Two days ago, KitGuru Lab staff cast their eyes over a photo of a brand new product. It looked amazing and seemed to offer a level of flexibility in LN2 cooling that you don’t often see. That product is the EK-SF3D Critical Point. We have been lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with co-creator Petri Korhonen. KitGuru dons the safety gear and begins the questioning.
First, a very short grounder on cooling. When you put electricity into components, they get hot. In general terms, more performance means more power and more heat. At the low end, you can leave CPUs, GPUs etc to fend for themselves (passive cooling with heatpipes and fins). One step up involves a fan. Next you have liquid cooling, using materials that are not likely to harm a toddler. At the very high end, when the amount of current being used would fry most chips for dinner, you have liquid nitrogen. LN2.
Second, let’s have a quick look at EK. In 1999, Edvard König got hold of his first PC and quickly realised that ‘passive’ and ‘air’ were not for him. Over the next 4 years, while he was studying, Edvard began working on water block prototypes – aptly named EK-1, EK-2 and EK-3. From there grew one of the most respected specialist cooling companies in the world. Just how good are they? Well, when YOYOTech wanted to create the Aurum 24K with a custom liquid cooling solution for £8,000 – EK was their first and only choice. As well as KitGuru’s own gallery on that stunning looking system, you can also find it on Forbes.
That brings us to the focus of our piece, Petri Korhonen AKA SF3D and the EK-SF3D Critical Point solution for LN2 record breakers.
He is probably most famous for his part in the AMD ‘Experiment’ in Las Vegas on 10th January 2009, when he used liquid helium for the first time in public to take a quad core processor past 6.5GHz and smashed the record for 3DMark 05 with a score that passed 45,000 – as the temperature close to key components approached absolute zero. Impressive stuff.
With that kind of history, it’s easy to see what attracted EK to the partnership.
KG: So what was the driving force behind this inspired new design?
PK: “I have been using my own LN2 cooler designs since I started to use LN2 more frequently. After that they have evolved and first commercial product was launched in 2009. We made a cooperation deal with EKWB in the end of 2012 and first EK-SF3D products saw daylight in spring 2013. EKWB can produce very high quality products and the price is still competitive. This company is the only one who can really produce this type of devices properly”.
KG: We have seen people try and create universal sittings before, but then the graphic card companies make changes to the board and they are redundant. How ‘flexible’ is this design?
PK: “We offer the mounting system for most common graphics card types and in the future if something changes, we can deliver the new bracket with very low cost. Most of the mounting hole distances are covered, so I believe there will be no issues with mounting in the future”.
KG: From the first time you ‘sat down’ with a pen and paper – how long did it take to get (a) the initial samples ready and (b) the final solution ready to sell?
PK: “First we did some online meetings about Memory LN2 cooler and CPU LN2 cooler. During CEbit 2013 we made final design for GPU LN2 cooler and made launch schedule for the products. We have been able to launch them all during this year and there is something new coming out shortly”.
KG: Sometimes in life, you trade flexibility for ‘straight line speed’ do you expect world records to be set with this unit?
PK: “Memory LN2 cooler have been already used in WR setups and there will be records coming with the other units as well, because they can handle whatever you like to do with them. We make no compromises, so we have a plan to win the whole race”.
KG: Any unusually difficult technical problems you had to overcome?
PK: “The new mounting system for CPU pot was a bit difficult to create but we did overcome those things fast. We wanted to avoid basic errors there have been in previous products and we can offer for example highest pressure over CPU to LN2 cooler contact and always 100% similar and accurate contact”.
KG: At low temperatures, is Gelid GC-Extreme really the best?
PK: It is one of the best there are at the moment. It have worked very well in many different situations and never failed very badly. LN2 cooling and extreme heatloads are combination which would need product designed only for that situation and it is not commercially usable product. That is the reason we won’t see that type of “LN2 only” thermal pastes on market.
KG: For you, what part of this product makes you most proud?
PK: Every part of it! The quality, design, looks and performance.
Petri first began collaborating with EK back in 2010, but it became more serious in 2012. So what got him started and what makes this multi-record-breaking designer tick?
KG: So what was your proudest moment in overclocking?
PK: “There are plenty of moments to be proud of and none of them can be named separately. Best moments are the AMD ‘Experiment’ in Las Vegas where we used Liquid Helium first time on computer parts and broke 3Dmark05 world record. Later first 7GHz AMD result and so on. All the World records which have been broken make me still proud. I have been also competing in many live competitions etc. and those have been best moments of the career”.
KG: What was your first job ever?
PK: “Hard question! First job where I got some money was in 1997 and I was helping my dad in some building projects”.
KG: What was your first PC ever?
PK: “I think it was 1988 when my dad bought our first PC. There was really nothing to do with it at that point, so it took years to get something better. I think it was 1993 when I started to play games and after that I have been using PC’s quite a lot”.
Enough of that – time to get very personal
KG: If you have to impress friends, what would YOU cook?
PK: “Depends a lot about which friends they are, but I can make very good BBQ food or some Asian dishes. I really love to make food so I actually cook a lot to my friends as well. My wife really likes this side of me”.
KG: What do you LOVE eating, but cannot cook – so you need to go to a restaurant?
PK: “Sometimes it is nice to go restaurant just to do nothing but eat. But I am not so interested to make sushi, so that is what I need to get from restaurants”.
KG: If you were driving in the perfect car, along the Pacific highway. What would the car be? What track is playing on the radio? Who is the passenger?
PK: “This is hard question. I have AUDI now, so it would be R8 or RS6. The song from the radio is some decent dance/trance which suits for that moment. Passenger is my wife of course” [Safe choices! - Ed]
KG: Brings us onto our last question: If you could invent anything, what would it be?
PK: “In related to computers it would be automatic LN2 cooling devices which could control temperature in milliseconds and the system would monitor all possible things on setup. If I could invent anything what could be possible I would do first working fusion nuclear reactor which would solve the energy issues we will have in the future. That would be good enough I think.”
KitGuru says: There you have it – insight into the co-designer of the EK-SF3D Critical Point cooling solution. Now all you need is a tray of expensive processors, 200Kg of LN2 and some spare fingers. BIG THANKS to Petri for answering our questions.