Performance, Personal Experiences and Conclusion
Performance Summary: When it comes to maintaining a cool CPU, the Ultra ChillTec Thermo-Electric CPU Cooler delivers. In each test, we recorded significant improvements over stock cooling and the cooler helped the CPU achieve a respectable overclock while keeping things relatively cool. On the opposite side of the equation, the ChillTech Thermo-Electric CPU Cooler is a power hungry component that uses much more power than a standard air-cooler.
As we bring this review to a close, there is another experience that we feel obligated to share with our readers. The unit used in this article is the second ChillTec TEC we received after encountering several issues with the first model. These issues brought a number of things to light that became a serious concern that we have to share with our readers.
The first unit we received was a puzzle. We installed the unit and fired up our test system and the LCD reported the CPU running at 41°C, which was higher than our stock cooler by a fair margin. When we went into the BIOS of the board, the CPU temperatures were off the charts, reporting as high as 120°C. At this point we felt the LCD was malfunctioning and that we must not have the cooler mounted properly, causing the high CPU readings in the BIOS. After several remounts of the cooler, we saw no difference, the CPU was still posting excessive temperatures in the BIOS, all the while, the LCD was telling us everything was relatively normal. After three tries, we removed the cooler and laid it on its side. The unit was left connected to the system, the CPU was removed and the power was turned on. Next, we touched the cold plate of the unit where it contacts the CPU and were shocked to find the base scalding hot. After further investigation, we determined that the peltier on this model was mounted in reverse, with the hot side being applied to the CPU. We disassembled the entire cooler, flipped the peltier and reassembled it. The base was now icey cold. This left us in a situation where the cooler was reporting to us that everything was running within normal limits while applying excessive heat to our CPU.
This is a very serious concern for us as there may be other users with defective units that may be unknowingly cooking their processors while thinking it's running within normal limits. We addressed our concerns with Ultra products, and were told they were not sure what happened with the first unit and that a new one was on the way. While we appreciate being supplied with a properly working model, we are still quite uncomfortable with the prospect that others could be on the retail market with the peltier working in reverse. The only suggestion we can make at this point to any prospective buyers of this product is to connect everything except the CPU and turn on the machine prior to mounting the cooler to your CPU. Touch the base for at least one minute and make sure it is not getting hot. If it stays room temperature, or begin s to feel cold, your unit is working properly. If it gets hot, package it up and send it back immediately. We should also note that as of today, this product could not be found in any of the common retails channels and cannot be ordered directly from the Ultra Products website either.
While the Chilltec did do a good job at cooling the CPU and helped the chip to overclock nicely, potential consumers must really weight its cost. The ChillTec Thermo-Electric CPU Cooler weighs in at a hefty $149.99 and has a fair amount of shortcomings. The LCD display does not accurately report the actual CPU temperature and it is not programmable in any way. We also question the power consumption for such a product. Essentially, installing this unit to your computer will increase its peak power consumption by about 50 to 60W. Yes, the ChillTec TEC is great when used in the overclocking process, but again, you have ask yourself, "is it really worth it for my rig"? With our particular test setup it probably wasn't. After all why would anyone buy a $149.99 cooler to overclock a $120 Athlon 64 X2 5000+ to the speed of a $169.99 Athlon 64 X2 6000+? But if your system is powered by a $280 Core 2 Quad Q6600 and the Chilltec allow you to take the CPU to 3.5GHz+ territory and smoke an $1100 Extreme edition, that's a totally different story.
In the end, we're torn on the ChillTech Thermo-Electric CPU Cooler. It is fairly impressive and does do a good job of keeping things cool, but it's just not practical. The control module also proved to be inaccurate. The peltier is interesting and does boost the units overall cooling performance, but it consumes a lot of power and didn't drop temperatures all that much. In fact, we were rather impressed with the ChillTec Thermo-Electric Cooler when we had the peltier disconnected, where the heat-pipe cooler did an excellent job at keeping our CPU running cool, even when overclocked. If Ultra removed the peltier and control module and simply offered the heat-pipe cooler by itself, they'd have a heck of an air-cooled solution to offer. But as the ChillTech TEC Cooler stands in its current state, it's tough to justify unless you've got the right setup.