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Many of the members at the Overclockers.com forums who are watercooling experts will often advise you to stay away from water cooling ‘kits’ for a number of reasons. First, the price vs. performance ratios of most kits are poor compared to aftermarket air cooling, and sometimes such kits even perform worse than aftermarket air coolers. Other concerns are the closed loop and not having the ability to upgrade parts. Swiftech reckon they have changed that with its new “Edge” line of water cooling kits. Today we will be reviewing the Swiftech H20-220 Edge Liquid Cooling Kit which has kindly been provided by CrazyPC.com. The “Edge” line of water cooling kits comes in two flavors: the H20-220 with a radiator cooled by 2x 120 mm fans, and the H20-320 which comes with a radiator cooled by 3x 120 mm fans. Swiftech states on their website that “the H20-X20 “Edge” series liquid cooling kits represent a true revolution in the world of liquid cooling”. Let’s see if Swiftech’s latest offering can overcome the concerns people may have about buying a water cooling kit!
- Apogee XTL CPU water block
- MCR220-DRIVE (Rev.2) – Dual 120 mm radiator, MCP35X pump assembly, 2 fans, fan guards
- MCB-120 Radbox mounting hardware
- 6 feet of 1/2″ ID tubing
- Hydrx Coolant – 2 oz and funnel
- Fillport hardware
- Installation guide
Packaging, Contents, and Installation
As you can see from the pictures, the packaging from CrazyPC.com was great. The actual product packaging was in a larger box surrounded by packing peanuts. These peanuts will actually break down under water which is a nice environmentally friendly option, compared to the normal styrofoam packing.
Inside the smaller package are the parts. Everything inside that box had was snugly fit into its own place.
Installation of the kit was straightforward. The kit comes with printed (not pictured) and video instructions for how to mount the kit. Both the paper and video instructions were quite detailed and will be a help to both novice installers and pros. The kit also comes with the Swiftech rad box (not pictured) so you have internal and external mounting options. Since I already have a PA120.2 mounted on the back of the Corsair Obsidian 800D, I chose to mount it inside up top using the longer screws that were provided. By default the kit comes with Intel CPU monting brackets for LGA socket 775, 1156, and 1366. If you wanted to put a Socket 754, 939, AM2, or AM3 under the Apogee XTL, you can select the relevant option when ordering from CrazyPC.com.
In my case I really had no choice but to fill this unit before I installed it. Some people might want to get the Dremel out and create a fill port through their case. The necessary grommets and cap and are included and the radiator has the side fill port. After one attempt with the supplied 1/2″ ID tubing, I realized with the plastic clamps on one side (but metal screw type clamps on the other), there was no way the tubing was going hold on the barbs with such a short curved run and so much tension on them. So I drained the radiator/reservoir combo and refilled it using my own 7/16″ ID tubing. One should always use clamps with a water cooling system to prevent leaks (do as I say, not as I do!). The unit looks good tucked up inside the 800D.
The following system was used for testing (relevant parts):
- Intel W3570 @ 3.3 GHz, 1.21 V / 4 GHz, 1.27 V / 4.4 GHz, 1.38 V
- Supertalent 6 GB DDR3 2k @ 1600 MHz 7-7-7-24-1T
- ATI X850xt (not a typo!)
- Corsair Obsidian 800D (side panel on, case fans @ 100%)
I used Prime95 Small FFT runs for 1 hour in order to make sure the loops are saturated and have hit their maximum temperature. I compared the kit being reviewed against my current setup which consisted of PA120.2 and MCR320 radiators with a MCP655 variable pump set to 3, EK Supreme HF (acetal top, default plate), and 120 mm Yate Loon High fans at 1000 RPM on both radiators. Please note (if you haven’t already) that this is not intended to be a direct apples-to-apples comparison between the other cooling systems as they are all so different. I ran the Swiftech kits fans at ca. 1,200 RPM which is the lowest I could get them to run without them stopping (on my fan controller). The MCP35X pump on the Swiftech Edge kit was run at 40% throughout the testing. I used these datasets just to give readers an idea of what a much more expensive custom loop would provide vs. stock air (i.e. to inform people who would likely be purchasing this unit) vs. this Swiftech kit. Ambient temperatures were up to 2 °C lower when testing the Swiftech edge kit.
