Received the case 4/17:
Just got back from day one of Comdex Chicago, a show more notable for who wasn’t there than who was (no Microsoft, AMD, Intel, IBM etc.). Pickings were slim for those interested in overclocking with one exciting exception, a water cooled case from a Korean company called Koolance, Inc.
Compared to so many add on water coolers and especially home made systems this total case/cooling solution was a vision of elegance. And what flexibility! The case comes standard with cooling for the CPU and power supply. You can add components to cool the video card(s), hard drive(s), a second CPU and soon, even memory!
The tubing runs to a section at the bottom of the case where the radiator and exhaust fans reside. The three fans turn on when needed; otherwise the case seems almost silent. The front of this section has a LED readout of the CPU cooler temperature complete with a high temperature alarm that sounds should cooling ever fail (something they assured me never happens).
How well does it work? Well the stats published by the company show a Global Win FOP32 as the most effective air system tested giving a CPU temperature of 38C. The Koolance system is listed as 32C. I am certain plenty of people will be finding ways to improve efficiency, however. (One obvious possibility is to replace the included thermal transfer pad with Arctic Silver grease.)
The basic case is mid tower ATX, 4/5.25″ 4/3.5″ Bays, 300W power supply and includes liquid cooled CPU & power supply. List is $180. Add video card cooling: $195. Add video card and hard drive cooling: $225. When you consider all you are getting this seems like a real bargain to me. Right now the only place you can buy these cases seems to be Infotech Systems.
To illustrate advantages of liquid cooling, or maybe just to show off, Koolance displayed a system immersed in oil at the show. I’ve long heard of this. It was fun finally seeing one in person. Naturally I asked how far they could overclock this baby (or the standard case). With a nearly straight face the sales rep informed me that they could not condone such practices. (Liability issues, and all.) I doubt most readers here would have any problem with this, however.
I wish this case was available when I was putting together my system last month. It will be very interesting to see what real world performance is when and if Joe or some equally methodical evaluator gets his hands on it.
For now, check out the Koolance web site, Koolance, to see what this case is all about.
SUMMARY: Initial impression: Koolance does not want you to mod this case.
I just received the Koolance and what follows is a picture gallery. I will be taking it apart and doing some detailed testing. What is apparent is that this case is NOT designed for modding. This case is built for quiet:
“The cooling fans will activate at 35C (95F), at about 45% power. They will reach 100% at 50C (122F). The average temperature for a Koolance PC system is 35-38C (95-100.4 F) at an ambient temperature of 23 C (73.4 F) with processor and power supply liquid cooling.” (Koolance instructions)
At this point, I would not rush out and get this case expecting super cooling. Quiet – yes; aggressive cooling – no. Koolance also ships the case with water in the system; at first glance, I see no instructions on how to add water if needed (may be on the Koolance website.) What follows are some detailed pics:
SUMMARY: The guts of the case reveals a “water heatsink” as opposed to a “classic” radiator.
I opened the bottom of the case to see what’s inside. As you will see, there is no “radiator” as you might expect; rather, it’s more a “water heatsink”.
Also note that there is no visible pump; I did not want to take the “radiator” out and disassemble it without first testing it. First test results reveal it’s very quiet – the loudest noise were the GPU, Northbridge and power regulator fans I use on the Iwill KK266. I’ll have some first results later.
More pics below:
SUMMARY: NOT BAD! Not as cool as larger systems, but impressive performance with ONE FLAW: Internal Case Heat!! Very low noise.
I started preliminary testing of the Koolance Case by first running a T-Bird 1133 at spec speed and voltage. I monitored the waterblock and CPU Back temps by thermocouples, and also recorded Motherboard Monitor temps for CPU and System. I quickly got bored at 1133, so I upped the T-Bird to 9×155 for 1395 MHz @ 1.91 volts. I also took temps at the bottom of the case and at the top of the power supply. All testing was with the CASE OPEN. Ambient temps averaged 21 C. Times are measured from the Start of the test.
