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  • geok1ng - Wednesday, July 23, 2008 - link

    There is no reason to dump $120+ on a budget water cooling system for CPUs since most sub$50 air coolers will do a good job

    but with SLI/crossfire systems the typical air cooling solution are suboptimal to say the least. Even you have a board that can fit 2 VGA and 2 Acellero S1s, there is no way to put good airflow averthe humungous setup!

    Someone plaese give us a water cooling solution for multi GPU systems that doesnt cost MORE than the VGAs!
  • Cregaune - Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - link

    This review has given me lots of food for thought. Frankly, I find the conclusion incredible.

    Perhaps you guys are right, but before people jump to your conclusions I wonder why your ambient room temps were kept within such loose margins i.e 20'C to 22'C.........a full 3'C !!!

    Controlling ambient room temperature is particularly important when reviewing a water cooled system, simply because it can take an hour or more for the coolant temperature to stabilise; before you can legitimately take a reading. If, in the meantime, you let the room temperature fluctuate within such grossly wide margins, your results are next to useless....especially given the relative performance figures in your findings.

    Just a thought!

  • Cableaddict - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link


    As far as performance goes, I'd say you present a valid argument. The specific kits you tested are not worth investing, vs a few of the best air-coolers. So far, so good, but your conclusions and general tone seem to fail badly after that one true point.

    You wrote, (in this thread) "We state you will likely need to spend more than $300 to possibly outperform current top air coolers."

    Nonsense. As many have mentioned, the big problem with these kits is the use of a single "220" size radiator. Using a dual-rad, or two singles, has been shown in test after test to increase cooling dramatically (even with a "lowly" Swiftech rad) So, one could buy the H2O-120 and add another radiator for $42 more. That's WELL under $200, and the performance OC'ed & under load will slightly outperform the Ultra-120. AND , it will be much less noisy.

    You conclusions about noise are correct, but only at lower fan speeds.You posted a chart showing high OC / high load performance, but failed to include noise specs under those conditions. The noise comparisons at lower cooling settings do not apply at all. I've been looking at TONS of tests, specifically weighing cooling vs noise. At the high speeds needed to make the Ultra-120 types perform their best (about equal to a low-end dual radiator WC) they are much, MUCH noisier than WC, according to every test I've read.

    Last: Bear in mind that many folks cannot fit those big air-coolers, espially HTPC people, or those with rack-mount music & video pc's. For such rigs, the best air coolers that will actually fit are the Gemini II, the DuOrb, etc. Even a single-rad WC setup does better than those when OC'ed & under load. (according to many tests I've seen.) With a dual-rad, WC systems decimate these air-coolers. For instance, one test put a Gemini II / dual Noctua blower against the H2O-220 kit. At 3.7 Ghz, under load, the WC was 15º cooler.


    Regarding pump noise: Well again, your comparisons are fair if one is going to strictly obey the "rules" and not mod any system at all. However, One can pretty easily add sonex or other noise absorbtion to the inside of the case, and limit a good bit of that pump noise.

    Going to a non-kit system, one can now choose the Lang D5 vario, dial it down a little, and add some sound isolation around it. Not so hard, and all reports say it is then virtually silent. With a dual-rad performance should still be excellent. Granted, that's approaching the $300 mark, but serious overclockers would certainly do better with such a set-up, and it would be LESS noisy.

    I guess one last question must be addressed, and that is: Just how cool do we need to go? Let's say one want to OC a Q6600 (timeframe of this review) to 3.8 ghz. A $75 air-cooled rig will run under heavy load at (let's say) 60º, and a decent WC rig will run it at 50º. Is 60º safe enough, day after day, that the WC system is not worth the substantial cost? I don't know the answer. I wish I did.

    -And when pushing the FSB really hard, one might worry about the rest of the mobo components. -So now we have to weight the WC advantage of being able to also cool the NB and GPU, vs the air-cooler advantage of cooling the ram,NB, mosfets, etc.
    One might reasonably say that,with heavy OC, a WC set-up requires an additional case fan, and that means a little more noise.

  • Cableaddict - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    Custom H2O-220 type system:

    Swiftech Apogee Drive 350 Pump / CPU water block combo $80

    Swiftech MCR220-res: $55

    2 Noctua fans: $50

    non-evaporate hoses / clamps: ~ $20 MAX.

    Hydrex: $3
    $210 or less.

    Swap-in a Lang Vario D5 pump and an Apogee or Fuzion waterblock, instead of the Apogee Drive 350, and you still under $275.

