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CoolIT Vantage A.L.C Review

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AkG

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About three years ago, the products being released in the closed loop, all in one water cooling field painted a bleak picture of the market. They were bulky, hard to set up and many times horribly designed with the cheapest components possible. This along with the apparent difficulty in setting up a custom water cooling loop turned plenty of potential customers towards standard air coolers. However, the situation between then and now has drastically changed with products like CooIT’s original Freezones and Corsair’s H-series providing an excellent introduction to the world of water cooling

Some say that CoolIT’s products were the ones that really opened people’s eyes to the possibility of water cooling with their early closed loop products. Since then, their products have been slowly improving to the point where the current generation has the capability for some truly high performance.

A few months ago we reviewed the budget-friendly ECO A.L.C and now we are able to look at the higher-end Vantage A.L.C; a product that’s supposed to compete head to head against the competition has to offer. Naturally, higher performance goes hand in hand with a premium price but at $95 it isn’t what you would call overly expensive.

With broad availability and a cost that puts it shoulder to shoulder with Corsair’s H70 as well as higher-end air cooler plus fan combinations, the Vantage could be in a tough situation. However, CoolIT has a history of delivering excellent products so we will just have to see how this product does when faced with some real competition.

mfg.jpg

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

spec.jpg

specs2.jpg


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AkG

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A Closer Look at the CoolIT Vantage ALC

A Closer Look at the CoolIT Vantage ALC


CoolIT_Vantage_box_f_sm.jpg
CoolIT_Vantage_box_b_sm.jpg

Unlike the more value orientated ECO, the Vantage variant of the ALC line comes not in a white box but rather in full retail shelf packaging. . All the details you need to make an informed decision are there including information about the other products CoolIT has in the market.

CoolIT_Vantage_box_o_sm.jpg
CoolIT_Vantage_access_sm.jpg

Unlike the exterior which strongly diverges from that of the Eco, CoolIT has once again opted for the tried and true double Styrofoam protection method. It works quite well so we have no qualms about its implementation here.

The accessory list is almost a carbon copy of the Eco’s. You get the necessary mounting equipment for Intel 775, 1156, 1366 systems and AMD AM2 / AM3 systems along with an wonderful full-colour installation manual.

CoolIT_Vantage_all_sm.jpg
comp_sm.jpg

The Vantage ALC is a single bay sealed water cooling device, just like every other CoolIT product we have seen in the past. Unlike previous models which were larger performance orientated cooling solutions, this model is down right small and compact compared to the Domino it replaces. When we first heard about the Vantage we were expecting something much larger than the Eco. In fact the CoolIT Vantage does look a lot like the ECO; albeit with a few interesting twists which do go a long way to explaining its price premium.

CoolIT_Vantage_rad2_sm.jpg
CoolIT_Vantage_rad3_sm.jpg

The key concepts of the Vantage may indeed share the same basic design philosophy as the ECO but these tweaks are what really intrigued us. At its heart is a single bay radiator which looks suspiciously like the ECO’s since it sports a 12 channel, 22-23 folds per inch design. While it is a step in the right direction, it is still a single-depth radiator. Corsair’s H70 has proven it is possible to get improved performance from a double thick radiator without needlessly adding to the cost of an all in one water cooling device.

CoolIT_Vantage_rad4_sm.jpg

Unlike the ECO or even the Corsair H70, the Vantage comes with a fan and an accompanying shroud which should in theory allow the single fan to work much more efficiently.

The fan which accompanies this model is also improved over the ECO’s as it too looks to be the same as the Domino’s. It is rated for variable speeds from 1100 to 2500 RPMs. Of course, since this is MUCH faster than the one on the ECO its noise envelope is larger, but for such a high speed fan it is fairly well mannered.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the CoolIT Vantage ALC pg.2

A Closer Look at the CoolIT Vantage ALC pg.2


CoolIT_Vantage_tubers_sm.jpg

As with the ECO the Vantage has 90° swivel joints connecting the tubing to the all in one water block. Unlike the ECO, not only is there a water block and pump crammed into this area over the CPU but there is also a LCD and associated control switches. Surprisingly, when compared to past iterations, the overall dimensions of this 4 in 1 block are surprisingly compact considering all of the technology that’s been built into it.