CPU Temp Koolance
CPU Back Temp Thermocouple
CPU Temp MBM
Waterblock Temp Thermocouple
|1133 MHz, Start||
|1133 MHz, +30 minutes||
|1133 MHz, +75 minutes||
|1395 MHz, Start||
|1395 MHz, +15 minutes; Fans ON||
|1395 MHz, +35 Minutes; Fans OFF||
|1395 MHz, +80 Minutes; Fans OFF||
The fans kicked on only when I bumped the speed to 1395 MHz. Even with the fans on, the noise was minimal – I had more noise from the fans on the motherboard than the case – almost eerie to walk in a room and not hear anything with a computer on. The fans did not stay on long – they kicked off. I suspect they will cycle on an off, but so far they are almost noiseless, so I doubt you will hear much difference.
However, heat from the bottom of the case (radiating upwards from the radiator) and the power supply will contribute to high case temps. The bottom of the case hit 34.6 C and the top of the power supply hit 50.3 C. With the case closed and no active case cooling, case temps will hit something like the mid 40s C, which will drive CPU temps up etc.
There is provision in the case’s rear for an 80 mm fan, although air flow through the case could be improved. I’ll have to do more testing on this point, but right now I think this could be a problem.
The power supply (300 watts) is a “dedicated” unit, as it has leads coming out to power the water pump and cooling electronics. The specs are not all that impressive:
- 3.3 v @ 6 Amps
- 5 v @ 10 Amps
- 12 v @ 3 Amps
This is also a weak link in the chain. However, a larger power supply will put out more heat, raising CPU temp, until a new equilibrium is reached. Note also that, at this time, I am only cooling the CPU; adding the GPU, Northbridge, hard drive and perhaps a larger power supply, temps will increase and perhaps more aggressive cooling will be required.
All told, a promising start but many questions about added heat loads.
I am going to continue testing and should have an updated look in the next couple of days.
Tony Platano has some additional information from Koolance:
“I talked to someone at Koolance a few days ago, and thought you’d be interested in what I was told.
He said they have some “high performance” options coming very soon (within a couple weeks). He mentioned a different controller board, with more aggressive fan duty cycles, and different CPU clamps for peltier applications. He said the current system is really aimed at workstations, and systems where sound reduction is key. He claims the cooling capacity of the hardware is sufficient for performance cooling, and the controller change is all that will be required. And it will be inexpensive ($10 for the board, and $3 to 4 for the clamps).
Based on all of that, I’ve also got one of the cases coming. I figured that worse comes to worse, I can wire the fans directly to a rheostat like I’m using now for my CPU fan, and skip the control circuit if it keeps the system too warm. Anyway, we’ll be able to compare notes soon.”
The following from Tim (Koolance Sales Manager) gives you some idea of what’s coming:
“We are adding more information to our FAQ and news page, including specific limitations with our current workstation PC. Some people have been adding up to 6 liquid cooling components, and even peltier devices in addition to that, and of course having heat issues. Also, our liquid-cooled power supply doesn’t come close to fulfilling these high-end systems (hence, the SPI 300W alternative model).
We have posted some guidelines people should consider before buying a current-model Koolance PC, which Infotech also placed on their site. Basically, limiting the number of cooling components to 3 (this is pretty loose) for best operation. The amount of tubing that six coolers commands also stresses the pump quite a bit, so the recommended amount is also to help with that.
Unfortunately, only about 30% of present customers fall into the original “typical home/office” user we had targeted (even prior to your review). That means a more powerful system is in the works (scheduled for August), and I should have more information to give you within a couple of weeks.”
SUMMARY: The best is yet to come; if you’re looking for a performance upgrade, best to wait a couple of weeks.
I had a nice chat with Tim Hunting, Corporate Sales Manager of Koolance, about the PC version and where it’s going. What follows is a summary of our discussion:
Q: What is the current Koolance sized for?
A: The present PC product is designed to cool 160 – 200 watts of heat to a temperature about 10-15% below 53 C.
Q: The power supply is barely adequate; are there other options available?
A: We plan to offer 350, 400 and 450 watt versions within the next two months.
Q: If a customer has a power supply already, does he/she have other options?
A: By early May, we should have a product that is configured without a power supply, so users can recycle what they have into a new case.
Q: The case is OK but not great; can we buy just the base unit?
A: We are thinking about it, but right now we do not have a release date for such a product. We are currently thinking of offering a free standing cooling module rather than a base unit.
We are also plan to offer different case options, including a full tower unit, in the June-July period.
Q: What about higher performance? 160-200 watts is not a lot of cooling for a peltier/AMD T-Bird combination.
