CoolIT Vantage Advanced Liquid Cooler Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: August 15, 2010
In this day and age we can get just about anything you can imagine to cool a processor in our systems. The gamut runs from the stock cooling solution, all the way up to the slightly more exotic high-end air cooling, to water cooling, all the way up to super cooled liquid gases, such as nitrogen and helium. There is a solution for everyone in this wide range of products. You have the person who buys a pre-built computer that doesn't care or doesn't have any idea what the temperatures in that mundane box are, just so long as it works. That really is not the audience we are after. Again, the guys at the top end of the overclocking world are all about how much colder can the chip stay when searching for that last MHz. Again, probably not who's looking at the mid to high-end solutions. Then you have the ever growing field of enthusiasts that look for the best temperatures they can get for their performance dollar or someone just looking for better temperatures without breaking the bank.
In this middle ground, we have a cooling solution from CoolIT, the Vantage ALC (Advanced Liquid Cooling). This model looks to be a step up from the ECO A.L.C. we looked at just recently with added functionality and programmable performance modes instead of just a connection to the motherboard. The ECO A.L.C. was a great introduction to liquid cooling and I am curious to see if CoolIT has made improvements that allow the Vantage ALC exceed the performance of the ECO with the similar build up. Let's take a look at the Vantage and see.
Having just recently taken a look at CoolIT's ECO ALC cooling solution, the packaging on the Vantage is a major leap forward when it comes to shelf visibility and visual appeal. The ECO was simple and straight forward black and white while the Vantage has a cool blue and black theme with illustrations of the cooling solution and its functionality across all four panels. The front shows a shot of the Vantage with information about its ability to be upgraded, low noise signature, the six LED colors of the control panel and the universal retention mechanism. The rear shows the performance curves of settings, a picture illustrating the Vantage installed and both the AMD and Intel logos as the Vantage is compatible with both manufacturers latest sockets.The bottom panel lists the specifications and talks about the design elements that make the Vantage a superior cooling product.
Popping open the packaging shows the Vantage ALC is encased in a split foam block that easily protects it from the rigors of the current shipping environment. One side of the block contains the mounting system for AMD sockets and the back plates for use with Intel's latest sockets. Splitting the foam block yields the first glimpse of the Vantage ALC. The radiator and liquid transfer lines are wrapped in plastic.
The accessory bundle that comes with the CoolIT Vantage ALC is what you would expect with a higher-end cooling solution. You get the mounting hardware for all of the compatible sockets from both AMD and Intel, a set of screws to mount the radiator, a comprehensive manual and a tube of CoolIT's own proprietary thermal paste, 'PRO A.T.C.'. The Intel hardware comes pre-installed with the AMD hardware included. Swapping the hardware is a simple task that should take no more than a few minutes.
The packaging is only a prelude to looking at the CoolIT Vantage ALC.
The Vantage ALC will be the fourth cooling solution from CoolIT Systems that Overclockersclub has looked at. In the past we have looked at both budget and full-tilt cooling systems including the Pure and Domino A.L.C. with the most recent being the ECO A.L.C., which is a more basic approach for CoolIT much like the earlier Pure. The Vantage ALC is much like a hybrid of these models with the sweet simplicity of the ECO, but added functionality of an added control module so that you can customize its performance for your needs. The CoolIT Vantage ALC consists of three distinct parts: the radiator, fan and the pump/fluid heat exchanger all connected together with non-permeable lines, just to make sure that one of the biggest headaches with a liquid cooling system (Liquid Loss) is not a problem. As with CoolIT's other systems, the Vantage is pre-assembled and filled so that all you have to do is install the system into your chassis and enjoy the benefits of liquid cooling.
