When people think of high quality, extreme cooling products, Asetek is definitely a name that comes to mind. The Vapochill phase change cooler is one of the premier, high performance/ high cost cooling solutions on the market, while Asetek's Waterchill line kits is very highly regarded among the enthusiast crowd for their performance, ease of installation, and price point.
One thing that has been missing from Asetek's line of products to this point has been an air cooled solution. That all changes today as we take a look at Asetek's newest product, the Vapochill Micro. Combining heat pipe technology with what Asetek describes as phase change cooling (no, there is no compressor), the Vapochill Micro definitely piqued my interest when it was announced earlier this year.
Lets look over the Micro's features and specifications before moving on to the cooler itself.
1. PERFORMANCE. By standards of weight, size, price and a 150W cooling capacity the VapoChill Micro? series is clearly the most powerful cooler technology on the market. No more no less. The VapoChill Micro? (copper chamber) is placed directly on the CPU unlike existing heat pipe technologies. This mean better and more efficient absorption and transportation of heat from the CPU.
2. MASSIVE NOISE REDUCTION. The combination of the extreme cooling capacity of 150W a selection of top-quality fans and fan regulation offers the lowest possible noise levels.
3. LOW WEIGHT. The VapoChill Micro? coolers weigh only a revolutionary 350 grams and do not break your motherboard or fry your CPU because of weight pressure.
4. UPGRADEABLE. All socket clips can be universally applied across all coolers - if you want to change CPU platform. Also, allowing you to experiment with performance and airflow, you can fit ANY 92mm fan on the VapoChill Micro? coolers.
5. AUTOMATIC and/or MANUAL FAN
CONTROL. High-End Extreme Performance fans are prepared for PWM (Pulse With Modulation) motherboards allowing the motherboard to adjust fan speed to actual CPU load.
6. MOTHERBOARD COOLING! 99% of the high-end heatpipe coolers on the market ONLY have horizontal airflow. This means they DO NOT cool the critical components on the Motherboard. The VapoChill Micro? coolers are specifically designed to separate both vertical and horizontal airflows. In short: no overheating mother-boards.
7. EXCEPTIONALLY EASY INSTALLATION.
8. AGGRESSIVE PRICING. Those alternatives close to the performance and low noise levels of the VapoChill Micro? are up to 100% higher priced!!
139x103x85mm (incl. fan)
ATX midi/tower cases
pure copper base/tubing
355g (incl. fan)
up to 150W
While the cooler we'll be testing today is for AMD's 754/939/940 platforms, the Vapochill Micro is available for all major platforms (AMD socket A/462 as well as Intel's socket 478 and LGA 775). Note: The VapoChill Micro series does not fit Gigabyte's socket AMD K8 motheboards
While we'll only cover one platform, we will be covering Asetek's full line of the Vapochill micro to include the Extreme, High End, and Ultra Low noise. What seperates each kit is the included fan. Though all are 92mm, each fan comes with appreciably different features which will appeal to different users.
Extreme Performance fan:
- Noise Level: <28 to 39dB(A)
- Rated Speed: 3800 RPM
- Air Flow: 73.656 CFM @ full speed
- Life Expectancy: 31,000 Hours
- Noise Level: 35dB(A)
- Rated Speed: 3800RPM
- Air Flow: 67,o CFM @ full speed
- Life Expectancy: 31,000 Hours
Ultra Low Noise:
- Fan Type: Panaflo Hydro wave bearing
- Fan Noise: <28dB(A) @ full speed
- Rated Speed: 2300RPM
- Air Flow: 17.657CFM @ full speed
- Life Expectancy: 50,000 Hours
The Vapochill Micro Up Close
Removing the Vapochill Micro from its packaging, I was blown away by how incredibly light it is. Weighing in at an incredible 355g, including the fan, the Vapochill Micro is one of the lightest after market cooling solutions I've ever seen.
The aesthetics can be described as rather unique. Looking like a radiator installed over three large heatpipes, the Micro is definitely no flashy apparatus. However the quality of the heat sink itself is beyond question, with a very clean nickel finish and pure copper base, cooling is definitely the emphasis.
Upon my initial inspection I found one thing that bugged me. The fan shroud that Asetek uses seems very cheap and flimsy, in my opinion a very un-Asetek-like characteristic. For the person who is simply going to assemble this cooler, install it and never tinker again, this is unlikely to be a problem. But for people who build their own systems, and who are prone to tinkering, this could end up being this cooler's demise.
