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Ultra ChillTEC CPU Cooler

Date: May 1, 2007
Author(s): Greg King

With the summer heat right around the corner, you need to figure out a good way to keep your CPU cool. Has Ultra come to the rescue with their ChillTEC cooler? As the name suggests, it uses a Thermo-electric Chip to help moderate the temperature of your CPU. The big question is though: Is this Totally-Enormous-Cooler worth your $130?



Introduction


With summer just starting to rear its ugly head, now is the time of year when we figure out if our recent CPU cooler upgrades were a wise investment. As the temperatures go up outside, so do the ambient temperatures in your home. One category that we have spent a lot of time on in the past here at Techgage has been system cooling. In doing so, we have worked with many different types of coolers and in doing that; have built up a decent understanding of how different designs should perform.

One of the latest trends in PC cooling is the mainstream use of peltier coolers. While this isn’t exactly a new technology to the extreme enthusiasts, only recently has this it been made readily available to the everyday overclocker. A testament to the effectiveness of this technology when used correctly can be seen in our reviews of the CoolIT Freezone and Eliminator. Both of these products use the peltier technology and relative to other coolers in their price range, they work incredibly well.

One company wanting to build on this recent surge of peltier popularity is Ultra. More known for their popular power supplies, Ultra actually offers a wide arrange of products. Many of which we have taken looks at here at Techgage in past reviews. Choosing to call it the ChillTEC, Ultra is hoping that this hybrid cooler has what it takes to gain popularity and find its way into enthusiast’s PCs everywhere.

Closer Look

Shipping in a rather large box, the colorful package displays a picture of the cooler as well as important information about the ChillTEC.

Once opened, we see that Ultra has shipped the ChillTEC in a protective plastic and foam shell. The unit arrived to our bench unharmed, thanks in part to the secure packaging that Ultra uses.

Ultra has included an assortment of mounting hardware. With the ChillTEC listed as being compatible with all modern mainstream motherboards, the cooler certainly has versatility on it’s side. Included with the ChillTEC is three mounting back plates, one for socket 775, one for AM2 and one for AMD’s K8 line of processors (s939). Ultra has also included a clear plastic piece as well as a black piece of insulating foam that must be placed between the back plate and the motherboard to prevent any possible shorts in connections.

Looking a bit closer at these plates, we see that there are posts on them in different places on each one. These are to be used with the respective socket type and are conveniently labeled on the bottom of the plate itself.

Also included in the kit are various other pieces of hardware that will allow the ChillTEC to be properly mounted onto your socket of choice. There are also four thumb screws with retention springs on them to securely keep the cooler firmly against the CPU. Also included are the necessary cables to connect the ChillTEC to its control unit and a small tube of thermal paste that will not be used in this review.

Moving onto the control module, it’s clear that it’s designed to fit into an empty 5.25” drive bay in your PC. Built out of polished aluminum with a brushed black aluminum face, the unit looks bare on the front with only a pair of buttons, one of either side of the display.

Around back, there are three connections for a standard PSU 4-pin Molex connector, the TEC cable as well as for the thermal probe. These will connect to the ChillTEC itself.

Time to take a look at the ChillTEC itself.



Closer Look

When we get to the ChillTEC itself, the sheer size of the thing is apparent. With a black aluminum shroud around it, and the Ultra logo in bold white lettering on the top, at least in appearance, the ChillTEC certainly means business.

On the front of the cooler there is a blue LED fan to not only move air across the heatsink fins but look good in the process.

At the rear of the cooler, we can see the stack of fins on the heatsink.

Taking a closer look at the base of the ChillTEC, we can see just how Ultra went about using the peltier using and where they placed it on the cooler. In this design, the peltier sits on top of one copper block that has a pair of heatpipes connected to it. Just above the TEC is another copper block, again connected to a pair of heatpipes. In this design, the peltier will cool the block that is directly touching the CPU. Any heat created by the CPU will be taken away with the help of the first set of heatpipes. The top side of the peltier, the one that gets warm, will be kept cool with the top block and heatpipes. Both sets of heatpipes run directly into the heatsink on top.

To connect the TEC unit with the control module, there is a pair of connecting cables. The peltier unit connects with a simple 2 pin plug and the fan and thermal probe connect with the black plug.

One thing to point out in any cooler review is the area that will make direct contact with the CPU. This area should, for the most part, be free of any major machining marks and ideally, will have a mirror polish. In the case of the ChillTEC, we can see that while the thumb screws are reflected, they are still a bit hazy. This is normal for about 90% of all coolers I have worked with and should not be of any concern.

Before we get into the installation and results of the testing, we should take a moment to size the thing up. Earlier in the review, we commented on the size of the ChillTEC. While big, how does it size up next to the Zalman 9700 that we will be using as a rough comparison? All in all, the Ultra ChillTEC is just a hair large than the Zalman cooler and for most, this should not prove to be a problem when it comes to mounting the cooler in your case.