CoolIT_Vantage_red_sm.jpg
CoolIT_Vantage_green_sm.jpg

This certainly is an amazing piece of engineering as not only is the LCD able to be customized to one of SIX colours (actually seven if you count “off”), CoolIT also managed to cram in the necessary buttons for controlling which of the three settings you are in; Red, Green, Blue, White, Amber, Purple.


Since this is an “RGB” LCD the three main colours of red, green, blue are the most accurate with white being the most inaccurate. If anything, this certainly gives you a wide range of options to suit your tastes.

CoolIT_Vantage_RGB_off_sm.jpg

As an aside we did like the fact this LCD can be turned OFF as not every case needs a glowing LCD. This LCD can also act as an information display which can tell you things such as liquid temperature, fan speed and pump speed while acting as a warning indicator in case anything goes wrong.

CoolIT_Vantage_rad5_sm.jpg
CoolIT_Vantage_waterblock_sm.jpg

The main claim to fame might be the six colour LCD, but the other big difference between the ECO’s waterblock and Vantage is not actually visible. As with the ECO the Vantage uses CoolIT’s new CFF1 (Compact Form Factor Version 1) ceramic bearing pump which makes it pretty much silent. Instead of an anaemic flow of a mere 0.8Liters per minute the Vantages’ CFF1 has be set to nearly DOUBLE this at 1.5L/minute. This is still well below the 1 GALLON per minute which is considered by many to be the optimum flow rate but this increased flow certainly should make the Vantage more efficient even during our “apples to apples” tests.

CoolIT_Vantage_base_sm.jpg

Moving on to the base of the water block (AKA Fluid Heat Exchanger) we can see that the water block has TIM pre-applied which makes one less hassle for the customer to go through before they can starting using their new toy. Wiping away the TIM we can see that this copper base is matte finished and shows some minor tool marks. In other words it’s basically the same as the ECO’s and shouldn’t provide any added advantages like the upgraded pump will.


A Quick Note About Fan Speeds on the Vantage


The most frustrating and yet most intriguing feature of the CoolIT is much like the Domino before it, the fan does not ramp up to full speed (or partial speed depending on the mode the controller is in) until water temperature hits nearly 50°C. In fact, until the water temperature goes above about 31-32°C all three modes (Quiet, Performance and Extreme) will have the fan running at the same speed.

Temperatures above 32°C are where the modes actually come into play. Low or "Quiet" speed mode limits the fan to about 1600 RPM, “Performance” mode limits it to about 1800 RPM and Extreme does NOT limit the fan speed at all so it can run up to its full speed. From an end user's point of view CoolIT's temperature monitoring is a great feature and there is the option to manually control the settings as well through the on-board LCD.
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


For all intents and purposes the CoolIT Vantage has the exact same installation process as the ECO. This is certainly a good thing since the entry level cooler has one of the easiest, most user friendly installations around.

backplate_install_sm.jpg

To begin, you need to remove your motherboard from the case and install the proper backplate. Each of the backplates is designed to work with only one Intel system type which eliminates any errors that may occur. Luckily, these backplates have double sided tape on them, so they will stick in place.

CoolIT_ECO_arm_adjust_sm.jpg

Once this is done, you then install the Vantage’s waterblock to the motherboard. Unlike the backplates the Intel retention arms are multi purpose and come pre-configured for 1366 systems so we did not need to mess with them. Doing the installation this way results in a quick and easy process that even a first time PC builder should have no problems with.

CoolIT_Vantage_inst_sm.jpg


With this done you can then install the radiator on to the back of your case. The fan should be on the inside and the air shroud should be on the outside in order to ensure an exhaust-style setup.

CoolIT_Vantage_inst2_sm.jpg

All in all it’s a very easy 3 step process that should not give anyone trouble. Also on the positive side, there are basically no mounting issues worth talking about.
 
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AkG

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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 things had to be changed or altered.


Thermal Paste and Application Methods:

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted.

For all non HDT coolers, application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

For all 3 pipe HDT coolers two lines of TIM is applied to the two centre metal posts and for all 4 pipe HDTS three (smaller) lines of TIM are applied to the metal posts. This method has been found to provide significantly better coverage than the more typical methods.


Fans Used

120mm:
For all CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come with their own fan, a Noctua NF-P12-1300 and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


Low Speed:

900RPM with a Noctua NF-P12-1300 with ULNA adapter. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 930RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the low speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Moderate Speed:

1300RPM Noctua NF-P12-1300 with NO adapters used. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1326RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the moderate speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual Fans*:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:

- If a heatsink cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.


