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CoolIT Freezone Elite CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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CoolIT Freezone Elite CPU Cooler Review





Manufactures Product Page: CoolIT Systems - Freezone Elite CPU Cooler
Availability: Now
Price: Click Here to Check Prices
Warranty: 1 Year


Even in today’s highly stratified market, there lies a wondrous place, a place where sub ambient temperatures are not only possible but a routine part of life. In this topsy-turvey world of ultra low CPU temperatures, dangers like cracking your chip from cold and other issues associated with phase change cooling are not present. The world I am referring to is the world of hybrid cooling. In this niche marketplace, companies like CoolIT have taken a fairly normal water cooling setup and hotrodded it with Peltier coolers to create a whole new class of CPU cooling solutions.

Anyone who remembers when Peltier coolers were (semi-)popular, must also remember they were horribly inefficient and could create just as much heat as the CPU they cooled. What was worse from a user’s point of view was the fact they had a tendency to sweat, causing some major headaches with fried motherboards; heck, even when they worked they still would occasionally crack a chip from extreme cold! Yes, they were persnickety and no they weren't efficient and yes you had to be careful in choosing the right sized one for your computer lest it go into the long deep freeze of oblivion; but boy were they FUN!

For anyone who doesn’t know what a Peltier (aka TEC) is, it is a Thermoelectric Cooler in which when electricity is passed through a properly configured device heat is transported from one side of the device to the other against the thermogradient (i.e. heat is sucked from the cold side to the hot side) which is a phenomena first discovered by Jean Charles Athanase Peltier way back in 1834. These devices which are basically two dissimilar metals, lots of electricity and not much else are called “Peltier coolers” in his honor; even though they are more properly known as TECs. The biggest downside to them is they could overcool your chip by dropping the temperature too much thus risking condensation or even in some cases causing the extremely cold chip to crack from the stress. Worse still, even when they worked right they very inefficient and down right electricity hogs.

Well that was then and this is now. A while back some brilliant engineer/tweaker realized if you stick the Peltier coolers not on the chip but in a liquid cooling loop you could easily overcome some of the biggest disadvantages of them while still retaining the intangible fun factor. By sticking it in a liquid coolant you could cool the liquid to below ambient yet not have to worry about the chip cracking from the cold as the liquid would be cool but not as cold as the Peltier. Better yet you could dump the CPU and the Peltier created heat out the back of the computer via an oversized radiator! In this instant, hybrid CPU cooling was born and with it a whole new land of opportunity was created.

This is where CoolIT comes into our little trip down memory lane, for their TEC solutions are basically what I just stated above albeit with a couple of tweaks. As we have seen in our review of their PURE model, CoolIT Systems makes some very good and very quiet yet efficient pieces of kit. To find out how efficient a hybrid system can be, today we will be looking at their Freezone Elite CPU cooler. This particular model has 6 TECs which when combined give it an impressive 250watts of thermal dissipation while only using 70 or so watts of power. The Freezone Elite is widely available from retailer, e-tailers throughout the country and goes for anywhere from $400 to $500.

This high performance model not only promises amazingly low temperatures but also the ability to customize its performance and noise levels via an easy to use software interface. This is certainly a tall order and will be interesting if even those brilliant, yet crazy Canucks at CoolIT can pull it off. I don't know about you but I'm itching to find out, so without further ado let’s start the review!


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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



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Just as the box which the CoolIT PURE came in was big and black so too is the Freezone Elite’s box. As anyone who read that review knows we really liked the PURE’s box and raved about it over and over again. Quite honestly, this box is even better. Unlike the PURE’s, this box not only has the extremely well done ghostly outline on both sides but it also has a very subtle snowflake pattern which reinforces that this is cooler means business. When one sees snowflakes and cold black and white colour scheme one instantly draws subliminal connection between ultra cold temperatures and this CPU cooler. It may only be in the back of your head where you make this connection, but after seeing this box in person and from then then on, whenever you think about the Freezone Elite you can’t help but make the connection that this cooler makes your hot running CPU as cold as ice. Its very effective marketing and it does work.

