Budget Watercooling and Other Cooling Items - Worthwhile or Waste

Add Your Comments

Review of several cooling items – Kyle Lunau

For my birthday this year I received something that was a bit unexpected – a Thermaltake Bigwater SE Liquid Cooling System. But before I installed it and started the overclocking fun, I had to get a few more parts together. So I went to Bigfootcomputers.com and ordered a Thermaltake Memory Cooling Kit, a set of Blue Vantec slot protectors, a tube of Arctic Silver Ceramique, an Arctic Silver Arcticlean kit, and a Tweakmonster shim.

I also wanted to get a Thermaltake Extreme Spirit from them but this proved to be a huge hassle so I went out and got it from my local PCCyber for less money. About a month later after all the parts had been ordered, received, etc, it was time to begin.

Pic

After about an hour I had my motherboard, RAM, soundcard, videocard, and wireless network card sitting on the folding table in my living room. Lets start this overhaul!

Pic

My first victim will be my 512 MB stick of Kingston Value RAM and it will be getting a make over with the Thermaltake Memory Cooling Kit.

Pic

This memory cooling kit includes everything needed to install the heatspreaders and RAMsinks – 2 heatspreaders, 2 memory heatsinks, 2 metal clips, 2 pieces of thermal tape for the heatspreaders, 2 pieces of thermal tape for the RAMsinks, and an aluminum case badge that says “Performance Cooled by Thermaltake” are all included.

Pic

Fast forward about 5 minutes and I had the heatspreaders on. The heatspreaders were fairly easy to install, but the clips are a bit fidily. Now my RAM not only looks cool, but will stay cool to!

Pic

On to the Extreme Spirit!

Pic

About 15 minutes later I had the stock chipset cooler off. This was EXTREMELY difficult to remove and I ended up prying it off with a screwdriver after removing the push pins. Strangely enough this heatsink seems to have been stuck on with pink bubble gum, because that’s exactly what it looks and feels like.

Pic

The Extreme Spirit includes the northbridge heatsink, blower fan, RAMsinks for southbridge, mounting hardware, a fan controller, and some thermal compound.

Pic

Who cares about included thermal compound if we have this… YAY!

Pic

{mospagebreak}

Fast forward another half hour. I have the Extreme Spirit installed and my old northbridge cooler mounted to the motherboard MOSFETS with the thermal tape included with the Extreme Spirit. I also put the shim on and cleaned up the CPU. With what you ask? Well…

Pic

Some of THIS! (I apologize for lack of macro)

Pic

This was my CPU before anything:

Pic

This was my CPU after scraping and Arcticleaning. While you may not find the results impressive, if you leave the Arcticlean on for 3-4 minutes (instead of the 1-2 Arctic Silver recommends) it will turn TIM into liquid. I saw this first hand while prepping the northbridge cooler to go on the MOSFETS. I left the Arcticlean on it for a good four minutes and the bubblegum wiped right off!

Pic

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for.. the Bigwater SE! This kit includes everything needed to get you watercooling. It includes a reservoir, a RAD, a pump, a CPU block, mounting hardware, coolant, tubing, a fan controller and a tube pass-through PCI cover.

Pic

Fast forward 3 minutes. The block is on and its time to get this baby reassembled!

Pic

{mospagebreak}

Fast forward another 15 minutes. The motherboard is in after a lot of fiddling.

Pic

Here is a picture of the RAD installed. If you look closely you can see that it is hanging by one screw because my rear case fan is a 92 mm, not a 120 mm like the RAD. The next picture will show how I solved this dilemma:

Pic

Look closely at this picture and you’ll see two screws coming off the RAD that give it lateral stability (in one direction at least)

Pic

While I was installing the reservoir I noticed these four screw holes…

Pic

And this decent size piece of real estate…

Pic

Wait a minute!

Pic

Cool! So that’s what the holes/space are for! It looks like Thermaltake wanted to, like Swiftech, put the reservoir and the pump together. Unfortunately either the pump didn’t like the sideways position or someone at Thermaltake forgot about it, because the ability to mount the pump there is completely undocumented. And as this is my first watercooling setup and I don’t want to break it, I will not be mounting the pump this way.

Pic

Pic

{mospagebreak}

Fast forward 5 more minutes. Got the reservoir in. Here’s a shot from the outside:

Pic

And the inside:

Pic

Looks like my systems ready for the tubing and the pump!

Pic

Fast forward 20 minutes. The tubing and pump are in!

Pic

Here’s my computer setup in case of a leak. Look very closely and see if you can see what is wrong with this picture:

Pic

Ready to fill!

Pic

IT LIVES! And Screams! This was the point I thought I fried my computer but it turns out I just forgot to plug in the video card power : (Oh and it doesn’t leak either 🙂

Pic

OOOPS! Forgot these!

