Battle of the Water Cooling Kits

Testing

Temperature Testing

By far the hardest part of this review was setting up each and every water cooling system, hooking it up to our test PC and taking temperature readouts of the CPU at idle and under load.

In order to make the testing procedure fair for all companies taking part in this review, we have removed certain components from some of the kits that may have affected thermal performance. The components removed were as follows:

- XSPC Aluminium Passive Reservoir
- Thermaltake Single 120mm Radiator

Water blocks were mounted a total of 3 times to ensure that they were seated correctly, and an average temperature was calculated from all 3 readings. None of the manufacturer's thermal grease or coolant was used. In order to keep the results fair, Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound was used along with plain de-ionised water.

All temperatures were taken from the motherboard's onboard diode using windows based software, which will give us comparable results. Load temperatures were taken after 30 minutes of Prime95 at a room temperature of 26ºC.

System Specification

AMD Opteron 146 @ 3.0ghz (1.6v vcore)
DFI NF4 SLI-D
G.Skill FF PC4800 @ 300mhz
XFX 6600 GT PCI-E
Silverstone Zeus 560w PSU
Windows XP SP2

Test Setup Test Setup

And now for the results....

CPU Idle Temps

At idle, the Alphacool Xtreme kit managed to snatch 1st place by beating out all of the other kits with a 3-7°C margin. The Swiftech and XSPC kits battled it out for 2nd place with the Swiftech just managing to grab silver with a 1°C advantage over the XSPC. Trailing behind the pack was the Thermaltake Big Water which may have well faired better with second radiator connected.

CPU Load Temps

Under load not much changed. The Alphacool and Swiftech kits yet again battling it out for 1st place, and both producing a very respectable result of 38°c. Showing that it can keep up with the big boys, and only missing out on the crown position by a mere 1ºC is the XSPC X20 Xtreme kit. Hitting temperatures in the mid 40's was the Thermaltake Big Water kit, which just couldn't keep up with the high performance water blocks and radiators of the other kits.


Noise Testing

Unfortunately Overclock3D does not have the equipment for reliably producing figures on the dBA output of these kits, so instead I will write a brief paragraph about my opinion on the noise output of each kit.

The Alphacool was the first in the test, and I was thoroughly impressed with the quietness of the included pump. Once the bubbles had worked their way out of the loop, the pump was so silent that I needed to put my ear to it to make sure it was still operational! The fans did not disappoint either, remaining very silent I was hardly able to hear these over the noise from my northbridge fan. It is also worth noting that despite the fans not having any kind of voltage control, they can be plugged into your motherboard's fan headers and controlled using software provided with most motherboards.

The Swiftech kit wasn't quite as impressive as the Alphacool, with the pump being slightly auidble at around 1 metre away. This however was overshadowed by the noise from the fans. Running at 12v the Delta's are certainly not ideal if you're looking for a quiet PC, however with the fan speed reduced to 7v by using the included adapters the noise levels were on par with the Alphacool fans.

Thermaltake appear to have concentrated all their efforts on making the fan noise low by including an adjustable fan speed controller. This is ideal for those of us (like me), who need their PC to be quiet while they are concentrating (like writing an article), but also need high performance when gaming. The pump on the other hand is a different story. Producing a rather annoying hum and occasionally vibrating on the surface of my desk, it certainly could have done with some kind of vibration dampening fixings.

The pump on the XSPC kit was quite a different story from the Thermaltake. Running very quiet at the required 12v, I'd personally place the pumps noise output between that of the Alphacool and the Swiftech. Unfortunately XSPC have not included any way to reduce the speed of the included XinRuiLian fans. Had they have been 3-Pin and not 4-Pin, they could have been controlled using the motherboard's fan headers. This means that the XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme kit may not be suitable for those of us seeking a quiet water-cooling system.
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Most Recent Comments

26-06-2006, 09:51:50

JN
Today (and for the past 2 weeks) i look at water cooling kits from Alphacool, Swiftech, Thermaltake and XSPC to find out just what water cooling kit is worth splashing out your hard earned cash on.

Review Here

26-06-2006, 09:55:03

llwyd
well done mate, time well spent! awesome review

(as you can tell by the time stamp im still in the middle of reading it)

26-06-2006, 10:11:16

FarFarAway
Nice review mate. I read it before posting

26-06-2006, 10:17:56

JN
lol, cheers guys.

26-06-2006, 12:37:05

NickS
Awesome review man, I really enjoyed it. Some of those kit's really kicked butt!

