Back in March I was introduced to CoolIT when they sent me the ECO A.L.C. and from the jump, I was impressed. The cooler was an all-in-one water cooling solution that offers the end user maintenance-free operation of the unit minus any dusting of the radiator. The sealed unit is designed for the toughest environments, and is guaranteed to stay this way in your chassis for up to two years. I remember seeing the video of Geoff taking the ECO by the head unit and swinging the system around as hard as he can just to help show that this is a seriously solid cooler.
With CoolIT being relatively new to the aftermarket cooling game, there is always room for improvement. One thing CoolIT does more than a lot of other manufacturers I see day to day is getting involved at the lowest levels. On my end that means personal calls from the owner; consisting of some question and answer about my time with the coolers making sure all went well and there were no surprises. So far with both products I find them to be so intuitive it is really hard to mess up the install and usage. For those of you who don't have the luxury of getting a phone call from the owner, there is still a good chance you will soon run into a rep. from CoolIT if you post any complaints on forums. I saw it happen first hand and their representative was very informative and put members at ease. There are some others that do this as well, but in the realm of cases and cooling I don't see the effort that CoolIT shows to keep their customers happy and coming back for more.
Today, CoolIT sent me the Vantage A.L.C. to have a look at and strap up to the T.E.C.C. for a bit of torture. Without giving too much away, just think ECO, lights, LCD readout, and hidden options yet to be seen. I know, I know; who wants to buy a cooler with options you can't use right? With the Vantage, this isn't the case at all. The cooler is fully functional as is and a blast to play around with and see just what fits my mood for the day. The secret is in the software. Yes, I said software. CoolIT is planning a package called the Maestro. This is the software that will allow full control from the OS of both the Vantage A.L.C. and their new Omni GPU cooler. Since I don't have the software or the Omni yet, let's take a look at stage one of this three piece band: the CoolIT Vantage A.L.C.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
This all-in-one water cooler is built with the CPU water block and pump in one unit and the heat is driven to the 120mm radiator to be removed from the chassis via two anti-evaporative tubes. The head unit (pump and block assembly) comes with thermal compound pre-applied and out of the box this cooler is ready for any Intel installation since LGA 775. If you have an AMD system, you will need to remove four little screws and swap the Intel mounting for the included AMD mounting. With CoolIT's ingenious thumbscrew and Phillip's head screw combination screws, mounting by hand is a breeze. If you choose to install it with a screwdriver, there is a lip on the plastic thumbscrew part that will keep the screwdriver from slipping off the screws and causing accidental damage to the motherboard.
On the opposite end of the cooling, you will find the same 120mm radiator found on the ECO, as well as an included fan. The fan is controlled on the Vantage via the head unit, unlike the ECO that was strictly PWM or fan controller controlled. The Vantage gets plugged into the CPU header on the motherboard, but this time the fan plugs into the head unit. This allows CoolIT to incorporate three stages of control. The controls for the fan are labeled Quiet, Performance, and Extreme. This will allow the end user to get the perfect balance of noise versus performance. In Quiet mode the fan stays closer to the 1100 RPM mark of the fan, while in extreme mode you can make a ton of noise with the 2500 RPM fan and get better numbers to show for the increased noise levels. One last addition to this end of the kit is that CoolIT offers a spacer on one side. This plastic spacer will not only help the air flow and pressure of the included fan and make mounting in a chassis a bit easier, but it also doubles as a shroud for those looking to assemble a push/pull setup.
The last of the cool tricks I can show at this point in development is the LCD screen. This is a handy little feature that was found in the Domino of the older series of coolers. With this LCD, not only can I see my fan speed, pump speed, and the temperature of the coolant traveling inside the unit, but there is also quite the choice in lighting. If I counted right there are nine different modes from off, the many colors, a pulse mode, and a temperature mode. It doesn't stop there. CoolIT also realized that the head unit isn't always going to be positioned in the same orientation, so to aid us end users the LCD can turn in 90° increments so that it shows right side up inside the case. If you don't care for the information at hand, you can simply set the CoolIT logo and run the PC as usual.