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Of course, marketing and colour schemes, no matter how effective, should always be a secondary concern when compared to protecting the actual unit inside. Once again CoolIT shows that they know a thing or two about protecting delicate items. When you open up the outside cardboard box you will also have to remove a second layer of protection before evening be able to catch a peak at the Freezone Elite. In many ways this heightens the sense of expectation, and brings back happy childhood memories of Christmas and clawing through one layer of wrapping to encounter another standing in your way between you and your favorite toy. Is the Freezone Elite a toy? Hardly, as this is one serious cooler; but then again if you consider the old adage “big toys for big boys” to be true then maybe the Elite should be classified as a toy…right along side the Rolls-Royce Phantom you have been coveting!

Just as with the PURE, the level of protection which they engineered into the packaging is downright beautiful. Sure it’s a cold, hard “German Engineering” kind of beauty but just like the protective glacis of a M1 tank protects it occupants against any and all comers, so too does the Freeze Elite’s Styrofoam box protect its precious cargo from all but the most extreme of accidents.

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The accessories which come with the Freezone elite are not only thorough and complete they are all of the utmost quality. As with the PURE, you get an well done instruction pamphlet with lots of easy to understand instructions backed up by photographs, the necessary mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel 775 systems, the MTEC controller (with its USB cable and 4 pin connector adapter) and a software CD which contains the controller software which is required for interacting with the MTEC controller unit.

We were very impressed with the PURE’s manual and in some ways the Elite's is even better. It is written in easy to understand language which will have you almost up and running in no time and it has even more pictures than the PURE’s. Unfortunately, the manual does fall short in a one key area, namely the setup of the MTEC controller. It appears when the Freezone was upgraded to the Elite model, CoolIT did not update the manual; rather they tacked in a section on plugging in the MTEC. For the most part this tacked on section works, but it does feel like an afterthought. This would be acceptable as CoolIT obviously spent a lot of time and money doing the Freezone manual so you can’t blame them for not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What is not acceptable is the fact they do not include any diagrams or pictures on the proper way to install the USB cable.

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The included USB cable is a single block USB connector and while it only takes about 3 seconds to figure out where it goes in a normal double row connector found on most motherboards, the absence of said diagram/picture/pictogram was conspicuous in its abscence. It is certainly not a big deal and certainly not a deal breaker, but if you mess it up you will have to fix it before the software (or even your computer for that matter) will recognize it. This in now way will endanger your CPU as the Elite Freezone has defaults which it uses even when the MTEC controller is not present.

Except for a minor hiccup with the manual the Freezone Elite leaves one with a great first impression. It comes in a package that is darn near bomb proof and the accessories are all made of high quality components which we have come to expect from CoolIT. If this bad boy performs as well as it is packaged we are in for one fun ride!
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions



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As is becoming readily apparent, CoolIT takes the time to make sure their equipment is as user friendly / plug ‘n play as possible. Just as the PURE was a drop-in cooling solution so too is the Freezone Elite. Heck in many ways, the inclusion of the MTEC controller actually makes things easier.

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On paper having all those cables going to the MTEC controller sounds like a cabling nightmare but since CoolIT has had the foresight (and fortitude to face down the bean counters over this “frivolous added expense” ) to provide extra long cabling for all the necessary parts, and since said cables all go to the MTEC controller one can easily install the Freezone Elite and then take the time to route all the cables behind the motherboard. While we didn’t do this as we were not permanently attaching the unit in this system it looked like an extremely easy task to accomplish.

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CoolIT has even thought to add Velcro sticky tape to the bottom of the controller so that you can mount it out of the way in an unused portion of your case's 5.25 bay area. All in all this is exceptionally good to see and is easily the best first impression we have ever greceived from a CPU cooling solution.

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The next thing which is blatantly obvious is a lot of the water cooling components like the pump and tubing are the exact same one as used on the PURE. The downside to this is the pump still has less than 1gpm flow rate and the tubing is still a somewhat restrictive ¼ inch ID. When it comes to tubing we are fans of 7/16 ID (or larger) and we would really have liked to have seen the pump beefed up on this premium model. This is a moderate flow pump which is rated to move 3.5L of fluid per minute. While this is just short of the 1 Gallon Per Minute mark we like to see, this pump does makes up for its low flow rate with exceptionally low noise. As we stated earlier, this is a hybrid TEC cooler and not water cooling unit, so we will withhold judgment on its potential inadequacies (if any) until after testing is complete. It will be interesting to see if any of this matters as this is not a water cooling setup and thus “rules of thumb” (such as 1gpm as a good minimum) may need not apply.