    Test either of these systems on a Q6600 @ 3.8 Ghz, against any air system, includng the Ultra-120, and then get back to me.

    Also bear in mind that either of these systems will easily also cool a GPU, with another $50 of parts.

  • Cableaddict - Saturday, April 26, 2008 - link

    One more noise consideration:

    Granted this is a review of the H2O single, but for very little more money one can get the H2O with a double rad. THAT system should slightly outcool even the ultra-120, but what;s most important is that it will be MUCH quieter.

    Again, the Ultra-120 types require pretty high CFM's to give good results. A dual radiator can deliver excellent performance with a pair of Nocyua 1300 rpm fans. That's bloody silent.
  • perfectdarth - Sunday, December 30, 2007 - link

    you cant say say that watercooling is bad because a 2 budget kits get beaten by an ultra 120. watercooling does cost more but radiators and pumps last years and for $300 (no more) you could make a custom kit that would be quite a bit better than the top air coolers when cooling an overclocked cpu.

    you harped on how watercooling costs more and takes more time/effort but you didnt state that people that are willing to spend the extra time/money dont always do it just for better temperatures and might find it fun and a bit of a challenge the first time. putting on a heatsink isnt very satisfying, you could train a monkey to do that. you could say people who spend $800 on a graphics card to play games at max are stupid because its still the same game at medium on a $350 graphics card but if you like to lay games that look nice you would think its worth it, it was like you had your mind made up before you wrote this article

    people saying that the hassle of watercooling isnt worth it is just plain ignorance, some people enjoy maintaning their car themselves but other people would go meh and go pay someone to check their oil and water. that doesnt mean that people who dont care should tell the people that do it themselves that they are wasting time or the they should tell the lazy ones they shouldnt be lazy. watercooling is a hobby just as much as it is a way to better cool your computer.

    i would like to see the swiftech h20-220 Apex Ultra tested against the top aircoolers since it is a very good kit and under $300 afaik. also watercooling seems to make a much bigger difference to graphics cards than cpus.

    saying that you would rather buy a phase change over a good watercooling kit is rediculous. phase is more work and just as if not more risky than watercooling because of condensation.

    also why farcry and not use tat or orthos? i didnt like this article much since it is very bias towards air. i read "water is useless air is so much better" all the way through.
  • rabident - Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - link

    You could argue heatpipe coolers are closer to water coolers than air coolers. They're basically sealed water coolers. Most use distilled water as the heat transfer medium, just like conventional after coolers, except heat pipes are more efficient because they involve a phase change (which absorbs a lot of heat).

    The real value with conventional watercooling is the freedom to piece together a custom cooling system that meets your needs. It lets you balance price, cooling performance, and noise the way you see fit. Plus there's a lot of room for creativity.

    I think it's going be hard for water to beat air in price/performance, but if price is the #1 factor then I think the value of any after market coolers is questionable.
  • Starglider - Sunday, September 23, 2007 - link

    This review is ok, nothing amazing but the accusations being thrown around seem unwarranted. However the basic conclusion is this; modern heatsinks are good enough that for a single medium-speed 120mm fan, cooling is airflow and radiator surface limited. With heatpipes and improved layout heatsink thermal conductivity is no longer an issue (for quality air coolers).

    It would be nice if this was made more explict in the conclusions, and I am dubious about the claim that you can't get a better radiator solution (e.g. dual-120mm or reserator) for under $200. The notion that water cooling won't give you any advantage other than chipset/GPU cooling is false in the general case; it is only true if you have a single 120mm fan radiator (plus it ignores the benefit of lowing case internal temps).
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    So is the "water additive" really just old-school green automotive coolant, i.e. ethylene glycol? Or does it just look that way? Reply
  • aigomorla - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link">

    Sorry. This review was better writen. And shows this cooler clearly owning air.

    The editor i feel now has a grudge against water cooling. He is pushing air is greater then water when it looks like he has no experience with a decient water setup.

    The pump making a lot of noise? Okey, can one owner who has a DDC confirm this? Because i have 4 and none of them make loud noises.

    The Liang D5 doesnt even make loud noise, and its a bigger pump.

    Sorry your 300+ watercooling comment needed to beat air... thats absolute BS.

