Anyone that has listened to this show knows that I am a huge fan of the self contained water cooling systems we can now get. They offer cooling performance at or near the level of the high end air coolers but do it with less noise and a lot less space taken up inside the PC. This last point is in fact one of the major selling points for me as it means that it is easier to work inside your PC with the cooler installed and leaves all of your RAM slots free for maximum memory potential.
The beginning of this style of cooler was pretty simple, a radiator, and fan with the cooling block, if you needed more cooling potential you just added a second fan. The second round saw an increase in the radiator thickness to allow for more cooling surface are and the second fan became standard. This second generation never made any sense to me. I mean I understand the reasoning but it never made any sense because there seemed to be a better option available, well enter the H100 and that better option.
Corsair switch teams recently and moved from Asetek to Coolit for it’s partner self contained liquid cooler design market. Coolit made a move as well it seems, withdrawing from the consumer market to focus on it’s OEM work as well as working with partners like Corsair. This meant that some of Coolit’s designs became available for Corsair to make use of and the 240mm radiator model was one of those designs.
The idea is actually pretty simple, if 120mm of radiator can do a good job at cooling the 240mm should do even better. Now unlike the second level of coolers this is not a thicker radiator, it is a longer radiator. The setup will accommodate 2x 120 mm fans or 4 fans if you want to use a push/pull configuration. The 240mm radiator was already pretty standard fair among the custom liquid cooling crowd and a good number of cases came with support for this size radiator in place. That is why I wonder why it took so long for this design to come out and why more are not doing it.
The move to Coolit was a great one for Corsair in my opinion because while I think Asetek produces great products their mounting system is something I am not a huge “fan” of. However if you go back to my reviews of the CooliT Eco you will see I love the simplicity of the Coolit mounting system and this carries over to the H100. Once you have the back plate in place the mounting is done using 4 thumb screws. No messing around with rings and rotating things and lifting while position and such. Just put it in and screw it down, tool less if you like.
The radiator is attached to the cooling block via two hoses to move the liquid. This is the one area I wish Corsair and Coolit would modify a bit. They use an outer cover over a thick rubber tube. The outer cover is meant to provide additional protection and it does but it also makes the tubes less flexible that other systems. This is not to say the tubes will not flex, they will do the job but you might have to apply a bit more muscle to get them to run the way you want them too.
The two included fans attach to the cooling block rather than the motherboard for their power and speed control. Both are 4 pin PWM fans so we have a nice range of speed options. The cooler itself is attached to the motherboard CPU fan header as well as to a molex from the PSU for additional power. The connections on the cooler allow for up to 4 fans and this is just to much power draw with the pump itself for that single header.
The cooler itself has an LED display on it to show which of the three possible fan modes you have active. Mode 1 is to set the fans to lower speeds and thus quiet operations. Balanced mode with a fair low bottom speed and a good range to the top speed and then Mode 3 which ranks everything up. I did some digging, surprisingly this was hard to find with any kind of official material and found this chart concerning the speed ramping of the H80, this also applies to the H100.
The chart is supposed to have come from a Corsair blog entry and I have not had much luck finding it but then again after a bit I quit digging. Based on my testing the chart seems about right. You can see that all three modes ramp up the speed as the coolant temp within the system gets warmer. Each level up raises the base speed and max speed of the fans and thus increases the noise.
So how does it actually cool? Well we put it to the test using the Thermaltake Level 10 GT case and an i5 2500k processor. I wanted to get some load on the coolers so we overclocked the processor to 4.1 GHz and started testing. For comparison purposes I used a Thermaltake Frio as well as an Antec H60 cooler.
Using Prime 95 I fired up a 30 minute load on the processor and took temperature readings from each of the coolers. I tested the Frio at it’s lowest, roughly middle and highest settings, the H60 at stock settings and the H100 at Quiet, Balanced and Performance. Even on the Quiet setting the H100 started strutting it’s stuff out of the gate delivering a nice 3C difference over the H60 at stock and the Frio on low. Cranking the H100 to Balanced settings moved the H100 a bit further from the pack going to 5C cooler than the Frio at mid fan speeds and 6C cooler than the H60 at stock settings. Finally on high the lead was solidified with the H100 dropping a full 7C below the Frio and 8C below the H60. That’s some serious cooling.
