Date: November 6, 2006
Author(s): Greg King
With the growth of CPUs, more cores mean more heat. We are constantly interested in new ways to keep our processors cool and the CoolIT Freezone appears to be just that, a new approach to keeping your CPU cool. Does it deliver?
It’s been an exciting time in the CPU world the past year. Intel released their superb Core 2 Duo line of chips and if that wasn’t enough, Core 2 Quadro was just unleashed. To compete with this, AMD slashed their prices to compete which made chips that were previously unaffordable, obtainable for the masses without large bank accounts. AMD’s 4×4 is also just around the corner so these are great times indeed for us in the technology industry. Good times indeed’
The first Pentium 4s were hot, really hot. You needed some robust cooling to keep them in check. During this time, the first dual core CPUs hit the market and with the more cores there is bound to be more heat. You have a few options to keep your hardware cool. Some choose to use the stock heatsink that comes with their product and for most people, this is enough. Then there are others who either want better cooling or a quieter solution can always purchase an after market cooling solution. Going up the cooling ladder, you can always go with water cooling your PC. This offers better performance than air and usually is less noisy. From here, we get into the hardcore cooling such as peltiers or phase change. These are not solutions for the faint of heart but by far offer the best cooling solution.
Today we are working with CoolIT’s Freezone. The Freezone is unique in the sense that it is a TEC (Thermo Electric Coupler), or peltier, that chills the radiator instead of sitting directly on top of the CPU itself. Based out of Calgary, Canada, CoolIT has made a name for themselves by offering the cooling solution for Alienware’s high end PCs. They also offer a USB powered beverage chiller/coaster. Today we are going to get into the nitty gritty with the Freezone and see just how well it does, or does not, cool my Core 2 Duo E6600.
For the sake of time, and the reader’s sanity, I am not going to get into the specifics of the Peltier effect but to consolidate it down, the unit uses an electrical effect to get one side of the unit very cold and the other side, hotter than hell. This is why a peltier unit goes had in hand with water cooling kits to keep the hot side cool enough to efficiently operate. If you would like to read up on the Peltier effect you can read more here.
The CoolIT Freezone came shipped in the retail packaging. This is the box that anyone would receive if they were to order this unit. The package is colorful and full of any information that one might need to know. Some of it is useful, some of it is marketing but the overall package is well done.
Once open, we see the Freezone tucked away safely in styrofoam with all of the accessories with it.
Once we open it up, we see the manual and more accessories.
The Freezone comes with an adapter that can be used for mounting the Freezone on a PC that lacks the 92mm fan holes. Why Freezone choose to neglect to use a 120mm fan is beyond me but I would imagine that Alienware and their cases that use 92mm fans had a lot to do with the design of the Freezone.
As you can see, CoolIT has thought of most systems. You have mounting adapters for Intel socket 478 and 775, which will be used today as well as AMD s939, 940 and AM2.
Digging further into the box, we see the Thermal Control Module which controls the power that goes to the TECs as well as how fast the fan needs to spin.
The Thermal Control Module is the brains of the Freezone and needs only one 4 pin molex connector. This powers the TECs as well as the pump. In the center of the unit, you see a rheostat. This rheostat is what allows you to control the TEC units. The higher the TECs are working, the more heat the put out which requires the fan to spin faster.
Power out to the unit also uses a 4 pin power connector but instead of a 1×4, it’s a 2×2. The reasoning behind this is beyond me but it might be to reduce confusion between using a standard 1×4 molex plug to directly the unit.
Out of the box, we see the Freezone. The unit itself is an all encompassing unit that includes the radiator, fan, TEC units as well as the pump.
As stated earlier, CoolIT uses a 92mm fan. This seems a bit odd to me but whatever. I would however like to see a 120mm Freezone 2 down the road but with the included adapter, this really isn’t anything bad at all.
On the backside of the Freezone, the pump is housed behind an aluminum cover. It mounts directly behind the radiator. The pump is powered by a 3 pin connector and is intended to run off of the motherboard.