    People please do some research b4 you buy into this review. I asked the editor polietly to remove that statement and he has yet to remove it. I ask you guys to check out our case and cooling forum. There is a post on this and listen to what all the members on AT are saying. Only the editot of this article believes in his 300+ needed to beat air. The rest of the members on board totally disagree with him. XS is laughing at anandtech at the moment. Even the air cooling people at XS are laughing because its a KNOWN FACT a 120x2 radiator would demolish anything AIR can bring up. Even TEC air coolers dont stand a chance.
  • MercenaryForHire - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Folks, this is a review of off-the-shelf watercooling components. Not a customized, modded, build-it-yourself Hoover Dam setup. And the conclusions drawn I think are valid - if you want good results from watercooling, be prepared to fork over some significant coin, or source the parts yourselves and DIY. Reply
  • jebo - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Exactly. I find it interesting how all the water coolers are crying that AT said "Air is better than water". Well, the fact remains, that if you compare a $70 air cooler to a $150 water cooler, air is > water. You need to spend $300+ to get a h2o system that is better than a $70 air cooler. At that point, the cost concerns become prohibitive. Reply
  • psychotix11 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Part of the problem with this review is that it's managed to convince novice users that it does require 300+, which is either a distortion of truth to make a point, or ignorance about basic water cooling.

    Pump - 65, apogee GT - 45, double rad - 50, misc crap (tubing, fittings, fans) - 20.

    For exactly around 200 bucks you can construct a loop that will demolish any air cooling on the market. You could even toss another radiator into the swiftech kit and keep it under 200.

    For 300 bucks you could toss in a 3x120mm rad, upgrade the CPU block, and liquid cool the NB and go even farther.

    For a 300+ configuration the sky is the limit.

    Also I've noticed the numbers they get don't match what other reviews have put out for a lot of the items used.
  • Nickel020 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    As aigormola stated, ~200$ watercooling setups will beat any air cooling. A dual radiator doubles the heat dissipation capacity and is like 10$ more than a single.
    And don't forget that you can keep you watercooling setup for like 5 years, while you usually get one 50-80$ heatsink and fan every time you upgrade your PC.

    The review is fine, but the conclusion is the worst one I've seen in 5 years of reading reviews at AT. It's just plain wrong and will mislead a lot of people.
  • aigomorla - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    First off, your picking the subject area which holds the most debate. Its a common ground fact that a 120x1 radiator will be lacking. Your test subjects were in fact both 120x1 radiators. One was made of ALU and the other Copper.

    Your looking at entry lvl water cooling and using it as a comparison of middle class custom setups.

    If you look at the swiftech APEX 220 series, you'll see your statement at the end not hold true.

    The direct drive released by swiftech on a 120x1 platform, as well as the corsair nautilus is not the best grounds to claim such statements. The reason is the lack of the radiator.

    120x2 radiator setups such as the swiftech Apex220 setup will eat the two coolers you listed and also any air setup you could possible throw. This unit is also modestly a bit over 200 dollars. Last price checked at jab-tech showed it to be 209 dollars for the complete setup.

    Also your making a lot of potential people who are interested in h2o migration think twice. Your passing more myths on watercooling then i can think of. If you feel i am wrong in any statement, i recomend you contact Gabe, owner of swiftech and tell him you would like to give the company a chance to prove how powerful h2o cooling can be by giving you a sample of there APEX 220 system. Im sure Gabe will be all over it.

    Also, you need to retract your statement about the 300 dollar mark. 200-300 is considered mid tier water cooling and no air can match to that calibur.

    @ the guy who was about to migrate to the MCR320. Go ahead, and dont look back. This review only proved the power of 120x1 radiator. Its very lacking, however the moment you step up to a beefier radiator, 120x2 or 120x3 in your case, you'll see all the air people left behind in your rear view mirror. 2x the cooling power for the 220, and 3x the cooling for the 320.

    Lets not even get into the power of a thermochill PA120.3 Believe me, its a very very big margin once you get there.

    I am the creator of the watercooling thread sticky over at anandtech forums, and i was VERY disappointed in this article. The members over at Xtremesystems think this is a joke. These are the guys who are the front run pioneers in h2o cooling.

    I ask polietly that you remove that comment of the 300 dollar being topped by high end air until you've tested an APEX 220 unit. All you have done was test 2 low end units in h2o and based a final conclusion.
  • walltari - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Very interesting review a pretty tough discussion but everybody forget one thing. You look only on very expensive kits useally common in U.S. or western Europe. I live in Czech republic (Eastern Europe) and I see another choises. I have completly watercooled PC. Radiator 2x120, pump with expansion and filling tank, CPU blok, GPU blok, Chipset blok, 2x HDD blok a this kit i bought for 210$. In this price you coudn´t buy ale these aircoolers and have same results. (I bought it form company I hear, and that´s the problem, that everybody have, DVD-rom.

