Battle of the Water Cooling Kits



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
Swiftech H20-220 Apex Ultra
Thermaltake Big Water 745
XSPC X20 Dual Xtreme

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.

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

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

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.

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

- 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.

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

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

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.

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

- 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.
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Most Recent Comments

26-06-2006, 09:55:03

well done mate, time well spent! awesome review

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

26-06-2006, 10:11:16

Nice review mate. I read it before posting Quote

26-06-2006, 10:17:56

lol, cheers guys.Quote

26-06-2006, 12:37:05

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


26-06-2006, 13:47:12

must say the thermaltake didnt manage well.

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

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