Date: January 23, 2008
Author(s): William Kelley
During CoolIT’s CES-presence this month, the Freezone Elite was unveiled. In addition to offering stellar performance comparable to the original, the new MTEC control center is thrown in as well. This self-regulating module proved to do a fantastic job, making the Elite a superb cooling solution.
CoolIT is a young company, but have already become well-known for their cooling solutions based on designs that utilize a TEC-aided (Thermoelectric) design. The original Freezone worked well to please enthusiasts and since then, CoolIT has steadily refined their products with the help of much R&D, and it shows with each new release.
In fact, CoolIT announced a new Dual-Bay GPU Cooler built for NVIDIA chipsets at CES, and it impressed us so much that we gave it one of our Best of CES 2008 awards. We will be sure to have a review for that one in a short bit, but for now we are going to tackle the Freezone Elite with included MTEC controller.
The cooler itself is a nice self-contained design which has already been proven to be easy to install and is quite efficient as well. The addition of the MTEC unit now adds desktop flexibility. How well has CoolIT done in implementing it? That’s the focus of today’s review.
I received a pre-production unit so I did not have any factory packaging. I am quite certain that the retail units will be shipped with the usual excellent protection provided by their strong packaging. Below is exactly what I received.
Here is a close up of the MTEC controller package.
Inside the box you’ll find all the cables you will need along with a quick install guide and the software installation CD.
Here is a close up of the actual MTEC controller. Note how it is setup for future CoolIT product integration. They are going to be releasing a dual GPU-based solution that will be easily installed onto the current MTEC controller.
The Freezone Elite unit is rated to dissipate 250W worth of heat. It is a very well constructed unit and comes preassembled with thermal paste on the waterblock as well. According to their website, the TIM is Arctic Silver 5 – a tried and trusted brand.
It really gives a strong air of quality when you take a look at just how well-constructed the Elite is, and the care given to wiring and plumbing. But what a beast! How difficult is it to install? We will cover this next.
Installation, overall, was simple. All that was required was to swap the appropriate wires from the Freezone Elite’s built-in controller to the wiring of the MTEC unit.
You need to start by installing the standoffs on the motherboard for the CPU waterblock with the proper hardware:
Then the CPU waterblock:
Just a quick note. I found it best to rest the unit on the CD-ROM cage of my case during installation of the CPU block. The unit is bulky so you want to take care that it does not fall into your motherboard and knock anything loose while installing it.
Next I wired up the MTEC controller. Again, this is a very simple process of removing the connector from the onboard controller of the Elite and connecting it to the extension provided for the MTEC unit. The included quick installation instructions were very clear and easy to follow. Even those with little experience are going to have no issues with the install since CoolIT was kind enough to color code the connections.
Final installation of the entire setup was a snap as the Freezone Elite unit bolts to the rear 120MM case fan location and the MTEC controller is simple double sided taped to any convenient location that is open inside your case. I put it on the bottom of the 5 ¼ CD/DVD cage since it seemed the most logical place for installation.
Overall it was a simple process that required basic skills. Even a novice should feel quite confident installing this piece.
Time for some results! Before we begin, here are the specs of our testing machine:
I used standard methodology of testing for the Elite. All tests were done 3 times to ensure accuracy. I used Windows XP Professional for the OS and Prime95 was used to fully stress the CPU during testing. The MTEC software does give fairly accurate temperature readings and Core Temp was also used in conjunction to verify temperatures.
The latest version of CPU-Z was used to verify processor frequencies as well. All system drivers were updated to the latest as was Windows. All testing was done with everything installed in case and side panels fully attached. No special added cooling was used and the configuration was kept uniform during all testing. Ambient temperature was also kept nearly constant at 65°F (18°C) during the entire testing process.
My first test was to see just how low I could get the temperatures at idle. I ran the unit at 100% and had the MTEC software set to 0°C. While the fan was quite loud during this test, I was amazed at the results.
I was quite surprised to see my QX6850 idling at roughly 20°C. That is nearly ambient temperature.
Next I tested full load at stock system speeds. Again I had the MTEC software set to 0°C so that maximum cooling power was being applied.
Seeing that the QX6850 runs at 3GHz, there was a fair amount of heat being developed by the CPU. The Elite again proved it was up to the task. Now I tested for just how quietly I could run the unit and maintain a low idle temperature. After trying many different temperatures, I found that setting the MTEC software to keep the coolant at 25°C was the best blend of quiet vs. efficiency. Doing normal tasks on my PC only causes the fan speeds and TEC power levels to ramp up slightly and my PC was very quiet.
Seeing that it is rated to remove 250W of heat, it was time to crank up the CPU speed to really heat things up. Tests like this are enough to push ANY cooler to its limits and beyond. I do caution anyone else who plans on over clocking their system to be certain that their entire system is up to the task and you have proper ventilation and safeguards in place so that you do not damage your components. All computers handle overclocking differently and you must be certain you are comfortable with the risks involved.
For the overclocking test, I raised the multiplier on the CPU to 11x which resulted in a frequency of 3673.6MHz. At this setting, the CPU is putting out a tremendous heat load. This was really going to push this cooler.
Full load really pushed the temps up. Seeing that this particular CPU does not begin to throttle back speeds due to overheating until 100C, I was comfortable with my results of load testing.
Impressive results all-around. Time to wrap up with my final thoughts.
CooIT has once again built a very capable high quality CPU cooler. Pairing it up with the MTEC controller is the final piece of the puzzle for total control over the unit in a Windows environment. Without the MTEC, users are only able to adjust the Freezone to 3 settings.
You were also required to open your case to manually set the switch on the unit itself. With the MTEC, you are a few mouse clicks away from near silence or maximum cooling. The MTEC’s firmware is also upgradable which means future improvements are easy to apply. I upgraded my units’ firmware to the latest and I also used the latest software that was available on CoolIT’s site. They have a very friendly and helpful user forum which I found extremely helpful with all my questions.
I was very impressed with the performance and functionality of the Elite with the MTEC unit. The software is easy to use and highly adjustable. It’s also completely ESA-certified, which is a huge plus if you plan on going that route.
Everything is clearly identified and the readings are quite accurate. While the temperature displayed was probably a few degrees lower than the hottest core of my processor, the difference was not enough to cause me a moments concern. The updated software even installs a service which will keep running your settings without keeping the window open.
The overall flexibility of this system is was what impressed me the most. You have the ability to control just how loud and at what temperature your system is. You also have the ability to add an additional cooler to the MTEC whether it is the upcoming dual GPU system or another Elite system if you run dual CPUs.
Anyone looking for a very efficient and simple to use cooler should take a long hard look at the Elite. I certainly recommend it and I am looking forward to some long term testing with it in my own system.
As for an overall rating, I’d have to give it a 9 out of 10 seeing that it met and exceeded every expectation I had. I did expect it to perform well which it did. What I didn’t expect was just how well it worked with the MTEC and how quietly I could run my system. I could hear my hard drive spinning up over the Freezone during normal usage.
During long gaming sessions, I could barely hear the fans spinning up over my sound, even with the sound kept at moderate levels. Only during full load testing did the system get loud. Under normal use, whether gaming, playing music or any other task, you would never load your processor this much. I just had a very hard time finding any faults with it.
In all fairness to CoolIT, I found the price to performance was quite acceptable. Same with the noise levels. Any cooling solution will generate the same noise level in order to compete with it. As for the price, if you are spending thousands of dollars building your next killer computer, skimping on a cheap CPU cooler is the last thing to consider. You do get what you pay for. With the added functionality of the MTEC, this cooler has fully been taken to the next level.
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