Now I can hear some question rising in the ether already. Why did I not mention idle temps? The reason is simple ANY cooler can do a decent job at idle and these three are great coolers, the idle temps where so close as to not be an issue worth measuring. Why did I not give actual temperature readings and only the differences? The reason is the actual temperature readings are meaningless, I guess I should explain that. The actually temperature readings anyone will achieve are based off a large number of factors. These include the room temperature, air flow restriction of case location, the case and fans used in the case and the list goes on. This means that just because I hit a certain temperature point, you will not automatically hit the same point. As such the differences in temperatures for each cooler is more meaningful since it gives a comparison that should be close to the same for everyone.
At $102 on Newegg the H100 is very much priced at a luxury level component but you might be surprised to find I can see a value option in it. You see a lot of cases today and even some of the more value priced cases have the ability to use a 240mm radiator in them. With this in mind a lot of the people that will be building tweaker systems will be putting in the dual 120mm fans and then adding a good cooler to the mix. The H100 allows the potential to kill two birds as it where with one stone and be greater than the sum of the parts. When you figure the cost of the 2 fans and the nice cooler and compare it to the cost of the H100, it suddenly does not seem that bad.
I do have to give a warning here, not all cases that will fit dual 120mm fans will handle this cooler. There is of course the spacing that needs to be set for the radiator to mount but that can be worked with. Of bigger concern is the space for the radiator and fans to sit. If you case would be a tight fit with just the dual fans in place then this cooler is not going to work for you. You need to check the spacing at the top of the case before pulling the trigger on this cooler.
If however you have a case that will accommodate this and you are in the market for a new cooler the H100 should be at the top of your list. With just the stock fans this brute has cooling power to spare. Add to this the ease of installation of the Coolit design and the ability to profile your fan ramping to meet your cooling needs, this is a great CPU cooler.
Corsair H100 Review as it aired 28 August 2011
As we promised we have put together our first giveaway as a thank you for all of those that have like our Computer Ed Facebook page. We will be drawing on Sept 4th, 2011 from all the people that have “liked” the page and giving away an OCZ 120 Gig Agility 3 SSD. If you have not entered, the head over to Facebook and going to our page, http://facebook.com/computered and pressing like, it is that easy to have a chance to win.
Wait I will make this even better, we will be having another contest in October, this is already set up and we will make the entry criteria the same, that means one click of the like will enter you in the Agility 3 Giveaway as well as the contest we have put together for October. Two giveaway’s for a single entry, how cool is that?
So what are you waiting for, your chance for a fast 120 gig SSD and more is just a mouse click away.
Computer Ed (Edward Crisler) takes at look that the Chaser Mk I case.
While the movie industry has had their Summer of Heroes, here at the Computer Ed Show our test area looks like we are experiencing the Summer of Computer Cases. Our most recent subject on the bench is the Thermaltake Chaser Mk I. With a tag line of “Pursuit without Fear” and a sticker on the front of the big stating that this is an “Extra Big ATX Tower”, it is obvious the pursuit they are thinking of is the pursuit of room to build a PC. This is a large full tower case, just a bit smaller than a Level 10 GT.
Opening the box we find a case with very aggressive styling. While the box art made me think of mages, the actual case design to me has a much more Transformer look to it. I kept waiting for it to turn into a nasty little robot and demand I give it the Allspark.
The front has 4 bay openings and the covers are all easily removed from outside the case. The clips that hold them in place are highlighted with a pale blue coloring. In fact that highlight can be found in many places on this case. Remember that blue I said I hated so much that so many Gigabyte boards used, now I think it could be useful as it is almost a perfect match. You can see the aggressive styling of the case is on the right side panel, with raised areas.
