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asetek VapoChill Micro asetek VapoChill Micro: Phase cooling in a bitesized package? Where do we sign up?
Date: October 7, 2005
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Air cooling is something many enthusiasts are moving away from, especially with the latest Prescott CPUs from Intel. While you can still get decent cooling as well as overclocking results using air on AMD processors, the Prescott CPUs are simply too difficult to manage if you have any aspirations of overclocking them.

Water-cooling is another choice, but for some people, the budget and difficulty in setting up a liquid cooled system may not be worth their while. As for phase change, that may not even be an option as these kits are even harder to setup and as much as three times more expensive than water.

We have seen "pocket-sized" phase change units before though, but the results have been less than impressive. asetek is no stranger to the phase change arena, so we were a little excited to have a look at their latest cooler, the . Unlike their mega expensive VapoChill units, the VapoChill Micro is a LOT smaller and as a result, much cheaper. As nice as easier installation and lower pricing are, performance is where it matters, so does the VapoChill Micro deliver?

The asetek VapoChill Micro

There are currently three different versions of the VapoChill Micro (each model comes with different types of fans), more if you factor in the different CPU support. The VapoChill Micro itself is universal, meaning the unit will be the same regardless of the platform you use it with.

Unlike most heatpipe technologies, the VapoChill Micro does things a little differently. Instead of a welded connection from the base to the heatpipe, the unit features an evaporation chamber which rests directly on top of the CPU. This reduces the thermal resistance, and allows the heat to be transferred quickly through the copper base and into the liquid chamber.

The liquid will then evaporate, and travel into the three pipes attached to the base, which are cooled by the aluminum fins and fan. The evaporated liquid (in a gaseous state) recondenses back into fluid and the process repeats itself.

 

There are a few fan accessories included in the package, such as a rheostat, fan clips and a fan shroud. The shroud is not very impressive in our books, and initially I discarded it into the trash because I thought it was part of the cellophane packaging. Once I got stuck during the installation process did I realize I actually needed it.

For review purposes, asetek sent us all the parts needed for Athlon 64 and Pentium 4 LGA775 setups. A Socket 478 kit is also available, but we did not look at it. Unlike many universal heatsinks, the asetek VapoChill Micro is one of the rare ones we've looked at that does not need motherboard removal for any platform. The installation kits make use of both AMD and Intel's current setups, so all that will be required is removing the stock cooling and putting the asetek into place.

As with the CPU attachment options, you have three different options for the fans. The VapoChill Micro Ultra Low Noise comes with the quietest fan, sacrificing a bit of cooling performance for silence. It really is near silent, so it would be a good compromise for those tired of high-pitched systems. The VapoChill Micro HIGH-END is a mid-ranged type of setup, balancing noise and performance. This is about the equivalent of most coolers with stock fan settings, meaning it will be audible for the most part, but not enough to drive you batty. Finally, the VapoChill Micro Extreme Performance tosses out all concerns about your hearing and goes full bore for maximum performance. It isn't as loud as some other high speed fans we've used before, but it's not something I'm personally comfortable using.

Installation

With all the headaches I've had installing various heatsinks lately, it was a sheer joy to work with the VapoChill Micro. The first step is to attach the fan shroud to the unit and attach the fan. While we hammered asetek earlier about the flimsy shroud (and we're still not thrilled about it), it does feel secure once it's installed. Next step is to fit the VapoChill Micro's evaporation chamber through the CPU attachment plate. The picture below demonstrates this for AMD, but the process is the same for Intel.

As stated earlier, motherboard removal is not required, unless you've been using some custom cooler with custom brackets earlier (this also applies for Intel). Otherwise, there is some motherboard preparation, but only for AMD.

For Socket 754/939, you'll need to remove the heatsink retention screws prior to installation. Once those are out, you can place the assembled VapoChill Micro, and use the same screws to secure it to the board. Once it's in tight, you can adjust the VapoChill Micro to your needs. Since we have an upright standing tower, the last image on the top right is the ideal orientation of the VapoChill Micro.

Intel installation is even easier (less motherboard preparation). As with the AMD retention plate, simply thread the evaporation chamber through the Intel plate and snap it in as you would Intel's stock cooler.

Again, the best orientation of the cooler is as pictured above, assuming you have an upright standing case.

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