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CoolIT ECO A.L.C. Liquid CPU Cooler

Date: April 5, 2010
Author(s): William Kelley

Want to take a “dive” into water cooling, but don’t want the hassle and/or the expense? CoolIT has got you covered. With the company’s ECO A.L.C., you get an all-in-one liquid cooler that has one of the easiest installation schemes we’ve seen to date, preforms well, and comes in at just around ~$70 US.



Introduction

The search for the perfect cooling solution for that new PC you’re building never seems to end. Every manufacturer vouches to have the most efficient, quietest and cheapest solution available, and if we merely took their word for it, there would be no need to shop around.

As of late, advertising has reached an unprecedented level with the overwhelming popularity of the Internet and people’s ability to research a product down to its very last detail. Some days I almost (and I do mean almost) wish that we were not bombarded with so much information as it does lead to sensory overload causing even the simplest decision to be nearly impossible to make!

Whether you’re choosing air or water cooling, there is one simple fact that always comes to the head of the pack: simplicity is a MUST. No one wants to go to be forced to go to engineering school to learn the proper way to install a CPU cooler and they want it to just work straight out of the box with little tinkering. While the enthusiast market is growing day by day with people becoming ever braver to try more difficult installs, there is still only a very small segment of the market willing to put in the effort, and rightfully so.

CoolIT has specialized in PC cooling and has products to cover pretty much any area of the current market. From TEC-based monsters to the venerable all-in-one water cooling solution, CoolIT has been very busy in doing its homework and listening to its customers to make sure it’s in tune with what is expected in current products as well as future releases. Having tested its products before I can attest to the fact they do build quality stuff with a strong attention to detail and performance.

Today we get a look at the ECO A.L.C (Advanced Liquid Cooling). There was a time no so long ago that all-in-one solutions were scoffed at without a thought and were nearly ineffective and costly as well. Thankfully, that day is in the past and with releases such as the CoolIT Domino and the very successful Corsair H50 people are forced to take a long hard look at these types of coolers. I have said it many times in the past, water cooling is nearly unsurpassed with its ability to remove tremendous amounts of heat load without falling victim to heat soak. Multi-core processors have the uncanny ability to push their cooling solutions to their limits while overclocking pushes many past the point of failure.

With a simple design, CoolIT is once again setting the stage for another budget water vs. high-end air cooling battle. While we are not directly comparing the ECO to any air solution, we will give you all the facts you need to make the decision as to which way you should go for your next build. When the dust settles, I feel you just may be surprised at the results, so with no further ado, let’s get the ECO A.L.C. out of its box and onto a CPU and let parts do the talking.

Closer Look

Shipped in a rather plain and colorless black and white box, the ECO is well packaged and protected in a solid foam clamshell. Just for giggles I even sat down on the box and it held all 200lbs of my weight without feeling like calamity was imminent. Once out of the packaging and onto the table we see that we are given a simple yet elegant cooling solution. The quality is readily apparent and without a doubt you can see the engineers did their homework.

Focusing in on the pump/cup block once again shows off the clean lines and styling. The shroud has the CoolIT logo and part name printed on it and you can also see the simple yet effective thumbscrews used to attach it to the CPU socket. Should you prefer it, the screws are also able to be fastened using a Philips style screw driver.

The radiator is compact and has a solid feel. There is no flex in the metal and the finish is excellent. All of the connections are firm with no play so there is no worry the hoses could come loose once installed inside your case. To me, this is the main appeal of a pre-filled water cooling solution as most people are far too afraid of leaks when contemplating a custom-built water cooling loop.

While we are not given the exact specs of the included fan, I was happy to see it was of the 4-pin PWM style, meaning it will be able to be finely controlled by the motherboard’s BIOS as nearly all current motherboards have very effective fan control features built in. This will further enhance the effectiveness while helping maintain quiet levels, should that be within the desired operating parameters.

The base of the High Performance FHE (Fluid Heat Exchanger) has micro channels that help maximize cooling potential. It also sports pre-applied thermal paste so you can skip the often messy step of applying it yourself. Also take note of the simple multi-mount tabs. All you have to do is pull up on the thumbscrew to slide the tabs into the position needed for your socket. I think this innovative design feature is top-notch and far better than shipping multiple brackets for the 3 main Intel sockets.

Here we see the rest of the included hardware which comprises the many back plates for the 3 Intel sockets as well as the required mounting tabs for AMD sockets and also the respective back plate. Four screws and a simple installation guide round out the included parts.

I cannot emphasize just how much the simplicity of this design impresses me. While I have built many custom water loops for my personal PC over the years, it was still a daunting task which took days to do properly. This sleek design is sure to be a big hit with the mass market as long as it works as well as it looks.

Now that we have shown you the goods, it’s time to get it installed and see just what it’s made of.