The aggressive styling continues to the top with the angular lines and the blue trim. The center of this area is dominated by the power button and LED. We we first looked at this we though perhaps the button was broke because it had some play to it. A look at the mechanism revealed that in fact it was floating on top of the switch. Despite it’s slight wobble when touched it was actually securely mounted.
Directly behind the power button we have a 3.5” / 2.5” hot swap drive mount. While I am not typically a big fan of hot swap bays, I just do not see people making a lot of use with them every day. This one is s step up from what most offer since it can easily handle both drive sizes.
The left side of the top is has buttons to control the fan speed low/high of the two factory installed 200 mm fans as well as a light switch. These fans use the same tri-color fans we have seen before in other Thermaltake products and in our included video you can see the various lighting options. Just behind the fan speed buttons we have the reset button as well as our headset jacks. I have to tell you I hate the reset button being there. In the dark reaching down to turn up the fan speed I can easily image someone pressing the reset by mistake. Now I usually do not hook up reset buttons but on this case I would say it is nearly a MUST to not hook up the reset. The last thing you want is during heavy gaming needing to kick up the fans and suddenly mid game you are rebooting.
On the right side we have our I/O access with dual USB 2 and USB 3 as well as an ESATA connection. With the hot swap bay I have to ask WHY did we put an ESATA port in the front of this case? I mean come on, they barely get used anyway and with this case the odds of it being used are further reduced by a very simple to use hot swap.
Moving back from the front we come to a two tiered grilled top area. The upper tier, back most, houses the factory installed 200mm fan the front area however has the mounts for a second 200mm fan. These of course can be removed and a 240mm or 360mm radiator can be mounted.
Looking at the bottom of the case we see large fold out feet for stability as well a filter that covers the PSU air intake and an options bottom air intake fan mount. Now it is rough to tell from these pictures but the design of the feet BEG for them to be turned out. Their angular cut is done in a manner that when folded just look way wrong. The fleet have a blue highlighted trim and provide almost a full 1.5” lift to the case. This gives a lot of room under the case for the intake fan and PSU to pull in cool air.
The left side panel has of the the aggressive styling added to it along with a good sized window and a mount for a 200mm fan. The fan area is filtered, which is good. However the filter is attached to the case and that means a fan will cover it meaning easy removal is gone, that is bad. You will also notice that the headphone clip we saw on the Level 10 GT is not permanently attached to the side of the Chaser. I am torn about if I like this solution better. On the plus side it means the clip cannot be lost and is not going to fall off if you grab your headset to fast. On the down side it means that if it is out and get slammed against it will break instead of just fall off.
As we open the case to look inside lets begin at the top and front. Both the top cover and front bevel are easily removed with no tools needed. The top opens up to reveal the mounting area for the 200mm fans. The front opens to reveal the 200mm intake fan and it’s filter.
Opening up the case we are greeted with more of the blue highlights and a nice all black interior. The optical drive bays use a tool less design that worked okay. I would have liked it to be a bit more secure but it is adequate as well as 6 pull out HD bays. Now I know and you know my ugly little soapbox is about to come out, well not really this time. While the cross mounting does block the air flow, Thermaltake has cut the number of drives being held down and opened up the space between them. The result is actually a fairly open area to reduce the restrictions this style usually creates. While it is still not as good for air flow as a more open design it is better than this mounting method traditionally does.
The motherboard tray has a generous number of rubber grommeted cutouts to allow for some great cable management options. The case can easily be described as roomy and from an easy of build point of view it rivals the Level 10 GT. If you feel cramped in this case I suggest you quite trying to sleep in it and just use it for your computer.
This is OBVIOUSLY a case aimed at the geeky/gamer audience. The aggressive styling is something that will either appeal to you or turn you off, there is no middle ground. The stock air flow of this case with it’s dual 200mm fans and 140mm exhaust fan at the rear provides really good cooling and air flow. The ability to add a 200 mm on the side and a second 200 mm to the top pushes that air flow to great and beyond. While the case has some nice liquid cooling options, the air flow design of the case begs for a big air cooler to be used. In fact the cases blue highlights practically scream for the Frio OCK, it’s like they where design for each other.
