Aircooling vs. Watercooling and watercooling FAQ
This isn?t another review just displaying numbers , saying such and such a heatsink is better than another one. Well there will be some displaying of numbers, but the whole point of this editorial is to give you guys an idea of the benefits of air-cooling and water-cooling.
I?ve been a big fan of water-cooling for a long time and have most of the time, been in awe of people brave enough to put two things who don?t really like each other too much near one another , i.e. water and electricity. I mean, computers are not the cheapest commodity around.
However, the benefits of water-cooling cannot be denied. Water by far is a superior medium to cooling anything hot down as compared to air. I could go into all the scientific derivations as to why this is so, also how water cooling is preferable and in many cases more efficient to air-cooling, but I believe we all have a general idea about all of that.
What I?ve done is taken my own Thermaltake Volcano 7+ and compared it to the Silverprop Cyclone 5 waterblock, coupled with a Silverprop SilverStorm 4 Radiator and a Ehiem 1250 pump.
Just some information on the Thermaltake Volcano 7+, which can be easily found from their website here.
Now my system when I FIRST started writing this article :
AMD AthlonXP 1600+ (1.4Ghz) [AGOIA 0212]
Shuttle AK31 Rev3.1 motherboard (VIA KT266A)
Nanya PC2100 DDR SDRAM
Abit Siluro GeForce 3 Ti200
Creative 56k modem
Accton 10/100 NIC
Maxtor D740X 60GB ATA133 HDD
Western Digital 800BB ATA100 HDD
Liteon 16x DVD-ROM
3x Sunon 80mm case fans
Volcano 7+ (yes I know its dusty)
This setup is what I run day in day out. I could strip it down bare for this review, but personally I feel, if a system cant run under its normal daily load, and only at its peak when its stripped bare, then the system is worthless to me.
Currently the AthlonXP 1600+ is overclocked to 2100+. Multiplier 12.5 with front side bus (fsb) 138mhz. I?ve had it at 2200+(Mult 12.5 x 144fsb) but that was during winter and now with the onset of the Australian summer I?ve had to lower the overclock. Vcore is set at 1.85v.
Now what has been done is to run HOT CPU Tester for 1hr while the system is overclocked. Once the temperatures had stabilised, the following picture was taken. As you can see, the temps displayed is 50.2oC. Presently this temperature monitor has its sensor placed up next to the core. The temperatures displayed generally are 5-8oC higher than those displayed by the onboard motherboard sensors, which ought to be correct as the current motherboard utilised is unable to read the on-die temperature probe of the AthlonXP. The ambient temperature in the case was measured to be 30oC.
This test was done with the Volcano 7+ fan?s being set on HIGH. As you can see, the temperature is fairly high in my opinion and basically, the Volcano7+ is a good heatsink as many other reviews on the heatsink will show. However, the fan supplied with the Volcano 7+ is extremely loud and irritating when set to HIGH. I personally set the fan to LOW most of the time and the corresponding temperatures jump to 58.4oC. This IMO is way to high for comfort.
What must be said is that this system configuration has been tested for stability before at this current overclock with 6hrs of Prime95. At that time though, the Volcano 7+ was also set on HIGH so I am unable to confirm the stability of the whole setup should it be set to LOW.
So there is a compromise in either having low temps with high background whirring, or having higher temps with the risk of compromising system stability but with a nice quiet system.
This is where water-cooling comes in.
Reading up many reviews on water-cooling, the Silverprop Cyclone 5 and Silverstorm 4 stuck out from the bunch of other water-cooling setups at that time. Also considering that I was in Australia, it proved to be much easier to secure a set for my own use.
What strikes you immediately upon opening of the packaging is the size of the Cyclone 5, and then the weight of the copper block itself. The most important thing that strikes you last is the quality of the waterblock. The waterblock is machined to a high degree of workmanship.
Cyclone 5 package
Comparing the relative size of the Cyclone 5
On turning the block over, you can see that the base has been machined to a mirror finish. The spots where I?ve accidentally touched the base mar the mirror finish slightly.
In the next package is the Silverprop Silverstorm 4. The name doesn?t strike you as much until you actually open the packaging and realise how large it is. It can comfortably accommodate 2 120mm fans on it. At the moment, I am in the process of acquiring some Sunon 120mm fans.
Next up is the Ehiem 1250 pump. It has got a flow rate of 1200l/hr and approximate head of 2.5m. What has been determined though from the invaluable advice and help from the Overclocker?s Australia Forums and the NatriumTech Forums is tat for a Cyclone 5 and Siverstorm 4, a good minimum flow rate of over 1000l/hr and head of at least 1.4m would be needed. So anyone else considering such a setup, do bear that in mind when choosing a pump.
