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VapoChill LightSpeed [AC]
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Date: Aug 09, 2004
Section:Misc
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction & Specifications


Watch any episode of "This Old House", "Hometime", "The New Yankee Workshop", or any other Do-It-Yourself type program for that matter, and you're bound to hear a certain phrase repeated over and over. Carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, chefs, they all use it. This phrase has almost become a mantra for anyone who takes pride in their work. The phrase is, "use the right tool, for the right job."  Doing so will yield far better results, than half-heartedly tackling a project with whatever tools are handy.  You won't see a carpenter smacking a nail with the side of a wrench, and you won't see a good mechanic prying apart seized metal with a screwdriver, that's what hammers and pry-bars are for. Using the right tool simply makes whatever job you're trying to tackle that much easier, and makes the end result often times that much better.

The same can be said when overclocking a system. Hardcore overclockers now have an abundance of tools at their disposal; quality air-coolers, peltiers, water-cooling kits and the king-of-them-all, vapor-phase cooling.  Casual overclockers can get by with a decent air-cooler, many enthusiasts will be satisfied with a good water-cooling kit, but the truly high end enthusiasts who want to squeeze every last bit of performance from their processors - at any cost - will no doubt seek a high-end vapor phase cooling solution.  It's simply the right tool, for the job.

Today on HotHardware, we'll be taking a look at Asetek's latest creation, the VapoChill LightSpeed.  We've previously reviewed a few different versions of Asetek's VapoChill vapor-phase technology, and were impressed with each one.  The original VapoChill, the updated VapoChill for the P4 & Athlon, and the VapoChill XE were all full kits, installed into specialized cases that drew power from the host system's PSU.  The VapoChill LightSpeed [AC], however, is a different sort of animal.  The LightSpeed is a stand-alone unit, with its own power supply, and it can be used with a multitude of mid- and full-sized cases (Lian-Li is recommended).  It's also capable of dissipating more heat than its predecessors with cooling performance rated at 240W @ -25.5'C at the evaporator.  The VapoChill XE is rated at 180W, the standard VapoChill for 130W.

Specifications & Features of the Vapochill LightSpeed
Extreme Cooling - Not for the Meek
Technical specifications
__Cooling performance load/idle 240W @ -25.5'C / 0W @ -48'C

__Case color: Aluminum

__WEIGHT: 15 kg

__WEIGHT incl. package: 17 kg


Core features
__Extremely efficient compressor based AC cooling unit 115/230V

__State-of-the-art microchip based ChillControl - the brain of the VapoChill system which controls temperature, noise, sensors, fans and safety of the entire PC

__LCD display

__Computer stand-alone case in aluminum
CPU-kit that supports AMD K8 and Intel P4 in one kit


System Details - Case Support
__The VapoChill Lightspeed unit has a base measure of 210x490mm.

__As the CPU in all ATX standard PC cases is placed in the same height from the bottom of the case the VapoChill LS can be applied to ALL standard PC cases.

__To achieve a - direct match - of the outside dimensions of the LS unit (with the case mounted on top) the following Lian Li cases may be considered: PC-60, PC-61, PC-65, PC-7, PC-12, PC-37, PC-82, PC-601, PC-0700,PC-0716a, PC-0716s, PC-6077, PC-6085A.


System details - ChillControl
__Through a number of specialized features the NEW ChillControl allows to reach the highest possible standards in PC performance & operation stability.

__The ChillControl consist of an integrated control, display unit and USB cable.

__All settings - including fans and heating elements - can be adjusted on the fly in the Windows based VapoChill Control Panel software.

__Up to 5 extra temperature sensors and 4 extra fans can easily be connected to the ChillControl. E.g. a sensor can be placed on the VGA or on your water-cooling parts and if any heating problems are detected a signal will be given to the ChillControl and a safe shutdown feature will be initiated immediately.

System details - CPU-Kit
__The NEW CPU kit supports both AMD K8 and Intel P4 in one kit.
System details - Control Panel [USB]
__The NEW Control Panel let you control and adjust a lot of different noise, performance and safety features on the fly.