    In the review author hit the problem of the noise. Really the pump is the most noisest thing. I´m interested in building watercooled systems for three years and at first it is neceseary eliminate vibrations. The differnce is that my system and systems of this firm is waterpump included in watertank. This solutions lower noise to minimum level. They have 2 watertanks, one, included in kit, is smaller and second, which they made especially for me, because o my larger and more powerfull pump.

    PS: Sorry for my english, I´m beginer
  • rotNdude - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Which direction was the fan blowing on the Swiftech kit? Since you mounted the rad off the back of the case and the fan appeared to be in the case, was it exhausting air or pulling ambient air?

    Also, how much fluid was actually added to each cooling loop?

  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We used the existing case fan IN the case exhausting air. We also used the fan that came in the H2O-120 kit blowing air in the same direction. There is a 1-1/2" to 2" space created by the Radbox so air was being drawn in form the sides of the rad box.

    The pre-cut tubing in the Swiftech kit is about 10" long each. We used 12" tubes to reach the external RadBox mounted Readiator/Reservoir.
  • Jodiuh - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Thank you guys very much for using this universally accepted tool. I've always wondered why the temps for Thermalright's Ultra 120 Extreme were better than what I could achieve. There's 4 factors here:

    -ambient (20C-22C vs 24C-26C)
    -temp monitor (NV vs core temp)
    -fan (1600RPM vs 1200RPM)
    -load app (farcry vs orthos blend) <--this might not matter

    I'm currently loading an E6400@3500 between 62C-66C w/ 1.475 in bios (1.43 actual) when running orthos blend.

    Thanks again! Maybe orthos blend could be used in future or even ran again on past coolers?
  • rochlin - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    These results totally make sense if the laws of physics have anything to do with it.
    There are some advantages to water cooling vs air, but you have to take advantage of them:
    Heat dissipation and the high specific heat of water: Because the dissipation of heat is separated from the CPU, you can have a bigger and more efficient heat sink than you can ever fit on top of a cpu.

    Also, because the heat dissipation (heat sink) is outside of the case, you can use the presumably cooler air outside the case to cool the heatsink.

    The point is, the water needs to be cooled. If the heat sink/fan setup cooling the water is no better than what you attach to your cpu, then the system will NOT cool your cpu any better. You will be recirculating relatively warm water back to the cpu.

    A sensible approach would be to build a giant heat sink. It could be aluminum (cheap) and big enough so the WHOLE case could sit on top of it. A channel for the water would zig zag under it. This kind of heat exchanger (like used in solar water systems) would cool the water much much more than anything you could fit inside the case.

    The relatively small heat exchangers in the two tested units just aren't going to outperform the terrific Themalright 120 Extreme heatexchanger unless your air temps inside the case get out of hand. The advantage of the heat transfer capability of water is WASTED unless you cool it down with a better heat exchanger outside the case.
  • EODetroit - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    The above is the best comment here. In the end, its all about heat radiation. If the air coolers have a better means for radiating heat than the water coolers, they'll win. Water usually did well because it radiated the heat outside the case and most importantly, they could have bigger radiators than the little HS&F inside the case.

    With the modern high end air coolers, the radiators are huge (even if they're inside the relatively hot case). With the water cooler setups you tested, the radiators are small (small for a water radiator, even if its radiating to the outside air). Therefore you don't really need to see the numbers to know what the result will be.

    To take advantage of water cooling, you need a big time radiator on the outside of the case... preferably with large fans that can push a lot of air through them without making a lot of noise. By testing radiators the size of a 120mm fan, you negate water cooling's biggest advantage.
  • Lem - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    I kinda agree but...

    I somewhat disagree with the reasoning because heatpipes transfer heat a lot better than the water tubes we see used with water cooling systems.

    The only benefit of water cooling is basically the fact that you can transfer heat longer distances. This allows you to take advatage of big external heat sinks.

    If there were long and flexible heatpipes out there, we would not even consider water.
  • GhandiInstinct - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We need more important articles like these, as well as DDR2 comparisons and GPU comparisons....

    Anyway, I have one minor complaint, I wish the line graphs would be done away with as well as maybe labeling the names with a (AIR) and (WATER) so we know which performs best :)

    (It's very hard to tell with the line graph)
  • Jethrodood - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I cant believe such a long standing tech site would draw such naive conclusions in the realm of cpu cooling. /scratches head.. Reply
  • JAG87 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    This has to be one of the worst articles ever. It was decent until the very last page, where conclusions are drawn based on two cheap beginner water cooling kits, and one test platform.

