Water cooling for the masses
Water cooling has finally begun to saturate
the mainstream PC-market. As a result, technical writers focusing on products once made for H20-Enthusiasts and/or Overclockers must appeal to a much wider and diverse audience. In it's infancy water cooling was an esoteric hobby attracting a niche group of individuals, who were adept at improvisation based on necessity. Given the absence of any water cooling manufacturers per se, many early water blocks were hand-crafted (machined) by H20-Enthusiasts themselves. Pumps and other accessories were found at Aquarium suppliers, heater-cores from Automobiles scrap yards and case fans served as radiator fans. To large extent water cooling is still an esoteric subject since most people either slept or passed notes during their High School Physics classes. As CPUs shrink and transistor counts increase heat is the inevitable result, water cooling may replace air cooled heatsinks in the near future.
Insofar as journalists are concerned, where it once was possible for a writer to delve directly into discussing flow rate, head-feet, Delta-T, impingement zones, metallurgy, and even meteorology (i.e. relative humidity) they must now speak for the layperson. Unfortunately many of the sites whom can afford the proper testing equipment have let this get to their heads. They can be condescending in their treatment of the reader, expecting end-users to be "in the know." Forgoing a lesson in the social psychology of egocentrism, those self appointed "Pro" H20-Cooling sites while providing valuable data for their own Forum members and assorted lackey’s, seem to resent budding enthusiasts.
At present there are only a handful of sites I would recommend which integrate a valid scientific standard of testing with a user-friendly accumulative water block database. Caseumbau
continually tests 20 CPU-water blocks updating the list as water block performance dictates, using the following TEST stand
continually tests 50 CPU-waterblocks from around the globe using the following TEST stand
. And there’s also Overclockers.com
growing comparison list. For 2006 I'll be focusing on water cooling kits, providing our readers with some of the best performance for price kits and those stores carrying or assembling those kits.XSPC X20 High Performance Watercooling Kit
The kit arrived in one of the smallest boxes I've seen considering everything in there would add up to "Performance" or even the term "Kit." The XSPC X2O WaterCooling Kit includes:CPU Water block with Universal Mount
Compact 12V Pump/Reservoir
R120 Crossflow Radiator
80mm to 120mm Radiator brackets
Low Noise 1700rpm 120mm Fan
Clear 10/8mm Tubing
Anti-Corrosive Water Additive
AMD Sockets 939, 754, 940
Intel Sockets 775, 478, 603, 604
When XSPC delivered their X20 water cooling kit the introduction above seemed most apropos. The X20 is one of the most compact kits I've seen, this is especially true of the pump-station (reservoir) which did give me cause for concern.
A blue LED is included with the pump which fits into the Lucite top-plate, accentuating reactive fluids. Given this system's price point I was surprised XSPC would be as detail oriented.
Although I was a bit concerned about the unit's size, this is not necessarily indicative of performance as the LAING DDC and C-System pumps have shown. I was troubled by the fact the pump was secured to the base of the reservoir with four suction cups.
In three weeks of testing the pump never dislodged and there are advantages to this method of securing the pump. Suction cups are ideal for vibration dampening, hence sound. If the pump has to be serviced removing the station's (reservoir) top-plate is about all it takes. Finally the pump's smallish size should have a negligible impact on water-temps. Although this issue is often exaggerated since pump-stations add very little heat to the water. The copper based water block can be compared in its physical appearance to the Polarflo TT-series water block reviewed here.