DWPG.Com - Review, Prometeia Phase Change Cooler, Part II
By: Sverre Sjøthun

Introduction

- Norwegian version at Overklokking.no.

For those of you that haven’t read part one, we highly suggest that you read it before continuing on with Part II: Prometeia Phase Change Cooling, Part I.

The Prometeia/LianLi case

The Prometeia/LianLi case


The EasyMod CPU kits
The assembly and mounting of the evaporator that goes on the processor and the mounting kit were pretty much straight forward, on both the Intel and the AMD kits. The CPU kit is both for fastening the evaporator to the CPU as well as combating condensation, which is obviously a major challenge when dealing with such low temperatures.

The minute you go below the dewpoint, condensation will occur, and it is of outmost importance to deal with this. Even more important is it when dealing with well below sub-zero temperatures.

What Chip-con has done is not much different from what I did on my homemade supercoolers -- insulate the CPU and the surroundings as well as the backside of the motherboard using a combination of a silicone sealstring and Aeroflex closed cell foam.

The rear cover, as seen in the image below, goes on the back-side of the motherboard. The metalclip and upper cover is securely fastened to the CPU socket and sealed off with the black seal string. The MicroFreezer is then screwed to the metalclip, and securely fixes the evaporator to the CPU socket.

Schematics of the EasyMod CPU kit showing how the insulation of the CPU

Schematics of the EasyMod CPU kit showing how the insulation of the CPU


Contents of Intel EasyMod CPU Kit:
- Screws for Evaporator mounting with load springs, extra spacer rings & O-ring seals
- Roll of seal string. 5 meters.
- Upper mounting bracket with threaded holes
- Evaporator mounting Clips
- Rear Cover with mounting holes
- 4 Countersunk screws
- Rear Cover Gasket to reduce free air.
- Heat conducting compound
- Extended length Allan Key

Contents of AMD EasyMod CPU Kit
- Screws for Evaporator mounting with load springs, extra spacer rings & O-ring seals
- Roll of seal string. 5 meters
- Upper mounting bracket
- Shim plates
- Evaporator mounting Clips
- Rear Cover without mounting holes
- Rear cover gasket to reduce free air.
- Heat conducting compound
- Extended length Allan Key.


Murphy and his ever-lasting law strikes back

Starting the system for the first time was a very exciting moment, but we were greatly disappointed -- it turned out that the unit we received in December last year was DOA, and we had to return it to Chip-con. Chip-con sent a replacement unit to us right away, but it was held back by DHL for months as they insisted on that we pay tax on the second unit as well. After weeks and weeks of phonecalls and emails back and forth with Chip-con and DHL, Chip-con decided to pay the tax themselves, which we really appreciate. DHL, on the other hand has done everything but impressed us.

The Prometeia cooler mounted  with the LianLi kit

The Prometeia cooler mounted with the LianLi kit


The second unit was in perfect shape. We assume that the first unit got damaged during shipping, as all units that leaves Chip-con is tested before they get shipped out to the customers.

The testbench

- Intel Pentium 4 3.06 Processor
- Asus P4G8X Deluxe (GraniteBay Chipset) Motherboard
- MSI NEO LSR (Canterwood Chipset) Motherboard
- Corsair XMS3500 RAM, 512MB DualChannel setup
- Maxtor D740X Harddrive
- Creative 440MX Videocard
- TSP 550W powersupply
- On-board LAN and Soundcard

The interior of the PC with the Prometeia cooling system mounted.

The interior of the PC with the Prometeia cooling system mounted.


There are two reasons we used both a GraniteBay and Canterwood motherboard -- one simply to see if we gained any speed from one to the other, but we'll get back to that later.

The second reason was simply that during our 24/7 testing, the Asus P4G8X Deluxe took its last breath and died. This is the second motherboard of this model that we've had in our labs -- the first motherboard we received in relation with this review was DOA, so as a digression, I'm reluctant to recommend the Asus P4G8X to anyone out there considering buying one. Two dead boards in less than two weeks may be just bad luck and Murphys law, but I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending this board, especially not if you're a hardcore overclocker or need extreme stability.

We believe the problems with the second Asus board is related to the power circuitry for the CPU. When you power up a Prometeia system, a signal to the cooling unit starts the compressor. When the system has reached -33C, a signal is sent to the motherboard, and the computer starts its booting sequence.

To test the cooling unit separately, you can hook it up to the 12V rail on an ATX powersupply with no other hardware connected and then short circuit pin 13 and 14 or pin 14 and 15 on the ATX power connector.

During our troubleshooting we tried this procedure, but the cooler would not start. When disconnecting the P4 connector from the motherboard, however, the Prometeia started, and that indicates that the powercircuitry to the CPU is where the fault is. Obviously, a rock stable and functional power circuitry for the CPU is crucial for overall system stability.


