03/13/2006 | 07:05 PM
AKUATEK is a very young company still. It was founded only last year, so it is not surprising at all that you haven’t yet heard much from them. AKUATEK specializes in cooling solutions designed by a research team from Germany and manufactured in Taiwan and China. The product range offered under AKUATEK brand name is not very big yet, but they are already planning to offer not only CPU cooling solutions, but also VGA coolers and separate components for DIY water cooling systems, such as water units, radiators, pumps, etc.
Today we would like to introduce to you one very interesting product – a compact liquid-cooling solution – AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 (RLC-UAF9-U1).
If it hadn’t been for the explanation on the cooler package saying that it is the world’s smallest all-in-one liquid-cooling system, I would have assumed that it is a regular air-cooler. I would even continue to think this way after removing the eXtreme FS-92 cooler from the box.
It looks just like a regular cooler with heatpipes, doesn’t it? - The same sole, the same heatsink… However, it boasts a few truly distinguishing features, which we are going to discuss in juts a minute.
The detailed technical specification of the AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 cooler alongside with the detailed description of its major features can be found on the manufacturer’s web-site as well as on the back of the package:
The package contains fastening kits for LGA775, Socket 478 and AMD K8 CPUs, thermal paste, user’s manual and power splitters for the pump and fan.
So, what are the features distinguishing this solution from the regular air-cooler? You can see what I am talking about immediately when you remove the fan:
In the center there is a small pump with 80l/h water flow and up to 1.2m water pressure (all the data are given according to the manufacturer’s specifications). The fluid flows along internal pipes, 5mm in diameter, and gets through plated aluminum heatsink 90x90x50mm in size. The aluminum sole is not just a chunk of metal: it is a complete water unit. I don’t know really what internal structure can fit into a small area like this, but apparently they did it.
The fan is 92mm in diameter and rotates at 2,800rpm maximum speed. It is equipped with a four-pin connector that allows the mainboard to manage its rotation speed. as for the pump it features a regular three-pin connector.
There is nothing at the top of the construction except for the liquid filling hole. It is covered with a sticker warning you that the warranty will be void if the sticker is removed. Note that the protective grid at the back of the heatsink can be removed, and a second fan can be mounted instead. Of course, you should keep in mind that it will increase the size of the solution and it will not fit onto some mainboards at all this way.
The water unit sole is covered with the protective film. However, it is an absolutely unnecessary measure, because the sole finish quality is quite low (you can even see the mechanical traces with a naked eye) and hence cannot be harmed in any way already.
The retention is fastened very simply: the brackets you need for your system are fixed at the bottom of the cooler with four screws. The picture below demonstrates LGA774 retention:
In case of LGA775 system we can install the AKUATEK cooler in such a way that the airflow from the fan is sent in the most optimal direction. If we have an AMD K8 or Socket 478 mainboard, the direction in which the fan will be facing will certainly depend on the socket location on the particular mainboard. However, no matter what platform you have you can always avoid difficulties with AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 cooling system. So, we can conclude that this liquid-cooling system has no issues with directing the air flow no matter what socket type the platform has.
However, I cannot say that AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 is easy to install. The thing is that the screws have to be tightened up at the bottom of the mainboard PCB, and you need to hold the cooler, and the mainboard in place and also be able to insert the protective pads between the screws and the PCB. I managed to find a possible way to do it: you need to hold the cooler between your knees, put the mainboard on top of it with the bottom side up (do not forget about a layer of thermal paste and protective paste). After that you can tighten the screws yourself without anyone else’s help. To be honest with you, this procedure is far from being easy and convenient.
Despite the size and an external fan, the system fit very nicely onto the mainboard. We used ASUS P5WD2 Platinum for our tests.
