|CoolIT ECO A.L.C. ECO-R120 CPU Cooler|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 28 April 2010|
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Liquid Cooling Final Thoughts
Picking the right CPU cooler is rarely an easy choice, and Benchmark Reviews hopes we've made this process easier by providing information in this and other CPU cooler reviews. The market is changing rapidly enough that the top cooler of 2008 wouldn't be considered a serious contender in 2010; and manufacturers continue to asymptotically approach the theoretically ideal cooler than will bring your CPU down to ambient temperature. Water coolers add a slew of other variables to the heat sink equation: water block design, coolant flow rate, and radiator size and design all play a part.
It's important to remember that there's a reason there are so many different coolers available: not every cooler works in every situation. The top-performing Prolimatech Megahalems is available at FrozenCPUfor $64.99 (without a fan), and that's a lot to spend on a cooler considering the cooler that came with your system or processor has already been paid for. Most users, even most enthusiast users, simply don't need a cooler this capable— it would be wasted, for example, on most dual-core systems. Also, its very large size limits its applications, while the ECO A.L.C. will fit in almost any case.
The CoolIT ECO-R120 inhabits a nebulous place in the heat sink universe: it's priced with the very best air coolers, but CoolIT doesn't market it to the "extreme overclocking" crowd that might normally go for a Megahalems— although as our test results show the ECO is quite competitive with the best air coolers when fitted with a high-performance fan. Instead, it's designed to offer significantly better performance than most air coolers along with very low noise. It would be well suited, for example, for the cramped confines of an HTPC, where low noise (with the stock fan) was a primary consideration.
As I mentioned before, a number of factors affect heat sink performance, and enthusiasts will spend hours hand-lapping processors and heat sink bases and spend unnecessary amounts of money on exotic liquid metal thermal interface material. But at the end of the day, one of the single most important considerations is simply how much air you're moving over your heat sink's fins or radiator, and finding a fan that hits the right balance between noise and performance for your application will do more for your heat sink's performance than any other single factor: the Yate Loon fan used in this test is rather noisy, but witness how this $7 item moved the CoolIT ECO A.L.C.'s performance from the bottom of the charts to within spitting distance of the best coolers available. With the hundreds of 120mm fans available, it's impossible for Benchmark Reviews to test all possible fan combinations, or even a small subset of them; CoolIT Systems notes that using two fans in a "push-pull" configuration is a supported configuration, so there's lots of room for experimentation here.
Enthusiasts buy water coolers like this trying to strike a balance between performance and noise, or perhaps just because it's cool to be able to say your system's "water cooled." What the ECO R-120 brings to the party is sheer versatility: its small size and performance headroom (depending on the fans used) make it one of the most broadly applicable CPU cooling solutions available.