We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor heat sink thermal performance.


Environment:

All comparison testing was done on an open bench with a constant ambient temperature of 24°C. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:

tech_station_sm.jpg


Unlike our previous methodology which used an open bench setup with a horizontally orientated motherboard, our new open bench is a modified Tech Station with a twist.

It has been modified so that the motherboard is in a more typical vertical orientation as it would be when installed in a case.

This has been done by the simple expedient of drilling out the bumper pads and threading long bolts (typically used for mounting fans to water cooling radiators) up through the top base of the tech station. Then by simply threading the bolts up through the motherboard we can then secure said motherboard to the tech station. Rubber mounts followed by a nut ensures that nothing moves. When the motherboard has been secured we simply tip the tech station on its side and using weights on the lower “legs” to keep it from tipping over we end up with a vertical orientated motherboard which is safe and secure yet still an open, controlled benching environment.


Mounting Orientation:

Only the typical East / West (aka forward / back) orientation will be used.


Temperature Recording:

Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 90°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.

Maximum voltage used is 1.35 volts.


Charts & Graphs:

Due to clutter and confusion we now will only be including the best of the best. We understand that “best” does mean different things to different people, to this end we will only be including what we feel are the best representatives of the main price ranges. These main prices ranges approximately are Intel OEM (free), $30, $40, $50, $60, and unlimited. Please keep in mind that prices are variable and while we have done our best to pick what we feel best represents a given price range there can and will be some overlap as these price ranges are not set in stone (with the exception being the Intel OEM cooler). To further help clarify a given cooler’s performance we will also be including a seventh CPU cooling solution, a cooling solution which irregardless of price best exemplifies what a good “all round” dual fan capable cooler should be. For the time being this last will be the TRUE Black. After each published cooler review we will re-evaluate the coolers being included in the charts and based on the value or performance may swap out a cooler for a cooler that was just reviewed.

This way you will not only know how it compares to the Intel stock unit and the best Damn Good Value coolers but also the best of the best Damn Good coolers out there. In grand total there will only be 8 coolers represented in a graph. However, if the review is a “round up” review this limitation will be extended to include all coolers in that review plus the above 7 cooling solutions. We will endeavour to keep the number as low as possible while still giving an accurate picture of the performance of all coolers being reviewed.

Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.


Sound Pressure Testing:

To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.

Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:


Processor: Intel i7 920

Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R

Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600

Graphics card: EVGA 7300GT passive

Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB single platter

Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W


Special thanks to Direct Canada for their support and supplying the i7 920 CPU.

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
 
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AkG

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Stock Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results


Please note, CoolIT's Vantage makes use of three pre-determined fan speed profiles which are engaged based upon the internal water temperature within the cooler or can be manually set. They are "Quiet", "Performance" and "Extreme". For the purposes of this review, we logged the CPU temperatures in the latter two as they were the ones we engaged when our CPU was under load. They are listed as "Medium" and "Max" in the charts below.

2.6GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/stock26.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

At stock speeds the CoolIT Vantage is extremely efficient and the fan really never had a chance to ramp up to full speed before test completion. Its medium speed setting is almost as good as a H70 when the H70 is running in single fan configuration and is better than the H50.


3.42GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/stock34.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

As the heat is turned up the “extreme” setting does start to make a difference on CPU temperatures compared to the “performance” (aka “medium”) setting. In fact, while the performance settings numbers are better than that the Domino they no longer destroy the older product’s numbers.

The Vantage’s Extreme setting numbers are also very good and while it could only moderately help the performance numbers (though they too are better than the Domino’s) the increased efficiency is really starting to come to the forefront.


3.8GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/stock38.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

The Vantage really is a cooling powerhouse. Remember, the Corsair H-series exhausts heat INTO the case and this alone can explain the minor difference.
 
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AkG

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High Speed & Dual Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


Please note, CoolIT's Vantage makes use of three pre-determined fan speed profiles which are engaged based upon the internal water temperature within the cooler or can be manually set. They are "Quiet", "Performance" and "Extreme". For the purposes of this review, we logged the CPU temperatures in the latter two as they were the ones we engaged when our CPU was under load. They are listed as "Medium" and "Max" in the charts below.