I was going to compare the performance of AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 against the best coolers with heatpipes that we have had in our lab so far, such as:
At least from the dimensions standpoint, the system can be compared with Zalman CNPS9500 LED (for details see our article called First Look at Zalman CNPS9500 LED: the Power of Air, the Efficiency of Water ) and is even smaller than Tuniq Tower 120 (for details see our article called Tuniq Tower 120 Cooler Review: All Super Coolers are Great, but Some Are Greater Than the Others ).
We carried out some preliminary tests on an open testbed and later on we were going to put the system for another test session into the thermal chamber. Intel Pentium 4 521 CPU (2.8GHz, Prescott E0) was overclocked to 4.2GHz by raising the FSB frequency up to 300MHz and increasing the Vcore to 1.375V. We used Zalman thermal paste in all tests. As for the software, we used S&M utility working at 100% workload and SpeedFan 4.28 utility for temperature control. The fan was working at its maximum speed (and 2,800rpm turned out to be quite noisy). According to the mainboard, the pump cycle speed was 2,000rpm.
Well, let’s check out the results now.
Well, the first testing attempt came to an end very quickly. When the CPU temperature exceeded 60oC, the system rebooted. The second testing attempt also ended with no success: we reduced the processor clock speed to 4.06GHz and in this mode it could run just fine at 1.288V Vcore. AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 system proved absolutely stable only when the CPU was working at its nominal 2.8GHz and reached the temperature of 63oC. And don’t forget, the first test session was carried out in an open testbed.
The manufacturer claims that the performance of AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 is comparable to that of other external and internal liquid-cooling systems. I decided to reinstall this cooler and to double-check the contact between the cooler sole and the processor die, but I faced a very unpleasant incident. Suddenly one screw head fell off, when I tried to unscrew it.
It was either a defective screw, or maybe I applied too much effort, when I was tightening it up, or maybe the threading on the bracket got broken, I cannot tell you exactly. However, I failed to remove the rest of the screw even with the pliers: it stuck. Anyway, even if I could remove it I would still have to cut new threading on the bracket and look for a bigger screw… So, I had to give up the idea to check the cooler performance on the LGA775 platform. By the way, the thermal past footprint on the processor and the cooler sole was thin and even: there was no need to worry about the contact between these surfaces.
The next series of tests was performed on ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 SLI mainboard, since two cores of the AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor (2.0GHz, Manchester E6 core) can also provide quite a thermal workload when the CPU is overclocked to 2.8GHz and runs at 1.45V Vcore. Unfortunately, we couldn’t install the AKUATEK cooler the right way, because of the memory modules. Theoretically, we could have moved them into the DIMM slots located farther away from the processor socket, but this configuration didn’t pass the stability test. As a result, I decided not to sacrifice the stability and reliability and directed the airflow up towards the PSU. Besides, the tests were performed in an open testbed, so it didn’t really matter which way the cooler fan is facing.
Unfortunately, AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 didn’t quite pass the tests again, even when we overclocked the CPU to 2.7GHz and left the Vcore nominal. Just as in case of our LGA775 platform tests, the system would lose stability after 60oC on the CPU. As for the CPU working at its nominal frequency, the AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 system coped with its cooling just fine letting the CPU temperature reach 49oC.
If we could probably blame the defective retention for the failure on the LGA775 platform, then this time, everything went smoothly and we didn’t have any installation issues. Although there was a slight gap between the retention brackets and the PCB, it was no longer an issue when the screws were tightened up.
AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 liquid-cooling system looks very nice, just like a toy. However, unfortunately, it is efficiency is not that impressive. The company is also offering another solution called AKUATEK eXtreme MS-92. It has similar design, with that only difference that the heatsink is turned sideways, so that the fan directs the airflow from the top to the bottom of the cooler.
Moreover, they also have a few heatpipe cooling solutions: the copper Rider MC-46 and an aluminum Rider MA-46.
I sincerely hope that these AKUATEK products, just like those that are currently still in the development stage will be able to please us with their efficiency, low noise level, easy installation and an attractive price. AKUATEK eXtreme FS-92 liquid cooling system we reviewed today pleased us only with its small size and still has some room for improvement.