Vat19 USB beverage warmer & cooler review

USB Warmer CoolerI’m a big fan of gadgets so when I saw that Vat19 had a USB device which would act as both a cup warmer and cooler I just had to try it!

Vat19 claims the device “Keep a beverage piping hot or cool as ice.” A bold claim for something which powers itself on the small amount of juice the USB bus can put out, but out of the box the device seemed well constructed, so I was optimistic.

First thoughts:

Unfortunately I noticed the first two flaws with the desktop appliance before I even plugged it in. First, there was no on/off switch anywhere on the unit which, while not tragic, would become a problem if your only free USB port is on the back of your system. Second, the switch to change from warming to cooling is on the back near where the cord exits. While neither of these flaws are tragic, both proved irritating.

In action:

Warmer Cooler TestI plugged the USB Beverage Warmer & Cooler into my free USB on my laptop and heard the fan on the unit spin up. Surprisingly the small fan made quite a bit of noise, considerably more than my Dell laptop, even more than most modern desktops.

Ignoring the noise I set the unit to warming mode and put my coffee on the unit. Now another problem… The heating/cooling element was too small for a normal sized coffee mug. A half hour later, with my mug straddling the heating element my coffee had cooled to its typical tepid.

For my next cup of the day I switched to a smaller mug which would fit on the heating plate and got somewhat better results. My coffee stayed warmer than usual, but still not warm enough to justify another device and the loss of desk space.

(Please ignore the small army of drinking birds in the background of the picture above. They are of no concern to you.)

Hoping for better results on the cooling side I unplugged the unit and let it cool to room temperature. After lunch I flipped the switch to cool and plugged it in. I was surprised at how quickly the plate cooled so I put my bar-style pint glass full of water on the plate. Half an hour later my water still seemed enjoyably cool, but was it cooler than without?

I decided to do a more scientific test of the cooling capabilities of the unit, so I got two cans of Coke out of my fridge and grabbed the trusty cooking thermometer. With one can on the cooler and the other on the desk (far enough away to not be heated by the exhaust from the cooler) I measured the temperature of each over a two hour interval.

With an ambient temp of 70 degrees F and a starting beverage temp of 39 here are my findings over the next two hours:

After 30 minutes, can on cooler = 50, can on desk = 50

After 1 hour, can on cooler = 57, can on desk = 57

After 1:30, can on cooler = 59, can on desk = 61

After 2:00, can on cooler = 60, can on desk = 63

After the full 2 hours I sipped from each Coke and could tell some difference, but again, not enough to justify another device on the desk.


While I love the idea of a USB beverage warmer & cooler the current model from Vat19 falls short of both “piping hot” and “cool as ice”. While the price point of $24.95 is very reasonable the novelty quickly wore off and the many drawbacks doom this gadget to the junk drawer. Perhaps a future rendition will bring improved performance and flexibility, but for now there are better warmers to be had and the cooling effect is not enough to justify this unit.

gadget, review, usb, food, drink, cooler, warmer, office toy

USB Missile Launcher – Hands On Review

USB Missile LauncherWhat do you get for the geek who has everything? Of course! Their very own USB Missile Launcher! But is it really worth it? Yes! Read on and find out why.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10


  • Roughly 12 foot range
  • Accurate within a foot or two even at range
  • 180 degree pan
  • Limited but reasonable tilt control (about 30 degrees above to five degrees below level)
  • Fires three darts one at a time
  • Soft foam darts are safe around the office
  • High quality molded plastic construction
  • Free Mac software better than included PC software


  • Couple second delay between clicking “Fire” and actual launch
  • Batteries required (3xAA)
  • Included software does not allow for simultaneous pan and tilt (movign diagonally)


Launcher in boxThe USB Missile Launcher came to me from the folks at who have quite a line of toys and gadgets appropriate for the office. They sell the USB Missile Launcher for $55 which I consider a fair price for a toy this cool.

It comes quite attractively packed… the type of thing that you wouldn’t be able to keep on shelves in the right locations. It would make the perfect trade-show giveaway for the same reasons. Have a stack of three or four of these at your booth and you’ll get some attention (hell, at the price just give away a dozen.)

The USB Missile Launcher was equally impressive out of the box. The unit quickly pans through 180 degrees and tilts about 35 degrees. The PC software that ships with the unit is limited to only moving in one direction at a time, while the free Mac software allows movement in two directions.

You can fire one missile at a time and the missiles shoot out with surprising speed, propelled by a small spring which is compressed when you load the missiles. Both software versions suffer from a second or two delay when firing. I have a feeling this is a limitation of the device, but it’s the only major flaw in what is otherwise a great piece of office artillery.

The launcher is solidly constructed and the darts have held up well for me. There is nothing with the unit or on the KlearGear site about replacement missiles, but I’m sure if there’s a demand they’ll become available.


This is a great office toy and would be a great gift idea for anyone who regularly engages in cubicle warfare. At a cost of $55 from the USB Missile Launcher is one of the most unique toys you could get someone this holiday season.

I had hoped to get a couple videos up of the launcher but haven’t been able to get any I’m happy with. Perhaps it’s time for a new digital camera.

Thanks to the folks at for giving me the chance to evaluate the USB Missile Launcher.

cubicle, warfare, office, office toy, office humor, work, fun, usb, robot, robotic, computer, toy