    First, don't say water cooling is bad when testing beginner All-in-one test kits. These are cheap, and they perform as much as they cost.

    And second, try keeping an over clocked quad core below 60c at load with air cooling. Take a 3.6 to 4 Ghz quad, thats 200W of heat. Try cooling that with air, just try.

    And you don't have to spend more than 300 for water cooling to beat air cooling. Example: Apogee GTX/Dtek Fuzion + MCR220/MCR320 + MCP655 + MCRES MICRO + 7/16ID tubing + a few zip ties = way less than 300 dollars.

    Why don't you split your review into pricing categories, and then you can draw a conclusion for each price category, instead of calling shens on water cooling. Make a sub 200 dollar section, a 200-300 dollar section, and a 300+ section, and run tests for each. Then you can say, hey sub 200 kits are a waste of money, 200-300 kits are the sweet spot for CPU cooling, and 300+ kits are only for people who wish to water cool more than just the CPU.

    Come on Wesley, we expect better from Anandtech.
  • oopyseohs - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    And second, try keeping an over clocked quad core below 60c at load with air cooling. Take a 3.6 to 4 Ghz quad, thats 200W of heat. Try cooling that with air, just try.


    I am by no means an advocate of water cooling, but I do appreciate the ability of water cooling to dissipate greater quantities of heat faster than air cooling. Maybe not faster (which is why you're getting better scores on a low TDP X6800), but more. I have tested the H20-120 Compact on QX6850's with Gabe and it's superiority to even the best air coolers is quite evident - even though it has just a single 120mm radiator.

    While I don't think this is "one of the worst AnandTech articles ever", as a previous poster so delicately put it, I think it does bring to light an important flaw in your testing methodology for coolers: that the Core 2 Duo just does not generate anywhere near the heat of the increasingly-common Core 2 Quad.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    I'm currently typing on a system with a Q6600 on an MSI P35 Platinum board with the jumpers set to the 333 bus speed, giving a 3.0GHz quad core. Tuniq tower at around 1400RPM, running quad Prime95 Speedfan shows core temps in the mid 50*C range. Reply
  • rallycobra - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    does anyone have actual temp data to support this? At some point does the aircooling show a non linear response to additional heat and the temp shoots much higher than water cooling? I'm not sure how this is possible. Reply
  • rallycobra - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I disagree. This is an excellent article. An $80 Thermalright 120 ultra has better thermals/noise/cost/install. And no chance of a catastrophy with fluid! If the data is reliable, and I believe it is, there is no sense in anyone spending $150 on either of these kits.

    I was thinking of getting the swiftech kit, since other reviews from less credible sources said it was better than any air solution, and then upgrading the radiator to a thermochill 120.3 and keeping the apogee drive. That is a $150 radiator with a $100 cpu block/pump.

    It appears to me that you need to budget about $300 for fluid to be better than air. If you are going to go through the effort, go big or don't bother. I'm talking a huge radiator. If swiftech releases a kit with a 120.2 radiator for the same price, that may make sense.
  • Calin - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Because this was a review of a pre-made, as-sold water cooling setup. You mentioned he compared installation time with the air coolers?
    The $50 and 15 minutes of installation for a top-end air cooler, compared to the hassle of buying all the afore-mentioned components and fitting them, for a $300 price point (maybe?)
    I'd say he got the right conclusion, and the article was sound. It was not intended to the water cooling experts, but to people that would (maybe) choose a somewhat simple to install $150 solution instead of a simple to install $50 solution.
    By the way, in all the list you put (Apogee GTX/Dtek Fuzion + MCR220/MCR320 + MCP655 + MCRES MICRO + 7/16ID tubing + a few zip ties), I only know for sure what zip ties are.
  • rallycobra - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I'm building a new quad system, and I was going to go with the swiftech kit, and upgrade to a 120x3 radiator in the future. For now, I'm going to stick to air.

    Can you run the test again with a quad? Another site says that the swiftech outperforms all air solutions, but I trust your methodology a lot more.

    Watercooling is elegant if you have the radiator outside the case, and you can cool the cpu, chipset and vga. It keeps the inside cool, and gets all of the heat out.

  • aigomorla - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Your upgrading to 3x the cooling power this article previewed.

    So if there saying a 120x1 will match a ultra120extreme, your saying 3x that cooling power isnt worth the migration.

    *scratches my head*

    This is what i mean about this article screwing people up in water migration.
  • poisondeathray - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Thanks for the interesting review.

    Given the increasing prevalence of quad-cores, it might be interesting to repeat the tests with an overclocked quad core configuration.