For comparison purposes, we have also included results with a non-stock high RPM fan which are listed as simple "CoolIT Vantage"


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/high26.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/high34.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/high38.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

As we can see, with all things being equal the CoolIT Vantage can certainly fight above its weight class. Though to be honest it is only at higher heat loads that any real difference can be seen between the CoolIT ECO, Vantage and Corsair H50 or H70. None are really being pushed; however when the heat IS turned up we can see that the combination of improved fluid rate, plus the stock fan sheath does make for one down right potent combination on the Vantage.


Dual Fan Performance Results


Please note, CoolIT's Vantage makes use of three pre-determined fan speed profiles which are engaged based upon the internal water temperature within the cooler or can be manually set. They are "Quiet", "Performance" and "Extreme". For the purposes of this review, we logged the CPU temperatures in the latter two as they were the ones we engaged when our CPU was under load. They are listed as "Medium" and "Max" in the charts below.

For comparison purposes, we have also included results with a non-stock setup of two Noctua fans which are listed as simply "CoolIT Vantage"


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/dual.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

As with the other test results this cooler features a very good design. However, because of its included fan sheath it still does prefer one good high speed fan to two lower speed fans but it does a pretty darn good job all the same. CoolIT really has taken all the potential weak points of the ALC design and tweaked them so that the Vantage variant can perform extremely well under a myriad of heat load and fan configurations.
 
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AkG

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Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us colouring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/fan.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

For all intents and purposes this IS the same fan as the Domino’s and as such it can tend to be quite loud when going full speed. However, since CoolIT equipped the Vantage with a sheath to optimize fan efficiency, the 120mm unit on this cooler doesn't have to work as hard as it did on past iterations. With that being said it, is very mild mannered at lower RPMs and can be considered darn near whisper quiet when a system is run at stock speed and stock heat levels. If you are overclocking though, things could get a bit dicy when those "Extreme" fan levels are reached due to increased liquid temperature.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


Many people have unrealistically high expectations for water cooling but these integrated systems just can’t compete with custom loops. Products like the Vantage aren’t targeted towards people who have the time, money and patience necessary to configure their own setups. Rather, these integrated systems are built with a focus upon value and ease of use Ironically, the Vantage just so happens to provide more than ample performance to put it into a category between high end air coolers and more exotic solutions.

Just like the ECO was the spiritual successor to the PURE, the Vantage is perfectly placed to continue in the Domino’s footsteps. CoolIT has made several evolutionary steps to a tried, tested and true design and the results really do speak for themselves. The Vantage is superior to the Domino in every respect but these changes haven’t necessitated an eye watering price increase either since this new cooler retails for only $10 more than the outgoing one.

Performance is actually quite good considering the inherent limitations of these compact water cooling setups. Most of the time, the Performance mode offered an excellent balance between fan speed and CPU temperatures on both stock speed and overclocked processors. The fact that in its default configuration the Vantage exhausts hot air outside of the case (unlike some of its competition) is just icing on the cake.

Speaking of price, don’t expect an integrated water cooling system like the Vantage to come cheap. With a price between $95 and $105 at most retailers, sticker shock will likely be the first reaction among many potential buyers. Just remember that most high end air coolers will likely push up against the $85 mark when equipped with quality fans.

Noise should also be factored into the equation since the Vantage can push the limits of acceptability when paired up with a highly overclocked processor. Luckily CoolIT included the ability to manually control which of the fan speed profiles is selected but for most users, the “Auto” setting will prove to be perfect. Performance against the similarly-priced Corsair H70 should also be taken into account since the Vantage does tend to loose quite spectacularly to it in some situations.

The CoolIT Vantage isn’t what we would call a perfect product but it in our opinion, it is currently one of the best integrated water cooling solutions currently on the market. If you are currently thinking of taking the dive into the water cooling pool but are concerned about the many pitfalls, this could be the perfect solution.


Pros:

- Great installation setup
- Compact & won't interfere with side panel fans
- Intel and AMD mounting plates included
- Great cooling performance
- Improved pump
- Granular control afforded by the 3 fan modes
- Included fan shroud
- Colour customizable LCD which can be turned off


Cons:

- In tough a tough fight against the Corsair H70
- Price
- Short 2 year warranty
- Fan is loud at full speed
- Still only a single height, single thickness radiator
- Less than perfect base finishing
- LCD brightness not controllable


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Vantage/DG.jpg" border="0" alt="" />



http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...coolit-vantage-l-c-review-comment-thread.html
 
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