One of the main issues with running a stable computer is heat management. Heat has been an issue with electronics even before the semiconductor, and has remained a constant even with new technology. Nearly every component in today’s computers contains a specialized processor or fast moving parts – all of which add to the heat buildup inside one’s system. Several solutions have been invented to manage the system’s heat buildup, from traditional air cooling to water cooling, and even liquid nitrogen!
A Chinese company called Waffer has thought of a new way to control this heat, in the form of a small air conditioner. This unit cools outside air and forces it into the computer, benefiting the entire system. This principle is the same used in electric drink coolers for automobiles. These coolers work decently to refrigerate food because they also are completely insulated like a thermos. They also contain items that do not generate their own heat. So this idea may not work as well for a PC, as a PC case by nature should not be insulated and also generates additional heat.
The box was shipped in a standard corrugated cardboard box with white packing peanuts. The product’s box is an interesting design, to show off the unusual look of the air cooler. The product is actually in two boxes; a standard oblong box with a window cut out of it, and a partial envelope box which gives the package its unique shape. Because of this packing method, it is difficult to remove the unit without ripping the outer box. Printed on the back of the outer box is a general summary of the features and specifications. Opening the box reveals the air conditioner in custom-shaped plastic and more cardboard. Lifting the cardboard reveals the drive cage mount, manual and screws.
I decided to take the unit apart to see how it really works. The cooler is held together by two plastic pieces sandwiched together and fastened to each other by screws. The screws were easily removed and we could see how simple the design really is. The unit has a small power supply which powers both fans, peltier and LCD display. The LCD gets its temperature information from a thermal probe held in position where the cooled air is forced into the system.
A peltier is essentially an electric heat pump, the details of which can be read here. One side of a metal plate gets very cold, but the other side gets very hot. An aluminum heatsink is attached to the hot side of the peltier plate to dissipate the heat buildup. The heatsink is actively cooled by a high speed fan that is mounted with metal clips. The air on the underside of the peltier is cooled when passing through the heatsink attached to the lower peltier plate.
We removed the heatsink fan so that we could look at the actual cooling system. The heatsink is mounted to the peltier by four spring-loaded screws. After removing these we could see the peltier, which is completely covered with generic thermal paste to transfer heat to the heatsink.
This unit is basically a peltier cooler with an air intake fan and a thermometer. The unit has three modes: off, on, and snow. The lower fan turns on when switched on, only blowing in outside air without air conditioning and displaying the incoming air temperature. The peltier only kicks in when set to the snow mode, which also turns on the top heatsink fan, which has some neat blue LEDs. The fans are extremely loud especially in snow mode, which you can hear for yourself in this MP3 file.