A: We are designing a different radiator for future models – larger cooling fins and lighter. We are also looking at using one or two 80mm fans rather than the 40 mm fans in the current unit.
Q: What can you tell us about the pump?
A: It’s a magnetic impeller unit that is rated at 1 liter/minute. In the system, the flow rate is about 0.8 liters/minute. The manufacturer warranties the pump for life, although Koolance warranties for one year. The pump is mounted on rubber bushings to keep it sound-isolated from the case, which is why it’s so quiet.
The pump is used in other industrial applications and we have had no failures after a system is in operation; we had one DOA so far.
Q: The case temp is high – comments?
A: Case temps are definitely higher than normal. We have designed this model for quiet operation, and we traded off a case fan for reduced noise, as we did in watercooling the power supply. There is a spot in the rear of the case for mounting an 80 mm fan if a user wants.
Q: Is water used for cooling?
A: It’s a water-based solution; it includes 5-6 chemicals for things like corrosion resistance, anti-freeze and a biocide to prevent algae growth. In normal use, you should not need to add anything for 3-5 years.
Q: I noticed that the rack mount model uses a different fan – is this an option?
A: The rack mount model uses a Sunon 40 x 25 mm fan with a slightly higher cfm rating. Customers can certainly use different 40 mm fans if they wish.
Mark Fisher sent me a note that I thought would be interesting, especially his method of getting to the power supply:
“Thanks for the heads-up on the power supply fan mod. I was thoroughly disgusted to see my case temps average 100 degrees, even with the extra 80mm fan! After your power supply fan mod was done, my case hangs in the 80-90 degree range now.
I found that I could remove the top of the case itself and then remove the power supply cover. Once this was done, I simply rested the power supply back on the ledge and screwed in two screws to make sure that it wouldn’t fall on my mobo. This made it very easy to work and solder
on. Thanks again for the info!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I was interested in the Koolance case and decided to buy one to try out. As Joe noted, the case is very quiet but also runs hot due to lack of air movement through the case. I decided to see what additional cooling I could do and with what results.
One thing Joe tried that was an easy fix was to move the Koolance thermal probe from the waterblock to the top of the power supply; since it’s the hottest area in the case, it kicks the base fans on sooner than when mounted on the waterblock. However, I wanted to go much further than that.
First I got a hold of some 8.5 cfm 40mm fans. I put 3 of them in the back and wired them to run all the time.
With my T-Bird 1.2 @ 1470 running folding, the CPU temp would level off at
50C (According to the board thermal diode) and 93 to 95F according to the
Koolance diode. With the higher CFM fans on all the time, the motherboard diode would stay at 42C and the Koolance diode would stay at 80F; this is with an ambient of 73F.
Folding creates more heat than Prime does for some reason. Just wish I could get a bigger fan in the back of the unit.
Next, I mounted an ADDA 80 mm 50cfm fan to the case. This really helped and is very easy to do, so it’s a no-brainer. The increase in noise levels was not much at all.
However, I did notice that a LOT of heat comes from the power supply, so what follows is how I hacked it. Note that this voids any power supply warranty.
I added a cheapo 80MM fan to the Power Supply; WOW what a difference!!!
I dropped closed case temps by 15F! The following pics shows what I did:
I did not disconnect the power supply from the system – I found I could work on it but very carefully so as not to pull the hoses out of the power supply.
This is what it looks like – the power supply is built from a standard unit, so it has fan mounting holes and 12 volt connections for a fan. I attached the fan with screws – there are 2 holes there that line up
perfectly. I then soldered the leads in the area shown below. There is a black and red wire attached from underneath. I measured the voltage and found it was 12 volts – no doubt it was meant for the power supply fan.
Fan installed! Probably one of the easiest mods and yields big benefits. Koolance is supposed to offer a case without a power supply, so unless you MUST HAVE it now, wait about a month and pick one up with that more suits your needs.
SUMMARY: It may not be the best water cooling system, but it’s damn sure the quietest.
After reviewing the Koolance case, I had the option to return it and get my money back. I vacillated about whether or not to do this for about two weeks, arguing with myself that this was not the best performing water cooling system around, but it sure was quiet. I also felt the case hardware was adequate, but nothing to get excited about.