Installation and Testing

To assure that our results are as accurate as possible, all of our CPU cooler testing is performed under highly-controlled conditions. Our test chassis is kept in a near-steady 20°C ambient environment, with readings taken before and after testing with a standard room thermometer. After we boot up our machine, we allow Windows to settle itself down for 10 minutes to stabilize processes that might be running in the background. Once the PC is completely idle, we record the current CPU temperature as that in our results.

BIOS settings are verified prior to each run, and to help with quick switching of our various profiles, we make use of the motherboard’s ability to store multiple configurations. We primarily use two for our testing here – stock speed, of 2.67GHz, and also a maximum overclock, of 4.01GHz. Stock settings were achieved by using “Load Optimum Default”, and storing those as our stock profile. The maximum overclock was obtained after extensive testing and tweaking to insure it was stable. The BCLK was raised to 191MHz. The CPU’s vCore was raised to 1.400v, and the IMC voltage was raised to 1.30v. The RAM is run at 1.6V and does overclock with the CPU during overclocking testing.

For our monitoring and temperature reporting, we use Everest Ultimate Edition 5, from Lavalys. It allows us to grab the results from each one of the cores, and the CPU has a whole, so we believe it to be indispensable to our toolkit. To help push our Intel Core i5 750 to its breaking-point, we use OCCT Linpack testing. The reason is simple: it utilizes LINPACK. After much testing with various “stress testers” in the past, we’ve found that running a multi-threaded tool that supports LINPACK, such as OCCT (and also LinX), pushes both AMD and Intel CPUs like no other. This results in higher temperatures than others (like Prime95) can muster, and also greater power consumption.

Because our test machine is equipped with 4GB of RAM, we set OCCT to use 90% of the available memory, and then set the test to run 1 hour total. With the help of Everest, the CPU’s various temperatures are recorded throughout all of the testing, and also for a minute after the test ends. The maximum recorded temperature found in the results file is labeled as “Max” in our results.

Component
Model
Processor
Intel Core i5-750 – Quad-Core, 2.66GHz
Motherboard
ASUS P7P55D Premium – P55-based
Memory
OCZ Reaper PC3-1333Mhz 2x2GB
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
Optical
LG 20X DVD DL
CPU Cooler
CoolIT ECO A.L.C.
Chassis
Zalman GS1000 (with 2x 64 CFM 120mm Fans)
Power Supply
Corsair VX550
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

Installing the pump is straight-forward enough. The mounting back plate has pre-applied two sided tape that will affix it to the back of your motherboard so you don’t even need to hold it in place after pressing it on. You then need to simply line up the thumb screws and start turning. They will bottom out as they get to the proper tightness so there is no guesswork here.

Installing the radiator is also a no-brainer. Since CoolIT chose to use the conventional exhaust style position of the fan, you do not need to mess with any of the current case fans as the orientation and airflow is unchanged. The 4 included Phillips head screws quickly and firmly attach the unit into place.

Once installed, all you need to do is plug the fan wire into the CPU header and the pump wire into any available chassis fan header. I chose one that was not controlled by the bios so the pump speeds could not be accidentally changed without meaning to when setting the BIOS fan speeds. All in all you get a very clean look once it is installed.

Now that installation and setup have been completed, it’s time to put some fire under the heat exchanger and see just how well it performs:

As you can see, the ECO A.L.C. was well up to the task. One VERY important consideration is that the test chassis the GS1000 is not the most efficient airflow chassis and yet my results were still quite good. I would be very comfortable with the recorded temperatures in my own personal system. And if you also put it into perspective that LINPACK does indeed stress the CPU far beyond what 99.99% of the world would see in normal use, you get an even better idea of what to expect in your own system.

Final Thoughts

CoolIT has really done a great job on the ECO A.L.C. For a retail price of ~$73US (Amazon), you really do get a lot for your money. This is definitely a well-thought-out and executed design and as per my results, it definitely gets the job done. Installation is as simple as can be and there is nothing to mess with once mounted. With the ability to quickly mount up to all current Intel and AMD platforms, no one is left out in the cold wanting.

Fit and finish were above average as well. There were no blemishes in the paint and the mounting point for the heat exchanger was smooth as glass. All fittings were firm and felt solid. There was no looseness in the brackets and once affixed it was without a doubt not going anywhere. There was no cheap feel to be found in any part of the entire assembly.

After my testing, I can also state that without a doubt the ECO A.L.C. will trade punches with any top-end air cooler in the same price range and beyond. This performance can also be attained in relative silence as well when properly configured. I am definitely one of those people that most definitely prefer silence over absolute best performance yet I feel that we truly have the best of both worlds here.

I readily give the ECO an Editor’s Choice award for excellence as it did everything it set out to do very well and did not have a single shortcoming in all my testing and observations. I purposely look for flaws in every product I test as there is no such thing as a perfect product, but the ECO comes oh so close to that rare perfection. The only possible shortcoming is that it is not going to out-perform high-end air cooling solutions, but it does perform so well that this is just is not a big deal.


CoolIT ECO A.L.C. CPU Cooler

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