Nick

26-06-2006, 13:47:12

Raven
must say the thermaltake didnt manage well.

45celsius at load is higher than i get on air :/

26-06-2006, 13:50:23

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raven
must say the thermaltake didnt manage well.

45celsius at load is higher than i get on air :/
Yeah it wasn't too great. I'm wondering if it was down to that kink in the radiator pipe that was causing greatly restricted flow..

26-06-2006, 14:15:39

FragTek
can't wait to read the review when I get home, looks great!

26-06-2006, 14:55:14

Raven
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='XMS'
I'm wondering if it was down to that kink in the radiator pipe that was causing greatly restricted flow..
possibly, if you still have the radiators you could do a flow test and se how much time is needed for 1L water to flow through.

27-06-2006, 05:33:29

PV5150
An excellent and comprehensive review as usual XMS. How good is the finish on the NexXxos?

27-06-2006, 05:38:51

JN
Thx PV - and ye, that block was like a mirror.

27-06-2006, 06:44:11

FragTek
Finally got a chance to read throgh the whole review, looks good mate! There were some decent looking kits there. Seems the TT kit had some major faults though but I suppose that's to be expected from a TT water kit.

I definately think that the Swiftech kit has the most potential... Replace the tubing with some larger diamater stuff and you could see a great deal more performance mefinks.

Nice one mate.

27-06-2006, 07:25:42

JN
Agreed Frag. I've pretty much got the same kit as the swiftech one but with 1/2" tubing. My temps are about 1-2oc lower on average.

27-06-2006, 10:13:49

Ham
Another fantastic job XMS. Looking at those temps tho, its it all really worth it me wonders. My Evo keeps my 3500 @ 30idle ~37load. And thats not 90nm.

27-06-2006, 10:30:26

JN
Yeah, the only thing you need to take into consideration when comparing it tho is the vcore used and room temp. These were taken with 1.6v cvcore and room temp of 26oc.

27-06-2006, 10:33:41

FarFarAway
Ye twas a hot one last week

27-06-2006, 10:35:27

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='Kempez'
Ye twas a hot one last week
For sure. At one point in the tests i was seriously considering tipping all of that deionised water over my head

23-07-2006, 17:25:03

browney
For Alphacool Complete Retail Universal Kit (All CPUS/Chipsets/VGA/Rad/12v Pump/Cables/Tubes/Coolant)

1.Doesn any one know if there are chipset problems with the DFI LanParty UT NF4 SLI-D

2.Any problems with the VGA and a ATi X1800XT?

23-07-2006, 18:09:18

Futures Truth
Nice review! Couldn't of come a better time. I'm researching water cooling, and it's a big help to me! Thanks! Awesome reviews, I read it all before posting =]

23-07-2006, 18:09:46

FarFarAway
Quote:
Originally Posted by browney
For Alphacool Complete Retail Universal Kit (All CPUS/Chipsets/VGA/Rad/12v Pump/Cables/Tubes/Coolant)

1.Doesn any one know if there are chipset problems with the DFI LanParty UT NF4 SLI-D

2.Any problems with the VGA and a ATi X1800XT?
Unsure of exactly what you mean mate

The kit we reviewed did not have either of those components in it.

23-07-2006, 18:13:54

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='Futures Truth'
Nice review! Couldn't of come a better time. I'm researching water cooling, and it's a big help to me! Thanks! Awesome reviews, I read it all before posting =]
Glad it was of use Futures

Have you decided on what one to go for?

24-07-2006, 06:12:01

browney
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kempez
Unsure of exactly what you mean mate

The kit we reviewed did not have either of those components in it.
Well will the chipset w/c block fit? since my X1800XT is very close to the chipset fan

www.browneyonline.co.uk/browney/pictures/computer/wcfit/

24-07-2006, 06:17:11

JN
I'm highly doubtful that the NB blocks included with the kits will fit the SLI-D. You'll most likely need to purchase a seperate NB block.

As for the GPU block, i'd check the manufacturers site for compatability.

24-07-2006, 06:23:36

browney
Yer thats what i though Grrr

Not very clued up on w/c

p.s nice forum people you have here

24-07-2006, 06:27:24

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by browney
Yer thats what i though Grrr

Not very clued up on w/c

p.s nice forum people you have here
TBH, unless you're going for a totally silent system i'd give NB cooling a miss. It only really helps at very high FSB's imo.

