Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
The last attempt at something of a thermoelectric nature had us taking a trip in the way-back machine, when we had our own look at the CoolerMaster V10. When CoolerMaster attempted the V10, they had more surface area than all other mainstream coolers at that time, and even with the slight boost of the thermoelectric plate and its own fin arrays to cool it, we were left sort of disappointed at its overall performance. A bit of time after its release, mods were made by delivering more power to the stock TEC plate, or by adding larger ones, and after the fact, there are images on the internet of them with frosty cold bases.
There is one major stopping point to all of these designs though, and that is the lack of ability to provide the TEC with ample cooling on its hot side. Without getting too deep into the physics of how a TEC works, on the basic level, voltage is supplied to the TEC, and one side gets hot to allow the other side of the TEC to be cooler than ambient temperatures.
With a TEC, the more efficiently you can remove the heat from the hot side of the plate, the colder its opposing side can get. The limited space, and lesser efficiency of using an air cooler versus something like a custom loop was CoolerMaster's Achilles heel. We just hope that V3 Components has overcome this somehow, and if it has, we may have a TEC assisted air cooler worthy of your time.
Under close examination of the V3 Components' Voltair, we can see that they do employ quite a few tricks that make standard air coolers very successful. The V10 was much larger, but it too could have benefited from the tricks of the trade that this new Voltair high performance thermoelectric CPU cooler incorporates into the design. All things considered, we do hope that V3 Components has made a cooler that we can scream about from the roof tops and that many will want to buy.
Compatibility is not an issue for all of the latest and currently supported sockets, but there is no hardware for older systems with AMD sockets like 939 or Intel's LGA775. The dimensions of the Voltair may be a consideration for users. 167mm from left to right is not a huge issue, and neither is the 120mm width of the Voltair, but the 172mm height may be too tall for most mid-towers, and even some full-tower case designs. We also hope for some pretty serious hardware to mount this Voltair, as you will be hanging over three pounds from the motherboard.
This design is actually two coolers wrapped into one. There is an inner cooler with four 8mm diameter heat pipes, which is used to cool the hot side of the TEC plate. Wrapped around that is another four heat pipe cooler with 42 aluminum fins; the middle of which is cut away so that the TEC cooler can fit inside. The TEC rests over the lowest base section, and the cool side of the TEC chills the HDT base that the Voltair offers. On top of that assembly of coolers, a thick metal shroud covers the top and sides of the cooler, while a pair of 120mm fans with nine blades actively cools these towers. With speeds up to 1800 RPM, delivering well over 100 CFM of airflow and 1.9 mmH2O of static pressure, we can be assured this setup will deliver as much cooling as possible without having to move to a 38mm thick fan.
The last things we want to touch on here are the pricing and availability. We know that V3 Components is tied to Cyberpower, and it is likely that this will be an option to choose in your custom built PC, so there is that route to take to acquire the Voltair. As for the users who want this in a rig you don't have to spend near $2000 U.S. dollars on, we can currently only find the Voltair available at Newegg.com at a price of $129.99 with free shipping. However, we would hazard to guess that availability will get better as time goes by.
Going off of that pricing, it seems very close to what the Cooler Master V10 released at so many moons ago, so for what it is, the pricing seems reasonable. The real question is: can the Voltair rise up and take on AIO coolers as all of the emails and press would lead us to believe? We will get to all of that soon enough in the charts, but for now, just sit back and have a look at what the Voltair High Performance Thermoelectric CPU Cooler is all about.
Packaging for the Voltair is shiny black cardboard that offers the product name in white to make it pop. A list of four features can be found below the product name in grey. The packaging also allows for a peek at the cooler to the right side, which is followed with compatibility information.
Both of the shorter sides of the box offer the combined V3 logo with the "gaming" moniker under it in grey. It is sort of a stealth application, as the light has to be just right to see these.
On what is essentially the top of the box, we again find "V3 Gaming" in the top right corner. Under that, and shifted to the left, are five features of the Voltair TEC cooler.
On the back of the packaging, V3 starts off by saying that this cooler should outperform similarly priced liquid coolers, and continues on to explain why you should want one. There is an explanation of the TEC functionality at the bottom, leaving the specifications chart to fill the right side of this panel.