Speaking of the fan, I love that Thermaltake is trying to give us choices with the fan colors. I said this with the Element G and the Level 10 GT, the option to change the color is just something very cool. However as with both of those cases the color is not persistent and when the system goes into sleep mode or shuts down the colors revert to the native blue. In the case of the Chaser this is not a bad thing. The blue highlights on the case make the native blue LED colors a natural choice, I honestly am not sure why they even offered the tri-color. Below you can see a video we did of the lighting options in the Chaser Mk I if you want to see the various color options.
Still on the fans I want to talk about the hi/low option that Thermaltake has now shown us on two cases. I am not a big fan of manually controlled fans. Personally I would prefer we fix even the case fans to adjust their speed based on the component temps. I mean when your PC is not working hard, like me working on this blog, there is no need for fans jacked to take off speeds for cooling, even on an overclocked system. The fans only need the speed when the system is getting warm. Now that said I do like the compromise that Thermaltake has done with the Chaser and Level 10 GT. When I am not gaming I reach down and the system is instantly in near silent operation. As I get ready to game I reach down and move the fans to high to ensure the best cooling, easy to do and access. By the way even on high these fans are not even close to what you would call loud.
Still on the fans the controller that allows the two fans to have their LEDs and speeds controlled together does not have any openings for additional fans so this means that even if you get the same fans as are used stock for your optional fans, they cannot be added to the controller. While I understand the reason for this this, barely, I think Thermaltake missed a serious opportunity here to raise the bar. I mean seriously how cool would it be to be able to order two 200 mm fans from Thermaltake and then plug them into the controller to give this case it’s max air flow and the look and speeds stay consistent.
The construction quality of the case is outstanding and the design well thought out for someone that likes to tinker in their PC. The CPU cooler back plate opening is HUGE and makes it easy to swap out coolers. The case has excellent cable management options and the nice little extras like grommeting is well done. Building in this case was a painless and fun operation.
On the topic of building, this is one of those cases that you build as much for looks as for performance. Yeah I know I am just silly like that. With that in mind this case is a near perfect fit for any of Gigabytes middle range motherboards. Their light blue coloring is a great match to the blue highlights. Add this to the blue LEDs and you can actually make that baby blue I have commented on hating so much look good.
Priced at around $160 this calls falls into the upper levels of what we would dub a performance product. As a full tower case it is not meant for travel of LAN parties, the case is large and heavy when fully loaded. I actually say two different reviews of this case online that said it was meant for LAN parties, I guess the reviews are built like Arnold. The full tower in my option is a stay at home build my monster PC case and this case fits that bill. While it’s aggressive looks may not be acceptable in the living room, they would be awesome for the geek room or man cave if these are the looks you like in your PC case.
Feature packed, excellent build quality, great stocking cooling with cooling potential the goes to amazing, aggressive styling and great cable management, what more can you for out of a case? The Chaser Mk I is chasing nobody, it is leading the pack for great computer cases.
If you would like to see more pictures of our look at the Chaser Mk I case visit our Facebook page for the Computer Ed Radio Show and check out the Chaser Mk I Album.
Review as aired live 21 August 2011
Digital Doug (Doug Berner) takes the Black Element mouse from Thermaltake for a test spin.
Thermaltake has been busy of late in their efforts to get their Tt eSports line into the mainstream and as we have seen in previous reviews they have delivered some excellent products. So when they asked us to take a look at the Black Element mouse, I practically begged Ed to let me have it. I’ve the Tt eSports Black Element mouse this month, the second Tt eSports gaming mouse I’ve had the chance to review this year, so I had some idea what to expect. But will it live up to those expectations?
The product as with other items from this lineup comes well boxed and upon opening the boxes I found that the mouse wrapped in plastic. The cable is reinforced and made for serious use is also is of generous length of. As with previous Tt eSports products I have seen there is a soft black carrying case for transport and storage. Remember that this line of products pays special consideration to those that travel to game for events like LAN parties and competitions.
