A three hour drive south of AnandTech’s HQ in Raleigh, North Carolina, you will find another company that has themselves embedded in the computer hardware world - Kryotech. We received our first formal introduction to Kryotech at the 1998 E3 Expo which, at the time, was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Armed with AMD’s recently released K6-2 400 CPU, Kryotech managed to offer to the public a K6-2 that operated at 500MHz using their patented super cooling technology that cooled the chip down to –40 C.
While this cooling technology was definitely a very impressive accomplishment, the fact of the matter was that cooling a K6-2 400 down to –40 C just to run it at 500MHz was not worth the added cost of the Kryotech system. Although Intel’s Pentium II offerings at the time were more expensive than an equivalently clocked K6-2, the Kryotech Cool K6-2 500 retailed for $1695, a price which included the motherboard, CPU, case, and cooling system, which was greater than the cost of acquiring the same components for use with a Pentium II that would offer the same performance as, if not greater than, the Cool K6-2.
This was Kryotech’s unfortunate downfall. While they would not stray from their close relationship with AMD, it was in fact killing them because of the simple fact that AMD’s K6-2 and K6-III line were not the type of CPUs that would benefit the most from this sort of technology.
Many asked why Kryotech simply didn’t offer an Intel version of their Cool K6-X line of systems, but what most users didn’t understand was that establishing a relationship with Intel similar to the one Kryotech had with AMD is even more difficult of a feat than developing the Kryotech cooling technology. In spite of this, Kryotech’s cooling products have actually been used in quite a few Intel demonstrations, although Intel would never disclose it.
It just seemed like Kryotech could never offer a system that was actually worth the added cost that the consumers were being forced to pay. At the same time, the idea of using the Kryotech systems for professional applications was countered by the argument that the poor performing FPU of the K6-2 and K6-III was not something that could be masked by a slightly higher clock speed. For engineers and high-end workstation users, the Kryotech Cool K6-X systems were neat things to have but not systems that were of much value.
The Turning Point
In the past year AMD has gone from being the underdog to being the performance leader and then back to being a direct competitor to Intel on a clock for clock basis. The Athlon has placed AMD in a light that they are not used to being in. With the release of the Athlon, AMD can no longer be known as the low-cost solution; they have become the high-performing competitor that has forced Intel to greatly accelerate their processor release roadmap. At the same time, the Athlon provided Kryotech with enough ammunition to build a killer system that would finally put the Kryotech technology to good use. Not only was this a turning point in AMD’s history but also just the break Kryotech needed to begin releasing truly high-performing super cooled solutions that were worth the added cost.
Kryotech’s first Athlon solution was the Cool Athlon 800 which was released back when the Athlon 600 was the fastest thing out. Because of the intense competition between Intel and AMD, an air-cooled Athlon 800 was released just a couple of months later thus making the Cool Athlon 800 worthless. Anticipating an accelerated 800MHz Athlon release, Kryotech took the liberty of releasing their Cool Athlon 900, which is still faster than the current clock speed king, the Athlon 800.
The Cool Athlon 900 was actually a bigger step than it seems like for Kryotech. While the slower 500 and 550MHz parts are having tremendous success overclocking to 700 – 800MHz frequencies, the faster Athlon parts aren’t having nearly as much success. The 700MHz Athlon is having difficulty making it higher than 800MHz and the newer 0.18-micron cores are seemingly stuck at around the 800MHz mark. We have been able to get an Athlon 800 (0.18-micron) to run at 900MHz with a core voltage of 1.80v using a 78W Peltier but the operation was not nearly as stable as we would like it to be. This will change as the yields on the 0.18-micron parts improves, but, for now, don’t expect these 0.18-micron cores to go much further. So pushing 900MHz definitely shows off exactly how sophisticated and powerful Kryotech’s cooling system is.
The next step in this progression was the release of the true monster, a 0.18-micron Athlon 750 running at 1000MHz, dubbed the SuperG. The reason for the name change is because the SuperG actually uses a more powerful compressor and a slightly altered design from the original Cool K6-X and Cool Athlon series of systems to allow for an Athlon 750 to be pushed to 1000MHz (and no, using an Athlon 800 doesn’t allow for much higher clock speeds to be achieved).