To keep things protected and secure in transit, a clear plastic inner packaging is used. It is form fitted to the cooler so that it will not move around at all, and we can see the hardware and paperwork is shipped inside in a larger cavity. While this type of packaging will tend to crack under stress, our samples arrived in perfect condition.
V3 Components Voltair High Performance Thermoelectric CPU Cooler
Looking at the Voltair head on, things look pretty normal with the 120mm fan covering the cooler behind it. As you scan down to the base to see the sandwich of bases and the alternating pipe directions, we can tell this is a bit more than the usual suspects tend to offer.
Both sides of the Voltair look like this. A plain expanse of black shroud that makes sure to capture all of the available airflow, and keep it running through the fin array to help increase performance. Of course, the other side lacks the two into one fan leads that we see on this side.
Looking at the south end of a northbound cooler, we again see that the fan completely covers the rear of the cooler as well; however, this time the fan is pulling air rather than pushing. Combined, the fans deliver over 230 CFM, so airflow should not be an issue in any way with this design.
V3 added a brushed logo to the top of the cooler, which plays against the flat black paint used on the shroud. We also see four thin thumbscrews around the logo. The removal of these allows for the shroud and the fans to gently slide off the cooler for easier cleaning, or for us to look deeper into this design.
With the shroud off the cooler, we can get a look into the fin array that V3 is using in this design. We see that the fins are closed off on the sides to capture air, and keep the fin spacing equal.
As we get back to the top of the cooler, we see a thick metal plate that holds both coolers in correct spacing, and offers the standoffs that the shroud attaches too. While we have no intention to break the TIM on the TEC, if this plate is removed, you would see the pair of coolers, one inside of the other.
Voltair High Performance Thermoelectric CPU Cooler Continued
Getting back to the fins, we almost forgot to address that each fin has many dimples added to them to break up the airflow, causing disturbances to make each fin more efficient than if it were left flat. It may also be a good time to address that Molex connection in the last few images that also needs to be connected to power the TEC.
Here we address the four 8mm diameter heat pipes that are gently bent without kinking them to make sure the wicking effect of each pipe is kept optimal. From here, it is also easier to see the various diameters of the holes and dimples applied into the outer fins, as well as in the fins of the TEC cooler in the middle.
The base of the cooler ships with a protective sticker on it, but we want to touch on the mounting here. In the aluminium sections at the top and bottom, there are two holes to accept the screws to attach brackets for mount it to the motherboard.
V3 uses a direct touch method on their base. The gaps are thin in the middle, and there are still visible milling marks from where the aluminium and copper were levelled together. Aside from the gaps, against a razor there is very little, if any deviation across the surfaces.
Just in case you still don't get the concept, this image should help. The inner cooler sits atop the hot side of the TEC, and uses those fins to keep the TEC cooled. Obviously, the gap in the middle is where the TEC is located, and with another base screwed into the sandwich, the cool side of the TEC is now cooling the heat pipes of the outer cooler to attempt to deliver a more efficient cooling experience.
Accessories and Documentation
In this image we have the AMD mounting brackets to the left, the isolated universal backplate, and the Intel mounting brackets on the right side. The components are thick and won't flex much; they are also chromed for looks and ease of cleaning.
The rest of the mounting hardware that we see here is in the bag with the brackets. There are thick washers to isolate the LGA2011, or the universal standoffs to the right of them. The bottom row offers us a tube of non-descript thermal paste, thumbscrews to secure the cooler, and screws to mount the brackets to the base of the cooler.
Also included in the kit is an expansion slot mountable fan controller. This allows for more finite control of the fan speeds if you don't want to use motherboard software for control. The sleeved wiring uses two 3-pin headers for power, and condenses into a single 3-pin connection to connect to the fans.
The manual we received was pretty basic, but still gets the job done. A parts list is offered to the left so you may check for completion before moving on. After that, the installation is broken down into six steps that are easy enough to follow and get the Voltair mounted with the renderings provided.
Installation and Finished Product
First we flipped the cooler over and added in the Intel mounting brackets. These are simple enough to install; they will go on either side up, and screwing in a few Phillips head screws is nothing tough to accomplish.
We then moved on to the motherboard hardware. After placing the red washers down and grabbing the universal standoffs, we have them run through the backplate, and as you tighten this, it takes any flex right out of the motherboard.