The upside to all this is that it does makes for a very compact unit. CoolIT has taken a basic 3 piece setup (water block, pump & radiator) and melded it into a small closed loop hybrid cooling system; unlike the PURE model where the long metal shroud was bordering on the ridiculous, we can actually see a use for it in this system: that of protection. No one wants to spend $400 to $500 on CPU Cooling system just to have it short out because a side case fan slammed into one of the precious TEC’s rendering the whole unit unusable.

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When one takes a close look at the radiator it readily becomes apparent this is not a radiator in the water cooling sense of the word. Yes this is certainly a big, nay huge heatsink but as no fluid flows in or around it, it is more of a huge heatsink than a radiator. Instead of having the fluid flow through a radiator (as it does in a water cooling setup like the PURE) what CoolIT has done is have the fluid flow in and around the cool side of the TECs themselves, with the TEC being securely housed in small metal protective cases. These TEC cases (the blue objects in the pictures) are then attached to the oversize heatsink block with Thermal Interface Material (the white “goop” between the heatsink and the TEC blocks) so that the hot side of the TEC is in contact with the heatsink. The 120x120x38 mm fan is then attached to the back of the supersized heatsink and sucks air in through the gaps thus cooling off the metal fins which in turn cools the hot side of the TECs.

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An easy way to picture this setup is too think of a typical CPU cooing solution; the heatsink part is attached to the CPU and the air gap between the two is filled up with TIM. Then on top side of the heatsink has a fan is attached which removes the heat from the heatsink allowing it to suck new heat away from the CPU. Now replace the “CPU” with the hot side of the TEC blocks and join two of these TEC blocks and heatsinks together at an approximately 90° angle and stick a fan over the third side (thus making a big right angle triangle) and you have in a nut shell what the Freezone Elite looks like. This is ingenuous since the TEC can cool the liquid a lot better than ambient air could and the heat generated from the TECs is dumped into the enormous heatsink, where the fan sucks all the heat out the back of the case. Simple, elegant and above all else a classic example of great engineering.

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For all you eagle eyed readers that are going “but they left of the fan shroud!”, the answer is yes they did but no they didn’t in realtiy. If you take a close look at the design of the heatsink / radiator you will notice a huge air gap in the center (to borrow from the previous analogy: the center of the triangle) and this gap acts as a built-in fan shroud thus making an external one unnecessary. In fact one could say including a plastic fan shroud (no matter how tough a plastic) would have weakened the unit as the built-in fan shroud is made from solid metal.

As mentioned previously, the neoprene tubing is only a ¼ inch ID but it once again is surrounded by anti-kink metal wire; and since it is made from Neoprene it should last a good long while without any maintenance. However, this is an expensive unit and we really would have liked to have seen some upgrades in the tubing from the relatively inexpensive PURE. Maybe we are being overly harsh, maybe no one makes 7/16th ID Neoprene tubing, but we doubt it as 3/8ths is readily available so there really is no physical reason larger sizes can not be obtained if CoolIT really wanted to pursue the issue.

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On the positive side, and as we saw on the PURE model, all the tubing has been crimped into place using heavy duty steel pinch clamps. This ensures a good long-term leak proof fit. Of course, you will have a tough time removing these little suckers if CoolIT ever comes out with an upgrade kit (e.g. a video card fluid heat exchange) to turn you single loop into a multi-loop. However, based on the design philosophy behind the Freezone Elite the chances of that happening are probably slim.
 
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SKYMTL

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First Impressions pg.2

First Impressions pg.2



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Also on the positive side, the base of the Fluid Heat Exchanger (aka CPU water block) is perfectly flat but at the same time it shows some minor tooling marks, some minor polishing marks and some big time scratches. However, unlike the PURE these scratches are most likely the result of the wrong plastic protection shield being used for transit than a case of bad workmanship. It really is a crying shame that this happened but thankfully it is extremely easy to spot as the TIM was smudged and the plastic protector was slightly skewed when we unpacked the unit.

If you see this on your brand new Freezone Elites F.H.E., simply RMA that bad boy and get a perfect one. That being said, it is doubtful if these scratches will negatively effect the testing phase as they are on the edge and not located anywhere near the CPU contact area. If one ignores the shipping scratches the level of quality exhibited by the Freezone Elite’s base is very good, not perfect as it was not polished to a mirror like shine but it certainly wasn’t bad at all.