Ok, now that?s where that article ended. Let me relate to you what happened. My first pump the Bassworx King2 arrived slightly damaged. I DID get the system up and running and the temps appeared fine, but the pump was making such a racket and cavitating like crazy. Needless to say I sent it back for a refund and then I came home for my 3month semester break in which time I bought my present Ehiem 1250.
After settling in, I resetup my w/cing rig and what should happen ? My new Epox 8RDA+ died due to the now infamous BIOS corruption issue. RMAed it and obtained the new NF7-S Rev2.0 and set that up.
So now my current setup is :
AthlonXP 1800+ DUT3C JIUHB (Tbred B core)
2x PC3200 Winbond BH5s
GF4MX440 (my GF3Ti200 died due to some modding)
There it is in all its beauty finally setup. More pics can be found by clicking the link in my sig.
Some things to note during the setup. Think carefully how you want to mount everything in your system. Place them and measure out the amount of tubing u?ll need to connect each item. Your pump to your waterblock, your waterblock to your radiator and then your radiator back to your pump. This forms a closed loop system. I have not included a reservoir as yet in my system but I may do so in the future. Instead, I have a T-line which aids in me bleeding the system of air bubbles and the inevitable refilling of the coolant.
The beauty about watercooling is that there is no SET combination of components or set method to hook them up. You do what is best for your own particular system really. I?ve chosen in my instance to keep the side panel open and mount the radiator on top of the case since its so huge and cant be easily fit inside the case just for ease of tubing and not to clutter the system up. However, the radiator could just as easily be placed in the drive bays or if it were smaller like the Silverprop Silverstorm 3, it could be placed down in front under the HDD cages.
Now what are temps like ? After I played around a bit and set my radiator up on stands as shown:
The idle temps are currently 35.5deg as found by the same thermal probe sitting on the core. Bear in mind this is with the system running at 2363MHz and 2V of Vcore running through the CPU, something I could never have dreamt of doing on air. Yes I know its hard to do a apple to apple comparison with my previous system becoz they are two different cores and systems, but it does go to show how much temps have dropped by when you think that the normal voltage is 1.65V and its running 0.35V over. Whilst I was setting up the watercooling, I did use the default AMD HSF and that would garner approximately 42deg on idle overclocked to 2083MHz @ 1.70V. A 6.5deg drop.
Now if that hasn?t convinced u yet?perhaps this will. The system is silent. We all have grown used to our fans in some respect. The AMD default fan though not being very load can produce a fair bit of a whirr at 5500rpm. All I hear is truthfully a very low vibration from the pump. Initially while setting up and getting the bubbles out of all the components, the pump did cavitate a bit and was a lot louder, but after one day, it quietened down to what it is now.
Bongs a.k.a Evaporative Coolers
I recently built a “bong” as its affectionately known as. More info can be found in this thread
It pretty much looks like this:
It works on the principle of evaporation pretty much. Water gets pumped out of the shower head on the top of the PVC pipe and its dispersed in small droplets. What ensues is that each droplet evaporates a wee little bit as it travels down and lands in the reservoir. This can be aided by having cool air vented into that tower to cool down the warm water from the nozzle head.
Once this cool water impacts the reservoir, it is relatively cool and this is then pumped back into the loop. Evaporative cooling is the only way to obtain lower than ambient water temperatures and for really good coolers, even for CPUs.
Some mistakes I made was using a T-section for the connector at the base. I made some modifications and covered up the mouth of the outlet to try and reduce the noise of the droplets and this lowered the evaporation process. Furthermore the shower head was slightly too large as well covering up too much of the intake.
What would make a better “bong” would be a smaller shower head than the one I used. Using a Y-section to aide in the venting in of cool air. Placing a sponge on the water surface just under the intake to lower the noise of the water dripping. All these things would have enabled a much quieter and better cooling bong.
More ideas can be found in this article on Overclockers.
The next thing that I am planning on trying out is this.
Picture property of Volenti
It gets rid of the problem of water droplets and is a lot smaller in size than the evaporative cooling tower which tends to be quite massive. The cooling performance also appears to be on par or even better than a cooling tower.
More info can be found in that thread I linked and when i actually build one I’ll comment. It looks easy enough.
Be mindful though. Evaporative cooling is just that, some water evaporates. A lot more than if it were in a closed loop system. As such, be ready to be topping up the water level in your reservoir more often than you would in a closed loop system. Also, try and keep your pump either on the same level as the reservoir or in the reservoir, if not it becomes quite a pain to try and prime the system after each time u switch off the pump as the water would just fall back into the reservoir. Simple things like that need to be taken note off.