The Black Element has that great mat black finished that I was so fond of in the other original Black mouse that I reviewed a few months ago. A generously sized button area gives the user a wide range of grip possibilities without fear of missing a button and the action is positive weather clicking on the middle or the extreme edges. The Black Element has the same great heft to it that the original Black did and an aggressively notched scroll wheel also acts as a middle button. On first appearance the big difference here seems to be in styling. Where the original Black Mouse is very large and wide at the back, the Black Element starts wide at the front and narrows considerably toward the back.
The Black Element hooks up via that reinforced heavy cable which also includes a Velcro tab to secure the cable when its being stored in its transport bag. The top surface has a great rubberized feel to it giving positive grip regardless of playing conditions. The wheel, Tt logo, and back flanks are back lit in red matching the other Tt eSports item very well. The left side sports three thumb buttons the stock uses of which are a “forward” “back” and middle macro functions.
The included software allows the user to among other things reassign these three buttons to other functions that fit their needs better. In fact the software allows all the buttons on the mouse to be reconfigured to whatever you may want them to be. This same software allows five different profiles to be saved for the mouse so it can switch in a blink between custom setting for various game or character profiles or work and office applications each with its own custom button settings. This is handy not only for one person to switch between these rolls but if as sometimes happens more than one person uses your PC each can have their own custom profile when they sit down to use this mouse.
The Black Element mouse offers quiet solid performance. As expected the rubberized texture and large button areas allow for a wide range of finger placements and dependable performance regardless of where you click. Top buttons allow on the fly resolution adjustment from 800 to 6500 DPI which is enough to make anyone happy. The weight of the Black Element is adjustable with the addition or removal of several 4.5g weights.
Operation of the Black Element is superb and in over a month of use I’ve had not a single performance complaint. No missed or double clicks, no sticking buttons no problems at all weather used for office applications or heavy gaming.
One very nice surprise when I got into the software was the ability to change the color of the internal lighting to any of five different colors. This means no hesitancy about the color of your mouse matching the color of your keyboard or case lights. I know it sounds picky but I like to keep mine all the same. Colors offered are red, light blue, dark blue, green, and even purple.
- Nice heft, rubberized texture and generous button size make this mouse a dream to use.
- Flawless dependability and rugged construction promise years of use.
- Programmable buttons, on the fly resolution adjustments and five lighting options give you a great level of customization.
- The only drawback that I found with this mouse is the one that will make me go back to my previous mouse. The back is too narrow and small for my grip.
This is not really a Con so much as a personal preference, I have large hands and use a palm grip for my mouse control. The Black Element seems designed with medium to smaller hands in mind. If you have large hands like I do, you may want to consider the original Black mouse for comfort reasons. For medium sized hands the Black Element is likely to be a great fit. The way you grip the mouse could effect this as well.
In the end I put this mouse down only for its size which was just not comfortable for me in long sessions of more than an hour.
I began this review with high expectations and the Black Element did not disappoint. Its performance and features are right in line with the other excellent products I have seen coming from the Tt esports lineup. If you are looking for a mouse that offers great looks, will stand up to heavy use and offer the customization you want for multiple rolls, I strongly suggest taking a look at the TT esports Black Element, you will be glad you did.
Review as aired live 21 August 2011
Those that have followed my show know that I think SSDs are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Oh sure there is some other neat technology out there but none of it compares with the SSD in their ability to change the way the computing experience feels. Until the move the SATA III there was little real world difference between the various models of SSDs. Oh there where differences in various benchmarks to be sure but in day to day usage you where hard pressed to notice any difference for most people. Enter our first look at an SATA III drive and that changes, with a noticeable feel in the performance boost it gave over SATA II drives. I ran a few benchmarks at the time and saw the burst speeds drastically increased by nearly 2 times and pretty much left things there. So when Corsair sent us a Force GT drive to check out I expected the performance to be similar to my experience with the previous generations. The SATA II drives would all feel about the same, I was wrong.
First let me say it is nice to have Corsair joining us again, it has been a while since we have had any review samples from them and so I am excited about getting a chance to explore some of their products.
