use the following switch activations to change the saved cooling mode or to reset to the default cooling mode:
  • Custom (medium flashing LED) Press switch 4x to cycling the fan through 900 to 3600 to 900 RPM, while LED indicates increasing or decreasing speeds. When the fan reaches the desired speed, press the switch 1x to set the cooling system to a fixed speed. Press switch 4x to restart the selection process.
  • Auto - (slow fading LED) Press switch 5x to set the cooling system to a lower speeds for audio priority, or for a hot office as compared to default.
  • Auto + (fast fading LED) Press switch 6x to set the cooling system to a higher speeds for cooling priority, or for a cold office as compared to default.
  • Auto (medium fading LED) Press switch 7x to reset the cooling system to factory default for a balance of audio and cooling performance in normal 70 F office temperatures. The system can also be reset to factory default by pressing the switch 1x and then holding it down for 7-seconds, at which point the fan speeds up to single system reset.

SVALT D2 Cooling Mode Diagram
SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock User’s Guide Cooling Mode Diagram

SVALT Example Workstations
See photos of professional SVALT workstations.
Learn more about SVALT Corporate, Freelance, and Gaming workstations.


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