A head-to-head comparsion between two water cooling systems — Joe
SUMMARY: Swiftech’s Q-Power does a better cooling job, but the Koolance is no slouch either.
I have tested both Swiftech’s Q-Power
Koolance’s PC2-C Liquid Cooled Case separately. Readers have been asking for a comparison between the two, so I did a head-to-head test. For details on each system, please click on the links above.
I used exactly the same motherboard, CPU etc., in each case, ran each at idle and under stress and recorded results. For CPU temps, I used one of my heatsink test boards, the Shuttle AK31 3.1, to directly read XP diode temps. First, let’s compare what’s inside each case:
The water pumps used are very different. The Koolance pump (on top)
is clearly smaller; however, note that Koolance uses two 12 v pumps for redundancy (you DO NOT get twice the flow rate with two pumps), while Swiftech only one. The Eheim 1048 (110 v) is one of the best for reliability and you can get spare parts for it.
I have used both pumps; the Eheim I have never missed a beat and is absolutely silent. The Koolance case I have been using every day for almost a year (the first one) has also not missed a beat.
Swiftech’s waterblock is clearly more massive than Koolance’s, and by a wide margin:
The Koolance is much easier to mount, using a clip that engages all three socket lugs. The Swiftech block uses the mounting holes in the motherboard. If you don’t secure the nuts that hold the waterblock to the motherboard with something like Loctite, removing the waterblock will probably require removing the motherboard.
The Koolance measures about 10″ x 4¾” (core) x ¾”; the Swiftech measured 11¾” x 4″ (core) x ¾”. I can’t tell you one is better than the other – best I can say is they are about the same size.
The Koolance uses tubing with an inside diameter of 3/16″ while Swiftech uses ¼”.
Koolance uses three 80mm fans, two blowing air into the radiator and one exhausting. Swiftech uses four 120mm fans, two intake and two exhaust.
Koolance use a fan controller that is controlled by waterblock temps. The advantage is that at idle, the fans are spinning at their lowest setting, reducing noise to its lowest level. In the testing I did, the fans did not spin up beyond their lowest setting even under stress. Users can select from 3 different fan control programs.
The Q-Power does not employ any fan control or CPU monitoring software in its system; the fans spin at one setting under all conditions.
I asked some Koolance vendors about RMA experiences and it is very good. If there are RMA issues, Koolance is very responsive and readily honors their warranty.
Readers have told me of Swiftech’s commitment to customer service, so between the two, I think either one will step up to their responsibilities without grief on the consumer’s part.
I used the same components for each test:
- Shuttle AK31 v3.1
- AMD XP @ 1.73v, 1467 MHz
- 256 MB Kingmax RAM
- PC Power & Cooling Silent 275 Power Supply
- WD Hard Drive
- Leadtek GeForce 2 Pro
- Floppy, CD ROM
I installed the components in each system, checked for leaks and then ran at idle for an hour and recorded temps. Then I ran Prime 95 for another hour, recording temps again.
Radiator In Temp
MBM CPU/Case Temp
¹CPU by In-socket thermistor; Case by motherboard sensor
C/W = Delta / CPU Watts
Interpreting C/W: For every watt the CPU radiates, the system will cool the core by the (C/W x watts) plus ambient temp. For example, at an ambient temp of 25 C, a C/W of 0.25 with a CPU radiating 50 watts means that the CPU core temp will be 50 x 0.25 = 12.5 C over ambient temp, or 37.5 C. The lower the C/W, the better.
For a CPU at 100 watts, the Swiftech will outperform the Koolance by 8 C.
The Q-Power has a clear performance advantage over the Koolance. Considering its more powerful pump and higher airflow through the radiator, it was a question of by how much, not if.
I measured noise from each system with a Radio Shack sound meter placed three feet each system’s side. Both systems barely registered at 50-52 dBA. As to pitch, the Koolance sounded higher than the Q-Power; I added a case fan to the Koolance – without it, it would be slightly quieter.
Between the two, I would say the Q-Power was less noticeable, although the differences are not so great as to prefer one to the other. Compared to any other system using aggressive air cooling, there is no comparison – each system will win this one hands down, no contest.
Both the Koolance and Swiftech do a great cooling job with noise levels far below aggressive air cooling solutions. The Q-Power is beefier, has more cooling potential than the Koolance, uses a better case and consequently costs more – how much depends on what you include with it.
The Q-Power I think appeals more to “tweakers” and those who need lots of room for hard drives and other components. The Koolance is more “sedate” and I think would appeal more to users looking for superior cooling and low noise in a “set it up and forget about it” PC.
Either one is easy to set up for anyone that has ever assembled a system – there is no witchcraft or rocket science in either system. Either will serve well for an overclocked system, although the Q-Power has more “overhead” for possible peltier based systems.
²These C/Ws are not comparable to CPU Die Simulator results.