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On a side note this Fluid Heat Exchanger comes with TIM already pre-applied in a nice thin and even layer, or at least is was supposed to until the plastic cap messed it up. To keep things as even as possible for the testing phase of this review we removed this TIM and used only Arctic Cooling MX-2 on all CPU cooling solutions.

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The heart of any CPU cooling system has to be the fan. Just as if an Olympic athlete who has had the best genetics bestowed upon him but has a weak heart. He isn't going to do jack. The same holds true for any cooler's fan; if the manufacturer puts a wimpy little fan with no true heart in it on cooling system, it can have the most powerful TECs/phase change units / unobtainium cooling units known to man and the system will still only be mediocre at best. By the same token if said company sticks a big boisterous fan on the unit, it may be loud and proud, but it won’t been anything more than the equivalent of that loud and obnoxious wanker who talks on his cell phone in front of during the movie.

Yes the choice in fan is that important not only does it directly affect the performance of the unit as a whole, it also responsible for the majority of the noise said system creates. No one likes a system that is so loud that you have to wear earplugs any more than a “could have been but never was” wimpy system that can’t get the job done. Getting it right takes patience, time and above all else: experience.

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I am glad to report that CoolIT once again got this careful balancing act correct. The fan that they chose is none other than the Panaflo FBA12G12H-1BX. This hyrdo-wave bearing fan is rated to move over 104CFM (CoolIT states it's more like 110 but when you get into numbers that big who's counting?) at its rated max speed of 2500rpm. More importantly than this impressive CFM is the amount of Static Pressure this 120x120x38mm fan produces; what we are talking about is a nominal .267 inches of H20 of static pressure (that is a jaw dropping 6.78mm h20). This is all well and fine and is certainly impressive but what truly makes this fan a winner is the fact that it is speed adjustable. When the Freezone Elite’s coolant temperature is stable or even below its coolant zone, the fan can idle at only 40% of its rated capability. This makes the Freezone Elite both powerful when it needs to be and quiet as a mouse when it doesn’t need the extra horsepower.

In testing anything below 60% was inaudible when compared to Noctua NF-P12-1300RPM fans and when compared to Scythe E fans any power level below 66% was inaudible. At about 70% you can start to hear a noticeable deep hum sound not unlike a well tuned bass guitar. At 80% it really is noticeable for its wind noise and to 96% or so it sounds like a really good, well balanced and really expensive ceiling fan one would find in Lifestyle’s of the Rich and (in)Famous. It is only at 100% that any bearing noise is noticeable, and even then it’s very muted in comparison to some others we have seen. Heck, at 100% we’d take this fan over the one the Swiftech kit comes with any day!

All in all this is one kick ass fan, that reminds us a lot of the old time boxer “Gentleman Jim” in that it can be quiet and respectable like one would expect from a highly educated gentleman yet, when the need arises it will knock your socks off.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the MTEC Controller

A Closer Look at the MTEC Controller



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If the soul of the Elite is its TECs, and the heart is the fan then the brains of this unit is the MTEC controller unit. This little black box is not only where all the power for the Elite is routed from but also it directly influences the noise and performance characteristics the Elite. This is accomplished via the LPC2141 microcontroller chip.

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The LPC2141 is an ARM7TDMI-S based high-performance 32-bit RISC Microcontroller that among other things has an itegrated USB 2.0 Full Speed Device Controller. This chip is what allows the MTEC software to interact with said controller allowing you to not only override the factory default settings but also customize said settings until the unit is tweaked to what you consider perfection. If you want the utmost in cooling performance you can set up a set of advanced parameters so low that the unit will do 100% all the time to meet them. Alternatively, you can have this system stay whisper quiet right up to the point where it will perform just like a stock air cooling CPU cooler. It all comes down to your needs and how you want performance.

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The MTEC controller uses a standard 6 pin PIC-E cable to power it and the entire Freezone Elite unit. On the positive side, this means that the entire unit can only use theoretically 75 watts maximum (this is more than enough as this unit is rated to use only 70 watts, which when you think about it is not much overhead but should be more than enough). The largest potential negative to using a 6 pin PIC-E power connector is not every PSU has one available if it is powering a few graphics cards. Of course, Coolit thought of this and in a great move has included a Molex to PCI-E 6-pin adapter.

