The Swiftech Quiet Power H2O Case Cools Dual Xeons

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A look at a Q-Power dual setup — Colin Thompson

Introduction

This project started because I wanted a simple, quiet, fast computer.

After six months of fiddling with and listening to a dual pelt Athlon system, I was ready for a change. My first attempt at a sane machine was watercooled, overclocked PIII dually. It was still too loud and a little pokey for my tastes. Time for plan B.

The decision to go with a Xeon dually was easy. Fast enough without overclocking and with rock solid stability, Xeons seemed to fit my needs. The stock Intel wind tunnel heatsink fans, while thermally controlled, are not known for being quiet. In my quest for a silent solution, I called Swiftech. My thought was to use a pair of Swiftech heatsinks with quiet fans.

After a lively conversation with Swiftech’s Eric Kronies about overclocking, the conversation drifted to the new Quiet Power case. Eric held the phone up to the Quiet Power case he uses in the office. I could not hear it, but Eric could hear my PIII rig wailing away in the background. The seed was planted.

Now understand, I wanted this to be a simple machine. Watercooling was not in the picture. Besides, I could build my own watercooled box and the Quiet Power with an extra waterblock seemed expensive.

When my wife got home that evening, I told her about the Quiet Power and the cost. It only took a few minutes of her listening to my PIII rig to suggest I buy the Quiet Power. I spent most of the evening mulling over the budget for the new rig and was undecided. All evening my PIII box filled the room with background noise.

The next morning, I fired up the computer. It only took a few minutes of this before my wife said, “Honey, I want you to buy that quiet case you talked about, I don’t care what it costs.” That was enough for me. I called Eric and ordered the case. The Quiet Power and the rest of the components arrived a couple of days later.

First Impressions

For reference, please see Joe’s photos of the case. For the scope of this article, there is no need for me to duplicate them.

The case arrived well packed, bagged in plastic with Styrofoam spacers to protect it should the carton become damaged in shipment. The cooling system comes filled, with a single waterblock mounted to the case for shipment. The extra waterblock was double boxed and taped securely in the front 3.5″ drive bay. The rest of the components for the case were boxed and taped securely in the PSU bay.

As I disassembled and unpacked the components, I was struck with the quality that subtly oozes from the Quiet Power. There are no sharp edges to unexpectedly draw blood. Everything fits snug and proper. Even the blowhole is very professional with rolled edges.

Case Specifications

The case is designed to hold AMD single and dual CPU motherboards. It is also certified for Intel single and dual Pentium III Xeon, Xeon (Foster) and Pentium 4 CPUs. There are four 5.25 external drive bays, two 3.5″ external drive bays and room for five more internal 3.5″ drives. Dimensions are 21″ height, 18.25″ depth, 9″ width and a hefty 40 pounds.

Q-Power

The Cooling System

Two 55 CFM 120mm fans handle air intake. One, complete with filter in the front of the case and a second in a blowhole focused on the expansion cards. Two 55 CFM exhaust fans below the PSU cool the radiator mounted on the rear of the case. A relay controlled Eheim 1048 pump, (158 GPH) circulates the coolant through 3/8″ tubing.

While the Quiet Power is available with the MCW372, I specified the MCW462-U waterblocks. The plumbing order is pump/block/radiator. With such seemingly modest cooling components with the exception of the awesome Swiftech waterblocks, the Quiet Power is a testament to good engineering.

The key is balance. Both the airflow and coolant flow are tuned for maximum efficiency. Quite a contrast to the overkill H2O rigs I am used to seeing.
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Colin Thompson

Setup

The Quiet Power comes setup for a single CPU. Since I had to install another waterblock, the next step was to drain the cooling system. The supplied Fill & Bleed kit combined with the Swiftech valve system made quick work of the task. All that’s necessary is to follow the supplied instructions.

With the two 3.5″ drive bays removed, I installed the motherboard. Dual CPU boards tend to take up a lot of real estate. Based on a small server, Xeon approved case, the Quiet Power has plenty of room, including a cross bar support for memory riser cards. I did have to move the pump slightly to accommodate the RAM slots. This was a simple mater of clipping the zip tie, moving it a little lower to the right and securing it with a fresh zip tie.

Pump

Next came adding the extra waterblock to the plumbing.

After reading some of the comments on the Net about Swiftech’s quick connect fittings, I was pleasantly surprised. Having built several watercooled rigs with barbed fittings and hose clamps, the quick connect fittings are a definite improvement for ease of use. After applying Arctic Silver 3 to the CPUs, I installed them and the waterblocks were fastened into place.

The supplied mounting hardware made this a breeze. Swiftech recommends a cooling solution of 75% distilled water, 15% antifreeze and 10% Redline Water Wetter. I mixed a fresh batch and followed the detailed filling instructions. Bleeding the system took about 15 minutes.

While plumbing changes and filling and bleeding are not necessary for the normal single CPU system, the well thought out design by Swiftech makes this a very simple task. Just prior to publication, Swiftech added a dual CPU version of the Quiet Power to their Web Page. No more filling and bleeding for duallies!

Dual

Drive installation was next.

The front mounted 3.5″ cage is held in place with three screws. Once removed, the floppy, Zip and IDE hard drive went in without out a hitch. The rear 3.5″ drive cage is mounted in front of the top 120mm fan for the radiator, perfect for hot running, high RPM drives. The cage slides in place with two screws to secure it. A Seagate Cheetah X15 36LP found it’s home.

The 5.25″ drive bays use a slide out rail with a spring-loaded clip, which makes for quick installation and removal. The only tricky part was getting the rails positioned so the drives are flush with the front panel. You only need to worry about this for one drive. Any additional drives can use the rail position on the first drive as a template.

Next I installed the expansion cards and the PSU. I can’t emphasize enough how the tight tolerances built into this case make assembling a system easy. Everything just slips into place with little or no effort. Perfect for the design philosophy of the Quiet Power. The most time consuming task, outside of filling and bleeding the cooling system was dressing the PSU cables.

Case Open

So how does it cool?

After running the system for a few days, here are the temps:

With two 1.8 GHz Prestonia Xeons, each putting out 55 watts, CPU 1 idles at 3C over room temperature. CPU 2 idles at 4C over room temperature. I ran Prime, CPUBurn and CPU Stability Test concurrently for eight hours to get the full load temps.

At full load, CPU 1 is at 9C over room temperature and CPU 2 is at 10C over room temperature.

Case temps at idle are 1C over room temperature and 4C over room temperature after eight hours at full load. Very impressive.

Note, with a watercooled system there is no vibration from a heatsink fan to help break in the thermal compound. It takes four weeks or more for the particles in Arctic Silver to align for best thermal transfer, compared to a few days with air cooling. I expect to see the CPU temperature to drop a couple of degrees in the next few weeks.

The Sound of Silence

With a name like Quiet Power, one would expect this to be a quiet case. Granted I could not hear it over the phone, but I was not prepared for how quiet. At the standard one-meter distance, the noise level was below the 50 db. limit of my sound pressure meter. According to Swiftech, the total noise level is 34 db.

Needless to say, I more than pleased. I believe giddy is the right word. My wife’s happy now too.

The Bottom Line

While the Swiftech Quiet Power is not exactly inexpensive, it is a fantastic value.

The cooling performance, lack of noise, ease of use, drive space and overall quality put it at the top of the class for a small server case. This is a rare gem in the high performance case market. Not only would it do well in any computer enthusiast’s home, it’s the first watercooled case that is built to standards that fit the commercial market.

My sincere thanks to Swiftech for engineering such a superb product and their quick delivery upon purchase.

Colin Thompson

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