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When we began our tests, our expectations were high: the THG labs team was hoping to achieve 4.3 GHz with a 3 GHz P4 using this cooling system. The conditions were ideal; although the Mach 2 system's design is similar to that of the one we tested last December, Chip-Con has since added an automatic control system to its barebone. In other words, the user just needs to press the on/ off switch and the microcontroller does the rest. Before the computer switches on, the R134a refrigerant is cooled to below -30°C.
Based on our experience with a 3 GHz P4 and an Intel 875P board, we can say that temperatures of -52°C are possible at low CPU load. Under full load, and taking into account a maximum CPU power dissipation of 135 W, a CPU die temperature of -37° is possible. This is a record value, never before achieved by a compressor system. According to Chip-Con, the Prometeia Mach 2 can cope with power dissipation of up to 200 W.
The high summer temperatures of up to 32°C and the processor itself combined to prevent us from reaching higher processor speeds with our 3 GHz P4. It is highly probable that the majority of 3 GHz P4s reach their physical limits at a 37 percent overclock to 4.1 GHz - at least if you are trying for something better than a two-minute record, which some overclockers have reached with liquid nitrogen.
For THG, long-term reliability and system stability are always paramount. Be that as it may, the Prometeia Mach 2 kit was able to deliver a performance in all categories that is ahead of what we can expect even from the "Prescott," the P4 Northwood's successor, at 3.4 GHz or 3.6 GHz.
In view of this, spending your hard earned cash on this barebone system is certainly worth considering, especially as it also works with the AMD Athlon XP. The Chip-Con will remain useful for some time to come, particularly if the manufacturer makes CPU heads available for the forthcoming AMD Athlon64, Opteron and Intel Prescott with new CPU sockets. In the medium term, a maximum power dissipation of 200 W is expected to be sufficient.
The weakness of the Prometia is clear enough. Despite its nearly 60 pounds (27-kg) weight, there are no handles or handgrips fitted, which means there is a risk of injuring yourself on the sharp edges on the bottom of the case. Although the overall standard of workmanship is good, this detail needs improvement.
On the other hand, the strengths as compared to the competition are equally clear. No other system can currently deliver this degree of cooling and fully automatic operation. Thanks to the heated cooling head, condensation build-up is prevented. There are other benefits: changing the processor takes about five minutes, and changing the motherboard takes about 30 minutes. This could well make the competition break out in a sweat.