All in all, the Freezone Elite continues to validate our initial impression that this is one well crafted kit. Earlier in this review we compared it to a Royals Royce and after taking a long hard look at the unit this analogy is not only fitting but actually an apt description of the Elite. Everything about this unit has been crafted with loving care, using only the highest quality of materials. Honestly, this level of quality and refinement is something one usually does not see in a production model; heck even some custom jobs that cost a lot more that the Freezone Elite are not as finely crafted. Will all this time, effort and attention to detail pay off in the testing phase? Hopefully so, otherwise we here at HWC are going to be awfully disappointed as this bad boy definitely talks the talk better than just about any CPU cooling solution we have seen so far. Let’s install this wee beastie so we can get to the testing stage!
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation



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The actual installation of the Elite is exactly the same as the PURE’s installation. One starts the process by removing the motherboard from the case so you can thread a long screw (with plastic washers on both sides of the motherboard) through the motherboard and tighten down a metal standoff. When you have tightened down the first standoff you simply repeat this procedure 3 more times and then reinstall the motherboard back into your case. While it is counter intuitive at this point to reinstall the motherboard, it is quite necessary as you will not be able to install the motherboard after the water block is in position. The next thing you have to do is remove your computer case’s rear 120mm fan (if you have two of them you should remove the topmost one).

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When the motherboard is fully reinstalled and you have removed the rear case fan, one simply has to position the F.H.E. over the CPU and install the two wire brackets that hold the water block in position (where we removed the TIM we of course had to apply a small amount of MX-2 before doing this, as you will too if reinstalling the Elite after initial installation). Just as with the PURE, you should try laying a towel (we found bubble wrap to be even a better choice) over the 5.25 bays at the front of your computer case and laying the Elite there. This removes any tension on the Elite's neoprene tubes while you are installing the wire brackets. Alternatively, you can have someone hold the Elite system while you do this but it all depends on your comfort level and whether or not you want to share the experience with someone else.

When installing the two brackets we found that if you just start threading the two large screws that hold it in place it is then much easier to install the second bracket. To further reduce stress and to help insure a good and proper seating of the water block we strongly recommend tightening them in diagonally opposing pairs one turn each before tightening the other two diagonally opposed screws one turn. This will reduce the chances of uneven pressure being applied to the CPU that could damage it and helps ensure the TIM is spread nice and evenly over the CPU. Just as with the PURE setup you can not over tighten the screws, they simply slam into the metal standoffs thus ensuring equal mounting pressure on all four screws.

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When the F.H.E. is in place one simply has to gently flip the unit over and install the Elite by mounting the fan into the back 120mm fan area. This is done just as you would install any exhaust fan by using four screws that are included with the unit. When this simple and quick task is accomplished you simply have to wire the Elite into the MTEC controllers. Yes there are a lot of wires to be installed but the important ones are colour coded and the ones that are not are very easy to figure out as they are all unique and keyed so that they can only fit in one place!

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The only potential confusing part of the installation has to do with which side you plug the wires in and how one should plug in the single row USB cable. The wires are easy, in that you simply have to plug them in on the FAN 1 side. The MTEC controller has a FAN 2 side but that is for a more heavy duty model (BOREAS) that requires multiple fans and has way more TECs than the Elite does (12 to be precise). The USB connector is easy to figure out and as long as you make sure the black wires are on the Ground Shield side you probably won't run into any hassles. We recommend digging out your motherboard manual to see exactly what pins are the ground shield pins but even this is not really required. If your USB port has an existing USB plug in it just check and see how it is wired and then plug in this USB cable so that it matches the other known good one.

The nice thing is if you do mess up the USB connector it won’t harm your system since the MTEC software will just error out and tell you no MTEC controller is attached. Of course, the down side to this whole procedure is that it costs you a USB header on you motherboard. It would have been nice if the MTEC controller had a secondary USB header where you could plug in your USB port that was originally plugged into the motherboard; but then again most motherboards have multiple USB headers and giving one up for 250 watts of cooling potential is more than a fair trade in our books!

Overall this is a very easy installation process that should not take you more than 15 minutes to accomplish. Every step is well laid out in the manual and has been designed to not only ensure a good and proper installation but also reassure people that this is a robust yet a well mannered cooler. Could there be improvements in the installation procedure? Yes, the USB cable connection is needless complicated and could be eliminated all together with the inclusion of the more common double row (i.e. keyed) USB header. In the end the benefits of the MTEC controller well and truly outweigh this minor hassle factor, and other than this minor annoyance CoolIT has once again impressed us with both their user friendly manual and their user friendly installation procedure.
 
