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Koolance Exos-Al

The Koolance Exos is very much the intermediate user’s option among the group, offering as it does the very best of pre-assembled ease and combining it with the kind of performance and flexibility that the slightly more advanced user would probably insist on. Having said that, many of the design options that we’ll touch on in a moment also make it a superior choice even for the water cooling newcomer, while its very high efficiency may well appeal to the enthusiast too

The Exos’ biggest strength is probably also its major weakness in that the bulk of it resides outside your PC’s case. The advantage to this is that there’s no need to mess around mounting radiators and reservoirs inside what may already be a cramped enclosure. However, the chief disadvantage is that it nullifies one of the great advantages enjoyed by water-cooled computers, that of reduced noise levels.

Unlike partly assembled units, the Exos looks very polished in its fit and finish and was clearly designed for the task rather than being cobbled from an assortment of perfectly adequate but not entirely matching components. Externally, the main unit is quite simply a large, dual-level enclosure, housing a big, dual-length radiator situated in the lower segment with three cooling fans mounted in the upper portion.

Inside are the pump, the radiator, a small controller card and an LED temperature display giving quick, visual conformation of the current coolant temperature. As its “Al” name-tag suggests, the Exos is finished in brushed aluminium, which makes it look good and considerably lighter than the original steel unit.

The tubing that circulates the water from the radiator to the internal cooling blocks attaches to the rear of the unit using quick-release couplings that allow them to be easily disconnected for transportation. These couplings are of a self-seal variety so almost no coolant is lost as they are unplugged.

The tubing is protected from getting kinked, cut or chaffed as it enters through a spare expansion slot by steel spring sleeves fitted to the supplied bracket. This bracket also features a small PCB and a multifunction plug that feeds both power and temperature data to the controller in the main unit. This means there’s no need to find an additional power socket for the unit, and with a power requirement of just eight to ten watts it shouldn’t burden most power supplies.

In the rear of the unit is the reservoir and two pumps, which are used in a push-pull configuration. The pumps give a combined coolant flow of around 1030cc per minute and having two of them means you have built in redundancy should one fail. Even if the other pump alone can’t maintain a low enough working temperature, it keeps the heat build-up to a gradual rise until the shutdown temperature is reached at which point the Exos will power down your PC before any harm is done.

The reservoir is quite small and has the two submersible pumps located inside it. Being clear a small LED would have really helped coolant level checking in low light conditions such as under your desk.

Although three different cooling modes can be set, the automatic system shutdown temperature is not user-definable and is preset to 58ºC (136ºF). The three cooling modes allow the onboard controller to force full speed fan operation at all times (Mode 3); allow them to run at 45% power below 36ºC before increasing gradually to full speed at 50ºC (Mode 2); or to run them at 45% power up to 50ºC then immediately stepping up to full speed (Mode 1).

The blocks themselves, which you need to buy separately as none is supplied as standard, have clearly been subjected to a lot of design consideration and feature a simple yet clever mounting mechanism. The CPU, VGA and chipset blocks all have extendable mounting bars that, provided they are durable enough, seem like a very simple and effective way to overcome the numerous variations in mounting methods.

The CPU block comes with two different coloured screws each of which feature a differently calibrated ratchet mechanism – one for generating a lower pressure suitable for exposed core processors and the other for generating a little more pressure for use with heat spreader equipped processors. The ratchet mechanism in the screws makes it impossible to over tighten the retaining bracket thus preventing any serious damage.

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