Looking around to try to locate this unit, I can only find two e-tailers currently carrying the Vantage ALC. I know the product is brand spanking new, but the lack of availability will be seen in the final numbers. The Vantage can be found at AVAdirect and also at a place called A-power. The latter is the cheaper of the two at $129.98, while the AVAdirect price is some $15 more. Put that price next to an extreme air cooler and it is asking a bit much, but when you consider it cost $200-300 to build this all in pieces shopping retail that price isn't bad at all. Basically the breakdown looks like this. Take the $80 ECO, add LED lighting, a LCD panel, and potential for software control down the line. Of course, such a product is going to demand a higher price to cover the new features, but with all these added features, for around $50 more let's get to it and see if it is worth its weight.
The bold blue packaging will stand out against all the black or white boxes on the shelf. Not only that, but you can plainly see with a quick glance what you are getting inside the box.
Here CoolIT gets into detail. With windows and lines pointing to what is being discussed, six of the major features are shown and discussed in good detail.
The ends of the package are more basic.
On this side we again see the six features, a brief explanation, and to the right you will find the specifications list for the Vantage.
Just like the opposing end, this is plain as well. One thing you will find is all of the company information; just in case of the slight chance of an issue with your product or if you just want to go look at what they have to offer to add to your purchase.
Here we have a chart on the left showing the fan curve programmed for each of the three fan presets. On the right half you can see the Vantage ALC installed in a chassis so you have a really good idea of how it is supposed to look when operational.
Removing the cardboard outer box I ran into this Styrofoam encasement. On the outside there are holes used to ship the AMD mounting, the three Intel back plates, and four mounting screws. Inside this two piece package you will find the Vantage ALC.
The CoolIT Vantage A.L.C. CPU Cooler
Removing the top of the packaging we get out first glance at the Vantage ALC. At this point, aside from me having to take pictures, all you have to do is remove the bag and mount it if you have an Intel system.
The head unit consists of the pump and base plates. Unlike the ECO, the Vantage has the LCD screen and two buttons placed on top of the pump. It uses all the same major components of the ECO such as barbs, hoses, and mounting so in the technical aspects it is very similar to the ECO.
Moving back a little bit you can see that the Vantage supplies two wires from the head unit. One of those plugs into the motherboard, while the other controls the fan. No need for two headers or a 12V Molex converter to get the Vantage up and running.
One feature I loved about the ECO over the H50 was the ability to move the hoses to fit cleaner into any chassis. I'm glad to see this feature stays with the Vantage as well.
Out of the box, the Vantage is configured to run with an Intel system. If you have an AMD rig, you need to pull the four screws in these legs, replace the legs with the AMD set, and screw them into the head unit.
In the last image you saw a plastic cover on the base plate. This is to not only protect the base against accidental scratches, but it also allows the pre-applied thermal compound to stay in place. For our tests, this will be removed, the base cleaned, and replaced with AS-5 to keep the playing field level.
Whether you have a socket 1366, 1156, or 775 setup these legs, with a simple pull on the bottom half, will slide into the appropriate socket position. This also offers the ability to upgrade your 775 system and not need to get additional hardware to move the cooler to the new build.
The 2500 RPM fan comes mounted as a push fan on the Vantage ALC and also has a fan grille in place to keep fingers safe inside the chassis.
At first glance it almost looks like the Vantage ships with two fans. This is not the case. CoolIT ships a spacer on the opposing side of the radiator.
This is the side that gets mounted to the chassis as an exhaust using the included screws shipped on the outside of the foam. This spacer allows for a gap behind the radiator to improve flow, but can also be used as a shroud for the push/pull a lot of end users go with on the ECO.
Just wanted to get this last shot due to the sticker with the actual VAN-R120 model number, so when you are shopping there is no confusion.
The CoolIT Vantage A.L.C. CPU Cooler - Continued
When the Vantage receives power, it springs to life and presents you with some quality information. There is the CoolIT logo, the temp of the coolant, fan RPM, pump RPM, and the current cooler mode. With the two buttons to the left of the LCD we can start to manipulate the options.
Pressing the top button, as it is oriented, I get taken to the main menu. From here I can go into the settings and display options. There is also a bit from CoolIT in there, and at the bottom you can exit back to the main screen.
In the display menu we get the option to change colors, turn the pulse modulation of lighting on or off, and have the ability to spin the presented information so we can read it.
Obviously the default color set was blue, but I wanted to run through a few of them to show what the Vantage offers. Here is white, in actuality it's more of a baby blue or teal color.
Amber! While it is slightly yellowish, the green comes through from the LCD screen throwing the coloring off just a bit.