The Force GT is Corsairs high end SSD lineup, they actually offer 2 different SATA III models. The lower priced model is the Force 3 which is going for about $185 and the Force GT is going for around $230 on Newegg, both of these are 120 gig models. There is a small performance difference listed but looking at the raw specs on Newegg they seem similar. The drive comes with the features you expect now on an SSD like Trim and includes a bracket to allow the drive to mount in a standard 3.5” HD space.
As I said I expected similar performance to what I had seen with my first look at an SATA III drive so I began installing the OS to do some rough testing. I noticed immediately that this drive was a little quicker than the drive I had tested earlier. Now the difference was not earth shattering but it was noticeable and this was completely unexpected.
I finished the installed and began using the system some to get a feel for it, attributing my earlier impression to just this being a new drive but over the course of two days there was a noticeable performance boost, again let me stress this was not huge but it was big enough to notice without benchmarks. I put the older drive into the system again and confirmed my impressions, so I turned to some benchmarking software.
My initial testing showed a speed boost from the Force GT but not enough to account for what my sense and experiences where telling me. That was when fate stepped in and I stumbled over a great article at HardOCP. This article discussed how the less expensive models of the SATA II drives where using Asynchronous memory while the higher end models where using Synchronous memory. Now I will let the article at HardOCP give the details of what this means, in simple terms it means that the higher end drives had a lot more potential bandwidth in the memory. Armed with the information from the article I went back with some new tests and tried again and sure enough the Force GT showed a solid performance advantage over the other drive.
Now in fairness Corsair uses Asynchronous memory as well in their Force 3 drive so this was not something done to cut costs, this is actually pretty standard fair for the new SATA III drives.
What does this mean for consumers? Well it boils down to what you want and how much you want to spend. The first question is do you have a motherboard that will properly support SATA III speeds? If not then I would say you are better off saving a few bucks and buying into an SATA II based drive. They should fall in pricing a bit and will still give a huge boost over a standard ATA drive. However if you do have full SATA III capabilities then I would get an SATA III drive. If your budget is tight, getting the Asynchronous memory models will give you solid performance but I would personally spend the extra and do it right from the start.
I have now been using the Corsair Force GT for almost a week and can say that it is fastest drive I have ever used. Everything about the computer snaps and the system has been super stable with no errors or crashes. The items included are pretty much plain jane, standard fare for an SSD. The red coloring is kind of neat and everyone knows red makes things faster.
Corsair is one of the leaders in the industry when it comes to memory so their SSD’s are a safe bet as one of the best as well. Over the years the customer service from Corsair has been outstanding the FEW times I have needed them and so I am confident on any support the drive might need being of the same caliber.
While many will say the 120 Gig size is too small I will differ, a 120 Gig SSD is the sweet spot right now. It is large enough for an OS install and quite a few apps or games. This is critical because the way to get the most from an SSD is to use it where it will help the most and that is in app loading. Right now I have a full Windows 7 Ultimate Install, Office 2010, Quicken, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and a 3rd MMO that I am testing and cannot name. Add to this my Blues music of choice, a little over 11 hours of blues, about 2 gigs of picture files and a couple of videos. With all of this I still have over 40 gig of free space. So with some solid capacity possibilities plus a middle of the road pricing, when compared to larger drives, the 120 gig is in my opinion the sweet spot.
So what do we have here then? We have a FAST drive that delivers a solid capacity at a price that is dead center of the price range for SATA III 120 Gig SSDs. The drive is backed by Corsair’s quality and support and has shown itself to be stable, rock solid. What more can we ask for? Oh wait it’s RED!
The Force GT should be at the top of your list when looking at SATA III ready SSDs!
Review segment as aired live 14 AUG 2011
Malware protection on your PC is not something we get excited about. It is not flashy, sexy or anything that makes us thrilled about our PC. However it is something we all need and is vital to ensuring a good computing experience. In the early days the software we used to protect our PC was reactive, that means it would detect a virus in a file and then remove it. The reason for this however was easy to understand because back in the DOS days we could not run protection software in the background. Today when you look at the protection software it has begun to move toward a more proactive approach of prevention but is still tied heavily to it’s cleaning after the fact roots. Which is why so many of the test methods used today to review protection software involves scanning an area with known infections in it.
