If you're tired of your thighs feeling like they're in a slow cooker, by all means, buy a laptop cooling pad with or without a USB-powered fan. But don't buy the argument that they'll extend your laptop's life.
The New York Times' Gadgetwise blog digs into laptop pad longevity claims and finds that, at best, they might extend the life of your computer's own cooling fans, which isn't all that expensive a replacement. Testing found that a new line of laptop pads dropped laptop temperatures only five degrees Fahrenheit, so even the fan-saving function is a slim promise, at best. Got a great laptop cooling pad that's worth the cash-for-comfort trade-off? Show it off in the comments.