Pic

The beast in its new home:

Pic

Performance Cooled By Thermaltake ohhhh yeah!

Pic

What did I think of these items? Here are the Pros and Cons of each, my opinion and a final score out of ten:

Thermaltake Bigwater SE

Pros:

  • Cools well
  • Very quiet at low fan speed
  • Sounds cool at high fan speeds
  • RAD fan controller
  • Blue LEDs in pump and waterblock
  • UV reactive tubing/coolant
  • Easy to fill/access reservoir

Cons:

  • Pump is not very powerful
  • PCI pass through for tubes is SHARP!
  • I don’t know if the reservoir cap is watertight, so I’m a bit afraid to tip my PC over

Overall: A great kit for a great price, good for users looking for quiet or moderate overclocking, but not for extreme overclocking. Also the recommended “Power up the system and fill and bleed it” (the whole computer not just the pump) can be a bit daunting at first, but I’m running an Athlon XP and it didn’t fry so I guess it is okay.

Rating 9/10


Thermaltake Extreme Spirit Chipset Cooler

Pros:

  • Cools well
  • Cheap
  • Looks cool
  • Cools the northbridge and southbridge
  • Can go from silent to 747 on final approach via the included fan controller

Cons:

  • The heatsink for the southbridge is just a couple of RAMsinks
  • Fairly difficult to install

Overall: If you want good chipset cooling for a good price look no further than the Extreme Spirit.

Rating 8.5/10


Thermaltake Memory Cooling Kit

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Looks cool
  • Includes heatspreaders and BIG RAMsinks
  • Easy install
  • Provides a little extra heat dissipation

Cons:

  • None

Overall: If you want a little extra headroom for overclocking or just want something that looks cool, the Thermaltake Memory Cooling Kit is for you

Rating 10/10


Arctic Silver Ceramique



Pros:

  • Works well
  • Not conductive

Cons:

  • None

Overall: If you want a high performance thermal compound that isn’t conductive or capacitive, then you want Ceramique

Rating 10/10


Arctic Silver Arcticlean

Pros:

  • Works

Cons:

  • Isn’t really needed unless you’re cleaning thermal grease

Overall: If you have some stubborn thermal compound to get rid of, get some Arcticlean

Rating 8.5/10


Tweakmonster Shim

Pros:

  • Protect your Athlon!
  • Anodized
  • Looks cool

Cons:

  • Expensive for a little piece of aluminum
  • Only needed if you have a really heavy heatsink/waterblock

Overall: If you have a heavy heatsink or waterblock on your Athlon, this is an easy way to protect it

Rating 8/10


Vantec Slot Protector Kit

Pros:

  • Really cheap ($4 Canadian)
  • Looks cool
  • Comes in lots of different colours
  • Protect your expansion slots from RAMpaging dust
  • UV Reactive

Cons:

  • RAM slot protectors fit loosely
  • No PCI-E protectors

Overall: If you have a case window and some free expansion slots (PCI or RAM) get a Vantec slot protector kit!

Rating 9.5/10


Conclusion

I believe that a budget watercooling system like the Bigwater SE is well worth the money. There are several distinct advantages to watercooling: it’s quiet, it cools well and it has a smaller temperature delta between stock and overclocked temperatures when compared with air cooling. Here are the numbers to prove it – note that the stock cooling was the stock AMD cooler with a John Cinnamon-style suction duct. All these temperatures are with the system at max load and all fans on low.

State

Stock Temps

Overclocked Temps – 189 MHz FSB

Stock Air

CPU 46ºC

CPU 52ºC

Stock Air

MB 32ºC

MB 37ºC

Bigwater

CPU 37ºC

CPU 37ºC

Bigwater

MB 36ºC

MB 36ºC

And now the Bigwater with the RAD fan on high:

State

Stock Temps

Overclocked Temps – 189 MHz FSB

Bigwater High

CPU 33ºC

CPU 34ºC

Bigwater High

MB 31ºC

MB 31ºC

As you can see, a mild overclock has little or no effect on a watercooling system, even a low-cost one like the Bigwater.

So did the Bigwater allow me to get a good overclock? You bet! I got the FSB up to 210 MHz completely stable at 1.825 volts and the temps never go over 40ºC with the RAD fan on low.

I also managed to get the RAM which is rated for 3-3-3-8 at 200 MHz and 2.6 volts completely stable at 2-3-3-6 at 210 MHz at 2.8 volts. I managed to get it up to a max of 214 MHz fsb at 1.850 volts, but this was not completely stable – needs more voltage methinks! Well that leaves me to do a volt mod and a multiplier unlock one of these times!

Overall the Bigwater SE and all the other products I installed are great for keeping you system running cool and of course OVERCLOCKED!

Kyle Lunau

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *