KryoTech Renegade - How to SuperCool on a Beer Budget

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Update 3/30/99:

After using the KryoTech Renegade for a while, I decided to buy it. This was not done on a whim but; after really looking very closely at its advantages and disadvantages, I believe the KryoTech is a great purchase for many computer users.

For overclockers, the KryoTech is a great platform to wring the most out of CPUs without getting into water cooling. I have used peltiers as a first stage to the KryoTech’s cold plate and find it incredibly effective; not only does the KryoTech handle the peltier’s heat without blinking an eye, the heat generated by a peltier is exhausted from outside the case interior, not inside as with air-cooled peltiers. This means that getting cranky chips over performance hurdles is more a reality than wish. No doubt I can get 560 out of my PII333 SL2WY, probably at 2.0 volts. I’m getting 560 just with the KryoTech at 2.2 volts, so a cool running 560 is within reach.

For mission critical applications where stability and speed are required, using the KryoTech as built is a winning combination. Running any chip at room temperature goes a long way towards stability, and I am convinced that this system will allow long hours of intensive use crash-free.

I get a lot of emails from around the globe, and overclockers in tropical climates have a real challenge. Heat is the overclockers enemy, and the KryoTech is the perfect solution for a cool running system. It is very difficult to attain stable overclocked speeds when the ambient temperature is 90-100 degrees to start and I believe the KryoTech can be a solution for the “heat challenged.”

Now I will also be the first to tell you that I have modified the KryoTech to deal with shortcomings: Specifically, I have opened up the cooling unit’s intake and exhaust plates by cutting out the centers so air flow it totally unrestricted. I mention in the review below noise: The KryoTech folks were kind enough to send a modified cable so that fan noise is lessened. This is an acceptable solution but I went one better – I installed a rheostat (like a dimmer switch but for the fan) and now I can dial fan speeds – full blast for max cooling and minimal for almost no noise ( the ASETEK unit is passively cooled). In addition, I don’t like the case; I take the cover off a lot (changing chips etc) and this case is not optimal for me; the good news is that modifying any case to fit on the KryoTech refrigerator unit is really easy – 5 holes and a hacksaw will do it, so you can use your favorite case instead – hopefully KryoTech will sell only the base piece so you can do this.

The next “frontier” is overclocking the KryoTech – there is no doubt that adding higher cfm fans will increase cooling performance; there is also no doubt that chilling the KryoTech’s cooling coils below room temperature will result in running the unit colder than room temp. I can see how water cooling the coils will make the unit closer to a super-cooler than it is now.

Now a lot of you will say $400 for a case is extreme. My answer is simple – think of all the chips coming out of Intel that will be running at 100 MHz, and think about what will be required to get these babies over spec. COOLING! The KryoTech can be an extremely effective platform to get these chips smoking without cooking the chip.

In short, the KryoTech opens up so many possibilities that I think it’s a no-brainer.

KryoTech Review

You are going to see a number of reviews about the KryoTech Renegade – this is KryoTech’s “entry level” product. KryoTech, if you don’t know, is a company which has crossed a refrigerator with a computer case; their first splash on the scene involved cooling CPUs to something like -40 degrees. By doing this KryoTech got heroic performance out of normal chips. The problem is cost – cooling at this level cost over a $1,000 – not worth it.

The Renegade is a de-tuned version which gets the price down to about $400. It does not do SuperCooling – it will keep your CPU at room temperature, which is not all that bad. Unfortunately it doesn’t do anything extraordinary – at these temperatures it will not make a bum C300a get to 450 or 504.

But with a little imagination you can turn this room temperature performance into a SuperCooler and get CPU temps to below freezing. How? Simple – mount a Peltier between the KryoTech cold plate and the CPU ; the KryoTech cold plate cools the Peltier’s hot side to room temperature so that the cold side can keep the CPU well below room temperature. Depending on which CPU and voltage, you can run a chip below freezing.

I know – I did it and here’s the poop.

KryoTech’s Cold Plate

This is a flat metal plate that is attached to the refrigerator in the case’s bottom so that the coolant is circulated through this metal plate and kept at room temperature – sort of like the coils you may see in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator. The plate has 8 holes in it – these are used to attach the plate to a Pentium II or Celeron. Now, I used Celerons because they are so popular as overclockers, and

HINT # 1 – DO NOT use the piece of crap that looks like a 4 legged spider to hold the cold plate to the chip. After 18 seconds of fiddling with it I decided to use 4 bolts instead. Just make sure you use rubber washers or grommets on the back of the Slot 1 PCB – you don’t want any metal touching the back of the CPU. Also make sure you just finger tighten the bolts – you don’t need a ratchet wrench to make it secure.

Now, there is a benefit to using this cold plate – it comes on the end of a black cable which is stiff enough to hold the CPU in place without retention brackets. Now I know there are people gasping for breath on this one, but it sure made changing CPUs easy and for short term playing around it works fine.

The Peltier Arrangement

HINT # 2 – Use a separate power supply for the Peltier – why burden your motherboard’s power supply with the power hungry needs of a Peltier. Mounting it is ridiculously simple – slather both sides up with thermal grease, place the hot side to the cold plate, the cold side to the CPU (Duh!) and finger tighten the bolts to hold the whole thing together.