And thanks

24-07-2006, 06:33:19

browney
Quote:
Originally Posted by XMS
TBH, unless you're going for a totally silent system i'd give NB cooling a miss. It only really helps at very high FSB's imo.

And thanks
Oh right so what one would you recomend?

Damn i was pricing things up

24-07-2006, 06:39:27

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by browney
Oh right so what one would you recomend?

Damn i was pricing things up
It all depends on what you're looking for really:

Price+Performance = XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme

Performance+Easy Install = Swiftech H20-220

Performance+Quiet = Alphacool Xtreme Pro 240

And if you want GPU cooling, i'd probably buy the GPU block seperately from HERE

EDIT: Also remember that 2 of these kits (the Swiftech and Alphacool) are available from Specialtech.co.uk with the OC3D 10% discount code

24-07-2006, 06:47:05

browney
Quote:
Originally Posted by XMS
It all depends on what you're looking for really:

Price+Performance = XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme

Performance+Easy Install = Swiftech H20-220

Performance+Quiet = Alphacool Xtreme Pro 240

And if you want GPU cooling, i'd probably buy the GPU block seperately from HERE
Thanks it looks like it would be

1x EK-NF4 rev1.1

1 x EK-FCX1800 X1800/X1900

1 x XSPC X2O Dual Xtreme WaterCooling Kit

£169.96 incl post

24-07-2006, 06:55:01

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by browney
Thanks it looks like it would be

1x EK-NF4 rev1.1

1 x EK-FCX1800 X1800/X1900

1 x XSPC X2O Dual Xtreme WaterCooling Kit

£169.96 incl post
Ye, thats not a bad price at all for a full kit including NB & GPU water blocks. Just make sure you get the right size barbs for those extra blocks when ordering

24-07-2006, 06:58:43

browney
Are those like splitters?

EDIT. Are those to connect the hose to the waterblocks?

Sorry if i sounds dumb its just i have never done O/C before

24-07-2006, 07:10:14

JN
The barbs are what allows you to connect the tubing to the blocks.

After taking a closer look at the EK blocks i directed you to, they only come with 1/2" barbs. The XSPC X20 kits come with 10/8mm tubing, so they wont be compatable without purchasing some new barbs.

Your best bet would be to contact watercoolingshop, and ask them if they have any 10/8mm barbs that are compatable with the EK water blocks. New barbs will probably add an extra £5 or so to your order.

24-07-2006, 07:22:08

browney
Contacted www.watercoolingshop.com Iíll give an update once I get a reply

Thanks

24-07-2006, 07:47:11

browney
Hi Steven,

The EK waterblocks use a G1/4" thread so you can easily replace the fittings with 10/8mm compression fittings.

You need the product below. (2 for each block)

http://www.watercoolingshop.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=49_55&products_id=147

Regards, Paul

WaterCoolingShop.com

Sound right?

24-07-2006, 07:49:18

JN
Yep, Paul knows his stuff when it comes to water cooling

24-07-2006, 07:51:08

browney
Just got to save now then :P

24-07-2006, 07:51:59

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='browney'
Just got to save now then :P
hehe yup, money always helps

24-07-2006, 08:05:41

browney
Ek got back to me about the chipset wb



Hi!

Should work with no problam at all!

Best, Eddy

24-07-2006, 08:53:41

JN
Good stuff - i also forgot tot plug the fact that we'll be reviewing one of the EK GPU blocks shortly - so keep an eye out

24-07-2006, 17:26:20

WC Annihilus
Tight. Eddy is supposed to be a real nice guy and his blocks perform quite well

24-07-2006, 17:31:16

Futures Truth
Quote:
Originally Posted by XMS
Glad it was of use Futures

Have you decided on what one to go for?
Most likely the Alphacool Xtreme Pro, unless I decide on having NoL build a phase change unit for me.

09-08-2006, 12:44:21

PapaLaz
Hi all, first post here so go easy

Just wanted to thank you for this review. I've been doing the hardware side of PCs for ages, and am just about to venture into watercooling my rig. After reading this review (linked from the watercoolingshop.com site) I decided to go for the XSPC X2O kit, looks excellent value for money.

Also ordered the X2O VGA block to go on my X1900XTX (already has ramsinks from the Zalman VF900), and an extra CPU extension ring (theres tons of passive sinks on this BadAxe, and was worried that the CPU block wouldn't fit).

