asetek WaterChill CPU Cooler Review

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asetek WaterChill CPU Cooler Review - Page 2

asetek WaterChill CPU Cooler Review
Water Cooling for Pentium 4, Athlon XP, and Athlon 64

By: Chris Angelini
August 25, 2003

Dissecting the Pieces
WaterChill Exposed

The build quality of every component in a water cooling configuration is arguably of equal importance.  The failure of any one link in the chain can have catastrophic consequences.  Because the water block makes direct contact with the processor, it needs to meet very strict standards.  In the case of asetek's WaterChill kit, the water block features a copper base and a acrylic cover.  The bottom of the base is finely machined for a particularly smooth finish, which, paired with an effective thermal compound, results in excellent heat transfer between processor and water block. In turn, the block is affixed to the acrylic cover with a gasket in between. Inside of the copper base, asetek's "half-moon" design is clearly visible.  As opposed to competing water cooling kits with spiral or maze arrangements, asetek used the milled half-moon for its efficiency at higher heat loads, though the difference is otherwise minimal.  Also, asetek's manual gives advice on positioning the water block for the best possible flow.


Considering some of the compatibility issues experienced with traditional heatsinks, it would be natural to wonder about the WaterChill water block.  asetek took this into account, though, and drilled three sets of mounting holes in the block's acrylic cover to accommodate Socket 478 Pentium 4 processors, the Socket A Athlon XP, and AMD's upcoming Socket 754 Athlon 64.  Indeed, removing the stock Pentium 4 retention mechanism proves easy enough, and replacing it with asetek's mounting hardware is similarly elementary. The situation is a little more complicated if you'd like to use the included chipset cooler, however. Motherboards based on Intel chipsets unfortunately do not sport mounting holes for north bridge coolers.  So, while installing the chipset cooler on an AMD or VIA-based system may be a straight-forward proposition, Intel platforms will require thermal epoxy or some other adhesive for proper retention.


The chipset cooler itself is a miniaturized version of the CPU water block, though it lacks the half-moon flow pattern.  North bridges don't create nearly as much heat anyway, so the simple design should be plenty effective for overclocking most platforms.  The chipset cooler runs in series with the rest of the WaterChill components, largely unaffected by the heat contributed through the other devices.

Both the CPU and chipset coolers play instrumental roles in the overall performance of asetek's WaterChill.  The pump plays a major role as well and a low-quality pump susceptible to failure, could go so far as to cause heat-related damage to the CPU itself.  Fortunately, the included Hydor L20 maintains a solid reputation for reliability, is significantly less expensive then competing Eheim units, and pushes 700L/h.  Further, the pump receives its power through a proprietary connector that interfaces with any ATX power supply, traveling through a cable that routes through an accessible PCI bracket.  The only apparent shortcoming of the pump assembly is the four suction cups that mount on the pump's underside.  Our test bed didn't have enough room to accommodate the pump, so we mounted it on top of the case.  Unfortunately, the suction cups wouldn't seal on the textured roof, and because the pump and reservoir aren't balanced, the two components tended to fall over.


An attached control unit functions as a relay, turning the pump on and off automatically.  The control unit also does double-duty as a fan controller. And rather than impose one fan setting, asetek added support for either 7V or 12V operation, both of which are selectable on the control unit.  At 7V, the fan is hardly audible, while 12V is still much quieter than the Intel reference cooler used previously.

The radiator looks a lot like something you'd expect to come off of a car (alternatively, it looks like a small intercooler, for those of you with turbocharged cars).  Small enough to fit perfectly in our system's spare 5.25" drive bays, it should still be given plenty of room to circulate air, which ultimately dictates the amount of heat removed from the water.  Nine millimeter copper tubes run throughout the radiator in a staggered pattern, purportedly to increase cooling surface area at the expense of reduced flow.  Even still, this compares favorably to the 7mm tubes used in asetek's VapoChill system, which Dave reviewed last year. Further, the clamps used to keep the hoses secure are of the multiple-use variety, exact duplicates of the clamps I use to contain 20PSI of boost in my car.



The Hot Hardware Test System
The Overclocking Canidate

Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz (533MHz)


Nanotherm PCM+ Phase Change Thermal Compound


EPOX 4PEA+ 845PE Motherboard


ATI RADEON 9800 Pro (Catalyst 3.6)


1GB Corsair XMS3200


Seagate 146GB 10k RPM SCSI Ultra320 Cheetah


Windows XP Professional with SP1

DirectX 9.0b


Motherboard Monitor 5

SiSoft Sandra MAX3 Burn-In Wizard

CPU Burn-In v1.1



Installing the WaterChill system isn't a process to be rushed.  Veterans may claim that the kit can be installed in 20 or 30 minutes, but as a relative novice to alternative cooling methods, it took a full five hours to get the system unpacked, installed, filled, and functioning properly. 


Keep in mind that, while the radiator comes with its hoses attached, it is necessary to cut them at some point in order to add the water block and pump into the series.  If you can, measure the length of hose needed to make the connection and cut them away from the radiator, as reattaching hoses to either the inlet or outlet pipes is a near impossibility.


asetek's instruction manual is well-written and fairly thorough.  So, if your experience with water cooling is limited, read through it before assembling the system.  The only procedure that wasn't covered in enough depth was filling the WaterChill, as the L20 pump didn't immediately take water as it was supposed to.



WaterChill's Thermal Performance

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