Benchmarks

We first tested the Prometeia cooler with the now late Asus P4G8X Deluxe. This board has some very good overclocking options:

- Flexible CPU Core Voltage Adjustments in 0.025V increments over defaults
- SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 100MHz up to 400MHz at 1MHz increments
- Fixed AGP/PCI frequencies
- ASUS propritary C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)

All these features were thoroughly tested, and worked flawlessly -- at least for a while. We especially appreciated the ASUS propritary C.P.R. that automatically resets the BIOS settings if you have been too eager in your quest for speed.

The temperature on the evaporator at idle at 3.06GHz

The temperature on the evaporator at idle at 3.06GHz


What we ended up with on the Asus board was 3820MHz using a 166MHz bus speed and 1.9Vcore. Many runs of SiSoft Sandra Burn-in and PCMark2002 were performed, but like we said on the previous page, the motherboard died. Nevertheless, 3.8GHz are impressive numbers, and the benchmarks were equally impressive. The Asus BIOS and Motherboard Monitor reported -11C at idle and 0C at full load.

Overclocking the MSI NEO-LSR Canterwood

If the Asus P4G8X Deluxe showed us some impressive numbers, the MSI NEO-LSR Canterwood board impressed us even more. After flashing the BIOS using the MSI Live Monitor, we ended up at a whopping 173MHz frontside bus(FSB) and 1.95Vcore, making the 4GHz mark close to touch. Alas, 3.98GHz was the closes we could get 100% stable during our extensive stresstesting. We did reach 176MHz FSB, or 4048MHz, but that also gave us an occasional hangup and even a nice and shining Blue Screen Of Death.

3DMark03 score at 3.98GHz. Note that we are using a lowly GF 440MX, which explains the low score.

3DMark03 score at 3.98GHz. Note that we are using a lowly GF 440MX, which explains the low score.

SiSoft Sandra Arithmetic Benchmark

SiSoft Sandra Arithmetic Benchmark

SiSoft Sandra Multi-Media Benchmark

SiSoft Sandra Multi-Media Benchmark


We are unable to provide any temperatures for the MSI 3.98GHz overclock because the MSI montherboard simply doesn't understand temperatures this low (at least not in this BIOS revision). Hopefully MSI will fix this in their next revision.


Benchmarking in 3D Studio Max

The goal with this test was to see if there really is a benefit purchasing a system like this for professional use. Money is always a subject when purchasing new equipment, and we decided to find out if the price is justified by the performance-gain you'll undoubtfully see on a system like this.

Why 3D Studio Max?

3D Studio Max is a modeling/animation package developed by discreet, and is widely used by animators, artists, film makers, architects and so on. Rendering in Max will suck away any system recources you may have, and then some. In some instances it will take all your system memory, 100% of both of your processors, and eat up any and all virtual memory you have in your system, leaving almost nothing free.

The first system we tried comparing with was a Dual Pentium 4 Xeon 1.7GHz Dell Precision Workstation 530 we had in our labs, but we soon discovered that the Dell had no chance against the rendering power of our supercooled Prometeia system. It was simply way too slow.

We found a Max site called 3DLuVr.com, and they had a Max benchmark database with plenty of systems in it as well as a tutorial on how they had performed their benchmarks, so we did exactly as described there for comparison purposes.

How the benchmarks were performed

This is a short description of how we performed the benchmarks. For a full and complete description, please read 3DLuVr.com's benchmarking tutorial.

The tests were performed in 3D Studio Max 5.0, three different scenes at three different resolutions each to simulate different scenarios and working environment in Max. The resolutions are as follows:

- Film 2048x1536
- Web 1024x768
- TV 720x486

The scenes

(description of the scenes quote from 3DLuVr.com)
Apollo - a single complex lit object, reflecting common object render.

Location: Scenes/Space/Apollo.max
Poly Count: 162,465
Lights: 6

Islands - this scene contains advanced lighting methods, including refraction/reflection, and heavy raytracing usage.

Location: Scenes/misc/Islands.max
Poly Count: 21628
Lights: 1
Special Notes: Raytraced Reflection Water and Heavy Use of Post Effects

Waterfall - this scene contains particle dynamics in a elaborate waterfall sequence. Particles are renowned system hogs, and at higher resolutions, this scene brings a system to a halt.

Location: Scenes/feature_based/particles/waterfall.max
Poly Count: 86,908
Lights: 2
Special Notes: Particle dynamics combined with raytracing makes this scene a system killer at higher resolutions.


Benchmarking in 3D Studio Max Continued

In the table below, you'll see the round-up of benchmarks results. The Prometeia system ends up with a very impressive second place , only bested by a dual Xeon 2.8b with 2048 MB RAM, 50 seconds ahead of our test system.

All scores in seconds, less is better.

