Kool Solutions Chill Vent 1Review date: 27 November 2003.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
PC cooling is all about air flow. Lots of heat must be sent somewhere, and the air is where it goes. If you don't keep moving air through a PC's case, you'll soon have a computer that's a great place to sit your tea mug, but not good for much else.
Even water cooled computers aren't really cooled by water, unless they've got a pipe running from a tap on one side and into a drain on the other. The same goes for refrigerated cases. The heat always gets moved to the air, one way or another.
Air flow is not a primary consideration in the design of ordinary PCs, though. Regular computer cases are just boxes with an inlet of some sort at the front and outlets at the back. Varying numbers of inlets and outlets may have fans on them, but the air flow within the case is generally pretty darn random. There's often a lot more air flow over some parts of the computer than they need; air dawdling around low-heat expansion cards and motherboard chips would be better directed towards the CPU.
Kool Solutions' Chill Vent 1 is a simple drop-in solution for tower-cased PCs that aims to solve this problem, cheaply, and be easy to install as well.
The idea of the thing is that its square end points at your CPU cooler, and its wide shovel end sucks air in.
The "Deluxe" version of the Chill Vent 1 comes with an unremarkable 80mm sleeve bearing fan with about a two watt rating; this is the only difference between it and the "Standard" version of the Vent.
The three funny-shaped plastic things are mounting brackets. The smaller ones attach with double-sided tape to the bottom panel of your case and hold the shovel part of the Vent still, and the larger one clips onto the CPU end of the Vent and attaches with stick-on hook-and-loop material to the side of your power supply.
The end of the Vent is 94mm square (3.7 inches), and quite snugly fits a standard Pentium 4 CPU cooler. This also means it'll fit easily over most Socket A coolers.
When mounted on a P4 cooler, the Vent is pretty well supported by the cooler itself...
...so the only brackets you need to use are the bottom ones, and not necessarily even both of those.
The problem Kool Solutions faced in making this thing was that all tower cases are not alike. Far from it, in fact. Many of them have vents on the side panel that the Chill Vent's shovel end faces, but those vents may be low on the panel, or high, or in the middle. And the CPU's not always in the same place. And even if the CPU's perfectly placed, the case may not be big enough for the full width or height of the Chill Vent to fit.
The wide end of the Vent needs about 275mm (almost 11 inches) of space, counting the clips on its edges. It's not going to get that much space in a microATX case.
And the problems continue. What if you want some air flow onto or off of a video card that falls around the middle of the Chill Vent?
To deal with all this, the Chill Vent 1 comes apart, and can be chopped to size.
The cover for the shovel can be removed completely, and under it there are a couple of pop-out circles with standard mounting holes around them, into which you can install a pair of little 40mm fans (Kool Solutions will be selling pre-wired dual fan kits soon).
40mm fans, even full-height ones, have miserable air flow stats compared with 60mm and 80mm units, but a couple of them should still divert enough air to keep any video card happy.
If you need to reduce the size of the duct, it's easy, because the Chill Vent has pre-scored trimming lines that let you reduce its depth (when installed in a case - the front-to-back-of-case dimension) by about 40mm at each end, and/or lop off about 65mm of its height. There's a trim line around the bottom of the CPU end of the duct as well, to give you about 6mm more clearance in that direction.
The plastic the Vent's made of is tough enough that I doubt anybody's ever going to break one without destroying the computer it's installed in, but it's also soft enough that you can easily cut it however you like with any vaguely serious set of shears. The scribed lines can be cut with scissors, though, and make neat trimming simpler.
The curved part of the Vent that leads to the square end comes off as well, but this is for fan installation. Any standard height 80mm fan will fit in there. The Chill Vent is designed to work with CPU coolers whose fans blow downward onto the heat sink, which is the usual kind; if your fan works the other way you'll need to flip it. The Chill Vent should still work OK with side-fanned coolers, though.
I got some early production Chill Vents for review; the manufacturers were still figuring out some shrinkage and edge-tab issues when they made these ones, so they don't fit together quite as elegantly as they might, and the fan doesn't quite look as if it belongs there. Everything clips on OK and a bit of a gap around the edge of the shovel makes no difference to anything, but I needed to use a bit of force to get the clips to engage.
Kool Solutions tell me they've dealt with this problem for the final production Chill Vents, which will start shipping to customers on the first of December.
What it costs
Kool Solutions sell the Chill Vent 1 Standard kit (with no fan) for $US18.99; the Deluxe version (with fan) costs $US23.99. Shipping within the contiguous USA and Canada is $US6.95.
As you might guess from their charmingly hand-crafted Web site, Kool Solutions are not an international megacorporation. This explains why, so far, they only accept payment via PayPal, and only accept orders via e-mail.