The pump has a port on the top of itself that is intended for refilling the liquid should you ever have to. The Freezone itself comes filled with liquid and is good to go right out of the box.
Moving to the TEC units themselves, we see the TECs sitting on top of the radiator, as well as directly below the radiator. The waterblocks sit directly on top of them to keep them cool.
The waterblock itself is small and compact and includes a thin and even layer of thermal interface material (TIM).
Installation of the Freezone isn’t any different than any other water kit I have worked with. The motherboard needs to be removed to install the mounting equipment for the waterblock.
The first step is removing the motherboard. After that, you have to install the mounting towers that will hold the retention brackets. These are held onto the motherboard with bolts and nylon washers.
Once through the motherboard, you need to place another washer on top of the motherboard and then install the standoffs.
Included in the kit is a small wrench that you can use to tighten down the standoff.
Once everything is installed, your motherboard should look like this:
From here, we need to install the waterblock. You need to install the waterblock first because the aluminum plate on the cooler will block all the mess made by the hoses and the wires. To install the block, we will use the socket 775 retention brackets included with the kit. We will be using 2 and they look like this:
From here, we will place the waterblock on the CPU and hold it in place while the retention bracket is installed to hold the block down, allowing us to install the other bracket. The included thumbscrews make installation a snap.
Once we have the waterblock securely down on the CPU, we turn to the Freezone itself. To mount the unit, we have to first install the 92mm to 120mm conversion plate. This is held on by 4 bolts and nuts. Here is where I ran into my first problem with the Freezone. The fan itself, by the fan’s design, doesn’t allow you the room to get the nuts on the bolts. This was easily fixed by me and my pliers. This is something that I would like to see fixed but is not something that cannot be fixed by the end user. It is however not something that the end user should have to do when they shell out the money that they will have to do if they want to own the Freezone.
With the plate on, we are ready to install the Freezone into my case. For this review, I am using the JustPC R910 server case.
To install the Freezone, all one has to do is screw the 120mm converter plate onto the back of the case just as you would do with any fan you would use. 4 screws and you are done, it’s that simple.
Next we need to install the Thermal Control Module. This can be mounted anywhere in your case but first you will want to check and see if the cables will reach. This case is the largest I have ever worked with and the cables reached just about everywhere so you should be fine. I choose to mount the TCM in the middle of the case, close to the motherboard. The TCM can be seen behind the power cable.
To test the Freezone, I will run the unit on with the rheostat turned all the way up, as well as on the lowest settings available. The temps will be recorded at idle as well as under full load.
The test system is:
To test the E6600 and get it up to load, I will run 2 instances of CPU Burn-In as well as factor Pi to 32M places using Super Pi.
The results speak for themselves. While the results for the Freezone when set to low weren’t really any better than a stock cooler, the system as a whole was silent. When the Freezone was set to hi, the results were incredibly different. The system noise was high, but the results more than made up for it. The temps recorded were only averages of what I was experiencing. I saw my temps on high actually dip to 10’C. The installation of the Freezone was problem free aside from the mounting bracket problem and while this is something that has to be changed, this did not change the results of the Freezone’s performance.
The lack of a reservoir is convenient but also allows the water to heat up a bit quicker than it would have with the use of one. Again, the results confirm that on hi, the Freezone really doesn’t need a radiator but it’s on low where CoolIT needs to focus their attention for the next product they come out with. The silent operations of the Freezone more than makes up for the higher temperatures and if you are not going to overclock your system, the low setting should be more than enough to keep your temperatures in check.
When all is said and done, I am left very impressed with the CoolIT Freezone. The unit is made of top shelf components and the finished product is clean and looks great. With a street price at the moment of $350 (US), the Freezone might not be in everyone’s interest but if you can afford it, this is something that everyone should have. It’s just that good.
I am happy to award the CoolIT Freezone a very solid 9 out of 10 as well as an Editor’s Choice award. The Freezone will not be leaving this case for a long time. It’s just that good.
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