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AkG

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Software Installation / MTEC Software Control

Software Installation



While it is not completely necessary, it would be foolish not to run the MTEC controller software as it really does take this amazing system to the next level. To begin the software installation all one must do is either insert the CD that came with the unit and follow the on screen wizard. (As per usual, if you have auto run disabled to will have to manually run the .exe found on the CD but as it is the only one you should have no troubles finding it)

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The installation is very straight forward and only takes a moment so all you have to do is follow the instructions.

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When the wizard is finished, you simply reboot the system one last time and then you upon loading the software it will ask you to complete a hardware wizard which will only take a moment. This all sounds complicated and time consuming but trust us, reading about the software installation process takes longer than actually doing it does.


MTEC Software: What it does and why you want it

The nicest thing about the software is the advanced features where you can override the predicative cooling by telling it to try to maintain a different temperature. Alternatively you can also set an upper and lower setting that will keep the Elite’s coolant in a certain range (default is 40 max 20 min) and thereby reducing the noise the unit makes. Of course this noise reduction is a moot point when we are testing as the high loads are sustained but for most people who will not be routinely maxing their cores out for extended periods of time this may reduce the noise of the Elite to sub ambient levels and keep it there! All in all the software is nice but it is but it is more of a set it and forget it piece of software rather than a daily use one. To us this is a good thing as once you have dialed in the setting you want, there is no reason or need to use this program again and the best programs are the ones where you don’t even realize that they are working!

One thing worth mentioning before we continue is that this unit’s cooling software is based of the coolant temp and not your core's temperature. This is a good thing as not all CPU temperature sensors are that accurate and more importantly the Elite (just like CoreTemp) erroneously reports 45nm Intel C2D’s about 10 degrees hotter than they really are. By using a sensor in the coolant, the Elite knows how hot the system really is and can more accurately adjust for temperature changes. The downside to this is the unit may stay noisy for a few extra minutes even after the CPU temperature drops as it does take a moment to cool and cycle all the coolant inside the Elite. This is a small trade off and once you understand why it works the way it does, you too will come to realize that the decision to base its performance characteristics of its own coolant sensor is was not only the right one but is actually the only sensible solution possible.


A Closer Look at the MTEC Software

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On first glance this sophisticated piece of software appears to be deceptively simple, but upon close examination one realizes just how much customization and control you really gain by using it. This ease of use has been done on purpose to make your experience as pain free as possible. Take it from someone who spent many a month on designing custom interfaces with this level of sophistication and ease of use is hard; it takes lots of time and experience to get it this refined.

The main page is basically and all-in-one informational display page. With a simple glance you can tell what your CPU temperature is (pre Intel 45nm chips only, the newer chips display 8-12 degrees hotter than they are, just like Coretemp does) the coolant temperature, how hard your CPU(s) is working (in bar graph format), the power levels of the TEC’s and fan; and it even includes a simple diagnostics for your pump and fan. The diagnostics is a simple go / no go affair in that if the pump or fan stops running their green block will turn red; however, if your fan loses its PWM / speed control and stays at 100% that little block will still show as green. All in all, this is a very quick and easy way to get a good overview of how your Elite and CPUs are running.

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To customize and tweak the Freezone Elite’s performance and other attributes one simply selects menu and then "Edit Settings...". Here you have four tabs or pages to chose from (though if you are running a unit with more than one Chiller you may have more tabs). The first page deals with the “Chillers” or TECs performance; the default settings are for predictive cooling of the coolant to 25° Celsius. What this means is that the Elite will try its best to keep the coolant at a constant 25°C. If the coolant goes below this, the MTEC controller will slow the fan and reduce the power (all the way down to 40%) until the temp goes back to 25°, if the Elite is too powerful for your system expect it to hardly ever rise above 25 and expect some super chilly temps.

If your system is a lower end dual core, or high end quad for example you can override the predictive cooling setting and set it to anything you like as long as it is 0 or greater. We recommend that if you do change this setting to keep it above ambient to reduce the already slim possibility of condensation from forming, and thus killing your computer.