    Although the testbed was different, at least 1 other hardware site got better results with similar watercooling vs. Tuniq.
  • gingerstewart55 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I wonder what was wrong with your setups and your pumps. Having had the Corsair Nautilus 500 unit, and the pump the Swiftech kit is based upon, something is/was seriously wrong with your setup or pumps.

    The Corsair unit's fan, at least in the one I used, drowned out the pump completely.

    The Laing pump in the Swiftech kit, the same pump in the Corsair kit by the way, is sitting in my computer and is utterly silent....completely drowned out by any of the four fans in the case....three Scythe S-Flex "E" fans, at 22 dBA on full speed, and an Antec SpotCooler on lowest speed (the Antec is the loudest fan in the case, btw.)

    I'd almost hazard a guess that both kits, after being set up, still had a bubble/pocket of air in the pump. The Laing pump can get quite noisy if no completely bled of air.

    Otherwise, there was a mechanical fault in both your kits' pumps as the Laing is almost completely silent when working as attested to by the hundreds of people using those pumps and hearing absolutely nothing from them when being used.

  • Nickel020 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    You need at mod top for the Laing pump, it's unbearable without one, but if decoupled almost unhearable with a good top. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We tested both systems as provided by Swiftech and Corsair. Both units are provided as complete kits and both manufacturers are familiar with our cooler test methods.

    Modding everything we test defeats the purpose of our comparative testing.

    We are not finished with water cooling reviews, and we will be reviewing more water cooling systems in the future.
  • Nickel020 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    That's not hwo I meant it, of course you shouldn't mod the kits for testing. I was just saying that the Laing is not a bad pump for custom setups, in fact, it's pretty much the best pump for most setups if you use a mod top, which makes a big difference. I don't think I've ever seen a pic om someone using it without a mod top, but dozens with all kinds of mod tops. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I first thought there was a pump defect as well. So I acquired FIVE Apogee drive blocks from different sources and all measured similar dbA noise levels. There was also the 6th pump in the Corsair Nautilus 500.

    Subjectively the pumps were relatively quiet because the noise frequencies appear to fall in a freqency range that is not particularly annoying. However, our standard sound meter said measured noise was pretty high. We stated this in the review and also commented the pump noise was not annoying to our ears, but it may be to others. Measure the noise of your system and let us know what you find.
  • psychotix11 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    These two set-ups do not represent the top end of water cooling. It's long been past the point where a single 120mm rad is enough for a CPU.

    Toss these out and replace them with a custom set up with a dtek fuzion CPU block, 2x 120mm fan rad, ddc pump with petras top, and 1/2 id tubing and then see where it gets you.

    Also liquid cool the chipset and then see if stock air can keep up (after), it won't.

    You're taking two premade kits made for the user that has never water cooled before. It's simply not in the same category as the higher end custom kits.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We did not state water cooling was always inferior to the top air coolers. We said, based on these test results and others we have run recently, that you would need to spend more than $300 on a water cooling system that might outperform the best air coolers.

    At more than 4 to 6 times the price of a top air cooler most readers would not conseder that good value.

    I actually agree with your comments, but please tell us the total cost of the water cooling setup you say is needed to beat the best air coolers.
  • psychotix11 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    But water cooling has never been about the best price for the buck. The same can be said of any high end parts. Extreme intel, amd FX, 8800gtx, SLI, none of this makes sense for the price you pay.

    Water cooling falls right into that category. If you really want it to show it's teeth load up an 8800 SLI system, build a custom loop at the 300 and 500 price point, water cool everything, and then compare temps.

    Obviously it's going to cost a lot more, but this is a given.

    You're article seems to hint that air cooling is better then water cooling, this isn't the case at all. All it shows is that high end air cooling is a better value then a water cooling kit designed for a novice on a budget.

    As for "might" and 300, that's wrong as well. My apogee gt + lian DDC, + mcr 220 2x yate loons push, pentosion did drop my temps over a tuniqu tower. The water blocks on the 8800's with an mcr 320 moved even more hot air out of my case and temps dropped more. That CPU loop costs less then 300.

    So, DDC pump $65, mcr 220 45, apogee gt 45, and about 30 bucks for fans, tubing and anti corrosive. Brings you to about 200, hardly the 300.
  • EODetroit - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Next time water cool the video card as well, and compare it against the CPU and video card on Air. OC both the video card and CPU and see how far they go. Then measure system noise. I agree with your conclusion that if you're only going to water cool your CPU, that you might as well go with a new air cool instead. But the CPU isn't the only expensive, hot, noisy thing in the case. In fact, the GPU is for many or most of us more expensive, hotter, and noisier.

