Watercooling Kit Mods

Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Joe

SUMMARY: Buy an entry-level watercooling kit for what it is – it does not pay to mod it.

As the number of watercooling kits in the market proliferate, I get emails from buyers who want to mod their kit for better performance. I thought it would be interesting to see what mods would do to performance, so I reached into the parts bin and pulled out the following components:

Replace
  • Black Ice Radiator
  • Innovatek X-Flow Waterblock
  • Eheim 1048 waterpump with integrated reservoir from a CoolingKing Kit

The test plan was to replace only one component and determine its impact on performance. I did not test for two changes as it gets uneconomic very quickly – by the time you replace two pieces, you’ve just about equalled the original cost of the kit. My supposition going in was the best change would be adding a higher power waterpump – more flow, better performance.

I used the Kingwin Arctic Watercooling Kit

Kit

as the kit to mod. I tested the kit first, then made each mod in turn and retested using the die-simulator. I ran the kit’s fan at full blast – a noisy option, but I’m looking for the best possible performance.

Add a Waterpump

I decided to splice the Eheim 1048 into the out line from the case – this was the simplest way to add the waterpump and retain the kit’s functions, such a CPU temp monitoring. More determined modders could open the case and bypass the kit’s waterpump, but I doubt performance would change significantly.

Kit Mod
Die Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W

No Mods
46.6

23.8

22.8

0.32

Add Waterpump Only
45.0

24.2

20.8

0.30

A performance increase of 2ºC – nothing to write home about. At this point, I thought the other mods would be worse. After some thought, I believe the small diameter tubing severely impacted the degree to which waterflow increased, thereby limiting its impact.

Replace the Waterblock

I removed the Eheim and replaced the waterblock with Innovatek’s X-Flow waterblock. This is more appropriate for this kit as the tubing is ¼” and Innovatek’s products are made for smaller tubing sizes.

Kit Mod
Die Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W

No Mods
46.6

23.8

22.8

0.32

Replace Waterblock Only
44.7

24.7

20.0

0.28

A 4ºC improvement – so much for my waterpump theory! Considering that the Innovateks tend also to be high pressure drop waterblocks, this improvement is all the more impressive.

Replace the Radiator

The fan I used on the Black Ice was a 120 mm Adda unit that ran at 2418 rpm – this is by no means a quiet addition. I replaced the kit’s small auxiliary radiator with the Black Ice.

Kit Mod
Die Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W

No Mods
46.6

23.8

22.8

0.32

Replace Radiator Only
43.2

24.1

19.2

0.27

A 5ºC improvement – just reinforces that for watercooling, radiator size matters. As a kit mod, however, a radiator this size means a possible case mod is needed to mount it – not exactly keeping with the kit approach.

Replace Everything

OK – let’s assume you started with one component and then decided to go “all the way” – sell the kit to a friend and use the money to buy the rest of the components:

Kit Mod
Die Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W

No Mods
46.6

23.8

22.8

0.32

Replace the Kit with Waterpump, Radiator and Waterblock
38.2

24.2

14.0

0.20

Quite a difference from the kit – a 12ºC advantage (although noisier – also note that the tubing was ½” OD – substantially larger than the kit’s ¼” tubing.). So to recap:

Kit Mod
Die Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W

No Mods
46.6

23.8

22.8

0.32

Add Waterpump Only
45.0

24.2

20.8

0.30

Replace Waterblock Only
44.7

24.7

20.0

0.28

Replace Radiator Only
43.2

24.1

19.2

0.27

Replace the Kit with Waterpump, Radiator and Waterblock
38.2

24.2

14.0

0.20

CONCLUSIONS

Yes – you can get better performance by changing components – in this case, I think the easiest change is the waterblock – gets you almost as much as the radiator change and retains the kit’s functionality.

However, starting from scratch with good components gives the best bang for the buck – not a real surprise. If you have an entry level kit and now hunger for better performance, consider a total replacement – in the long run, it’s a better approach.

Changing the waterblock is probably the least invasive way to boost performance at “modest” cost and, admittedly, is not all that bad. Seems to me, however, that’s what should be marketed from the get-go.

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