Lets face it though, once your PC realizes it has an infection it is to late, the damage has been done. Most of todays attacks block off our protection software once they inside and make cleaning the PC a difficult task. It is just a better idea to stop the malware before it gets in, and that is the philosophy at Comodo.
The folks at Comodo were kind enough to supply us with a copy of their full commercial package for testing, Comodo Internet Security Pro. The package comes with what you might expect in a protection package; anti-malware and firewall and it stops. None of the extras we used to see like parental controls, anti-spam and various other utility programs. This is a good thing and anyone that has listen to this show over the years will know my position on this. Most of this was package fluff that was not needed, I mean web based email does not work with anti-spam software on your PC and the best and most effective parental control is parenting. What it does offer for the money however is 24/7 tech support. This is actually better than I have seen from other companies in this regard, they system they used is called the Geek Buddy. By clicking an icon on your desktop you are connected to a live person, when I used this my “hold” time was under 2 minutes. The tech at the other end does not just help you with chat but will, with your permission, take remote control and solve the issue for you. Also, this is not limited to JUST the protection software, this support will also help with basic computer issues.
Playing the role of the computer novice I put this to the test a few times and was very impressed with the professional manner these techs jumped in and offered help. I created a few of the more common basic issues I get called on and the techs where able to get to them each time.
The protection software also comes with ID Theft protection, now not just a claim of protection but Comodo is backing it with a $15,000 coverage policy. When a company is willing to risk it’s money to cover what it says then you can usually bet that it will do a decent job. Lets not stop putting money where their mouth is just yet however. Comodo also offers in this package a $500 guarantee against infection of your PC. The warrantee for this pretty straight forward, you install the security package on your PC and allow it to do a full system scan, verifying your system is clean. The system then lets Comodo know this as you register and your protection is now online. If you think you have an infection then you contact Comodo and see if their techs can remove the issue. If they cannot then Comodo will pay up to $500 for a local tech to deal with the problem.
That’s a lot of money they are willing to part with in their claim of offering great protection with your PC, can their wallet support their claims, lets find out.
We began our testing in the traditional manner, we grabbed the Drive of Doom. The Drive of Doom is a HD I ran across a couple of years ago that was one of the worst infected HDs I had ever seen. Malware, old school virus, you name it, it was there. So I made a clone of this crappy drive and have since used it to see how various malware packages work. We hook up the drive to a system with the protection software installed and fully updated and let fly.
The screen shot shows the free ware version of Comodo running a scan of my C drive.
For this stage I used 4 different protection programs, AVG (free trial of their commercial package), Security Essentials (our current champ and software of choice), Comodo Free and Comodo Internet Security Pro. All 4 packages did well in our testing, however at the end of the day Comodo was not on top in this test. It did a great job but Security Essentials did a better job of cleaning the dirty drive than the others with the highest number of detections. Comodo did however make a solid showing coming in second, with the free and commercial version delivering the same results, coming in last was AVG.
However as I stated earlier this was an old school cleaning test and that is not where Comodo claimed it’s strength is. Comodo is claiming that once on a clean PC they will prevent infection and keep it clean, lets find out.
Using Acronis True Image I built a clone of a clean windows install and installed each of the packages. I let them update fully and then conduct a full scan of the drive to ensure it was clean. Now for the fun, after some research I was able to find 10 confirmed sites that would infect a PC with some form of rogue AV, or extortionware, the most common threat to users today. Armed with this knowledge went to these sites and tried to infect my PC. Of the 10 sites Security Essentials was able to stop 4, AVG stopped nothing and Comodo stopped all 10. I am not kidding when I say I was blown away. I expected maybe 8 but in no way was I prepared to see a perfect score on this test. What was even wilder is that the commercial and free package scored the same!
