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Exclusive: Oil Immersion Cooling Goes Mainstream with Hardcore PC's Reactor - Printable Version

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Exclusive: Oil Immersion Cooling Goes Mainstream with Hardcore PC's Reactor - Weyland - 11-14-2008

[Image: hardcorepc_09_sm.jpg]

Stop. You had us at oil submersed motherboard, CPU and GPUs. You didn’t even have to dunk the SSDs, PSU or create a custom motherboard and bullet resistant tank too to convince us that you’re really hard core, umm, Hardcore.

Of course, if you stare too hard at the tank, you’ll miss all the heavenly glory that the Hardcore PC truly is. From its beautiful aluminum case, to its top port routing and the easy to access hard drives, every centimeter of the machine oozes custom computing. And we can honestly say that after tinkering with the most exotic PCs available on Earth for a decade now. What Hardcore is trying to do is so over the top that no one has ever tried it before on a production machine.

But before Hardcore can ascend to take its place among the top performance PC makers, there are an awful lot of questions to answer. Like can they really make and sell these babies for how much the company claims it can? Does it really work? To find the answer to that read on.


The future today! Switched on, the Reactor looks like a PC snatched from the future and placed on your desktop. Production machines promise to be quiet and as ominous as it looks here.
Fighting the heat



Since the PC was born, we’ve been fighting heat. Conventional PC’s use combination of fan/heat sink, chassis fans and ducts to try to keep the machine from turning into the oven. But as the heat continued to climb, enthusiasts turned to liquid cooling the CPU and GPUs. Others have used a combination of liquid cooling and thermal electric coolers to help move temperatures lower.

Both of these methods face one problem though. Conventional fan/heat sinks can’t move the thermals fast enough and create too much noise and liquid cooling key hot components doesn’t do enough to help the surrounding components. So what if you took all of the hot components, dunked them in a non-conductive oil and sold it?

Slimlines only: Hardcore decided to adopt mobile drives to save space in the machine.


It’s also clearly no window: Up close you can see an occasional shimmer as a thermal layer of oil swirls in the tank but that can be changed by removing a plug that adds more gurgle to people know its full of oil and not just a fancy window.

That’s the concept that started Hardcore a few years ago. In fact, the company has U.S. Patent No. 7,403,392 for “Liquid submersion cooling system.” Submersing the components is far more effective than even the highest volume fans because liquid is a far better conductor of heat than air. With the oil that Hardcore uses, the company figures it’s about 10 times more effective than simple air cooling. Since the liquid envelops the entire videocard and motherboard, it also cools the voltage regulators, chipset, and RAM. A pump circulates the liquid through a custom radiator to keep the temps down. Simple circulation isn’t enough to keep the CPU and GPU cool, so custom blocks are fitted to the CPU and GPU to increase surface area and increase the flow of liquid over the hottest components. The result is a relatively quiet PC for the amount of hardware it packs. Hardcore estimates that the components in the machine should never really run higher than ambient room temperature if all is well. If it works in the real world the way it should in the scientific calculator, the liquid cooling should allow the machine to run at greater clock speeds for longer periods of time than more traditional cooling methods.

Of course, all this is meaningless if the company isn’t real. Which is the hard to believe part of Hardcore. With a custom, aluminum-cast case, aerospace transparent tank, mil-spec RAM and redundant power supplies, you’d expect such a rig to fetch into the low $10K range. Hardcore is spec’ing its lowest configured machine in the $4K. So we’re supposed to believe that a custom PC company just comes out of nowhere with an insane design at a surprisingly moderate prices?


Gobble, gobble: To remove the core of the Reactor, you have to literally pull it out like you would yank a turkey out of a deep fryer.

Yes, sir says Darren Klum, president of Hardcore. The company is real, already has 30 employees and is about to be approved for its second round of financing from investors. When the company turns the switch on the web site, http://www.hardcorecomputer.com, (please don’t type just http://www.hardcore.com, it’s not work safe and probably not ActiveX safe either) it expects to start spitting out machines in Rochester, Minn. like Terminator T1000s coming off a Skynet assembly line.

Klum said it’s been more than two years in the making but it’s real. To make sure that Klum wasn’t about to rip off his mask to reveal that he was Ashton Kutcher and that Maximum PC and its readers had just been Punk’d, we did some legwork to verify the background on the company. The U.S. Patent Office does indeed show Klum, CTO Chad Attlesey and CEO Al Berning with a patent for liquid submersion. The Minnesota Secretary of State shows the company was incorporated in January of 2006 and credit checks with both Experian and Dun and Bradstreet check out too. If this is a rouse to create Internet hype for computers that will never be sold (gee have we heard that one before?), it would certainly have to be the most elaborate scam to date.


story continues on link

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/hardcorepc_reactor