Battle of the Water Cooling Kits

Conclusion

Conclusion

All kits have their strengths and weaknesses making them more appealing to different audiences. For example, if you want a high performance kit with a low price tag and don't mind a little bit of noise, the XSPC kit is a clear winner. However, if you are looking for the best performance kit money can buy, then Alphacool is the one to go for. Swiftech have also put together a great performance kit that can be run silently and will fit almost any case.

With very similar results between most of the kits, its been very hard choosing the awards and score that each kit should receive. In the end, the only factors that I could take into consideration to separate these kits was price, features and noise.

The prices at time of review, and retailers selling these kits can be seen in the table below.

KitPrice (GBP)
Purchase At
Alphacool Xtreme Pro 240
£135.95
Specialtech
Swiftech H20-220 Apex Ultra
£151.58
Tekheads
Thermaltake Big Water 745
£74.27
Specialtech
XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme
£114.99
WaterCoolingShop


Alphacool Xtreme Pro 240

Being the 2nd most expensive kit in our tests, the Alphacool Xtreme did not disappoint. Coming complete with some of the most highly regarded water cooling components available, the Xtreme Pro 240 managed come out top in both our idle and load temperature tests. In addition to this, the Xtreme Pro 240 is a good choice for people who enjoy silence. The High CFM/Low dBA fans are a great match for the radiator, and can be run at any speed by plugging them directly into your motherboards fan headers.

The only thing that prevented me from giving the Xtreme Pro 240 'Editors Choice' award, is that the mounting hardware included with the Alphacool kit would require most users to perform modifications on their cases to fit the radiator internally. Had Alphacool have included similar mounting hardware to that of Swiftech or XSPC the Xtreme Pro 240 kit would have undoubtedly received 10/10.

Pro's
+ Highly polished water block
+ High performance, good looking pump
+ Quiet pump & fans
+ Well packaged
+ Compact radiator
+ Coolant for filling entire system provided

Con's
- Limited mounting options
- Pump not pre-assembled
- Ugly water block mounting hardware

Recommended
Score 9


Swiftech H20-220 Apex Ultra

Managing to keep up with the Alphacool Xtreme kit when placed under load, the Swiftech H20-220 Apex Ultra kit is a great choice for those of us with limited radiator install options. Coming with everything required to install the radiator over a 120mm fan hole on the outside of your case, Swiftech have ensured that all of the components included in the kit are easy to install in mid sized cases.

Including components such as the D5 pump, Delta fans and Apogee water block have bumped up the price of this kit, making it the most expensive in our tests. However, despite the small size of the package, Swiftech have managed to cram in a good range of accessories which make it worth the money.

Pro's
+ High performance pump
+ Well respected water block
+ Cables for stepping down fan voltage
+ Radiator mounting kit
+ Compact reservoir

Con's
- Fans noisy when run at 12v
- Most expensive in tests
- Manual quality could be improved

Editors Choice
Score 9


Thermaltake Big Water 745

Coming in at £74, the Big Water 745 is the cheapest kit in our tests by a good margin. I was surprised by the features that Thermaltake managed to include for this budget price, but was unfortunately disappointed with the overall build quality.

The kit could not compete with the rest of the kits in this review, but this was somewhat expected as many of the other kits used top end water-cooling components.

The Big Water certainly would have produced better results if the additional 120mm radiator had been included, which is definitely something to take into consideration before dismissing this kit as a possible purchase.

Personally I was quite worried about the lack of fixings between the pump and reservoir, which during transit of your PC could easily come apart and spill water into your case.

Pro's
+ UV Tubing
+ 2 Radiators
+ Well packaged
+ Coolant for filling entire system
+ Fan speed controller PCI bracket
+ Stand for mounting dual 120mm radiator

Con's
- Base of water block dull and scratched
- Potential leakage issue between pump and reservoir
- Radiator barb kinked
- Pump noisy compared to others

Reviewed
Score 6


XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme

Being one of the cheaper kits in our review I was expecting the XSPC Dual Xtreme kit to have somewhat mediocre performance. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the kit exceeded my expectations and managed to keep up with the more expensive offerings from Alphacool and Swiftech. Beaten out by only 1°c in testing, I believe that the XSPC X20 could have closed this gap had the passive reservoir been used.

It is also worth noting that a Dual Xtreme kit without the passive reservoir will soon be available for a bargain £90.

Pro's
+ Excellent performance
+ External mounting hardware for radiator
+ Mounting hardware for reservoir
+ Quiet pump
+ Well packaged
+ Full colour manual
+ Silicone fan gaskets for vibration dampening

Con's
- Fans slightly noisy
- Radiator largest in tests
- Pump not the best looking
- Fans would be better as 3-pin (for use with fan controllers)

Recommended Value Award
Score 9



A big thanks to Alphacool, Swiftech, Thermaltake & XSPC for providing their kits for review.

Feel free to discuss this review in our forums.
«Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next»

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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