With three holes in each tab, you need to pay close attention to the instructions to know which set to use. Once one of the standoffs is set in the correct hole, the rest are easy to align, but getting started can be tough depending on the motherboard.
Looking at the V3 Voltair from this angle, it appears like most single tower style coolers. It is tall enough to allow for lower height heatspreaders, but we did have to remove the flame tips of these TridentX to get everything to clear each other.
As we spin around to the top of the motherboard, you can see there is plenty of room above our memory now, but we can also see that the Voltair covers all four slots. Since there is a removable shroud, at least you don't have to remove the cooler to swap out the sticks.
Stepping back a bit to gauge the overall size, we are looking at a cooler that takes up as much room as a dual tower cooler like the D-14, but this time, the dual towers are like nothing we have seen before.
After getting everything back in the D-Frame so we can test this cooler, we find its looks to be very nice from here. Even though we are hanging such a heavy cooler, it is very solid, and fairs better than the video card that sags under its weight. Now let's get to the testing.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results
Test System Setup
To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article.
With stock clocks applied to the CPU, and Aida64 stress test running, the Voltair topped out at 49 degrees, taking fourth place overall, and a very promising start. So far the claims to best liquid cooling options, more specifically AIOs, are in fact true.
Funny enough, when the overclock was applied, the Voltair shows its weakness. As with the V10, even with a ton more area than what the Voltair offers, there isn't enough to correctly cool the TEC in our opinion. While 73 degrees is far from failing, it falls behind every AIO on the chart, and is bested by much more economical choices too.
Noise Level Results
At this point, we are supplying the fans with 7.5V, and via software reporting, we see these fans are spinning at 1380 RPM. At this time, the fans are only audible within a foot of the cooler, and only have a rating of 28dB.
The noise level with the fans now running at 1770 RPM with 12V supplied to them was a pleasant surprise. Even with well over 200 CFM of air flow rushing through this cooler, the 52dB reading is far less than we initially expected.
At this point we are torn with which way to go with an award, or if we even give one. In stock conditions, the Voltair is in fact a really nice cooler, and while taking up a fair amount of room, it is in fourth place in our charts, falling only behind custom water cooling loops. The cooler easily beat out any of the AIOs, and other air coolers as the packaging promised.
Then we have to ponder the flip side of this design. As an enthusiast, even if I had purchased a pre-built custom PC, I would still overclock the PC, and where other coolers thrive and move toward the top of the list in this scenario, we find the Voltair and its TEC falling drastically down the list. I guess the same things that kept the V10 from being a huge hit then, are keeping the Voltair from performing admirably in this situation. These coolers struggle with the plain and simple fact that they aren't keeping the hot side of the TEC cold enough; this is likely why most users of TEC use water cooling to remove the heat produced sufficiently enough to provide great results.
In other aspects, with our Sabertooth used in testing, we found the cooler tough to install due to the plastic covering on the board. Other boards may be easier, but with larger and larger heat sinks surrounding the CPU these days, plan to spend some time with needle nosed pliers making a lot of tiny twists on the thumbscrews. The rest of the mounting is pretty smooth, and for such a large and weighty cooler, once installed, there are no fears of twisting or torsion made by the cooler -the Voltair is as solid as a rock. We also appreciated the lack of absurd amounts of fan noise. Part of that is due to the close sides of the fin structure, and that the shroud contains a lot of noise, but even at full blast, a 52dB rating a foot from the exhaust of the cooler is respectable.
As we ponder our final decisions, we do see the benefits of a cooler such as this in stock environments. However, the $129.99 pricing really seems to take this cooler from the average users hands, and places it into an almost enthusiast price point. That being said, most enthusiasts want to overclock their gear, and the Voltair would not be my first choice in this instance. The reason I would not choose this cooler is because it was easily beat by a lot of coolers that were not only cheaper to acquire, but also mount easier, are nowhere near as heavy, and most importantly, they are more efficient designs.
If you are in the market for a new toy to play around with, don't mind volt modding, or whatever it is going to take to make this cooler perform better, it will fit in more places than the V10, the hardware is stiffer and better in our opinion, and at the end of a lot of work and effort, you might have a cooler worthy of having it installed. As it sits, I have to say well done at stock levels, but anything past that, we would opt for other coolers to cool our CPUs, and not have to spend nearly as much to do it.
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