Let's start with a look at the pump/control unit of the Vantage ALC. The vantage uses a control module that can be customized to fit your needs, from mild to wild. You have three configurable options Quiet, Performance and Extreme. The display can be configured to be viewed in both portrait and landscape views so that the displayed information can be viewed regardless of the orientation of the pump assembly. On the front or top of the pump assembly are two buttons that allow you to navigate through the controller menus to set up the performance level required for your tastes. The pump assembly is inside the housing. CoolIT uses their own proprietary CFF1 pump that uses a ceramic bearing to get to the 50,000 hour MTBF while consuming just 1w of power. That's over five years of running 24 hours a day. The pump pushes a proprietary coolant mixture that consists of a propylene glycol mixture with both anti-corrosion and anti-fungal additives to eliminate another of the concerns with liquid cooling: algae build-up clogging the heat exchanger.
On one side of the pump assembly is a latch and on the other are the pump outlet and return lines from the radiator. These 90 degree fittings swivel around to make sure you can get the optimum fit in your chassis as the non permeable lines are not the most flexible. Even so, the tubing is flexible enough to get the job done, as long as you are not going for really tight radius turns. The Fluid Heat Exchanger, or the copper contact surface has the PRO A.T.C. thermal paste already applied in the correct pattern and thickness for mounting the Vantage ALC. When they say pre-assembled, it means that all you have to do is install the cooling system. The mounting hardware for Intel equipped systems is installed from the factory and is configurable by sliding the attachment point either in or out, to reach the 75 to 80mm span between socket 775 and socket 1366 motherboards.
There are two four-pin connections coming off the Vantage ALC pump assembly. A four-pin female connection supplies power to the CFF1 pump via the CPU fan header on the motherboard, so be sure to disable any PWM control in the BIOS. The four-pin male connection feeds power to the fan mounted on the radiator. This allows the Vantage control module to dynamically adjust the fan speed based on temperature.
Where CoolIT has improved with this cooling system in my opinion, is with the addition of a shroud on the back side to allow airflow out of the chassis a little better. Also, when mounting the radiator to the chassis, you are screwing into the shroud and not the radiator, meaning less chance of tweaking it and causing a leak. The 120mm fan attached to the radiator can be run from 1100 to 2500 RPM to provide airflow in both low and high demand cooling situations. The radiator has a fairly dense fin package at 22 fins per inch. CoolIT has designed this system so that the fan is used to push the air through the radiator using the air in the chassis with the exhaust going out of the chassis, versus using outside air for greater cooling that in turn pushes the hot air into the chassis. The top of the radiator has three separate connections, two for the liquid in and out lines, with a third sealed connection used to fill the unit up at the factory. The cooling system is filled with a proprietary coolant mix that includes both anti-corrosive and anti-fungal agents to keep the system in peak condition and eliminate any galvanic corrosion.
The CoolIT Vantage is able to be set up with three user configurable performance modes, Silent, Performance and Extreme. As you can guess, the Silent mode is going to be quiet, while Performance and Extreme will work toward the other end of the spectrum, with increased noise and better performance. The Vantage ALC can be configured in other ways as well, with up to six different colors on the control panel display and four different orientations - two landscape and two portrait modes. Additionally, you can set up the display to show the coolant temperature, fan and pump speeds or the CoolIT logo.
In the near future this unit will be able to interface with CoolIT's upcoming Maestro software and fan node that will bring added functionality to the Vantage ALC. The upcoming software suite will allow you to auto-detect devices connected to the system, control fans (including third party fans) so you can have control over all of the cooling fans in your system and a set of lights that can be set up for just the 'bling' factor or to function as warning LEDs, as well as allowing you to graph the cooling performance of your system. An incredible amount of functionality will be available from the guys at CoolIT.
Once installed, all that is left to do is to start up the system and test it out to see if the Vantage ALC is a performance piece, or just a good silent upgrade from stock cooling.
- CoolIT CPU FHE (Fluid Heat Exchanger) Copper Micro-Channel
- Universal Retention System
- Out of the box support provided for Intel 775, 1156, 1366 and AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 sockets.