A look deeper shows how they are achieving this. Comodo is during install, with your permissions, changing your computers DNS server access to their own protected DNS server. This is not a child safe filter server like Open DNS but rather a malware filter server that blocks the IP address access for known malware hosting locations. This is a very simple and super effective method. I did a little cheat and used their DNS numbers and then fired up Security Essentials, it jumped to 7 stops using the protected server. The other method that Comodo uses is called Sandboxing. The technology they use for this is actually patented and seems very effective.
The way this works is when a program is run Comodo will look to see if it is a program is recognizes as safe. If it is the program runs and all is well. If Comodo does not know the program then the sandbox kicks in, the program is run in a virtual protected environment. The sandbox limits the programs access to various areas within the core of the OS and thus stops malware from doing the damage it would normally do.
Now while this is a great protection method it does leave me with some concerns about there being a performance hit. I spoke with the folks at Comodo and they explained their method allows the program direct CPU access and thus does not give much if any performance hit when an app runs in sandbox mode. So armed with this knowledge I decided to put this to the test. I have access to a computer game that the general public has not seen and that Comodo did not recognize and likely won’t until the game is released. Due to various NDAs I am not allowed to name this game or discuss it until it has released.
I began testing by getting a baseline number using our current champion, Security Essentials. I fired up the game and played for about an hour, during that time monitoring the frame rates of the game and paying attention to details of the games play speed. Next I fired up Comodo Internet Security Pro and began to play just as before, same areas and same missions. The results where a frame rate difference of 1 to 2 FPS and no noticeable difference in game play. I fired up Comodo Free and the results where the same. While Comodo was 1 to 2 FPS slower in sandbox mode in normal mode the speed as no different than Security Essentials. 1 to 2 FPS is not bad when you realize the game was averaging around 80 FPS.
Comodo does offer a Game Mode that can be turned on if needed to reduce the load on the system. However comparisons in performance between using Game Mode and not resulted in only very minor differences, not enough to bother reporting. I was concerned that these results might have been due to the horsepower my system brings to bear, so I tested on my daughters machine using an A8 processor and a 6670 video crossfired with the integrated. The results in terms of percentage difference where nearly identical, in other words the games we threw at it ran just fine without Game Mode. Now obviously there will likely be games or hardware configurations where this might vary so it is nice to know you have a way to tone things down to let your games run better if needed.
At the end of the day I have to say I am really impressed with what Comodo delivered. It does what it promises and offers a strong system to protection your PC from being infected. As a cleaner is is about middle of the road but if you are starting with a clean PC, and you really should, then Comodo is the strongest solution I have seen for keeping it clean.
What impressed me the most however was the way the free version ran right with the commercial version. You do not sacrifice any level of protection by going with the free version which according to Comodo uses the same protection engine, protected DNS and shares all updates at the same time. This is really nice as some free options tend to run an older engine or get slower updates. Not at Comodo the protection is the same. The advantage of the commercial option comes in features and support. 24/7 live support, anti-infection guarantees, ID theft protection backed with a cash payout, all of these add up to a company that is confident about the quality of their product.
At $49 Comodo Internet Security Pro is a great product for those wanting an extra level of peace of mind by knowing they have active support. For $69 Comodo takes that feature set and adds special wifi and hard line encryption for when you access remote hotspots as well as 10 gigs of online backup for your data in their Internet Security Complete. Be aware that the monetary guarantees have some restrictions on them, such as the three PCs must be on the same LAN and the ID Theft Protection is only for a single person. However overall these are great deals.
Now if you are strapped for cash there is a solid alternative, Comodo Free Antivirus. It uses the same security engine and has the same secure DNS server feature. You do lose the live support and the guarantees as well as some of the extras but you also get solid preventative protection. In fact the protection is so solid that Comodo Free Antivirus is going to be replacing Security Essentials as my free protection choice.
With a great free protection package and some competitively prices commercial offers that build on the great protection with a useful feature set, Comodo is placed as a premier choice for protection your PC in my opinion. I cannot suggest strongly enough that this product be one of the first things you put on a new PC to ensure that your clean install stays clean.
Segment Aired Live 7 August 2011