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VapoChill XE II
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Date: Sep 06, 2005
Section:Misc
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction & Specifications

Over the years, we've evaluated multiple versions of Asetek's famed Vapochill vapor phase-change cooling system. In fact, our first experience with a Vapochill dates all the way back to June of 2000. The first Vapochill we evaluated hardly resembles today's more refined models, however. Gone is the standard beige case, replaced with a custom enclosure that's available in multiple colors, and with windowed side panels. Modern Vapochills still use compressors, of course, but the units have been upgraded and the refrigerant used is far more efficient.

The latest iteration of Asetek's Vapochill that we'll be taking a look at here, the Vapochill XE II, is a conglomeration of the features offered by the standalone Vapochill Lightspeed [AC] and the complete Vapochill XE kit.  Like the Lightspeed, the Vapochill XE II no longer uses a DC powered compressor, so it doesn't require a massive power supply be installed in the system. It also uses the same R507 refrigerant, and has the same large copper evaporator found on the Lightspeed. The XE II isn't a standalone unit though; it's compressor assembly is installed in the custom enclosure introduced a couple of years back.  Take a look...

Specifications & Features of the Vapochill XE II
Extreme Cooling - Not for the Meek
Cooling performance

Case color

Front bezel/buttons

Dimensions

Display window

CPU-kit (optional 1)

CPU-kit (optional 2)

Features
Load/idle 180W @ -18'C / 0W @ -44'C

Black ATX PC-Case color, side panel with window

Titanium/silver

(HxWxD) 560x260x560 mm / 22"x10.2"x22"

Grey

AMD S754/939/940 & Intel S478

Intel Socket T (LGA 775)

High Performance 230V AC/115V AC cooling unit

100% motherboard compatibility [Motherboard has to comply with Intel/AMD thermal mechanical specifications]

New evaporator design [Same as VapoChill LightSpeed]

New Software based ChillControl with USB support
[Same as VapoChill LightSpeed]

New 115V/230V AC Compressor [TL4CL] with R507 coolant
[No need for a powerful Power Supply Unit]

New Windows based Control Panel [USB]
[Same as VapoChill LightSpeed]



Visual
__Big with plenty of room for upgrading and expansion
__Case cover coated with black or white powder paint (granular surface)

General
__Main board types supported ATX / extended ATX
__Full length graphics adapters supported
__Slots for 7 extension cards
__3 x 5 1/4' drive bays (external)
__1 x 3 1/2' drive bay (external)
__5 x 3 1/2' drive bays (internal)
__ATX connector shield
__Mounting options for fan cooling of HDD, 120 mm fan
__Mounting options for fan cooling of case, 3 x 50 mm fans
__Dimensions (DxWxH)
__Weight: 11.8 kg / 26.0 lbs

Equipment
__Designer front bezel
__Power and reset switches
__Blue LEDs for power and HDD indication
__120 mm fan (optional)
__Power supply (optional)


Color (case cover)
__RAL 7035 (standard)
__RAL 9005 (Platinum)


Weight
Depth
Height
Length

VapoChill
18 kg / 40 lbs
56 cm / 22.0 in
56 cm / 22.0 in
26 cm / 10.2 in
With packaging
22 kg / 49 lbs
67 cm / 26.4 in
60 cm / 23.6 in
40 cm / 15.7 in



Humidity
Ambient temp.
Max. altitude

Operating
70%
10'C / 35'C (50'F / 95'F)
3,000 m / 10,000 ft
Non-operating
90%
-40'C / 65'C (-40'F / 149'F)
12,000 m / 40,000 ft

Before we take you on a virtual tour of the Vapochill XE II, we have a diagram courtesy of Asetek, that illustrates where the XE II falls on the Vapochill performance ladder. The Vapochill XE II offers 180W of cooling performance at a temperature of about -18'C. That makes the XE II a bit more powerful than the Vapochill XE, but not quite as powerful as the Lightspeed. Regardless, with cold plate temperatures that can reach as low as -44'C (0W), the XE II is plenty powerful to bring even the hottest CPU's temperature down into sub-zero territory, even while being heavily overclocked.

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The Unit & Installation

The Vapochill XE II we have here uses basically the same full-tower case that was introduced in late 2002 with the updated Vapochill kit. As you can see, the version we received was equipped with a clear plexiglass window cut into one side panel, but an optional windowed panel is also available for the top of the case that'll show off the compressor and chill-control unit.

   

The XE II case is very large, and has three 5.25" external drive bays, a single 3.5" external bay, and five more internal 3.5" drive bays. It's vented at the top and bottom for air intake and has two large blue LEDs, one to indicate power and the other IDE activity. The location at the lower-right, that's used for a LED readout on older Vapochill units is empty on the XE II.