The kit we are working with today is for AMD's socket 939/940/754 and aside from the cooler itself includes the CPU mounting kit, the fan push pins, a fan controller, an instruction sheet and the accompanying wiring for the fan controller.
I found the instructions to be extremely simple, yet very clear. There were a couple of things that I will clarify a little better during our installation. Each step of the assembly and installation processes are clearly explained and accompanied with pictures.
For those of you unfamiliar with heatpipes, lets do a little background into the technology. Heatpipes themselves are in fact sealed tubes filled with vapor attached to the heat sink's base. As the CPU heats up, the heat is transferred through the base to the heatpipes.
As the tubes heat up, the vapor sealed within the chamber evaporates, rising to the top of the heatpipe where it cools, condenses, and falls to the bottom again. In conjunction with the attached radiator fins, which dissipate the accumulated heat faster, heatpipe technology is a very successful and widely used cooling method for CPU cooling.
A few things seperate the Vapochill micro from other heatpipe based coolers. While most other coolers use a single large heatpipe or several small heatpipes, the Micro uses three large heatpipes connected with a a crossbar at the bottom, maximizing the performance of the heatpipe technology by providing a much larger cooling area.
Also, where most heatpipe based coolers have a base coonected to the heatpipes, the Micro's base is in fact part of the heatpipe. By removing a layer of material from the equation, the Micro actually displaces the heat faster and more effectively.
Maybe a bigger factor in what seperates the Vapochill Micro from other heatpipe based cooling solutions is what Asetek uses within the heatpipes. While every other heatpipe based cooler uses water vapor, Asetek decided to use R-134a, a refrigerant they used in their first phase change cooling unit.
Unlike most aftermarket heat sinks, Asetek decided to include a preapplied coating of thermal paste, using DOW CORNING(R) SC 102 COMPOUND. Though by no means Arctic Silver, it is a decent paste with one nice strength, no cure time. One thing I'd suggest when installing this heat sink is for you to move it around slightly to spead the thermal paste out evenly and remove any air pockets.
The Vapochill Micro's base measures in at approximately 50mm diameter and 6mm thick, constructed completely of copper. One thing I was quite surprised to see was the quality of the Vapochill Micro's base. After removing the thermal paste and cleaning the base, machine marks are clearly visible and I could actually feel the grooves with my finger. I'm sure a nice lapping with some fine grade sand paper and some Arctic Silver would improve the overall performance of the Micro.
All in all I'm very impressed with the Vapochill Micro to this point. Assembly was very simple and the instructions are very clear and easy to follow. I felt that the fan shroud was very flimsy and prone to breakage if installed more than once. I think that with a better fan mounting system (maybe an aluminum shroud) and easier to work with push pins for securing the fan, the Micro would be an even better product.
Installing the Vapochill Micro
Assembly and installation of the Vapochill Micro is about as easy as they come.
Starting with assembling the cooler itself, I mounted the Extreme fan on the shroud using the included push pins. It took a few minutes to get every put together correctly. the flimsy fan shroud was a bit of a pain to work with, but after sticking my hand between the cooler and shroud itself to give the shroud support, the pins pushed right in and secured the fan nicely to the cooler.
Next came the wiring. The 3 pin connector on the fan itself is connected to another 3 pin adapter which is wired into the fan cotroller (to control the fan speed) and the motherboard (for monitoring fan speed).
A seperate 2 pin connector on the fan controller, which itself is connected to a 4 pin molex provides the fan with its power. The wiring included with the Micro is flexible and small enough to simply zip tie and stow out of the way.
One major draw of the Micro is the ability to install the cooler without having to remove your motherboard from the case. Most aftermarket cooling solutions require the removal of the motherboard to allow for their own mounting hardware, but the Micro only requires you to remove the top heatsink bracket to allow the Micro's mounting hardware to be installed using the boards included screws.
Note: Some DFI board owners have had issues with the cooler not sitting flush while using the top retention bracket. Asetek has released a statement on this, recommending that users who experience this problem simply remove the motherboaeds top retention bracket. I suggest doing this with the utmost care, as too much pressure can result in a ruined CPU. My best advice is to monitor your temperatures immediately after load to see if your board has this issue. I did not experience this issue on my system, but those who have report temperatures between 10-12C higher than normal for this cooler.
Here you can see a better example of the cooler's mounting on my DFI NF4 SLI-DR motherboard. The cooler itself sits flush on the CPU, while its mounting bracket fits over the top of the CPU retention bracket, yet under the bracket's mounting screws. The installation itslef is incredibly straight forward and took under a minute to complete.