__Communication to ChillControl via USB

__Controlled start-up/shut-down procedure

System details - LCD Display
__Besides the evaporator temperature the ChillControl is capable of showing an additional temperature e.g. WaterChill, HDD or case temperature (requires optional sensor).

__Characters are changeable:  [Up to 2 x 20 letters]

System details - Compressor
__The cooling unit represents the heart and muscles of the entire VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] system. The cooling unit is powered from a carefully selected Danfoss compressor.

__Danfoss has produced more than 150.000.000 compressor units worldwide and is one of the largest compressor manufacturers in the world. You are ensured that the heart of the product is high quality.

Design Details
__The overall CPU kit is easy to install - No harder to install than an ordinary heat sink solution.

__When mounted the design of the NEW CPU kit ensures a 100% even and permanent pressure of the evaporator on the CPU.

__Easy to Use! The overall CPU kit has been designed for a very easy change from one Socket-kit to the other - an effortless operation that requires no professional assistance.

__The CPU-kit can be rotated 360 degrees which ensures an extreme flexibility when mounted on different socket types.
 

 


    

The VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is a rectangular cube built to mesh with Lian-Li PC-60, PC-61, PC-65, PC-7, PC-12, PC-37, PC-82, PC-601, PC-0700,PC-0716a, PC-0716s, PC-6077, or PC-6085A cases.  The LighSpeed's enclosure is perforated on the front and in a sloping pattern along the sides, in a manner that mimics the look of a Lian-Li case, as you can see from the pictures above.  The LightSpeed will work with any case, however, it just won't have the same aesthetics.

On the front of the unit, you'll find a small LCD that display's system information when it is powered up and functional.  Protruding from the top of the unit are two cables (one round, one ribbon) for connecting the LCD and power-switch to the ChillControl module, and the copper head of the evaporator attached to along black tube.  At the rear of the unit is a 120MM Panaflo exhaust fan and a power cable with a hermaphrodite pass-through power connector.

At the heart of the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is a Danfoss variable speed compressor, similar to the one used in your home refrigerator.  Danfoss is one of the largest compressor manufacturers in the world, and Asetek has been using their products with the VapoChill for quite some time.  The compressor in the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is charged with a different coolant than the other VapoChill products though, R507, which according the Asetek is the most effective coolant for CPU heat removal.

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Gallery & Installation


The VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] may be a standalone unit, but installing it is unlike any other air cooler and water-cooling kit on the market.  It's not just a matter of removing your stock heatsink, and fastening the LightSpeed's evaporator into place.  Due to it's unique application and design approach, there are a myriad of parts, accessories and documentation necessary to ensure the VapoChill LightSpeed is installed properly.

VapoChill LightSpeed Bundle
Lots of Parts

    

    

Because the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is designed for all Athlon 64 Socket 754, 939 & 940 and Pentium 4 Socket 478 processors currently available, Asetek includes quite a few different neoprene foam insulating liners to match up with your processor and socket.  Also included are a pair of heating elements, one for inside the evaporator's clamshell and the other for underneath the CPU socket.  The heating elements warm the air and padding directly above and below the socket to help prevent the condensation caused when the evaporator hits temperatures well below ambient.  To help ease the installation process, Asetek bundles a complete owner's manual and installation guide with the LightSpeed, along with a paper template to aid in the drilling and notching of your case.  The LightSpeed is designed to sit underneath a case, with the evaporator fed into the enclosure through a notch at the case's rear.  Four holes also need to be drilled into the base of the case to hold the LightSpeed in place.  Keep that in mind should you be in the market for a product like this.  If you're not building a system from scratch, installing one means removing your hardware and modifying your case.

The next item included with the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is the brain of the whole operation - the ChillControl USB module.  The new ChillControl USB module controls the data being displayed on the LCD and is responsible for monitoring various aspects of the LightSpeed.  It connects to the system through a simple cable, that plugs into an available USB header on the system's motherboard.  With the ChillControl USB, numerous settings, including fan speed and heating elements, can be adjusted dynamically from within Windows using the VapoChill Control Panel software.  The module also has 4 extra temperature sensors, that work in conjunction with the included thermal probes, and it has 2 extra fan headers.  This is quite useful, because a thermal probe can be mounted to your video card or onto other critical components.  If any overheating is detected, a signal will be given to the ChillControl module to shutdown the system immediately.

