Even if you paid just a little attention in your physics' class at school, you'll know that to make CMOS-based electronics (CPU) go faster, it pays to cool them down as well as you can. Put simply, extensively cooling CPUs to near zero Celsius temperatures results in faster switching time for semiconductor devices and increased circuit speed due to lower electrical interference. Of course, there's a physical limit to just how far you can push a certain CPU; extensive cooling will allow you to get as close as possible to it. In a nutshell, and with respect to computer hardware in general, cold is good.
Processors, by the very nature of the business, continue to get faster and faster. Even though we've seen reductions in die sizes, and consequently heat output, we cannot get away from the fact that a high-end, consumer-level CPUs often put out more heat than a 60w light bulb.
Air cooling has been generally effective at dealing with the heat problem associated with sky-high processor clocks. Having said that, system integrators are now having to look again at exactly what is needed to keep a modern CPU cool enough for operation. We now see case fans becoming more and more prevalent in pre-built systems.
As you can probably guess, there are those of us out there who aren't satisfied with just running our machines at the pre-defined speeds; we want more. Those that just dabble in the art of overclocking usually resort to purchasing a better aftermarket cooler and fan. Those with a slightly greater interest often go the way of watercooling to achieve the best possible speeds. Both methods work but the heat transfer properties of air and water can leave a little to be desired.
What's needed, really, is a cooling system that can force the CPU down to negative Celsius territory. That's when we'll truly begin to see the benefits of real cooling. To get a power-hungry CPU down to below ambient temperatures is no easy task, especially if the system is to be used on a long-term basis.
Asetek have set themselves just that goal with their VapoChill range of refrigerant-based cooling systems. A new, revised Vapochill has been launched. Let's now see exactly how it achieves it goal and just how far it can push a modern CPU processor.