It wasn’t all that long ago that water-cooling was limited to those who were able to hand over a huge chunk of cash to build a custom water loop. There were and still are a lot of things to consider when building a water-cooling system, and the complication also kept away many who would have liked to join the liquid-cooled crowd. While these custom systems are still expensive and complex, there is a new segment of the cooling industry finally coming into its own recently: the pre-assembled closed-loop water-cooling system. There are several on the market, and today we’ll be looking at the ECO Advanced Liquid Cooling system from CoolIT Systems...more...
CoolIT has been around for quite a while, and they have had more than their share of closed-loop water cooling systems, and they have recently released a whole line of coolers for both the CPU and GPU as well, with more in the wings. I was fortunate enough to get to test the PURE system from CoolIT last year. Let’s see what kind of refinements and improvements they’ve made.
The package was surprisingly bland, reminding me of the days when generic packages were nothing but white paper with black lettering. Not that it looks bad, mind you, and if CoolIT can save the buyer a few cents on the product by saving on the packaging I'm all for it. Inside, the system was well-wrapped and well-protected, arriving without a single blemish.
The ECO system is a lot more compact than the PURE, with the pump and water block being built together inside a single housing. This eliminates one of the problems I had with installation of the PURE and makes the whole process easier. This is the entire system:
The ECO pump/water block housing is well-designed, compact and even looks good. The sealed water lines will pivot several degrees in their mounts, which makes a huge difference when installing the system, as it allows for better routing of the lines and more options for placement of the radiator. The pump on the ECO uses a 3-pin connector, and CoolIT advises against using any sort of controller to lower the voltage to this pump, as it is designed to function optimally under a full 12 volts.
The ECO ALC has several things going for it right out of the box. It includes a 120mm fan, pre-installed from CoolIT in a pull position. The hoses have a very low permeability, to keep evaporation to an absolute minimum. The coolant used is a proprietary mix from CoolIT that is supposed to be “low toxicity” (read: “Don’t drink it.”) with anti-corrosion and anti-fungal additives. The water block comes with a nice even layer of CoolIT’s own PRO A.T.C. thermal compound pre-installed.
Above can be seen markings associated with Intel’s various CPU socket offerings. These are indicators for the various mounting brackets included for Intel users. For the AMD user, the brackets pre-installed on the pump housing must be removed and replaced with the AMD-specific bracket. Fortunately, these brackets will utilize the existing factory-supplied AMD backing plate. Intel users will have choose the appropriate plate from those included.
The fan that comes with the ECO ALC is a standard 7-blade 120mm variety, with a 4-pin connector, thus controllable through BIOS if needed. As mentioned, this fan comes pre-installed on the radiator in a pull setup, drawing air from the other side of the radiator and expelling the heated air out of the case. CoolIT recommends this setup specifically, though there are mounting holes on both sides of the radiator, so two fans can be mounted in any configuration the user desires.
I am happy to say that installing the ECO ALC was much easier than the PURE last year. The water lines are stiffer, but by placing the pump onto the water block they have eliminated a lot of weight from the radiator area and made it that much easier. They have also eliminated the bulky metal cover plate that was so prominent on the PURE. The mounting system was a snap for our AMD test bed. I simply installed the AMD mounting brackets on the pump, removed the factory-installed upper retention clip and screwed the ECO into the backing plate. Though I had a few options on placement, I decided in the end to mount the radiator and fan on the top of the test case, as this allowed more room for air flow, and was the neatest-looking installation option.
With the pump connected to a constant 12-volt source via a 3-pin to Molex adapter (not included), and the fan connected to my CPU fan header on my motherboard, I was ready to fire this system up. I was a little apprehensive, as are most people when they are about to introduce water flow into their much-loved electronics for the first time. The silence I was greeted with when I hit the power button concerned me even more. The included fan was quieter than the fan I had been using on my CPU air cooler, and the pump was dead silent. I had to feel the water lines to know it was running. I unplugged the pump momentarily to be sure the vibration I was feeling in the lines was indeed an indicator that it was working, and with normal case fan noise, that is the only indicator you will see, other than lowered CPU temps.
MSI 785GTM-E45 mainboard
AMD Phenom II 940 CPU @ stock 3GHz
4GB G-Skill DDR2-800 RAM
Sapphire HD4870 video card
Kingwin Mach 1 1000-watt PSU
Thermaltake Spedo Advance full-tower case
To stress the CPU and test this cooler, OCCT v3.1.0 was used, with a large data set and 30-minute duration.
How did it do?
Very nice. The CoolIT ECO ALC never let the temps on this CPU top 47 degrees. This is a new record for any CPU cooling system I’ve tested, beating the Noctua NH-D14, the recent record-breaker, by a degree and a half under load, and taking up far less room while doing it.
- Ease of installation
- Wide compatibility range
Most of the above points are obvious from the review, and I have to say that I love this cooler. You can purchase the ECO ALC from Newegg for $74.29 at the time of this writing; fairly steep for a CPU cooler, but in line with top-end air coolers and it outperforms the best of them, and does so quietly. The single issue that I have with the ECO ALC from CoolIT is their choice of material for the radiator. With a copper water block and an aluminum radiator, galvanic corrosion is inevitable. Their proprietary coolant contains anti-corrosive additives, and that will surely slow the process considerably, but within a sealed system, mixing metals will always cause problems. Should this concern the buyer? Not likely, since it will no doubt perform well past its 2-year warranty period, and most people who are in the market for a cooler like this one will want something else before they start having problems. It's in our nature. Regardless, this is an issue that air coolers will not experience, and effectively gives this cooler (and any others with the same configuration) a built-in limited lifespan.
Having said all that, this is still an excellent cooler. The test results are conclusive. It's effective, silent, compact, and easy to install. All in all, and excellent product.
This product was provided free of charge by its manufacturer for the purpose of review.