As far as compatibility, I had no issues at all mounting the Micro in my system. The cooler itself is very slender at the base, and the design left my board extremely clean and uncluttered, which should help with the overall cooling of the system.
A couple fo points I want to make are that the cooler is canted at such an angle that it provides additional cooling to the surrounding components on the board, such as the memory and mosfets, two areas of the DFI NF4 SLI-DR board that tend to get pretty warm.
The second issue is that while the Micro can be rotated to face the fan any direction you choose, in a vertically mounted setup (all tower cases) you need to have the top of the heatpipes facing up. This is because the Micro's cooling technology is based on gravity. The vapor within the heat pipes evaporates, rising to the top of the pipes, before condensing and falling to the bottom again......so common sense should tell you, that if the heat pipes are not facing upward, the cooler is not going to work to its full ability.
Test Setup and Testing
For testing purposes I decided to use different cooling solutions I've been working with over the past few months. The Koolance Exos-2 I reviewed here awhile back, and though its expensive, the overall system performance is second to none. Lately I've been using Cooler Master's Aquagate Mini-120 on the test bench as it comes with a universal mounting assembly, is easy to install, features good performance, and at under $100 is a pretty decent water cooling kit for the money.
The following system is currently on my test bench
- AMD 3800+ X2
- DFI NF4 SLI-DR
- 1GB (2 x 512MB) Corsair XMS 3200UL @ 2-3-2-5.
- ATI X850 XT
- OCZ PowerStream 600W PSU
- HSPC Tech Station test bench
For temperature monitoring I'll be using DFI integrated system monitor, Smart Guardian as well as Everest 2.0's sensor monitor. While no monitoring program is 100% accurate, these will give us a good comparative representation of each cooling unit's performance against each other.
Temperatures will be recorded at idle for one hour in a 78F enviroment (+/- 1F), and finally under load conditions by running Sisoft Sandra's burn in wizard for 50 iterations. The CPU was run at its default speed and with default voltage.
As you can see, not much seperates the Vapochill Micro from some very good and very expensive cooling solutions. Note that the incredibly quiet "Ultra Low Noise" version runs at slightly cooler temperatures than AMD's stock cooler, but I have to say that it is an almost silent cooling solution.
Another fact worth noting is that the "Extreme Performance" version while at its lowest setting is almost as quiet as the "Ultra Low" version with slightly better cooling, and at its highest fan speed is a bit better than the "High End" version. All of this makes me believe the Extreme Performance is the best option for anyone who does not need an absolutely silent PC.
Is The Micro Worth It?
I have to say that I found the Vapochill Micro to be an outstanding product. Not only did it obliterate the stock AMD cooling solution, but the temperatures produced by the Extreme and High End models were on par with both water cooling kits I use on my system, at least at stock speeds. Please understand that, at least in the Koolance Exos' 2 case, the kit cools not just the CPU, but the chipset, the video card, and the HDD. I also have to say, that with the cooling fan running at its full speed, the Vapochill Micro Extreme is a very loud cooler, however the variable speed fan will allow the user to adjust it to find the right balance of noise and performance.
The design and construction of the Vapochill Micro is outstanding (with one exception we'll cover in a minute). Although the base could use a good lapping, and a better thermal paste would undoubtedly improve the performance further, its hard to argue with the results.
When it came to the installation, the Micro is as easy as they come, after mounting the fan to the cooler, the entire process was done in under a minute.... and when you consider that the Micro does not require the user to remove the motherboard for installation, it suddenly becomes a very attractive alternative the stock AMD cooler and most other cooling solutions on the market.
A couple of issues I did have with the Vapochill Micro were the very poorly thought out fan shroud. The plastic design really took away from the overall quality of the cooler and seems like it would be easily broken after repeatedly removing the fan. I think this is an easily corrected issue, and in the end does not take away from the overall performance of the Micro.
The only other issue I have with the Micro is the different kits. Why release three versions? Why not simply release a single version with a fan controller? The Extreme Performance comes with a fan controller that allows the fan to be adjusted anywhere from <28dB(A) to 39dB(A), which encompassses the full range of the other kits (Ultra Low Noise 28dB(A) and High End (35dB(A). I think a single kit would have been sufficient and would prevent any confusion for the end user.
Legit Bottom Line
Featuring a great design, and incredibly easy assembly and installation, the Vapochill Micro is a great product. From my own experiences I'd have to put the Vapochill Micro Extreme Performance in the same class as the Thermalright XP-120 and XP-90C, in my opinion the best air cooled solutions available.