*= Max5 SSE ON, or Max4.26 HT = Hyperthreading Enabled

CPU InfoMemory
Amount.CLK
Apollo
NTSC/Web/Film
Islands
NTSC/Web/Film
Waterfall
NTSC/Web/Film
Total timeSource
Dual 2.8B Xeon HT [Boxxtech]*2048 Mb @ 266 MHz4/7/2115/38/21423/30/67419Greg H.
Prometeia
P4 3.06@3.98 HT*
512
Mb @ 692 MHz
4/8/2616/45/26923/33/85509DWPG.Com
Dual 2.8 Xeon [Dell]*2048 Mb @ 800 MHz5/7/2316/44/26730/39/86517Rob W.
Dual 2.4B Xeon* HT1024 Mb @ 266 MHz5/8/2516/45/28134/42/89545Matt V.
Dual 2.8B Xeon [Boxxtech]2048 Mb @ 266 MHz4/7/2316/50/32224/31/71548Greg H.

For even more benchmarkresults, please visit 3DLuVr.com's benchmark database.

In terms of pure rendering power, the combination of a Prometeia and a single P4 3.06 overclocked to 3.98GHz makes for an incredible price/performance ratio -- half the price of the dual Xeon system on top (starting at $4,300.00 at Boxxtech). Surely, if you would choose to use the test system as a Max machine, you should opt for a different videocard, like the Wildcats or Quadros, SCSI disks if you do a lot of movies, and so on, but this is definitely a viable alternative to a dual Xeon system.


Chip-con Support

A company may have the best product in the world, but if their support department fails, it can be a huge drawback. Because of this, we have tested their support system several times, both by email and telephone.

The telephone was very simple and very real, as we did in fact need their support in relation with our first review sample. We gave them a call on the support line, and it took only a few seconds before someone picked up the phone. This is very good. Usually when dealing with companies, we're used to sitting there and waiting for at least a few minutes, and unfortunately as much as 20 minutes at worst.

The troubleshooting was performed professionally by whoever was in the other end. The same thing happened when the Asus motherboard died. We assumed it was the cooling unit that had gone haywire, so we gave them a second call.

Yet again, the phone was answered in seconds, and we soon discovered that the cooling unit was in working order. What got us both to believe it was the powersupply causing the problems we experienced was the fact that the P4 PSU connector was still connected to the board, but after switching powersupplies, we concluded that the motherboard was in fact dead.

Email support on the other hand was a bit slower, although still timely. We sent off a couple of emails from a hotmail account with a number of questions and waited. We did get answers to all of our questions within a day after sending them, so we'll give Chip-con two thumbs up for excellent support as well.


Conclusion

Despite a number of incidents and setbacks, we have finally managed to complete the review, and we're glad we didn't give up. What Chip-con has done is to make an incredibly stylish and powerful cooling solution with many great qualities. As with any products, there are things we'd done differently, but all are minor details. And that's actually the most annoying part. These are just "stupid" things that we believe should've been rectified early in the development of this system.

We send Chip-con an email with our concerns(detailed in Part I) for them to clarify, and here are the Q's and A's:

Q1: Template supplied for the modding-kit is incorrect.
A1: The new Prometeia models have a different layout. The template will fit these perfectly.

Q2: Template is too short, so you'll have to measure where to align, front or back.
A2: This is done on purpose, but it must be aligned with the back.
(ed. note: not specified anyhere in the manual)

Q3: The screws used to fasten the LianLi to the Prometeia is too short. 0.5cm extra would've been enough.
A3: We have never experienced any problems with this, but we have noted your concerns.

Q4: We've seen reports of the copper tube breaking off. I assume you've heard of this, and I was wondering what your response to this is. One of these forumthreads can be found here.

A4: I did see that thread and was a little surprised, so I did a search in all of our support mail and found only 7 cases where people have broken the hose. We have taken most of these systems home and after examining them we saw that all but 2 systems were damaged due to severe force being used on it, something we state in the terms and conditions that the warranty doesn’t cover. If the damage was because of a bad welding or similar it’s covered by the warranty.

Why buy a system like this?

I think there are two types of potential users -- the extreme performance enthusiast and the professional that demands extreme performance. Either way, you will find what you are looking for should decide to buy a Prometeia. We have proven beyond any doubt that it can increase productivity as well as save you a lot of money if you are a professional user that need heaps of processing power.

Likewise, as a computer enthusiast, you will get the fastest single CPU system money can buy, and you will even outperform dual Xeon rigs that cost more than twice as much -- how's that for bragging rights?

I think we can say that Chip-con does have a winner on their hands, although maybe for a limited target audience. Professionals needs to see the benefit for sure, because we can't think of any other solutions that offer that good of a price/performance ratio. Chip-con also has a new version of this system with many refinements, and we hope we can present a thorough review of the MachII in not too distant future.

Pros
- Great price/performance ratio
- Stylish design
- Great performance
- NO condensation during 24/7 testing

Cons
- A few annoying details
- A bit loud(35 db(A) at normal operation, 40dbA during start-up)
- A bit heavy (19Kg cooling unit only)
- Too few think they can afford one

Finally, we would like to thank Chip-con for supplying us with the Prometeia cooling unit, Corsair for the excellent RAM and Komplett for the CPU, Asus motherboard and a lot of patience.

Sverre Sjøthun

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