Generally speaking, we like the imposing monolithic look of the case, but would like to see Asetek make some updates in the next revision.  For a product as pricey as the Vapochill, we expect the case to be a "no comprimise" solution.  As is stands, however, the Vapchill XE II lacks any sort of front-mounted connectors, like USB, Firewire, or Audio, for example, and installing drives or add-in cards is not toolless like most modern cases.  These are somewhat minor gripes, but something we'd like to see addressed in the future nonetheless.

   

If you remove the top of the unit (not recommended as it will void the warranty), the compressor, fans, and other cooling components are revealed. At both the front and rear of the case, there are 120mm fans used to draw cool air into the system and expel warm air out. The front fan is mounted to a radiator, that's used to cool the refrigerant that passes through the evaporator. In the center of the top portion of the case is the Danfoss compressor that's filled with R507 refrigerant.

VapoChill XE II Bundle
Lots of Parts

  

 

Due to the fact that the VapoChill XE II is designed for all Athlon 64 Socket 754, 939 & 940 and Pentium processors currently available, Asetek includes quite a few different neoprene foam insulating liners to match up with your processor and socket. Also included with the XE II 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 condensation build-up, that can be caused when the evaporator hits temperatures well below ambient air temperature.

To assist with the installation process, Asetek bundles a complete owner's manual and installation guide with the XE II, along with the warranty information. On top of these items, also included with the Vapochill XE II is an important core component, the ChillControl USB module. The ChillControl USB module controls the data being displayed in the Vapochill control panel software, and is responsible for monitoring various aspects of the cooling system. 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 element temperature, can be adjusted dynamically from within Windows using the VapoChill Control Panel software. The module also has 4 extra temperature sensor headers, that work in conjunction with the included thermal probes, and it has 2 extra fan headers as well. This is especially useful for overclockers, because a thermal probe can be mounted to your video card or onto other critical components. If any excessive temperatures are detected, a signal will be given to the ChillControl module to shutdown the system immediately.

VapoChill XE II Installation
Been There, Done That...

   

Building up a system in a Vapochill XE II is definitely more complicated than a more traditional system, but we're not going to delve in-depth into the process here. We've already explained the necessary steps in multiple articles, and won't be rehashing things again. 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 reviews of the VapoChill original, and Vapochill XE. 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 XE II and the motherboard. When you press the power switch on the case, the ChillControl module powers the XE II's compressor 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 then powered up.

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The Chill Control Software & Test System

 

All of the information that used to be displayed on the front-mounted LED readout on older Vapochill models, is now listed within the Vapochill XE II control panel software.  When we first encountered this software with the Vapochill Lightspeed [AC], we found it to be robust and user-friendly.  The five screen shots below represent all of the different tabs available within the application.

Vapochill XE II Control Panel Software
A Cool Utility

  

 

On the "Status Area" tab, the temperatures read from the thermal probes and the voltage being applied to the heating elements are displayed, along with fan voltages - which affect the fan speeds.  The ChillControl Config tab is home to all of the tools available to configure the Vapochill XE II, like power-up and warning temperatures, as well as sliders to throttle fan speeds and dial the power supplied to the heating elements. 

The "System Info" tab, as its name implies, is where system information is displayed. Next, on the "Appearance" tab, users can customize the names given to the Vapochill XE II's various components.  Users can designate specific names for each of the probes, and change the designation of each fan and heating element.  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 XE II to a high-end heatsink / fan combo, the Thermaltake Volcano 7+. But we need to point out that 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 speeds (Thermaltake Cooler - 3.7GHz, VapoChill XE II - 4.12GHz), both at idle and while operating for a time under a full load.  At like clock speeds, the temperature spread would likely be a bit larger and tip more in favor the VapoChill XE II unit.

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Cooling Performance

With our VapoChill XE II test system built-up, 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 XE II's monitoring software) and compared them to a Thermaltake Volcano 7+...

Temperature Comparison - Default Clock Speeds
It's Extremely Cold In Here!

 


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

This first set of temperatures were recorded before we overclocked the test system. We first tested the VapoChill XE II with our Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor running at its default clock speed of 3.4GHz and at its default voltage. With the system idling, the VapoChill XE II was able to keep our processor running at an impressive -17'C, embarrassing the Thermaltake air cooler in the process. We then fired up two instances of Folding @ Home (Graphical client and Service) to stress the processor, and run it at 100% utilization. We found that while operating under load, the Vapochill XE II was still able to keep the processor running well below zero, while the air cooler couldn't keep the CPU cooler than 54'C.

Temperature Comparison
It's Extremely Cold In Here!


