Intel Core i7 CPU Water Block Roundup May 2009

Cooling/Water Cooling by leeghoofd @ 2009-05-20

Cooling down Intel´s latest CPU with air cooled heatsinks is fine if you don’t plan on extensive overclocking, once you want more though you will have to look for better cooling solutions. We take a look at seven CPU water blocks from EK, Enzotech, Koolance, OCZ, XSPC and Swiftech to see if they can tame the i7 heat monster, also known as Nehalem.

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Introduction And Test Setup

Core i7 CPU Water Block RoundupMadshrimps (c)
Part One


Like always each article needs a small intro to answer some of the usual questions: Why, how, what,... I think you get the picture ( we reviewers know you readers are far smarter than us ) I'm the proud owner of a Nehalem based PC. It allows me to do awesome stuff at tremendous speeds. Nehalem is pure brute force and when overclocked requires a nuclear plant to power it. This goes along with big heat output. More heat than some air coolers can handle.

My computer is being abused daily for benching, folding@home, gaming and loads of other things my girlfriend loathes. Previous rigs of mine were always water-cooled and since I got the Core i7 I saw that some manufacturers didn't really alter the design of their socket 775 coolers. Just another top plate, revised mounting system and (if included) a new back plate made them socket 1366 compatible. Madshrimps contacted the vendors to see who was interested in participating for an I7 roundup. At first hand we only got the blocks included in this review, but new contacts should allow us to get a few more samples soon ( hence why they will get their one ticket to stardom in part 2, out soon).

Test Setup and methodology

Leeghoofd's I7 940 Test Setup
CPUIntel I7 940 @ 3.8Ghz 1.29 vcore HT ON
Cooling MCP655 vario 2 and 5, Thermochill PA120.3
MainboardAsus Rampage Extreme II 1204 bios
Memory6Gb Corsair Dominator PC16000 C8-8-8-24 1T
PSU Enermax Galaxy 1kw

Testing water-cooling equipment is very hard to do as so many factors play a part ; The mounting , Tim used and how it was applied, ambient temps, tubing used, pump speeds, etc...

  • To get the best possible results I remounted each block 3 times.

  • I used a little carton template to get the same amount of TIM on the IHS. The TIM (OCZ Freezer Extreme) was spread out by the pressure of the water block mounting. After the tests the TIM was checked for a good spread out.

  • Tubing used was Tygon Black 3/8" tubing.

  • For the Pump initial test were done via the MCP655 equipped with an EK rev5 TOP ( to allow 1/4 AG fittings), but due to some awkward results we opted to retest the blocks with the MCP655 Vario (setting 2 and 5 tested!)

    Madshrimps (c)

  • The total amount of fluid used each time was 800ml of Aquatuning Innovatek Pro fluid.

  • All test were started at 22°C ambient temp. The rig was allowed to heat up the fluid during half an hour at idle speed 3.8ghz at 1.28Vcore (no EIST enabled). Small note : under load the Asus Rampage Extreme II, tends to overvolt. So during testing the Vcore was fluctuating between 1.28-29Vcore.

  • As testing program I used Prime95 Custom 10K run for 2 hours stressing all 8 cores ( HT enabled).

  • The CPU temp was monitored by Everest Home and the Core temperatures by Realtemp. The latter is a nice program as it logs the highest core temps measured (making my life easier).

  • We opted to monitor the fluid temps going in and out of the CPU block. Sadly this didn't give us the expected results we were aiming for. Temp differences between in and out were max 1°C. Maybe it could have been the probes not working 100%, bad readout by the motherboard,... But all in all it was nice to have an idea of the fluid temperature.

    Onto our first test candidate ->
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    Comment from Kougar @ 2009/05/22
    Apogee GTZ has problems... screwing it down can grind off a layer of motherboard PCB if the person doesn't tighten with fingers only. The GTZ LGA1366 backplate is extremely easy to strip the threads on as well. Starting to wish I had gone with the D-Tek block instead.
    Comment from leeghoofd @ 2009/05/22
    I only used my fingers the tighten down the GTZ screws. Normally you can only tighten it as much as the backplate allows, unless using brute force. Do you have any pictures of your damaged backplate, mobo ? You can always ask for a replacement plate. I'll pass the info at Swiftech if you wish.

    One of my screws was a bit damaged and I needed to some abrasive sponge to clean its thread. Then a drop of oil in the backplate and now it went in 100%

    Performance wise I have my doubts if the Fuzion v2 is better then the GTZ (sadly I never got a sample, D-Tek never responded once)
    Comment from Kougar @ 2009/05/23
    Wasn't trying to brute force it, just tighten until the screws "lock"... but apparently they don't lock with this choice of backplate. On the Apogee GT they "lock" with the old style mounting mechanism.

    The Apogee GTZ LGA1366 backplate does not fit well on Gigabyte boards, the foam inserts overlap three solder points on the Extreme/UD5/UD4 models and prevents the backplate from sitting flush. If you remove the foam then you will short out the socket. Instead I stripped the threads on one corner of the backplate and scratched up the PCB in three corners trying to get a flush, tight mount.

    I do not have photos, but that is a good idea. I appreciate your offer but I am planning to write Gabe personally, in the very least I'm not paying another $10 + shipping for a stupid backplate design. I don't understand why there are clear plastic washers on the backplate, but not on the underside of the mounting screws to prevent shorts/PCB damage.

    I am using the Thermalright LGA1366 backplate kit right now... much better design. The screws also "lock" into place and cannot be overtightened and they do not touch the PCB at all. It also fits fine and does not have issues with the solder points.
    Comment from leeghoofd @ 2009/06/12
    Sadly I don't think their wil be a follow up to this test as we haven't heard anything from Aquatuning since end of April ( to get some european samples ). Samples were being readied, but no reply to any mail requesting a status update... bummer
    Comment from Kurgan @ 2009/06/12
    OT but I'd love to see a review on Primochills new TYphoon III. Any chance we can see one in the near future?
    Comment from leeghoofd @ 2009/06/12
    We asked for a corsair L50 sample, looking forward to give that one a go