I spend a fair amount of time in front of the screen doing what amounts to office work – editing or writing material for the site, answering mail, etc. I don’t need a “hot box” for this and use a SOYO +IV with a PIII 600 – nothing sexy. This is my “bulletproof” system – like my old Volkswagen – not flashy, but NEVER had a problem and works great in the snow.
Because I do this at all hours, I wanted as quiet a system as possible and used watercooling on it. With a nice 120mm fan, a 92mm exhaust fan and a Silent 275 watt power supply, noise was nothing compared to what I was routinely testing for air cooled CPUs. I was happy until the Koolance came along.
What held me back was the high case temps – quiet does come at a price, and in this case it’s no exhaust fans in the case. I decided that more quiet is better, and so decided to keep the Koolance and tackle the case heat by adding a fan in the power supply, as others have done.
The critical decision was what fan to use in the power supply? An 80mm screamer puts me back where I started. I scrounged around and found the perfect fan – a NIDEC # 3110KL-04W-B17. What’s great about this fan is it’s temperature controlled – as it gets hotter, it speeds up (I have no idea where I got these). So as others have done, I opened up the power supply to add this very quiet fan.
This is what it looks like hooked up; there are two terminals that look like they were used to power the fan, as shown below:
Here’s another shot that shows the final product:
I worked on the power supply taking a cue from Mark (HERE.) It was very easy to work on with the top of the case off. After I finished, I decided to leave the cover off the power supply (NOT RECOMMENDED) to keep airflow as free as possible to vent the warm air rising to the top of the case. The only other fans I have are for the GPU (a recycled Intel CPU fan) and a Lasagna cooler on the BX chipset.
How quiet? I can hear a clock ticking about 5 feet away – one that I did not know was there before – and not a loud tick at all. My Radio Shack Sound Meter can not read below 50 dBA; I can only get a reading in the low 50s if I hold it about 4 inches from the case. If I elected not to add the fan, it would be hard to tell if it was on or off.
But What About Performance?
No such thing as a free lunch. Here’s what I have observed as I used it on a day to day basis over the past couple of days:
- The difference between intake and exhaust air temps averages about 7-8F; I measure intake air at the rear fan grill and exhaust temp coming out of the power supply.
System temp (measured by the mobo) is about 90 F with the CPU thermal diode about 75-80 F. The system temp, measured by the Koolance thermistor in the CPU waterblock, is about 80-85 F. All this with ambients of about 70-72 F.
I have yet to see (let alone hear) the exhaust fans in the base kick on.
Now admittedly this is not a power setup at all: Matrox G400, Promise RAID card, two drives, sound card and modem. But it is typical of many systems out there. As the performance test showed, the Koolance can handle T-Birds but you really have to vent the case, as Skip and Mark showed HERE.
The conclusion I came to is that for what I do on this system, the “Sounds of Silence” was worth it. If this system was a hot T-Bird and I used it to the max, I think I would feel differently, as CPU temps would surely be quite different. With minimal mods, the Koolance can be a very nice watercooling solution, but NOT for a “power” system.
All told, I think Koolance is tapping into a very powerful trend towards “quiet computing”, and we are going to see more products meeting this requirement.
ED Note: This is a first class hack; maybe Koolance will sell the radiator only? Bravo James! Joe.
Having recently read the reviews on the Koolance water-cooled case, I was intrigued and decided I’d like to try one. My current box was a Cooler Master ATCS 200 with an Iwill KK266 and an AMD 1.2G C. It’s a nice case, but it’s pretty noisy with a total of eight fans running including the power supply and the Geforce2.
I ordered the Koolance case from InfoTech and received it five days later. Upon opening the box, I noticed fluid on the top and back of the case plus the fan screws had rusted. I opened the case and examined the cooling lines and noticed large air bubbles.
I examined the power supply, which is listed as a ‘300w’ but couldn’t make the numbers add up to 300 watts. The +3.3V, +5, and +12V only added up to 105.8 watts. At this point, I figured most people usually would have started re-boxing and shipping it back, but I was curious if I could overcome these flaws.
I installed the Iwill KK266 and AMD 1.2G C with a Geforce2 MX. I used Dow Corning 340 heat sink compound on the water block. I used the Via Hardware Monitor software that came with the motherboard to monitor the CPU and case temp. After idling for an hour with the room temp at 75 F, the CPU temp was 122 F, the case was 96 F and the Koolance temp was 100 F, my first results where disappointing.