Now, I am assuming of course you’ve hooked up this beast correctly (just read the instructions). I started the Peltier first, then switched on the KryoTech and we’re off and running. I placed my thermal probe (i.e Radio Shack thermometer) so it rested on the Peltier’s edge – gave me a good sense of what was happening.

The CPU Results

Many thanks to PC Nut for lending me a couple of bum chips to play with – In this case a week 41 C300a that will not make 450 (a Costa Rican WM – what else?) and a week 49 C366 that will not make 550. I mean no-how no-way do these chips post at 450 or 550 – I tried that with my BH6 before I remounted it into the KryoTech case. I also ran it with my C300a which does 450 fine at 2.0 volts – this is a pre-tested PC Nut unit – but not 504.

I then ran these chips without the Peltier; no-way no-how did the standard KryoTech setup do anything differently for these bum chips. Then I mounted the Peltier and saw the following results:

My Celeron 300a – 504 @ 2.0 volts stable – new record.
Bum Celeron 300a – 450 @ 2.1 volts stable – new record.
Bum Celeron 366 – still not stable at 550 but now runs in W95 at 550 2.1 to 2.3 volts (Si Sandra Benchmarks: Drhystone 1481, FPU 709) – new record.

Stable here is defined as running Prime 95 without crashing.

Temperatures

I measured CPU temperatures using my sophisticated thermal probe and found the following:

My C300a @ 504, at rest: CPU 1.2*C, KryoTech cold plate 28* C.
My 300a @ 504 2.0 volts running Prime 95: CPU 12.8* C, cold plate 29* C.
Bum C300a @450, 2.1 volts running Prime 95: CPU 8.7* C, cold plate 29* C.

Pretty cool, huh?

UPDATE: I am now measuring temp at the back of the CPU – finding that the back is well below room temp, so insulated it to keep condensation down. Also think what a rear peltier can do here! If the back is below room temp already, the peltier should take it down to well below freezing. What fun!!

Now guys and gals this was a quicky test – lots of possibilities but hurdles like condensation and disposing of heat from the peltier, but very promising results. With the talent out there and some innovative thinking, the KryoTech could be an interesting platform to vault into some territory only dreamed of now. (I did not do a Peltier sandwich, but it is certainly possible and could be even more interesting).

OK – More Review Stuff

Now not all this is roses – there are some problems I have with this case:

1. If you lift up this 50 pound monster by holding onto the back and front of the case, the front will come off. If you read the directions it will tell you this – but if you want to get the case out of the huge box it comes in first, you won’t know this.

2. Removing the slot covers to insert cards into their slots is not an obvious thing – instructions are needed – very simple to do once you know but you need a screwdriver to pry them off.

3. The case cooling is ridiculously inadequate – and mounting a decent 120 mm fan to cool the inside is not as easy as other cases. Waste the plastic fan holder and speaker and do some creative metal-working on this one.

4. The hard drive cage only holds the floppy and 2 hard drives. Now the market segment we represent is not likely to have only 2 hard drives. There are 3 5 ΒΌ inch bays so you can use some of these as well. Better – KyroTech make an adapter to extend the hard drive cage so you can mount two more. What’s nice is this cage comes off with one screw and you have holes to get to all the screws without removing the cage.

5. The mounting holes in the hard drive cage are very narrowly defined – not much tolerance room at all.

6. One of the bottom bolts touches the last ISA slot – don’t like to see this at all.

7. The mounting screws for the motherboard are too large – potential to short out circuit paths on the motherboard if they are too close to the mounting holes.

8. Taking off the case cover is a pain – the slots which hold it onto the case interfere with getting the cover off easily.

9. The manual really needs improvement – it’s complete and all but I still missed some key points – more because I tend not to read as thoroughly as I should but maybe less fluff and more meat – also a quick start version would be nice.

The case itself is pretty solid – not tinny at all, looks like 1mm steel. It’s freakin’ heavy – 50 pounds – so moving it around a lot is no picnic. It also is noisy – there is a large rear fan for cooling which could be better muffled – like cutting a big hole in the sheet metal and using finger guards rather than a lot of small holes which interfere with air flow and make noise.

So – Would I Buy It??

This is the question, isn’t it? Now $400 is a lot of scratch for a case – or is it? How many cases do you buy? As overclockers, you know temperature is a biggy – if you like to experiment and want to wring the most out of your CPU, using the KryoTech as a starting point – not end point – could lead to some very interesting results. If you want absolute stability in mission critical applications with overclocked CPUs, this could be a good way to go.

How many CPUs do you buy? If you figure that you will always be getting top performance from “low end” CPUs like the Celeron, the money saved compared to buying “top end” CPUs could pay out.

So would I? – I just got the KryoTech today and at first blush I’m very positive on it, but I want to live with it some more and see if I can fix the short comings I’ve listed here. No question it will improve performance IF you use the KryoTech as a starting point, and that’s not a trivial thing. No question that over the long haul you can probably get more out of your CPUs with this case than others – IF you’re willing to experiment – but isn’t that what overclocking is all about?

Thanks again to PC Nut for lending me CPUs to play with – could not have done it without your help Humphrey!

And of course thanks to KryoTech – I think the future looks “cool” for this company!

Go to these sites for pretty pictures and boring details:

AnandTech
Total PC
Heatsink-Guide


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