- CoolIT Pump: Quiet, compact, long life Ceramic bearing CFF1 pump Life Cycle: 50,000 Hours MTTF
- CoolIT Coolant: CoolIT Systems low toxicity with anticorrosion/anti fungal additives
- CoolIT Radiator: Custom engineered for low noise high heat dissipation
- CoolIT Fan: High reliability, Quiet 12V Speed: 1100 - 2,500 RPM (low to high regulation)
- CoolIT CPU Thermal Grease: CoolIT Systems Pro A.T.C. (Advanced Thermal Compound)
- CoolIT Fan Node: Three standard 3 or 4 pin fan headers that can auto detect a variety of third-party fans.Â Integrated Red-Green LEDÂ as well as an external RGB LED header and one temperature sensor header allowing for remote temperature detection.
- Operations Modes (User Selectable): Three cooling performance modes quiet, performance, and full.
- CoolIT 2 Year Manufacturer Warranty
All information Courtesy of CoolIT @ http://www.coolitsystems.com/index.php/en/vantage.html
Finding out how the Vantage performs is the object of this exercise so I will be making a comparison of the CPU temperatures in both an idle and loaded state. Both will be made while the CPU is at the stock voltages and clock speeds, as well as when the CPU is overclocked and 'over-volted'. This will help to show what kind of cooling performance that this cooling solution from CoolIT has to offer, when compared to other socket 1366 compatible high-performance cooling solutions. These cooling systems will be tested head-to-head as they are delivered from the manufacturer. I could throw in a bunch of testing variables, but it is not what the products are capable of as delivered. To test the idle temperatures, I will allow the computer to stay in an idle state for 30 minutes and take the idle temperature at this point. For the load testing, I will use Prime95 version 25.11 and choose the blend testing and allow the processor and memory controller to heat up to the maximum temperatures. The time frame is a four-hour run, to allow the temperature to peak - usually at or around the 14K test. I will use Real temp 2.7 to take the high and low temperatures and average the temperatures generated over the four cores as my reported temperatures.
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920 133x20(Stock) 166x20 Overclocked
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse
- Memory: Mushkin Redline PC3 12800 990805 6-8-6-24
- Video Card(s): Sapphire HD 5870 1GB
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: Asus DVD-R
- OS: Windows: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit.
- Chassis: ThermalTake Armour +
Comparison Heat sinks:
- Coolink Corator DS
- Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Thermalright TRUE Revision C
- Noctua NH-D14
- Noctua NH-U9B SE
- Coolit ECO ALC
- Noctua NH-C12P SE14
- Thermalright TRUE Copper
- Gelid Tranquillo
- Thermalright TRUE Revision A
- Noctua NH-C12P SE14
- Thermaltake FRIO
When testing the Vantage ALC at the 920's stock speeds and voltage (2.66Ghz, 1.14v) on the Extreme, Silent and Performance settings there was not enough heat output to the system to really ramp up the fan. At all three performance points, the results were similar. When overclocked to 3.3GHz the, Vantage delivered slightly better numbers than the Gelid Tranquillo and the CoolIT ECO ALC that preceded it to market, as well as comparable temperatures to the CoratorDS from Coolink, the Noctua NH-C12P SE14 and the Thermaltake FRIO on low speed settings. This is a better performance than I was expecting.
In light of this I figured I should see what it will do with my normal overclocked settings of 200x20 for 4.0Ghz with 1.35 volts and run prime 95 for the same length of time as the normal testing. What I found was that the Vantage was up to the task keeping temperatures in the mid 70's Celsius (75C average). I was pleased to see this, as it is better than most high-end air setups. Not all, but most. When pushed this far, the fan finally started to ramp up but at no time was the noise too intrusive and was more of a low pitched whirring. The difference between the noise signature from the baseline to the 4.0Ghz testing is not that great, unless you are a silent PC enthusiast where even mouse farts are too loud.
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