Since the early DIY days, water cooling has come a long way in terms of accessibility and exposure, but there are still many issues which prevent it from ousting traditional air coolers in the mainstream chip cooling market. Compared to air cooling, water cooling requires more maintenance and it's harder to install since most water cooling systems have over twice as many parts as an air cooling system, which generally only consists of a heatsink and fan. Many retail water cooling system kits also come unassembled to some degree which further complicates installation and opens up more chances for incorrect installation and user error.
While pre-assembled and all-in-one kits have done a lot to alleviate these problems, the increased accessibility often comes at the sacrifice of performance and they don't really address the largest problem with water cooling; the high cost. A competent water cooling system will usually cost from $150-$300 while a top-end heatsink and fan with somewhat comparable performance can be bought for only $70. The combination of high cost, increased need for maintenance and the do-it-yourself nature of water cooling is often too much for non-enthusiasts who tend to avoid it in preference for turn-key solutions, and who can blame them? It is for many of these same reasons that OEMs have not caught on to the idea of water cooling. The additional costs involved as well as the prospect of potential maintenance issues have caused many users and OEMs alike to avoid watercooling despite the numerous advantages.
Asetek saw an opportunity to address some of these issues and help bring watercooling further into the mainstream. They hope to do this with their simply named Low-Cost Liquid Cooling system (LCLC).
This means a basic LCLC configuration only consists of a pump/block unit and radiator (with cooling fan) connected by plastic tubing. This makes the LCLC significantly simpler and smaller than traditional water cooling systems and it also means it is small enough to easily accommodate just about any mATX case that can mount a 80mm, 92mm or 120mm exterior-access fan.
The LCLC is not a new product. We first caught wind of it way back at IDF 2006. The LCLC was originally designed for use by OEMs, which is likely why you haven't heard much about it since then. Another reason is that only recently in the last half year has it gained significant traction. The first big success came when HP integrated the LCLC into their superb Blackbird 002 gaming system. HP currently offers the LCLC in two different configurations in the Blackbird 002 LC and LCi models. We also found the LCLC under the hood of the Maingear Ephex during our review although that option does not seem to be offered by Maingear anymore. Late last year, the LCLC also started showing up at computer hardware retail websites so we thought it was high time that we got one in the labs for a full review.