And, because the Chill Vents aren't quite ready to ship yet and Kool Solutions don't want to look like swindlers, you can currently place an order, but not pay for it. They'll ask for your money when the Chill Vents are ready to go, in a few days.
Buyers from outside the USA will have to wait to get a local distributor (or become one - Kool Solutions are seeking resellers). The Chill Vent is quite a bulky item, so international shipping for it is likely to cost a lot more than the price of the Vent itself.
But does it work?
The Chill Vent is a difficult product to test, because its performance depends on several factors.
It's designed as a quick CPU cooling fix for people whose PCs use ordinary cheap cases, and from what I can see, it does that job quite well. Many cheap cases have a row of vent holes low on their side panels, which usually achieve close to nothing. Install a Chill Vent with an 80mm fan to suck air in through there, and you'll get yourself more of a processor cooling boost than you could get from a new CPU cooler that cost easily twice as much as the Vent.
And you ought not to void your warranty, either. If something goes horribly wrong after you install a new CPU cooler then you're unlikely to get any warranty joy, but just popping a Chill Vent on top of your stock cooler shouldn't hurt anything.
(Even if it does, of course, the Chill Vent can be removed without leaving any evidence...)
If a case has front intake fans, then chopping the front off the Chill Vent scoop so it can more easily inhale the air being blown at it from the front of the case will help even more. An intake fan is the most cost-effective cooling upgrade you can make to a tower case that's cooled only by the fan in its power supply. You don't have to go nuts; an intake fan and a Cool Vent should turn almost any cruddy old midi-tower into a decently ventilated box.
On the other hand, if you've got a fancy tweakers' case with multiple intake and exhaust fans, you're likely to already have more than enough airflow. A Chill Vent may still help a bit, especially if you kit it out with a beefier 80mm fan than the two-watter that Kool Solutions sell and your processor has a stock cooler on it - but what're you doing with a tweaky case and a stock CPU cooler in the first place?
Kool Solutions don't make outrageous claims for the Chill Vent. Their published test results show CPU temperature reductions around the five degree Celsius mark for a 2GHz P4 with a stock cooler, and less impressive results for more impressive coolers.
I fooled around with my review Chill Vents for a while, and confirmed that they're not very exciting when used with already-excellent coolers, or when they don't have an 80mm fan installed. With a fan and a basic CPU cooler, though, I agree with other reviewers; the Chill Vent performs as advertised, and genuinely is quite easy to install.
If your PC already has a side intake fan, then the case will need to be pretty wide to accommodate a Chill Vent as well. But the side fan is likely to do a perfectly good job of squirting cool air onto the CPU by itself. The Chill Vent is for ordinary cases.
5°C may not sound like a big deal, but it's not at all bad, considering the Chill Vent's low price and easy installation. Even if you switch from an aluminium stock cooler to a super-zooty copper-finned heat-piped noisy-fanned overclockers' special, you're likely to see a difference in high-load CPU temperature not a lot greater than 10°C. There are lots of variables here, as well, not least of which is how much heat your CPU actually emits, but to get more than about a 15°C reduction from a mere CPU cooler upgrade generally means you've gone to water cooling, at least. 5°C from a cheap plastic duct is a good deal.
If my tests are anything to go by, you should definitely put a fan in your Chill Vent. Stock CPU cooler fans aren't powerful air movers.
The "Deluxe" Chill Vent's fan is not, itself, very deluxe at all. The Chill Vent is meant to be a quiet cooling solution, so it's sensible that Kool Solutions chose a pretty low power fan with plain old sleeve bearings. This fan gets the job done, doesn't make much noise, and is slow enough that its cheap bearings should last a long time. And Kool Solutions only charge an extra $US5 for it.
If you've got a two-watt-ish 80mm fan sitting around already, though, there's no reason not to buy the Standard Chill Vent kit. If you want a bit more Chill Ventilation, get the Standard kit and your own beefier 80mm fan; if you want to show off, get an LED fan. The translucent Chill Vent plastic could have been made for LED illumination.
The Chill Vent has more engineering in it than the average quick plastic duct-thing, though, and it is what it says on the label an easy-to-install cooling upgrade that doesn't cost a fortune and doesn't give you much opportunity to destroy your computer.
Novices who try to upgrade their CPU cooler often find themselves in the market for a new processor rather sooner than they expected. Lots of newbies have no trouble with this at all, of course, but you can't screw up changing your CPU cooler if you don't do it.
If you've been considering upgrading a stock CPU cooler, a Chill Vent will give you most of the improvement with less fuss and expense. It even looks kind of nifty. Recommended.
Review Chill Vents kindly provided by Kool Solutions.