If this one temperature zone is not to your liking you can override it by choosing the Advanced Features. Here instead of trying to stay at a given temperature, you can set a high and low temperature range that you would like the Elite to stay within. This can drastically reduced the noise output of the system while still keeping your processor at an acceptable temperature. The default settings for this is 20ºC to 40° and as long as the unit's coolant is in this range the TECs and fans are more than likely just going to idle at 40%. However, as soon as the upper threshold is reached the unit springs into action and does all it can to get that temp down ASAP. This makes the Elite a very well mannered unit that is going to be extremely quiet most of the time for most users.

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The next tab deals with what information you would like included in the graph that the software can produce. Yes this unit not only cools your computer is can give you real time interactive graphs (2d or 3D!) that can show as little or as much information as you like. For example it can show you how the coolant temperature relates to your CPU temperature. This is a very handy tool that is both powerful yet easy to use. To get the MTEC software to start a graph you simply need to be at the opening page (so exit the Edit Settings section and get back to it if necessary) and then press "Show Graph Window". It will start graphing the data instantly and will not stop until to manually stop it, at any time you grab a screen shot that saves the graph into a jpeg format by simply pressing Menu then "Capture Screen Shot".

mtec_cntrl3_sm.jpg


The notification page (or if you like “3rd tab”) is probably one of the most powerful tools this software gives you. When set up and configured you can have the software email you when something goes wrong. If you are like most people you probably will play with the software for awhile, get it tweaked to your liking and then forget all about it. This is good as that is how it should be; but this bad boy is ever vigilant on your behalf, so even when you have forgotten all about it can email you a warning that something has gone wrong and remind you that it still there protecting your investment. This page really underscores how much CoolIT cares about their customers and want them as a long term clients. After all, nothing is more rabidly loyal than a person who saved their CPU from frying because of a just in time warning from said companies free software!

mtec_cntrl4_Sm.jpg

The last tab is for how often the software will update its information. A setting that is too slow may cause your Elite to respond sluggishly, a setting to high may makes your system sluggish as too many cycles are being hogged by the software. 1FPS seems to be a good balance and in testing it did not noticeable effect performance on either the dual or quad system. While this is a very nice feature the best feature of them all is hidden in plain sight at the bottom. That check box for “shutdown system on pump failure” takes the early warning we were talking about in the previous tab and turns it from a passive system to an active defense system. Bloody brilliant.
 
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AkG

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Messages
5,274
Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology



To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all reviews used. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why it had to be changed or altered.

Except where noted all comparison testing was done on an open bench with an ambient temperature of 20c. Recorded temps were as reported via CoreTemp's "Temp Log". Average load temps were taken after 15 minutes of running Prime95 v25.4 “small fft” and are taken directly from CoreTemps temperature text file. Excel was used to average the results of all cores. Idle temps were taken 15 minutes after Load testing ceased. Motherboard temperatures were recorded using SpeedFan. For any and all water cooling units no fan speed control was used; rather, they ran at full speed for all testing stages. Since this hybrid cooler has built in fan speed control we let it decide the speed of the fan.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of all thermal paste was according to the manufacturer’s instructions and while not necessary it was allowed to cure for 48 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

All tests were run a minimum of 4 times and only best results are represented.

Please note:
When viewing the results of the Q6600 and the e4600 please understand that in this instance the quad @ 1.45 volts actually is a cooler running chip than the relatively bad overclocker chip e4600 used. This is usually not the way it works but due to the variable nature of overclocking we happened to get a "good" quad and a bad "dual"; in that the quad is a good cool running chip when extra voltage is applied where as the dual heats up very quickly as extra voltage is applied. It would not surprise us if 1.4 volts is significantly shortening the life of the dual e4600 and that it will die a lot earlier than the quad q6600.

Please note: Because the Ultima 90 does not come with its own it was paired with a single Scythe F 120mm fan for the results listed in this review.

Please note: Because the Asetek LCLC did not come with a fan, the fan which came with Swiftech H20-120 was used to obtain the results listed in this review.

Please note:
Because the Swifteh H20-120 is not a sealed maintenance free unit, pure desalinized water with Swiftech Hydrx was used.

Please note:
To keep the motherboard chipsets from overheating one 120mm Scythe E fan was used.

Notes about Overclocking:


For q6600’s I consider 1.45 volts to be the most that I would seriously consider for a moderate-to-long term overclock.

For e4600’s I consider 1.4 volts to be the most that I would seriously consider for a moderate-to-long term overclock.