    You shouldn't pretend the GPU isn't there. Water cool it as well and compare it THEN against air cooling.
  • Lonyo - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    You forgot another element of one of your watercooling setups.
    It's external.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE try looking at other temperatures, e.g. graphics card, motherboard, HDD, when doing these tests.
    The heat has to go somewhere. With an air cooler it stays inside the case before passing by the graphics card and getting pushed out the back of the case.
    With an external watercooling setup it gets transferred outside without going over the graphics card/motherboard, and hence internally other components beside the CPU should in theory be cooler.

    My view is that the main advantage of watercooling is the low CPU temps combined with lower internal case temps, since I wouldn't think of running water with an internal radiator.
  • Nickel020 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I don't understand how you reached the conclusion, that good air cooling is better than sub 300$ water cooling by testing two sub 150$ water cooling kits.
    I have recently upgrade from a lapped Scythe Infinity to a 300$ wattercooling setup and at a maximum fan speed of ~1300 rpm (two fans dual radiator) the watercooling beats air by 10K but is little bit noisier since the fans sit at the top of the case. At 7V it's less noisier than the Infinity and still about 5K cooler.

    Please test a real 200+$ watercooling setup before drawing such conclusions. The test clearly shows that cheapw atercooling isn't worth it, but starting at about 200$ watercooling will beat air cooling if you choose good components.
    Here's a link to jstu about the ebst setup for 250$:">

    The waterblock is one of the ebst available, the Swiftech radiators are great for the price and with a modded top the Laing pupm is very quiet and has a excellent performance.

    I'd very much like to see Anandtech finally review some proper water cooling!

    PS: The review is otherwise very nice, finally a good review that compares low end watercooling with top-end air cooling.
  • poohbear - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link


    Please test a real 200+$ watercooling setup before drawing such conclusions. The test clearly shows that cheapw atercooling isn't worth it, but starting at about 200$ watercooling will beat air cooling if you choose good components.
    Here's a link to jstu about the ebst setup for 250$:">

    dude, that link shows it's $250!!! i can get the thermalright 120 extreme for $65... the choice seems like an absolute no brainer to most.
  • retrospooty - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    "'d very much like to see Anandtech finally review some proper water cooling!

    PS: The review is otherwise very nice, finally a good review that compares low end watercooling with top-end air cooling."

    Agreed. It would be great to see a full review, including a few high end kits, cooling graphics cards as well, since that IS how they are used.

    This is a high end "best of the best" air cooler against 2 low end "mediocre" water kits.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We have also tested two kits closer to $300 in price from top water cooler manufacturers and they did not beat our top air cooler results. The Infinity was not a top performer in our test results unless it was driving a dual push-pull fan configuration. Stock it was slighly worse than the two water coolers we tested in this review.

    Also, Intel, Swiftech, Thermalright and others have now found that a convex base improves cooling performance mounted to current Intel CPU caps which are manufactured not flat to improve cooling performance. Lapping your Infinity prbably did no harm but lapping a thermalright would likely decrease performance. Swiftech in the past was a strong advocate of flat mirro-finish bases, but they now use the intentionally bowed plate on their top water blocks to improve cooling and overclocking.
  • Nickel020 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Well the problem with watercoolig is that no big manufacturer offers a good kit, you absolutely need to mix and match parts from different manufacturers.
    Go to the forums here or at and everybody will confirm that a *well chosen* 300$ watercooling will beat any air cooling. You just need the right components, like in the ones in that kit.

    And I know about the lapping/bowing, I lapped my CPU as well and got a 13K lower temperature with both lapped than before. A bowed cooller usually has the advantage since almost all heatspreaders are concave, therefore a convex cooler is needed to make a good contact. But if you lap both CPU and cooler you're usually better off if you do it right.

    I would love to see you review a watercooling setup with good components, there almost no reviews on the net comparing good watercooling to top-end aircooling.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link


    The multiple liquid-filled heatpipes and the large, quiet, high-output fans in use today have taken air cooling to new performance levels. Our testing here at AnandTech supports the vastly superior performance of the heatpipe tower compared to the older air cooling designs. With these results in mind, it is time to revisit the question: is water cooling still the best performer?

    I think the real questions are . . . is it really worth the Hassle/danger/cost.

    Even a $300usd water cooling system is not a good water cooling system, and one that uses less than 1/2 tubing/waterbloccks etc, is not a good water cooling setup.

