CoolIT Vantage Advanced Liquid Cooler Reviewccokeman -
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When you get down to it, the CoolIT Vantage ALC is a cooling system that earns its keep at the top end of the spectrum. At the low end, you may not see the lowest temperatures at idle or at load when compared to the "Big Dog" air-cooled solutions for one reason: the dynamically controlled fan is adjusted on the fly to provide a low noise signature. This means by default that the temperatures will be a little warmer.
However, when additional cooling capacity is called for, the Vantage ALC is ready to get down to business. Along that vein, the Vantage ALC uses three performance modes to allow you to further tailor the cooling and noise to your needs. You get Quiet, Performance and Extreme. During the testing, the Vantage ALC performed in line with coolers not at the top of the charts, but right in the middle of the pack and delivered a cooling performance equal to some higher-end cooling solutions. At full load when overclocked with the standard test overclock, the Vantage registered a temperature of 58 degrees Celsius, or two degrees better than the CoolIT ECO ALC and five degrees higher than the Noctua NH-U12P. Respectable to say the least.
Not satisfied but more intrigued with just how much cooling capacity the Vantage ALC had available, I wanted to see if it could handle my everyday overclock of 4.0GHz, without reaching temperatures that are unacceptable. To put that in perspective, the temperature baseline with the stock Intel cooling solution was 71 degrees Celsius under load at 2.66GHz with 1.18v running to the CPU. What the Vantage was capable of at 4.0GHz was an average core temperature of 75 degrees Celsius using 1.35v to the cores. Only four degrees higher than the stock heat sink delivers, with 1.33Ghz less clock speed and with Hyper Threading enabled. That in itself earns the Vantage big points.
One thing the Vantage has that the ECO does not, is flexibility. Not the socket compatibility, as the Vantage ALC can be used on Intel sockets 775,1156 and 1366 with AMD sockets AM2, AM2+ and AM3, but in the fact that the control module mounted on the pump can be configured in five different colors and four different orientations. Not to mention the the cooling levels and actual display settings available.
The installation of the Vantage ALC is no harder than installing a bolt-in heat sink and rear fan. The use of thumb screws and a full back plate for Intel installations, makes installing the pump/heat sink assembly a breeze. Screw in the four screws to hold in the radiator assembly, peel off the covering on the two-sided tape to mount the back plate onto the motherboard, install the board and set the Vantage ALC pump in place and tighten the four screws until they bottom out. Then you plug in the power for the pump and connect the fan to the pump and it's off to the races. I did have one scare on initial startup, with a beeping noise from the unit. A quick look showed the pump speed not registering but once through the POST sequence and into the OS, it disappeared. I did not notice this on warm reboots, but instead after an overnight cool-down, so it may be a combination of low temperatures and the boot cycle.
Priced at about $115 the Vantage ALC is not going to be a budget cooling solution when you compare it to the mid-range 50 to 60 dollar heat sinks on the market, but when you narrow it down to the massive air coolers that come without fans, such as the Thermalright TRUE and Prolimatech Megahalems, adding fans on top of the purchase narrows the pricing gap for the high-end air solution. When you compare it to custom water cooling kits, the prices go up exponentially, making the comparison a moot point on value, though a custom kit can provide better thermals - just at a higher cost.
As it sits, the CoolIT Vantage ALC does impress with its ability to scale performance based on need and is a true alternative to high-end air cooling. The control panel is functional and easy to use and adds a little bit of 'bling' in your chassis, whatever the color scheme. 4.0GHz at close to stock Intel temperatures, has me sold on its capabilities. If you are looking for an alternative to air cooling, the CoolIT Vantage ALC is a solid choice to break into the world of liquid cooling. Low noise, flexibility, no maintenance and great cooling - it has it all!
- Silent at stock speeds
- Flexible cooling
- Bolt-in plug and play
- Multi-socket compatibility
- Great low noise performance
- Ease of installation
- Upcoming 'Maestro Software Control Suite'
- Still comparatively expensive