Testing and Setup
Testing and Setup
We assembled a test system outside of a chassis to ensure the system would be fully functional and would not leak. It's a good practice to do, if you have the time and effort to spend on water cooling system setup. Ideally, you test the water loop and blocks for any leaks by running it for several hours or a day, and once you're satisfied you re-install the kit in your chassis. With the Asetek kit, this can be somewhat difficult, as there are no quick drain plugs or quick release connectors - so if you want to move the system from outside of a chassis to inside, you have to pull plugs and drain all the water and start over from scratch. Not exactly a fun process.
Starting up the kit for the first time was not a very good experience. Without the Windows based software to control fan speeds, the unit kicks all four 120 mm fans on at full speed, making the system quite loud until you get your operating system set up and the Asetek software installed. That we can deal with. Unfortunately though, our Waterchill Xternal unit leaked quite a bit upon originally starting up the system. The leakage was not in any of our newly created water loop, but with the Xternal base unit itself. After about a minute of the unit being active, we noticed a fairly large pool of water dripping from the bottom of the Xternal unit, directly through the exhaust fan cutout holes. Obviously, leaks are bad, but when leaks are happening right next to powered components, we're looking at a dangerous scenario.
We cleaned up the excess water and continued to run the system while keeping a close eye. After around ten minutes, the system stopped leaking and has not leaked a drop in the week or so we've been testing the unit. It looks like a seal wasn't as tight as expected. This certainly is not a good sign, but I've seen water cooling kits do far stranger things, so it's not a huge deal in this case. Anytime you deal with water cooling, you will get wet somewhere, somehow. Just be prepared with a dry rag and you'll be fine.
As mentioned before, the four fans running at full blast can be quite loud. These fans can run at 3,200 RPM at maximum speed, but they can be tuned using the Asetek software to use down to 20% of their power, cutting down RPM levels to 1,500 RPM (although, this number should be lower). At power levels under 20%, the fans would not spin. You also have the ability to turn off "sets" of fans. For example, you can leave the top set of fans going but turn the bottom set off.
While you can run the system without any fans, your temperatures will rise rather quickly. We found that by running a single set (2 fans) at 40% provided the best mix of low-noise and cooling power. With only two 120mm fans running at around 1500 RPM, our noise levels were very low, but the system was fully happy running our overclocked Opteron 170 processor and overclocked GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards, and was able to do so at lower temperature levels compared to air coolers which are much louder.