I'd like to get it installed internally in my Akasa Eclipse, but not sure yet if it'll be possible - don't think it'll fit even if I rip most of the drive bays out. Will probably have to get a hole cut in the roof, but am cack at anything like that, and terrified of bodging up the case

Anyway, thanks for the great review (and top forums !!) - I'll get some posts/pics up when it's all done. Any advice would be VERY welcome too.

PapaLaz

09-08-2006, 12:47:33

Ham
If your really worried you could send off you case to kustoms?

09-08-2006, 14:09:34

JN
Hi Papalaz,

I'm glad you liked the review, and thanks for swinging by the forums.

Did you decide to go for the XSPC Dual Xtreme kit? If so, you have a few options....

1. Send the case to kustompcs.co.uk and have them cut 2x120mm holes in the top of your case as Ham rightly said.

2. Mount the radiator on the back of your case using the included mounting brackets.

3. Mount the radiator on top of your PC (in a koolance fashion) using the included mounting brackets.

Feel free to ask any further questions

09-08-2006, 14:31:09

PapaLaz
Yes, it was the Dual Xtreme kit I went for.

Long term I think I'll look at getting the holes cut into the top (and possibly get Kustom to do it - thx). All the kits arriving tomorrow, and as I'm sooo impatient I'll be setting it up right away.

Not sure if I fancy mounting it at the back of the case, on the 120mm mount, due to the jungle of cables that reside there, but I quite like the sound of having it external on the top. Wasn't aware the kit came with fixings for that - how does it mount exactly, you mentioned brackets, does it clamp across the top or something ?

The main reason I've decided to go water was for temps. My system is very quiet on air atm (120mm front & back, Scythe Ninja + 120mm, Zalman VF900 on the gfx), but I'd like the temps more stable. With the E6600 @ 3GHz-ish it idles@39-40 and loads@60-65. I can get the E6600 stable @ 3.6GHz, but I have to pump around 1.6v into it, and that gets me idle@48-50 load@65-75... waaay too warm.

Haven't been able to find any review of the XSPC VGA block, but it was stated for the x1800/1900 so should be fine. If I start enjoying the wc lark I might get one of the complete gpu/mem blocks, but thought i'd start out gradually

Thanks again for all the help/advice !!

09-08-2006, 14:37:16

Mullet
Welcome aboard bud...

I am going to be hacking lumps out of my eclipse 62 shortly....will post up some pics for you to digest to help you make the decision re. rad install. Personally for cleanest look I'm going for an internal fitting (in top of case)..will be using a PA120.2....and the thermochill grill will be used as a cutting template....

09-08-2006, 15:16:56

PapaLaz
Thx - that'd be excellent.

You think it's possible to get it all under the top, with just grills on the top, whilst leaving room for PSU (presume you'd have to forget the 1st 5.25 bay). Was thinking it would have to go half/half, with the rad under the case level, and the fans above... not a great explanation, but you get what I mean

Love the case, there's so much room for keeping all the cables tidy, and I'm sure i can get the pump etc tucked at the bottom to the right of the case.

My Mrs just said "whats the point in having it inside - dont you want the radiator outside to cool down the water".. maybe I should just get her to put it together for me

09-08-2006, 15:54:27

JN
Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaLaz

Not sure if I fancy mounting it at the back of the case, on the 120mm mount, due to the jungle of cables that reside there, but I quite like the sound of having it external on the top. Wasn't aware the kit came with fixings for that - how does it mount exactly, you mentioned brackets, does it clamp across the top or something ?

..

Haven't been able to find any review of the XSPC VGA block, but it was stated for the x1800/1900 so should be fine. If I start enjoying the wc lark I might get one of the complete gpu/mem blocks, but thought i'd start out gradually

Thanks again for all the help/advice !!
The radiator actually comes with 4 polished steel brackets. Normally these would be used for fitting the radiator over an 80mm fan hole, but i found them equally as effective for mounting the radiator on top of a case. They give the radiator around 5cm space from the case, so airflow is not a problem.

You'll see what i mean when you get the kit tomorrow

10-08-2006, 12:51:06

Mullet
Not sure what the thickness is on your rad but I know I will lose the use of 2.5 drive bays. The PA120.2 is 64mm thick...but pretty much pwns on the cooling front!! The thermochill grill provides a good template for cutting and looks nice too!!

http://www.thermochill.com/

10-08-2006, 12:58:51

PapaLaz
Well the kit arrived, and I'm one very unhappy bunny !!!