Remember. evaporative coolers are generally a lot cheaper than a comparative radiator. They also tend to cool a lot better than a radiator too. The downside is that these thing also tend to be quite large and take up quite a bit of real estate space. So its up to you and what you want to do.
Reservoirs & Comments
As most of you undoubtedly are aware, I am a big fan of watercooling. Thus far I’ve gone through 3 waterblocks and just recently watercooled my 2nd system back in Singapore. More info can be found in this thread.
In that case, I tried something new, running a pump submersed. This was more to do with my own fault in buying an “inline” pump which had no inlet barb. Anyhow, it proved to be quite an interesting endeavor. In the past, where the problems of having to prime the pump first before fully using the system used to be a mild annoyance. Having it submerged tended to rid myself of that problem. Furthermore, all pumps will produce heat whilst working and will tend to transfer this heat to the water. In an inline setup, the water will get steadily warmer over usage. In a submersible setup, the pump dunps its heat into the water, but because the size of the water its submerged in (this is dependent on reservoir size) you could end up with slightly lower coolant temps. This is a theory, something I will try out someday.
I’ve also come one up from the submerged pump incident to now using a reservoir in my system.
As u can see, its a simple bottle, an ex-shampoo bottle in fact. I’ve drilled two holes in its base and stuck two 90degree barbs in it and then zip tied it to my case. This method makes it so much more convenient to refill the loop, if I should ever have to do so. Furthermore, I get to see the water swirling. Which is yes a childish statement, but hey, at least I can check to see that the pump is actually working !
I don?t know what else to really add to this, if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask them. I don?t claim to know everything there is to know about watercooling, but this is what I?ve learnt thus far and what has worked for me. Do correct me should I be wrong anywhere.
I must say that certain forums have helped me immensely in my journey from air to water.
Its fairly obvious that the benefits of watercooling are there and that with careful planning and proper implementation, you can have a great overclocked system running silently. I personally feel that watercooling is the way of the future and will be a reality in time to come.
Once you?ve gone to water, you wont go back to air. Now whats next ?
Ok I?ve gone on a fair bit about my current system, I?ll just point some stuff out from what I?ve learnt along the way.
Q: How much would all of this set me back ?
A: This set me back approximately $325. $100 for the waterblock, $100 for the Radiator, $95 for the pump and $30 for miscellaneous items like tubing and clamps. Mind you I got it at a good price, the pump and waterblock at that time retailed for $150 each. For a good system, expect to spend around $300++. For a kickass one, expect around $500 including shipping charges.
Q: How safe is it ?
A: Relatively safe. Honestly speaking, you have a higher chance of your pump failing and casuing ur CPU to overheat than for a leak to spring and short everything out as long as you use hose clamps and zip ties on all connections. Furthermore, the coolant used is distilled & de-ionised water which means that it is electrically inert. Should the unlikely event occur that you do spill it all over the insides. Dry out your stuff thoroughly and it ought to be perfectly fine the next day.
Q: Coolant ? Whats that?
A: Ok, never ever run tap water in your system. Though it is fit to drink, it is terrible for your gear. Tap water is full of gunk in it as well as ions. It will do a far amount of damage. Firstly gavanistic corrosion is further sped up due to the ions present in tap water. This occurs when two different metals are placed together and one metal in time will corrode the other. Very very bad in aluminium copper systems. The second thing about tap water is that it will generally result in algae growth a lot faster than normally expected. So, just pick up a bottle of distilled water or radiator water from an Auto shop. Whilst you are at it, grab a bottle of radiator coolant as well, that contains some anti-corrosive properties which will help in your system.
Q: Radiator and heatercore, what are their purpose?
A: With the use of a radiator/heatercore, be ready for the fact that you will never go below ambient temperatures. U can get close, but never below. What is occurring is that the coolant whilst passing through the radiator uses passes its heat on to the air being blown through the radiator. But aint this the same as a heatsink ? yes it is, but on a much larger scale and more efficient due to the tiny fins found on a radiator. And with a radiator, you can run a lot larger and thus quieter fan on it.
Q: How should I place the fans? Blowing or sucking?
A: It depends, but the general consensus is to suck through the radiator. Why? Because look at it this way, when you are sucking air through the fan, it is pulling air in from all sides. However when you blow, the pressure difference is fairly large. i.e. a dead zone in the centre followed by a large pressure distribution diminishing as you go further out. However, if you have a large shroud that places your fans say 5+cm or more from the radiator surface, its seem better to blow as the dead zone is eliminated. If your shroud is just off the surface, it would be better to suck through. Test them both out and see whats best for you. As you could see from above, that config gave me a great drop in temps.