If LED lighting isn't your thing, but you still want all the valuable information presented, you can simply switch the LEDs off completely.
Once you get the Vantage ALC set just the way you like it and the info isn't so important anymore, you can opt to display the CoolIT logo on the cooler as well.
Accessories and Documentation
I received my sample earlier than retail. Being a pre-production sample, I did not receive an owner's manual. With the Vantage this was not an issue at all. Even with no idea how to make it work when I opened it, once I plugged it in and powered it up, the buttons and LCD screen operated and functioned like I knew what I was doing already. One button will get you into a menu and the other will cycle through said menus. Even if you do the wrong thing, give the unit a couple of seconds to reset itself to the main screen then try it again; you can't break anything by pushing the wrong button at the wrong time.
In the two cut outs in the foam, you will find this hardware. There are the three Intel back plates: one for Socket LGA775, one for 1156, and another for 1366. All three plates have the 3M double-sided tape to hold the plate to the motherboard to ease installation. At the top are the two AMD mounting legs which use the stock back plate for securing the cooler. In the middle of all of this, there are the four screws included to mount the spacer plate to your chassis.
Test System &Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
TweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
I tested the Vantage in every option I could think of. All modes, with one fan and two, and spent a lot of time getting to know the Vantage. In the Extreme setting with one fan, I got an idle temperature of 50.7°. This number is a good result, but be aware that with the Extreme setting comes a lot of noise when the CPU is under load. Choosing Performance or Quiet mode will be easier on the ears, but will not give the lowest results.
As would be expected, Extreme mode also gave us the best results here. On both the idle and load testing, going to Quiet mode and running the tests only raised the temperatures not quite two full degrees.
In Quiet mode the Vantage is dead silent. I had to actually put my ear within about three to four inches from the fan to hear it idling at 1100 RPM. Granted as you ramp the fans to a higher setting, the idle noise will get a bit louder.
When set to extreme, and the cooler is doing its thing at 55-56°, the fan really lets loose. It was easy to hear outside of the sealed foam box we house the T.E.C.C. in and the meter showing 68dB proves it can really dish out the noise keeping the CPU under control.
I mentioned in the testing that I ran dual fan testing as well, and I did. I took a 60CFM fan and strapped to the spacer on the radiator. I figured if I went with a below average fan and I got pleasing results, it would show great potential for those who must have the push/pull setup for maximum cooling. In Extreme mode, I was able to drop the temperatures 0.7 degrees at load but it didn't change the idle much. In performance mode I saw almost a full degree (0.9), where in silent mode it grew even more. The reason for the reversal here is my 60 CFM fan was on a 12V Molex and not controlled by the Vantage. Due to this reason I didn't show these results in the temperature or sound testing; I'd rather show what you will see using the Vantage as it is shipped.
I was so taken by the Vantage that it went right from the test bed to one of my PCs. Now it's been in there for a week, it is producing better numbers on my i5 750 than did the Tuniq Tower 120 that it replaced. One thing that I didn't get during our testing was any sort of warning or alarm beeps from the unit. When I placed it on the CPU and ran it in the PC, it freaked me out a bit on the initial boot. When the PC starts up, and before my bios check beeps, the Vantage starts up beeping. I figured I broke it, but come to find out it is reading the lack of power to the unit during the various stages of boot up. The beeping goes away as soon as the BIOS clears. Realistically all I can fault the Vantage for is scaring me for about five seconds; other than that that Vantage has been flawless.
So let's get down to the basics. While it isn't the easiest cooler to find on the shelf, given a bit of time I think the Vantage ALC will be more widely available than the ECO. Once you find the Vantage, I know the price will make you think long and hard. Let me see if I can make it worthy. Most of the premium coolers out there are around $80. Some of those don't even include a fan, so add another $15 to that price. On a side note, I am being generous about the fan pricing. so that's almost $100 to get the top of the line air cooler. What we have here is a self contained, maintenance free, water cooling system. Easy to install, better than most air coolers, and will produce similar numbers With a bit of tinkering, the numbers can get even better. I haven't even touched the fact that this comes with an LCD display with many color options to fit any theme in a chassis. On top of that, there is still the Maestro to consider. At a later date, the click of a mouse can control how the Vantage ALC performs. Asking $129 doesn't sound all that bad now, does it? The Vantage ALC found a comfy spot in my chassis and I don't see it going anywhere soon. The real question is why you don't have one for yourself yet!