Everything inside was perfect, except this forgot to ship one vital ingredient - no tubing. I've sent a couple of emails through the contact page at watercoolingshop and also fired one off to Paul at XSPC (his addy was on the back of the manual)... sent them about 4.40pm, hoping someone would sort it out and get tubing in the post to me... still no replies.

More annoyed as I'd taken tomorrow off work to get it all built, after intending to assemble and leak test tonight. Shocking - how can you miss out such a vital piece.... No contact numbers for the store or XSPC so all I can do is send them mails.

Sorry, just venting, obviously I'm pretty gutted.

Also, FYI, the retail pack is shipping in the same brown box you recieved, and the manual is still based on the single 120mm rad.

Update - as I write this Paul has just emailed me to apologise, and he's gonna try and get some tubing in the post for me tonight. Fingers crossed.

Having now had a good look at the rad, I'm probably gonna mount it on the back 120mm for now - mounts look pretty sturdy. Will go inside eventually but think I'll leave the hacking to the pro's

10-08-2006, 13:43:56

JN
Hi Papalaz,

Thats a bit of a bummer. Paul is normally really quick at replying to e-mails. I imagine he was probably just rushed off his feet at the time.

It's a shame they havn't got the manual and packaging sorted yet, but if you need any help - just ask

Fingers crossed for the arrival of your tubing tomorrow

10-08-2006, 13:57:46

PapaLaz
I think to be fair to Paul, he said he'd just got home, so was probably travelling around 4.45 when I sent the mail. He's since mailed me back to say he had some tubing at home which he's got out in the last post for me, and will send the original stuff tomorrow. Fair play to him, that's a decent enough response - was just gutted when I got home "ready for work"

Not too bothered about the manual and packaging, looks simple enough to install. Only thing which will take some working out is the VGA block (I got the XSPC one to match the rest). Bundle of strange tiny washers to clamp in onto the supplied backplate... sure it'll all make sense once I whip the VF900 off, and if not I can polly use the nipples/clamps from the 900.

Overall though the kit looks awesome, really is a nice rad. Also the fans are now supplied with 3-pin connectors which is a real result - they're nice long cables too to get inside the PC (and can then go on my akasa fan controller).

Lol - last thing to slow me down will be the filler cap on the pump/res, think it was put on by Superman !!

Thanks again for the advice and offers of help... will probably make some posts late on tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing... as I'm putting the rad on the back, I was gonna build it all up, then leave it outside the case to leak test. Think I'll have to put long tubing on the rads, as that'll have to stay near the case, with the tubing going through the pci backplate. Yeah, only way to do it... sorry, thinking out loud

10-08-2006, 14:42:32

Mullet
Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaLaz
Well the kit arrived, and I'm one very unhappy bunny !!!

Everything inside was perfect, except this forgot to ship one vital ingredient - no tubing. I've sent a couple of emails through the contact page at watercoolingshop and also fired one off to Paul at XSPC (his addy was on the back of the manual)... sent them about 4.40pm, hoping someone would sort it out and get tubing in the post to me... still no replies.

More annoyed as I'd taken tomorrow off work to get it all built, after intending to assemble and leak test tonight. Shocking - how can you miss out such a vital piece.... No contact numbers for the store or XSPC so all I can do is send them mails.

Sorry, just venting, obviously I'm pretty gutted.

Also, FYI, the retail pack is shipping in the same brown box you recieved, and the manual is still based on the single 120mm rad.

Update - as I write this Paul has just emailed me to apologise, and he's gonna try and get some tubing in the post for me tonight. Fingers crossed.

Having now had a good look at the rad, I'm probably gonna mount it on the back 120mm for now - mounts look pretty sturdy. Will go inside eventually but think I'll leave the hacking to the pro's
Aye....my EK blocks arrived without barbs!! Not so worried tho...not Paul's fault....a balls up at EK's end of things...he has already responded and 6 shiny barbs are making their way to me.

PapaLaz.....what rad did u go for in the end? Here's a pic of another install done by someone I know on an eclipse 62 using the PA120.2

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f1...4copyLarge.jpg

Measurements are included......

Looks very nice IMO

16-11-2007, 07:09:59

tsinc80697
Just about to dabble inwot watercooling and a change of case. Been looking at the Antec P182 and the H20-220 Apex Ultra. Just been asking in another thread if they will fit together.

As this review is quite old, are there any newer kits out there that will out perform the Swiftech kit for around the same price?

Looking for performance/silence really but not at an silly price!
Reply
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