Yet, the fans were running at the low speed and I was impressed with the quietness of the case. The 1200 @ 1370 in Cooler Master case with air-cooling would have a no load CPU temp of 113 F and, after running Prime 95 for two hours, it would reach 122 F.
I know this box is not really geared towards enthusiasts. If you had an 800 Duron in your home office computer and you needed it to be quiet, this would be the perfect case.
I then decided to take a look to see what I could do to improve the performance.
The first thing I tried was to hook the fans directly to +12V and bypass the temp control circuit, and then install an 80mm Panaflo L1 fan in the case. This lowered the CPU temp under no load to 109 F and the case temp to 86 F, but it greatly increased the noise.
The next thing I tried was to fashion a duct out of cardboard and replace the three 50mm fans with a single 80mm Panaflo L1. This reduced the noise and temps stayed about the same, 109 F CPU and 86 F system.
I decided this box had great potential but it wasn’t being exploited.
The fluid is supplied to all the components in series, first being sent to the power supply and then to the CPU; thus the hot water from the power supply is sent into the CPU. It seems if you installed a “wye” or a “T” at the inlet and outlets of the radiator and ran separate lines to each component, the system would operate more efficiently.
I drained the fluid from the system and started disassembling it.
The first to go was the power supply (if I was certain it was a 300-watt supply I would try to use it). Instead I installed a Sparkle 300-watt supply and I replaced the fan in it with a 80mm Panaflo L1 to keep the noise to a minimum.
The next to go was the water block. The Koolance water block was okay, and had a nice clamp but it was small – not even covering the entire CPU. I installed a Danger Den Maze 2 water block and 3/8″ silicon tubing.
I opened the radiator and pulled the pump, it’s a Jebo model pp-377, and I haven’t been able to find any specs on it yet.
The radiator is the most impressive thing about the system. It has three passes and then it feeds into a large reservoir where the pump is located. The inlet and outlets are ¼” brass barbed fitting and I believe the threads are metric. I wanted to replace them with 3/8″ fittings but couldn’t find anything that would work without re-tapping the holes. This creates a flow restriction at the inlet and outlet nipples.
The fitting for the suction side protrudes into the radiator about ½” and a piece of ½” tubing fits over it very well. This is what I used for a pickup tube.
Inside the case I’ve installed an Eheim 1046 inline pump.
My first thought was to bore a hole in the water block and install the Koolance thermistor, but I decided I wanted more control over the fans. Instead, I installed a 100 ohm 12 watt rheostat to control the fan speed, and set the voltage to +7V for all tests.
I started the system up and allowed it to run under no load for an hour; with the room temp at 75 F, the CPU temp was 96 F and the case temp was 82 F, a 26 degree drop from the original configuration.
Next, I ran Prime 95 for two hours and the CPU temp reached 104 F and the case temp stayed at 82 F.
On to overclocking: With air-cooling, I could only achieve 1370 (10×137) 1.85V stable. I can now achieve 1440 (10.5×137) 1.85V stable. The CPU temp after two hours of Prime 95 reaches 114 F and the case temp is still 82 F.
I am very pleased with the results: I’ve been able to go from a 14% overclock to a 20% overclock, and the best part is the case is still extremely quiet; the hard drive is the most noticeable noise I hear.
I’ve ordered a 156-watt peltier and I’m going see how much more I can squeeze out of this box.
SUMMARY: Koolance’s Dual CPU watercooling case is a nifty answer to “double the noise” dual systems.
My son, who started a rock band and was the drummer, has a BP6. Originally when I built this system for him, I used two Alpha 6035s to cool the CPUs – 2 Celeron 366s running at 500+. He told me, after a while, that it was too noisy – mind you, I’m surprised he has hearing at all, but OK – too noisy.
I modded the case and changed to water cooling – you can see the results HERE. This was no where near the noise of the Alpha coolers, so he was happy with it.
Now it comes to pass that this too is noisy. Somehow, as he ages, his hearing is more acute and he wants a quieter setup. I think this was prompted when he listened to my Koolance. I have been using one since about early May and I love it for its quietness – you really can’t go back. It’s not a performance case yet by any means, but for a quiet office machine, it’s tough to beat.
