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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
On to the Extreme Spirit!
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.
The Extreme Spirit includes the northbridge heatsink, blower fan, RAMsinks for southbridge, mounting hardware, a fan controller, and some thermal compound.
Who cares about included thermal compound if we have this… YAY!
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…
Some of THIS! (I apologize for lack of macro)
This was my CPU before anything:
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!
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.
Fast forward 3 minutes. The block is on and its time to get this baby reassembled!
Fast forward another 15 minutes. The motherboard is in after a lot of fiddling.
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:
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)
While I was installing the reservoir I noticed these four screw holes…
And this decent size piece of real estate…
Wait a minute!
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.
Fast forward 5 more minutes. Got the reservoir in. Here’s a shot from the outside:
And the inside:
Looks like my systems ready for the tubing and the pump!
Fast forward 20 minutes. The tubing and pump are in!
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:
Ready to fill!
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 🙂
OOOPS! Forgot these!
The beast in its new home:
Performance Cooled By Thermaltake ohhhh yeah!
What did I think of these items? Here are the Pros and Cons of each, my opinion and a final score out of ten:
- 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
- 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.
- Cools well
- Looks cool
- Cools the northbridge and southbridge
- Can go from silent to 747 on final approach via the included fan controller
- 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.
- Looks cool
- Includes heatspreaders and BIG RAMsinks
- Easy install
- Provides a little extra heat dissipation
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
- Works well
- Not conductive
Overall: If you want a high performance thermal compound that isn’t conductive or capacitive, then you want Ceramique
- 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
- Protect your Athlon!
- Looks cool
- 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
- Really cheap ($4 Canadian)
- Looks cool
- Comes in lots of different colours
- Protect your expansion slots from RAMpaging dust
- UV Reactive
- 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!
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.
Overclocked Temps – 189 MHz FSB
And now the Bigwater with the RAD fan on high:
Overclocked Temps – 189 MHz FSB
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!