    Anyhow, I am not an advocate of water cooling, and I have been saying air is better than water for a long time now (couple of years), not because of cooling performance alone, but because of the three things mentioned above . . .Hassle/danger(or risk if you like)/costs. Building a top notch cooling system would set you back about $400 a year ago, now, probably more like $500-$600, but I wouldnt know for a fact, beause water cooling for PCs is like 4x4's with a 128 inch lift kit, its made to compensate for something, perhaps a small . . . CPU( or more likely something else) ?
  • poohbear - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    well i'll be damed, i never considered watercooling cause it was too exotic and expensive, but it seems there's no point considering it to begin w! the best aircoolers are quieter AND run cooler than watercooling. Thanks for showing this fantabulous change of events anandtech. Reply
  • Gul Westfale - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    watercooling is still worth it ig=f you have th emoney; th etwo setups tested here are not exactly the best coolers available. also, the statement in teh article that watercoolers are quieter than aircoolers is ridiculous, after all a watercooler still has a fan thta blows air through the radiator, and that fan is jst as quiet (or noisy) as an aircooler... unless you go witth zalman's fanless reserator design.

    i'm afraid the conclusion of this article tries to tell you that all watercoolers perform like these two here, but that is simply not so. other, better systems include the aforementioned zalman reserator, the koolance exos, and several more advanced setups from swiftech. if you are interested in this, is a good site to do some window sopping :0
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    We state you will likely need to spend more than $300 to possibly outperform current top air coolers. We have recently tested several systems near that price point and stand by that statement based on our tests results.

    We did not say water cooling is quieter, we just said many reviews over the years have stated water cooling to be the quieter solution. As we showed in our review that is no longer thacase unless you buy a much more expensive water system. If you read carefully you will also see we found the water pump to be the biggest noise maker and not the radiator fan.

    Finally, water cooling will have to be eons better than air if we need to spend more tha 6 times the top air cooler price just to match performance of the best air coolers. The only compelling argument in favor of water in our opinion is the ability to add video cooling blocks and possibly chipset blcos to a water system - but that cost is also high.

    You CAN buy or build a superior water system if you spend big bucks, but as one expert water cooler showed me in his tests results he had yet to find a water cooling kit that outperformed the best air coolers. His own monster water cooler was a custom built and very expensive water cooling system. If I need to go to those prices I can buy phase-change coolers that have a chance of creating sub-ambient CPU temperatures.
  • haelduksf - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    I'm sorry, but I don't believe you. I'm running a $200 loop, with CPU *and* GPU blocks, and getting 34 degree load temps (folding) on my q6600. Nothing special- 240mm rad, fuzion CPU block, Silverprop GPU block... frankly, you must be doing something wrong if you can't do better on water than on air.

    Plus, as others mentioned, this loop will cool any computer I own for the next 10 years, which no air cooler can claim.
  • mpc7488 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    Nice article Wes, and good way to phrase it - water cooling solutions under $300 cannot outperform top air coolers. Reply
  • Nickel020 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link


    Finally, water cooling will have to be eons better than air if we need to spend more tha 6 times the top air cooler price just to match performance of the best air coolers. The only compelling argument in favor of water in our opinion is the ability to add video cooling blocks and possibly chipset blcos to a water system - but that cost is also high.

    But you also need to consider that you'll use watercooling for a long time. I just recently bought my watercooling, but my 45$ waterblock was already available 3 years ago, lots of people that bought it then for a Athlon XP/754 system are still using it on a Core 2 today, and it's still very good. In the last 4 years I've had 3 different 50+$ air coolers in my main rig, that kind of adds up as well.
    Watercooling is a big initial investment, but pump and radiators will last you 5+ years and waterblocks last several years as well. If you're a guy that buys one 50+$ heatsink a year, then watercooling is only marginally more expensive (if at all) then air.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    The only reasons to upgrade to a newer cooler (air or water) is if either the performance is significantly better, or the cooler does not support whatever socket you move to in the future. These factors are the same for air or water, so in theory both should have a similar lifespan. If water cooling sees improvements in the next few years the way air has in the past few years, you would probably upgrade your water setup sooner than you think as well. Reply
  • KeypoX - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    that is not true i bought the koolance case/water cooler years ago and it was no match for my current air cooler. On top of that the water block i had bought the 200 koolance was dropped and no longer supported for newer chip sets.

    I had a athlon 2600xp OC with the water cooler but it wasnt as good as air. And it had to much upkeep and a TON of noise.

  • RamIt - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    What happened to paet two of the micro atx motherboard roundup? Reply

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