 

VapoChill LightSpeed Installation
Been There, Done That...

    

We're not going to go in-depth describing the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC]'s installation procedure here, because it's quite similar to other versions of the VapoChill.  For a detailed explanation as to the preparation necessary and the actual installation process, we recommend you take a look at our VapoChill Retro-Fit article and our review of the VapoChill original.  Other than the information outlined in those articles, there isn't much more to describe.  Basically, the "clamshell" needs to be mounted to the copper evaporator, and foam padding needs to be place around the CPU and socket, and on the underside of the motherboard to protect against condensation.  Then the ChillControl USB module gets connected in between the LightSpeed and the motherboard.  When you press the power switch on your case, the ChillControl module powers the LightSpeed up, which starts the vapor-phase cooling process.  Then when the evaporator head reaches the designated temperature (default of -10'C), the rest of the system is powered up. During the whole process, the LCD displays system information, including the temperature of the evaporator and the readings from the supplied thermal probes.

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Chill Control Software & Test System


As we mentioned earlier, the ChillControl USB module monitors various aspects of the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC]. Temperatures, fan speeds, and the heating elements are monitored by the ChillControll USB, which can be configured using the supplied software...

ChillControl USB Software
A Cool Utility

    

  

For what is a relatively new piece of software, we found the ChillControl utility to be quite robust and it was very user-friendly.  The five screen shots above represent all of the different tabs available upon installation. On the first screen, the temperatures being read from the thermal probes and the voltage being applied to the heating elements are displayed, along with fan speeds and ChillControl status.  The second tab holds the tools necessary to configure the LightSpeed, like power-up and warning temperatures, and sliders to throttle fan speeds and dial the power being supplied to the heating elements. 

The "System Info" tab, display just that - system information, but the fourth tab is home to some of the fun stuff.  On the "Appearance" tab, users can customize the information that is displayed on the LightSpeed's LCD.  Users can designate specific names for each of the probes, and change the information that cycles on the LCD during normal operation.  On the final "Log Options" tab, users can enable a log that tracks the temperatures being read from all of the available thermal probes over a designated period of time.

 

The HotHardware Test System
Intel Powered Screamer
Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive -


Optical Drive -

Other -
Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz "Extreme Edition"

Abit IC7-Max3
i875P "Canterwood" Chipset

GeForce 6800 Ultra

1024MB Kingston HyperX PC3500
CAS 2

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS

Western Digital "Raptor"
74GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM

3.5" Floppy Drive

Important Note: Throughout this review, we'll be comparing the Asetek VapoChill LightSpeed to a standard VapoChill (not an XE) and a stock Intel heatsink / fan combo.  With each product, we were able to overclock our particular CPU to different levels. The graphs on the next page represent temperatures taken with our processor overclocked to its maximum stable speed (Intel Cooler - 3.7GHz, VapoChill - 3.85GHz, VapoChill LightSpeed 3.95GHz), both at idle and when under load.  At like clock speeds, the temperature spread would likely be a bit larger and tip more in favor the VapoChill LightSpeed.

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Cooling Performance & Benchmarks


With the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] installed into our test system, we set out to see just how powerful the unit really was, and whether or not we'd be able to overclock our particular system higher than it had ever been before. Throughout each step in the process, we recorded actual temperatures (from our CPU's thermal probe, not the LightSpeed's evaporator) and compared them to a stock heatsink and a standard VapoChill...

Temperature Comparison
It's Extremely Cold In Here!

 

Before we overclocked the test system, we tested the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] with our Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor running at its default clock speed of 3.4GHz.  With the system idling, the VapoChill LightSpeed was able to keep our processor running at a chilly -16'C, a full 9 degrees cooler than a standard VapoChill and embarrassing the stock air cooler.  We then fired up Folding @ Home and looped 3DMark03 to stress the processor and found that while under load, the LightSpeed was still able to keep the processor running well below zero.