This article by Skinee Labs states: “… simply using processor temperature minus ambient temperature is not adequate for Intel’s 65 nm Core 2 processors. However, I have found that ambient and core temps scale perfectly fine (1:1) with i7.” With that in mind, the temperature results shown for the H20 220 Edge kit were normalized to 25 °C ambient temperature since it was a bit different than the other tests.
Looking at the first graph you can see even at stock speeds and voltage, the stock air cooler doesn’t stand a chance against the Swiftech Edge or a custom loop. Temperatures for the Edge were only a few degrees Celsius more than a much more expensive custom loop with more radiators, which is not bad at all.
Stepping up to a 3.9 GHz clock speed and 1.27 V VCore, the H20-220 Edge is still holding up quite well with plenty left over to keep pushing. Sadly, the stock air cooler could not handle 3.9 GHz under load and was clocked down to 3.6 GHz to keep temperatures to an acceptable level.
Last up is the 4.4 GHz clock speed. The custom loop still pulls ahead as it has significantly more radiator surface area and hence the ability to dissipate more heat. Still, this is a great showing for a water cooling ‘kit’ at these speeds and voltages. If the stock air cooler couldn’t make it at 3.9 GHz, it certainly can’t make it at 4.4 GHz so it’s not pictured at all here.
As one can see from the results above, this isn’t your typical water cooling kit that most knowledgeable forum members would tell you to stay away from. This is essentially a kit with custom loop performance with ease of installation in mind. Swiftech has combined the pump and reservoir on the 2x 120 mm radiator making installation a snap. The ability to control the pump speed via 4 pin PWM headers as well as the 3 pin fans on the motherboard is a great feature that saves you buying a fan controller. This unit can run silent, or you can crank it up for performance when benchmarking. With 40% pump and 1,200RPM on the fans the pump was audible, but not loud by any means. At 100% you could easily hear the pump over anything in my case (which, for the record, was made for quiet operation). The fans at 1200RPM were nearly silent compared to the pump.
With this not being a closed loop like many others out there, one has the ability to add other parts as needed such as another radiator and a VGA block. The pump can certainly handle it. One could also change out water blocks when new sockets arrive in the future. You will not be able to do that with closed loop offerings like the Corsair H50/H70 (Editor’s note: muddocktor has tested both the H50 and H70. The former does not perform as well as high-end air coolers, whereas the latter is about on par).
I had minor issues with this unit with the thick 1/2″ ID and 3/4″ OD tubing that was included. The kit came with one set of metal adjustable clamps that worked very well, but the other side only used the plastic clamps. I strongly prefer metal screw type clips over plastic. As you can see, I had some relatively tight turns with my mounting orientation which put a lot of tension on the tubing and started to pull them off the barbs. Even after using pliers to tighten the plastic clamps down I was still a bit nervous about them sliding off. To prevent that I switched to my own 7/16″ ID tubing which allowed me to make those tight turns and put less tension on the tubing so it held snug on its own (again, please use clamps for long-term use!) on the barbs. The other concern I had was with the noise levels: as I mentioned above, the pump was the loudest item in the kit even at 40% speed. Obviously one man’s loud is another man’s whisper, but just take note the pump at its tested speeds was certainly audible.
Overall this is an impressive kit. The performance should be right up there with a custom loop with a similar sized radiator and fans with similar CFM due to the quality block it uses. This kit obliterates stock air cooling performance-wise and was actually was within a few degrees of my custom loop which has a lot more radiator surface area and cost nearly twice as much. The Swiftech H20-220 Edge is a good buy at $248.99 at CrazyPC.com to get you diving headfirst into custom water cooling with the ease of a kit for installation. The Edge has the flexibility to upgrade to future blocks for upcoming sockets, great performance for a single heavily overclocked CPU, quiet operation with the pump at 13% (where its PWM curve starts to climb) and fans on low, the ability to crank it up for some benching sessions when every degree Celsius counts, and expandability to put more into the loop (radiator/VGA block) when you are ready. The Swiftech H20-320 Edge ought to perform even better, with a 3x 120 mm radiator and the same quality parts.
Thank you again to CrazyPC.com for providing the review sample.