Thermaltake Volcano 7+=3.7GHz  |  Vapochill XE II=4.12GHz

 


Thermaltake Volcano 7+=3.7GHz  |  Vapochill XE II=4.12GHz


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

The Vapochill XE II continued to perform well when we overclocked our CPU. For this test, we bumped the CPU's core voltage up to 1.75v and increased the CPU's clock speed (using a combination of multipliers and FSB speed) until the test system was no longer stable. When using the Thermaltake air cooler, the highest clock speed we could hit with this configuration was 3.7GHz. But with the Vapochill XE II we were able to take the CPU all the way up amazingly to 4.128GHz.

At these overclocked speeds, the Vapochill XE II was again able to maintain a sub-zero core temperature while the system was idle. With the system running under full load while overclocked, the Vapochill XE II broke into the positive side of the temperature scale, but at 3'C, its performance was still nothing but impressive.

We should mention that the evaporator's temperature remained MUCH lower than what our motherboard was reporting for the CPU temperature. For example, in our overclocked test, our Abit motherboard was reporting a core temperature of 3'C under load, but the Vapochill XE II control panel software was reporting an evaporator temperature of -28'C.  The actual CPU temperature probably falls somewhere in between the two.

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CPU-Z, SANDRA & Cinebench

While we had our Vapochill XE II assembled, we fired up a couple of applications and benchmarks to see what kind of performance we had gained by overclocking the system to over 4GHz.  As you'll see, the 700MHz+, or 21%, boost in CPU clock speed definitely had an impact on overall system performance.

SANDRA & CPU-Z
Stock and Overclocked

Stock Clock Speed
3.4GHz

Maximum Stable Overclock
4.12GHz

SiSoft SANDRA
CPU/Arithmetic Benchmark
Clock Speed -
3.4GHz

SiSoft SANDRA
CPU/Arithmetic Benchmark
Clock Speed -
4.12GHz

The CPU-Z screen shots above show our Pentium 4 Extreme Edition's specifics while running at its default speed of 3.4GHz, and overclocked to its peak stable clock speed of 4.128GHz. While our CPU was running at its default and overclocked speeds, we also ran the CPU Arithmetic Benchmark built-in SiSoft SADNRA 2005. As you can see, tacking on an additional 700MHz+ boosted raw performance by almost 18%.

Cinebench 2003 - Multi-Threaded Test
Stock and Overclocked

The Cinebench 2003 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test, based on the commercially available Cinema 4D application.  This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each configuration to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below (listed in seconds). 

Performance in Cinebench was improved by 11.6 seconds by overclocking our processor to 4.12GHz. With our CPU clocked at its stock speed of 3.4GHz, it rendered the scene in 1 minute, 4.1 seconds, but while overclocked the process took less than a minute.

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Some More Benches & Our Conclusion

Before wrapping things up, we ran one last set of benchmarks with Doom 3 to illustrate the effect of the overclock we achieved with the Vapochill XE II.

Doom 3 - Low Quality
Stock and Overclocked

Doom 3 showed a marked improvement while the system was overclocked. The higher clock speed attainable with the Vapochill XE II equated to a 16.5% increase in overall performance in our custom low-resolution, multi-player Doom 3 benchmark.

We have mixed feelings regarding Asetek's Vapochill XE II. On one hand, the excellent cooling performance offered by the Danfoss compressor and R507 refrigerant cannot be denied. The Vapochill XE II allowed us to take a first-run, socket 478 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition CPU all the way up to 4.128GHz, while maintaining sub- or near-zero core temperatures. We also like the fact that the compressor used in the XE II does not draw its power from the system's PSU. The ChillControl USB software is another plus, because all of the Vapochill XE II's setting can easily be altered from within Windows.

On the other hand, the fact that the Vapochill's case hasn't been updated in about 2 years doesn't sit well with us. Because the enclosure is so dated, it lacks some useful modern features, like front mounted USB and audio ports, and toolless assembly. We were also turned of by the fact that the Vapochill XE II doesn't have the same LED readout found on older Vapochills that scrolled information like evaporator temperature and fan speeds. We think Asetek could do more pre-assembly, like pre-installing the neoprene foam and heating element onto the motherboard plate, and installing the heating element into the clamshell. Overall though, for those looking for the ultimate all-in-one case /  overclocking tool, the Vapochill XE II is an excellent choice. We just wish Asetek would modernize the unit a bit more, considering they still command upwards of $900 online. For that kind of money, consumers shouldn't have to feel like they have to give up some useful features, even though the cooling performance is phenomenal. We're giving the Vapochill XE II a 7.5 on the Heat Meter.

_Awesome Cooling Performance
_Doesn't draw power from PSU
_Easy to upgrade, once built
_Case lacks some features
_Pricey
_A bit loud when running the fans at 100%

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