Dissecting the Pieces
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz (533MHz)
Phase Change Thermal Compound
EPOX 4PEA+ 845PE
ATI RADEON 9800 Pro
1GB Corsair XMS3200
Seagate 146GB 10k
RPM SCSI Ultra320 Cheetah
Professional with SP1
SiSoft Sandra MAX3
CPU Burn-In v1.1
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.
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.