 


Stock @ 3.7GHz | VapoChill @ 3.8GHz | LightSpeed @ 3.95GHz

 


Stock @ 3.7GHz | VapoChill @ 3.8GHz | LightSpeed @ 3.95GHz

We also performed the same tests with our system overclocked to its maximum stable speed using each of the different coolers.  To achieve these speeds, we raised the CPU core voltage to 1.8v and altered the multiplier and FSB until we hit the CPU's peak.  With our CPU overclocked to a speedy 3.95GHz, an increase of 550MHz, the VapoChill Lightspeed kept the processor's temperature at about -6'C at idle.  When running overclocked and under load, we were finally able to stress the LightSpeed enough to bring our processor's temperature just above zero.  However, with the ability to dissipate up to 240W of heat, much higher than anything we'll be able to hit with the current generation of processors, we use the term "stress" loosely.  Hitting 1'C can hardly be considered "stressing" the LightSpeed.

(Note: Some motherboards report temperatures differently, depending on how their BIOS is tuned.  The temperatures reported here could vary using a different motherboard.)

SANDRA & CPU-Z
Stock and Overclocked

Stock Clock Speed
3.4GHz

Maximum Stable Overclock
3.95GHz

SiSoft SANDRA
CPU/Arithmetic Benchmark
Clock Speed -
3.4GHz

SiSoft SANDRA
CPU/Arithmetic Benchmark
Clock Speed -
3.95GHz

Here are a few screen shots from CPU-Z and SiSoft SANDRA to show exactly how our particular CPU was configured, and how overclocking it affected performance.  As you can see, performance jumped significantly in SANDRA's CPU/Arithmetic benchmark.  ALU performance jumped by over 1000 Dhrystones, and FPU performance with and without iSSE optimizations jumped by 600 and 1000 Whetstones, respectively.  We should also mention that this is the highest stable overclocked speed we have ever hit with this particular CPU.  At 3.95GHz, the VapoChill LightSpeed was able to take our CPU about 100MHz higher than the standard VapoChill.  We were even able to boot into Windows at almost 4.1GHz, but the system was nowhere near being stable.

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Comanche 4 & Conclusion


Lastly, we did some benchmarking with what has got to be one of the most CPU limited gaming benchmarks around, Novalogic's Comanche 4.  Despite the fact that this is a game benchmark that can be used to test the relative performance of video cards, frame rates are strongly influenced by processor speed and available memory bandwidth, especially at low resolutions with sound disabled, which is how we ran the tests to get the frame rates listed below.

Novalogic's Comanche 4
As CPU Limited As They Get!

With our CPU at it's default clock speed, we were able to hit a healthy 78.83 FPS (Frames Per Second) in Comanche 4 at 800x600. Cranking the CPU's clock speed up to over 3.9GHz, however, yielded a significant performance gain.  With the CPU at 3.95GHz, our VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] cooled rig just barely missed breaking the 90 FPS mark at 89.63 FPS, an increase of over 13.7%.

The VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is a very impressive product.  It's easily one of the most powerful cooling products in its class, and the new design makes it much more compelling than the original VapoChill units that ship as part of a complete case.  The LightSpeed is compatible with almost any case, and unlike the original VapoChills, the LightSpeed doesn't draw any current from the system's host PSU.  In our opinion, these are important benefits in this age of stylish aluminum cases and power-hungry systems.  But there are a couple of drawbacks to the VapoChill LightSpeed as well. 

For one, the unit is relatively loud.  When running at full throttle, the LightSpeed is definitely loud enough to be bothersome during a long day's work.  Fan speeds can be throttled down to much lower levels, and it will still operate reliably, but even with the fans at 40% we found the LightSpeed [AC] to be a bit intrusive.  It's also quite expensive at over $800 U.S.  The vapoChill LightSpeed [AC] is definitely not a cheap upgrade, but you do get what you pay for.  The LightSpeed is more powerful and more versatile than a VapoChill XE, yet it's roughly the same price.  We're going to give the VapoChill LightSpeed [AC] a strong 9 on the Heat Meter, based on its excellent cooling performance and versatile design.  Had Asetek designed the unit to be quieter and the price been a bit lower, a higher rating and an Editor's Choice award may have been in the cards.  With possible updates and revisions to the product down the road, that is a distinct possibility as well.

 

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