Yes you can go much higher but the longevity of the CPU is then called into question. Just as importantly the CPU should average out at LESS than 65c as this is also what I consider the safest, maximum long term overclocking temp. For the purposes of these tests I was willing to overlook temperatures as long as they averaged below 70c and did not peak over 75c. If 75c was displayed for more than 10seconds in CoreTemp all testing was stopped and that test run was considered a fail.

With these two general guidelines I overclocked both systems until either one (or both) of these "rules" was needed to be broken to continue.

Overclocking was accomplished by increasing FSB speed and then Vcore (only if necessary).

As they have no bearing on these tests the RAM’s voltage and timings are not recorded, the RAM was set to run at or as close to as possible PC-6400 speeds by running various cpu : memory dividers. Please do not consider this a full “how to” review on overclocking or “safe guidelines” for overclocking nor even an indicator on how well a given CPU will overclock. IF you are interested in OC’ing your system, and use these guidelines we at HWC take no responsibility for the results. Bad Things can happen if you are not careful.


Complete Test System:

Processor: Q6600 & E4600
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drive: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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AkG

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Messages
5,274
Performance Tests (Default Settings)

Performance Tests (Default Settings)



To see how well mannered this unit can be the first round of tests will have the Advanced features of the MTEC controller software enabled with the default range of 20 min and 40 max. With this range setting the coolant temperature will be allowed to be rise to a maximum temperature of 40° Celsius before the software will take action and increase the TECs and Fan power. Conversely the software will also reduce levels (to a minimum of 40%) as needed to try and keep the coolant temperature above 20° Celsius. By doing this we will get a clear picture of what is the absolute minimum noise the Freezone Elite needs to use to give acceptable performance results. These results are for informational purposes only and will not be held against this unit in the Conclusion section; this is for the simple reason that this setting is designed to create as small a noise envelope as possible; even if it is at the expense of performance. In other words the first set of tests will show what this unit can do in low noise environments, where CPU temperatures are secondary to noise levels.

In the second set of tests we will max out the TECs and the Fan to see what this unit is really capable of (i.e. they will be running @ 100% even when idle). This will show exactly how much cooling potential this unit has; or to put it bluntly, this set of tests is all about raw performance with no worries about noise levels.

E4600 Temperature Testing

Idle Temperatures

e4600_idle_24GHz.jpg


e4600_idle_32.jpg


e4600_idle_MAX.jpg

Wow, just wow. Yes that is right folks even when our Dual Core was overlcoked to 3.2GHz it was idling at subambient temperatures and it wasn’t unitl we turned the heat all the way up to 3.5GHz did the core start to see ambient temperatures! The Elite is simply so powerful that even at it minium of 40% the cooling potential is more than the Dual needs to stay ambient. That is simply amazing.


Average Load Temperatures

e4600_load_24ghz.jpg


e4600_load_32.jpg


e4600_load_MAX.jpg

Things certainly started out good but then as the heat was turned up the unit's performance did start to slip. Of course, the Switftech and Astek LCLC were both running at 100% fan speed whereas the Elite (at 3.5GHz) was only cruising along at about 60% or at this point. In other words a small difference in performance equaled a major difference in noise.


Q6600 Temperature Testing

Idle Temperatures

q6600_idle_2.4GHz.jpg


q6600_idle_30.jpg


q6600_idle_MAX.jpg

While they lack the wow factor of the dual core results these numbers are nonetheless very decent results. Once again the Elite was hardly phased by the thermal load of the idling CPU, and even when overclocked to 3.4GHz it was still only running at 40%. Actually, when you look at it from that perspective these numbers are down right impressive. After all, the Swiftech and Astek fan was going full speed and the Swiftech water cooling kit was only able to beat it by 1° Celsius @ 3.4GHz.


Average Load Temperatures

q6600_load_2.4GHz.jpg


q6600_load_30.jpg


q6600_load_MAX.jpg

It is interesting how the advanced settings really do influence the Elite's performance. At stock speeds the Elite is only mediocre at best, whereas at 3.4GHz it owns first place as the unit ramps up. However, the really amazing thing is not the dramtic comeback but the very fact that the Elite’s fan and TECs were only cruising at 60% - 70% of its full potential. With numbers like that and it still only in the equivalent of 3rd gear we are itching to put the pedal to the metal and see what this baby can do at 100%!
 
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