Q: Pumps and flowrates and head, whats that?
A: Ok, a pump is rated to deliver a set amount of flowrate/hr at a certain amount of head at its best settings. Head is defined as how much water and to what height its ejected to. The higher ur head is, the greater the pressure. This is extremely important in a system. You gotta realise that some waterblocks and radiators in particular are full of twists and bends and very restrictive to flow. The higher your head is, the higher the pressure, the greater the ability to push more coolant through the system and cool things down better. But also there is a trade off, the higher the rating of your pump, the more heat the pumpwill dump into the water. So things might heat up a bit as well unless you use a submerged pump instead of inline. Higher the flowrate, higher coolant flow, better temps.
Q: Submerged, inline, closed loop, reservoir, bong???
A: A submerged pump is one where the pump has to be placed completed in water to run properly. This is good for people who plan to use a reservoir as well to cool. You could have a small reservoir, small enough to just place the pump within that way you can refill the system easy as and when you want and save some space. OR you could have a huge reservoir, some have used huge 30L + containers for that. When you do that, you could get rid of the radiator as the large body of water would be able to cool down the incoming hot water sufficiently before it was reinjected into the loop. However, temps may not be as good. You could use a ?bong? as its affectionately known. This is actually a evaporative cooling tower. Water travels up the tower and is released at the top of it in a fine droplet size, some evaporates obviously and this evaporation aides in cooling the water down further. U might be able to get lower than ambient temps using such a method. I unfortunately don?t know much about them so I cant give more advice.
A closed loop is the most common setup around. I?ve already explained it above.
Q: Northbridge, GPU cooling ?
A: Yes both can be watercooled. I?ve got a pair of Jaron Esky waterblocks just for that.
They are decent. Last year, I would have scoffed at cooling the northbdidge as it just didn?t get THAT hot. Now however, with the nForce2, Springdale & Canterwood boards out, they get very hot very fast. Active cooling or large passive cooling is a must! Watercooling is good fun, but remember, the more things you add to the loop, the more restrictive it gets and as such, u will see a slight deterioration in temps and perhaps performance.
Q: How much would different setups cost?
A: I’ve been asked quite a few times how much it would cost all up for a watercooling rig. I’ll list out some prices as of today. 21st June 2003.
Locally in Singapore, u can only get Silverprop watercooling gear through their distributor ablaze. Info can be found from Cryophilia. For Swiftech stuff, u can contact bozoxp in the CMF forums for them as well, though I am unsure as to his status as an official reseller. Regardless, he normally has stock for things.
Ok, pumps can be locally bought. An Ehiem 1250 is the de facto one for most people costing $95 from PetMart in Serangoon North. If that is too costly, an Ehiem 1048 will set u back about $70 I nelieve. If not, u can go looking for a decent aquarium pump but remember, flow rate and more imporantly head delivered are very important criterias.
Unless you are going to go and grab only Silverprop items, then you will be looking overseas to purchase your gear. There is a long list of online shops in this guide over @ CMF. For a cheap and decent waterblock, you could grab the DangerDen Maze4 which retails for US$41.99. For the best in the market at the moment, the Dtek LRWW retails for US$64.99(AMD) and US$69.99 (Intel).
This depends on your size of casing, how much cooling power u think u may need and your budget. Most radiators can accomodate either 1x120mm fan or 2x 120mm fan. U have to decide which you may wnat. For the cheaper and better option. The DTek Pro Core combo rad (1x120mm) costs US$54.99. You could to save some cash on shipping get the Silverprop Silverstorm 4 from ablaze which costs S$150 + S$30 (2x 120mm)for a shroud. A shroud is greatly recommended.
Tubing and hose clamps can be obtained easily from most hardware shops really. Ehiem is generally used or just clear PVC tubing though it kinks quite easily. Tygon is the best, and most expensive. Hardly kinks. Tygon can be bought online on some of the shops mentioned above.
Ok now tallying everything up.
Ehiem 1048 – S$70
DD Maze4 – US$41.99
DTek Pro Combo – US$54.99
Shipping – US$30
Total – S$280 (Using US$1 = S$1.67)
Ehiem 1250 – S$95
DTek LRWW – US$64.99
Silverprop Silverstorm 4 – SS$150+$30
Shipping – US$20
Total – S$416
Dont forget to budget about $20++ for the misc stuff.
Hopefully that gives u some idea as to how much it may cost and what to budget for. It can add up over time if u add NB & GPU blocks and what nots.
Contributed by Sin22
15 August 2003