Asetek Low Cost Liquid Cooling (LCLC) System
Design & Construction
The heat exchanger is available in several sizes to accommodate 80mm, 92mm and 120mm fans. This means the LCLC can have a very small footprint, if desired, which will allow it to squeeze into smaller cases including mATX and DTX setups. If the case has an exterior-access fan mount that can accommodate at least an 80mm fan, then it probably has enough space to install a LCLC system.
Dual-fan heat exchangers are also available that can mount two 80mm, 92mm or 120mm fans. These significantly larger heat exchangers can provide the thermal capacity needed for more complex LCLC setups, which may be required to cool higher-end overclocked systems.
The LCLC's pump is integrated with the cold-plate into a single unit. This design concept is used by many all-in-one water cooling systems and it has the advantage of reducing the number of pieces in a completed setup. The pump/cold-plate unit (herein referred to as the "CPU block") is connected to the radiator unit by plastic tubing.
Enthusiasts prefer to use silicone tubing for water cooling since it is cheap, easy to work with and easy to install. Unfortunately silicone tubing is permeable and this inevitably leads to evaporation over time, which means the user needs to add more water and coolent to the system periodically. Since Asetek installs all the tubing at the factory, they are able to use plastics for tubing, which is more difficult to work with since it is more rigid than silicone. Plastic tubing is resistant to evaporation and this makes the LCLC nearly maintenance free. The tubing is also ribbed which makes kinking nearly impossible.
The CPU block used by the LCLC is fairly compact and it easily fits inside the footprint of a Core 2 era Intel stock cooler that nearly all cases are designed to accommodate. The intake and exhaust tubes exit from the top of the unit, which increases the effective height. Luckily the tubes protrude from one side of the unit, rather than the center, so the tubing can be bent off to one side in such a way that the vertical clearance required for the cooler only increases by about half an inch.
Also protruding from the top of the CPU block are two wires. The yellow and black straight-pair wire has a standard molex connector and provides power to the pump. The green and black twisted-pair wire ends in a standard 3-pin fan connector which provides the motherboard with information about the pump. This information appears in the BIOS and fan monitoring software under the "CPU fan RPM" field, although we presume the number corresponds to the RPM of the pump's impeller. Throughout testing, the pump reported an average RPM of 1250. This is a nice feature since it allows the motherboard to monitor the health of the pump and it also works with standard fan failure warning alarms, either in the BIOS or through software.
The LCLC's CPU block does not have any built-in mounting hardware. In order to mount the unit on a motherboard, a separate mounting mechanism is required. There are several mounting mechanisms available, each designed for a different socket type. In the case of LGA775, both screw-in back-plate mounting and push-clip mounting are available. An advantage to this mounting system is the CPU block can be mounted in any direction, which may come in handy in cramped installations.
Our review unit came with a push-pin mounting mechanism which has the advantage of being easier to install since it doesn't require the motherboard to be removed from the case in order for a back-plate to be fitted. The mounting mechanism is ring-shaped with evenly spaced "teeth". These teeth perfectly match the ones on the CPU block. To install, the mounting ring is slid onto the CPU block, then the ring is turned in either direction so the teeth lock. Finally, the completed assembly is installed on the motherboard in the same manor as a standard Intel stock cooler. The entire assembly is very secure once installed, although we would still recommend the screw-in back-plate version if you frequently move your computer.
The LCLC supports GPU cooling with the water-block assembly shown above. It is significantly smaller than the CPU block since it does not house its own pump. Multiple GPU blocks can be daisy-chained in the same LCLC system to support SLI and Crossfire setups. The GPU block only cools the GPU itself. RAM and power regulation circuitry is cooled by a separate heatsink assembly with a shroud and fan, not unlike a standard double-height stock cooler, as you'll see on the next page. The LCLC currently supports the GeForce 8800 series and the Radeon 2900 XT. Asetek also just announced support for GeForce 9800GTX and 9800GX2 setups.
Both the CPU block and the GPU block have copper cold-plate surfaces. Both water blocks come with a thick layer of thermal paste pre-applied at the factory. Once the thermal paste is cleaned off, we can see that the cold-plate surfaces are very smooth. The CPU cold-plate has faint, circular machining marks while the GPU cold-plate surface is perfectly smooth.
Our review unit is configured with a single-fan 120mm heat-exchanger, single CPU block and a single GPU block, as seen in the pictures below. Like the rest of the system, the heat-exchanger unit is well built and fairly compact. It is about an inch thick and has mounting holes on both sides.
Overall, the LCLC system seems to be well constructed. Everything felt sturdy and the materials appear to be of high quality. We liked that the pump can be monitored by the motherboard and we are also pleased that the cold-plate surfaces are very smooth.