CoolIT Freezone CPU Cooler Inverness

Considering how expensive PC components can be and their general distaste for drowning, it isn't hard to see why watercooling is still a niche practice. But US manufacturer CoolIT Systems has followed up on such products as its USB Beverage Chiller with the Freezone CPU Cooler.

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CoolIT Freezone CPU Cooler

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Considering how expensive PC components can be and their general distaste for drowning, it isn't hard to see why watercooling is still a niche practice. But US manufacturer CoolIT Systems has followed up on such products as its USB Beverage Chiller with the Freezone CPU Cooler. Coming fully assembled and fully sealed, it goes some way to eliminate the major fear of having liquids inside your PC. In fact, so powerful is the technology on hand to do the actual cooling, the liquid in question is primarily anti-freeze.

Unlike most similar products, the Freezone doesn't use a radiator. Instead, it uses its proprietary Chiller module. In short, heat is drawn away from the CPU by the solid copper Fluid Heat Exchanger (FHE) and dissipated into the coolant to head back into the Chiller module. Here, a current is sent through six thermoelectric coolers (TECs, or peltiers), which draw the heat out of the back of the unit via the exhaust fan, refrigerating the coolant in the process.

You'll need the motherboard out of the case to install the CPU block itself. Attaching the FHE to the CPU depends on your motherboard type, and included in the box are different standoffs and retention frames: one set for Socket 939 AMD systems, and others for Intel Sockets 478 and 775. Other blocks are also apparently planned, although it's worth noting that there's currently no option to add GPU or chipset cooling modules to the kit.

We found it best to initially hold the pieces where they will finally rest, preventing the pipes from becoming twisted. Once you've moved the cooling unit aside, the pipes will constantly try to pull the FHE out of place, so you'll need to keep one hand on it at all times. With the other, you'll need to position the appropriate retention bars in the grooves and screw them into the standoffs, alternating them so as to keep the pressure even as you tighten.

The Chiller module then flips over into the rear of the case, and the pump is connected to the motherboard's CPU fan header. It's worth checking that your fan grille won't prevent a screwdriver from reaching inside to the new holes - ours did, leaving us to install the plate directly onto the Chiller module first, before embarking on the case installation proper. We removed the rear exhaust fan and, as our chassis had holes only for a 120mm fan, we used the provided 92mm adaptor plate.

It's all controlled by the Thermal Control Module: a small additional circuit board with an adhesive backing so you can mount it somewhere convenient. Its main feature is an adjustable potentiometer with which, using the tool provided, you can fully adjust the function of the Freezone.

To test it, we used SpeedFan (www.almico.com) for taking temperature readings, although as thermal diodes aren't strictly accurate when it comes to a true temperature, we paid more attention to the temperature difference, rather than the actual numbers themselves. We took measurements while idle, and also after a period of torture testing with Prime95 (www.mersenne.org, which pushes the CPU to full load.

Using the default balanced mode, the Freezone doesn't aggressively try to chill your CPU, merely doing enough to maintain a reasonable heat level compared to the ambient temperature. With our 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 840, we saw no real difference in temperature between it and the stock cooler. However, the noise level was significantly lower, and even when we ran the torture test it happily rose to cope while remaining quieter than the stock cooler.

Turning the Freezone to maximum performance brought it up to a similar noise level to the stock cooler (albeit a much less annoying hum), but dropped the temperature by an impressive 16C when idle and 8C under full load.

Our AMD test rig used a 2.6GHz Athlon 64 FX-60, and even in default mode the Freezone knocked 11C off the stock cooler while idle. Turning it up to maximum performance, it took an incredible 23C off the stock cooler, and during our torture test it beat it by a superb 18C.

You can also turn the dial to any point between maximum and minimum performance - a bit of experimentation found we could significantly reduce the fan noise, while only gaining a few degrees on the CPU. With a bit of time, you'll easily find a balance that suits your environment and your usage habits.

Overclockers (and AMD owners in particular) will appreciate the amount of potential this offers, although you'll need to combine it with extra cooling on the chipset and RAM to make the most of it. At the other end of the scale, it can be an almost silent cooler if you don't plan to absolutely roast your CPU. Even if you do, it will dynamically boost its power to avoid meltdown, and it's this scalability that makes it such a versatile unit.

The only real downside is the expense; even more so than other watercoolers such as the Asetek WaterChill and Innovatek Premium XXS (see issue 132, p61). But these require maintenance, include large radiators and don't offer the sheer flexibility of the Freezone. If you want to aggressively cool your CPU with comparatively low noise and without bulky external equipment, it's the best option we've yet seen.

System Specifications

Monolithic copper CPU block for Socket 478/775/754/939/940; chiller unit with 92mm exhaust fan; 12V pump; reservoir; Thermal Control Module

Verdict

Turn it up and the Freezone cools incredibly effectively, or turn it down and it's virtually silent. And it all fits easily in a PC case and doesn't involve complex assembly

Author: David Bayon

PC Pro Online