As stated earlier, the Cooler it is just a bit taller and longer than the Zalman but this shouldn’t be a problem at all for most.



Installation

If you have ever installed an after market CPU cooler, the installation process for the ChillTEC should be simple and to the point. If you haven’t, never fear as the ChillTEC can be installed in little to no time at all. It all starts with the back plate. In this review, the cooler will sit atop an Intel E6600. With the E6600 being a socket 775 CPU, we will use the appropriate back plate and start from there.

With the plate being made of metal, and the motherboard having solder points on the back, there must be an insulating material to prevent the plate and the circuits from shorting out. To do this, there is a pair of layers that must be installed. Starting with the 775 plate, we first install the clear plastic. In all honesty, we have no idea what purpose this serves but it’s in the manual so we will use it.

Next, we place the black foam layer. This is the actual piece that will provide an insulating layer to prevent and hot metal on metal action. Perhaps this is where the plastic piece comes into play. The only thing I can think of is that if the solder points on the back of the motherboard are long enough, they could press through the foam and ground out on the metal plate. Maybe. Anyway, when the foam is installed, is should look like this.

The next step is to place the four mounting posts through the holes on the motherboard and prepare the motherboard to accept the cooler.

With the motherboard ready, we turn our attention to the cooler itself. In our case, we will be using this cooler to cool an Intel socket 775 E6600. To allow the ChillTEC to work with this setup, we will need to install a few bits of hardware. These basically expand the holes outward to meet up with the posts sticking up through the mounting holes. These “extenders” are held on with a small screw.

Once the thermal paste is applies, it’s time to mount the cooler. Please note that we will not be using the included thermal paste. Instead, we are going to use our personal favorite, the Zalman ZM-STG1 thermal interface material. Once applied, the ChillTEC slides down on the posts and is held in place with the included thumb screws. While cramped, and that is more the fault of the motherboard, installation of the ChillTEC was simple and painless. It honestly took less than 15 minutes. When everything is secured, we hook up the cables and get down to business.

With everything in place, we take a look at the control module. Coming with the option of selecting many different colors, the display provides us with the total time the unit has been used, the temperature of the TEC unit and an animation of a person digging in the ground. Yeah, it’s actually a person digging. I have no idea.

With everything on the board, it should look like so.

On to testing and our conclusion!



Testing and Final Thoughts

As we mentioned earlier, we are cooling an Intel E6600. Being used on the DFI ICFX3200 motherboard as our test bed, the results will be compared to the stock Intel cooler as well as the previously mentioned Zalman 9700. The entire bench includes:

This hardware will be used on all three coolers and it will be interesting to see how well the Ultra ChillTEC compares to one of the best air coolers available on the market today. Keep in mind though that the Ultra uses a TEC while the others simply push air across some fins.

First up, the idle temperatures at the stock 2.4 GHz are recorded with the PC sitting unused. The PC is powered on and left for an hour. After that hour, we recorded the temperature using IDE Smart Guardian. After the allowed hour, we got the following results. To get the load temperatures, we ran 2 instances of CPU Burn-In as well as a pair of Prime 95 sessions. After an hour, the temperatures were recorded.

We repeated the process but this time, the CPU was overclocked to 3.2 GHz and had 1.4v running though both cores. The same process was used to find the idle and load temperatures.

As you can see, the temperatures scale nicely on each cooler and as it should, the ChillTEC comes out on top each time.

One might ask why we did not use the CoolIT coolers that we have used in the past. With the Ultra working like it does, we didn’t feel that it would be a fair comparison. What the Ultra does is crank up the power to the TEC when the temps start to jump. When they are at an acceptable level, the cooler works as any other, without the help of the TEC. This is something that we would like to see Ultra allow the end user to control more in the future.

When the testing was done, there were a few things that we liked about the ChillTEC but many more that we disliked. First off, the control module was just about worthless. It looks decent in a black case but that’s just about where it ends. The temperature readout never worked once, unless I am to believe that the CPU never got above 26 degrees. Then we move onto the man digging.

I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of the engineers that originally produced this but I don’t think it was a productive meeting. I understand that the guy digs faster the harder the cooler is working but what a silly thing to show. That and he never once started to dig any faster considering the temperature reading never budged from 26 degrees.

From there, the fan speed kept going up and down in a predictive fashion. Every few seconds, the fan would spin faster and then would spin back down. Even with headphones on, this was annoying.

At the end of the day, the Ultra ChillTEC is an OEM product from a manufacturer one can only assume is in China. The cooler is exactly the same as the Vigor TEC cooler, but with an Ultra badging. This is really a non issue but it is something that with a little effort from the engineers at Ultra, can be truly Ultra’s own. They could redesign the control module to allow the user the ability to control the power going to the TEC. This would add quite a bit of bite to a solidly designed product that Ultra already has.

With all that said, the Ultra ChillTEC earns a 7 our of 10.

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