So I gave Koolance a call, asked them if they could make up a dual CPU unit for me – they said yes and I bought it (well actually, my son bought it).
As you can see from the pic above, it’s not a complicated deal – the tubing is routed the same was I did for the earlier BP6 setup. I did find that I could not use Koolance’s waterblock clips – they are not designed for Pentiums. I did try to adapt them, but it was a lot easier to use the clips I had for the first waterblocks.
I also was interested in the changes they made since the first cases:
- This case shipped with the “High End” fan cooled Power Supply (Powerman FSP300-60BT)- mine is water cooled;
- There is now a Pressure Relief Valve in the front of the unit, behind the temperature display;
- The CPU Temp Sensor is securely fastened to the waterblock – in the earlier versions, it was loose.
It took all of about an hour to switch things around. The Koolance case is OK as cases go, but just OK. There is space for an 80 mm fan on the case’s rear, so I decided to add one for extra airflow; I used a thermistor controlled fan – very low noise, spins higher as temps increase. I mounted it on rubber grommets to isolate the fan from the case.
After I did the switch, I ran it a while to make sure everything was OK. Then my son picked it up and I asked him to run it as he normally does and record temps at the end of the day. He is a programmer, so he bangs pretty long and hard on the box.
He told me that after a day’s use, CPU temps were 113 F compared to 105-109 F with the home-brew rig. Waterblock temps show 95-97 F, per the Koolance temp monitor. This is with room temps in the high 70s.
As to noise – no comparison. At 95 F the fans kick in, but only at 45% of full power, so the only way he knew was by the fan light’s LED on the front panel. All told, he is very pleased with it.
The current Koolance is NOT an overclocker’s solution by any means; however, for anyone who is fed up with excessive fan noise or just wants a quiet PC, the Koolance is worth a serious look, maybe even more so for dual systems. Intel’s CPUs, being as miserly as they are on power usage, are easier to cool than AMDs and can be a good fit with the Koolance.
Thanks to Koolance for setting up a dual system for me – a good buy!
I have been using a Koolance case for about a year now. I have spent countless hours at Infotech (where they build the cases) talking to the techs about problems and modding. They didn’t even want to sell spare parts. I have only one component cooled which is the CPU.
No mods were made to the cooling system itself except for the removal of the original power supply and replacing one section of tubing (the junction/splice connector Koolance gave me leaked on the ATX connector….no damage done).
I replaced the power supply with an Enermax 350 watt whisper model and added a Enermax 80 mm temp controlled fan to the rear. I removed the three Ruilian Science 50 mm fans and replaced them with new Sunon KD1205PHB1 – 17cfm/34 dBA over Koolance’s 9.3 cfm/29 dBA fans.
There is a 20 ohm resistor soldered inline with the fan harness that runs over the radiator. I tried the new fans first without the resistor – 5800 rpm – Blast off! I couldn’t hear myself think for three days.
I reinstalled the 20 ohm resistor, which brought the rpms down to around 4700-4800 – still a little noisy with the more efficient fans used. I installed a 25 ohm, 3 watt rheostat and mounted it on the back of the case. The harness is wired directly to 12 volts with an rpm signal from one fan going to the motherboard.
This way, my fans run all the time and I can run them down to about 2800 rpm if needed. My system is fairly quiet and extremely efficient as far as cooling goes now.
I’m running a 1.33 AHYJA T-Bird @ stock on an ASUS A7V133. My average CPU temp is now 47 C @ idle and 49 C @ full load, with ambient around 68-79F (Seattle/Tacoma area, no AC, windows open).
My GeForce 2 GTS has blue ORB now helping out case temps (34C). I’ve O/C’d to 1475 @ 1.85 Vcore and temps never got above 50C.
My case is running cool and quiet and I couldn’t be any more happier now that Infotech has started selling individual parts except for the tank/radiator. I’ve seen some pretty negative reviews on this case, but I’m pretty picky about stuff and I have no complaints for the $200 I spent.
I think a killer mod would be to mount a PermaCool radiator #1008 to the exhaust fan. Cool, Quiet, and everything internal.
ED Note: An interesing idea! A “booster radiator” might move the case into the “performance” arena; I also think using a rheostat on the radiator fans is an excellent idea – Joe.