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Asetek WaterChill Kit

Welcome again from the labs at Monster-Hardware, where we will be taking a look at Asetek’s WaterChill complete water cooling kit. Asetek has manufactured water cooling components for some time, and in this kit, they have combined the equipment necessary to water cool your CPU, motherboard chipset, and video card. In this review, you will see LOTS and LOTS of pictures; there are several reasons that this review will be a bit more picture intensive than in reviews past that I have performed. First, I really want to show off the quality components in this kit. Secondly, when you go putting liquids inside your computer, there are some fine points for which you need to pay attention to, maybe a bit more than normal. And finally, I made some minor mistakes along the way that may save you a bit of grief in YOUR project. But hey, we’re here to learn, aren’t we? :-D

Candidly, I have always been skeptical about water cooling. In “real life,” my occupation is that of an electrical project engineer at a major power generation facility. I assure you, that for all of my technical life, it has been taught to me that water and computers (or anything else with exposed electrical wiring and contacts) simply do not mix! My computer worked just fine on air cooling, thankyaverymuch, and I really didn’t see a compelling reason to change. One by one, though, my Monster-Hardware brethren succumbed to the lure of water cooling and all it’s benefits – I was the last one to make the plunge (no pun intended!).

In my case, the decision ultimately came down to one reason – noise. It had reached the point that it sounded like a small airplane was droning along in my home office, and this tends to make conversation and critical music listening difficult. Any other benefits such as improved thermal management and overclocking headroom would be additional plusses for me. Because of these reasons, I was encouraged to receive the Asetek Kit – they have a history of using quality components and a reputation for innovation. In fact, in the time it took to write this review, they have introduced even more water cooling kits and components into the market.

Components

I received the Water Chill kit from Asetek in a single well-packed box which was well cushioned and chock full of separate items.

Asetek Bundle

The contents included the following items (listed roughly in a clockwise fashion):

Hydor pump with control unit
Water-block for chipset
Water-block for video card
Water-block for CPU
Additional top plate for CPU water-block (for additional mounting options)
Mounting hardware for each water-block x3
½” I.D. tubing
Mounting hardware for fan (inside the coil of tubing)
Anti-algae fluid (shown inside the coil of tubing)
Power cord tap
120mm Fan
Radiator
Reservoir
Mounting bracket for pump
Suction cups for pump
Small hex or “allen” wrench for changing water-block top plates

Quite an impressive list of contents, I must say. Let’s face facts… there are a number of water cooling kits that are new to the market. What really makes a kit worth the effort is the sum of the individual components - it’s the quality of these components that will ultimately derive the effectiveness and value of the kit. With that in mind, let’s take a detailed look at several of the more important components.

Water Pump

The pump is manufactured by Hydor. The model is the Seltz 30II, which consumes about 23W of power at 115V and 60hz. It should work just fine and even cooler running on 50hz operation if you can get the plugs and voltage to mate up (although at about 15% lower capacity). Never fear, though, since this power is tapped from the AC line, it doesn’t use power directly from your main power supply. Once it was installed, I was VERY pleased with the low noise emanating from this pump.

Water Pump Power

The control unit that is integral provides the switching and relay required to power the pump on and off when you turn your computer on and shut down respectively. This pump is really a workhorse, capable of pushing out 320 GPH and had a max head of 6.4 feet. This means you can locate the pump within OR outside your computer without any problem. Additionally, this pump may be mounted in any convenient position – even upside down – but as we will discuss later, standard vertical will be the way to go. With the available head, you could even mount this pump on the floor or under a desk with the case above.

Sunon Fan

Next, the fan is a generous 120mm. First, before you purchase this kit, you will need to make sure that your case has plenty of room to fit the fan and radiator assembly. My new case has a built-in grill for a 120 mm fan and it was STILL a little tight on mounting the fan and radiator. This Sunon fan is very smooth running and runs much slower than most other fans at a rated 2700 RPM. At this speed, it delivers about 95CFM at a low 36dba. In actual practice, this fan was virtually silent and is one of the quietest fans you will find anywhere – it is no louder than any standard case exhaust fan that I have used in the past.

Asetek Radiator

Of course, the fan is worthless unless paired with a radiator. The radiator included in this package is superbly finished in gloss black enamel and is pre-drilled with mounting holes for the fan. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about the painted radiator’s ability to transfer heat, but this problem never became an issue in actual operation.

The WaterChill kit includes three very nicely finished water blocks – as mentioned earlier, one each for the video card

Video Card Block

the motherboard chipset,

Chipset Block

and the CPU.

CPU Block

They were all well polished and quite nicely machined; the bases could have probably benefited from a little lapping but they were far better than average. Note that the CPU water-block includes an additional acrylic top plate. This plate is interchangeable with the base of the water-block. With these two plates, you can mount this water-block to systems that are Socket A, Socket 478, and Socket 754. Note the quick connect fittings on the water-block top plates. This feature alone – when compared to hose barbs fittings – will help reduce leaks, save time, and make installation MUCH easier. Additionally, with these type of fittings, you are provided with a clean look (no adjustable worm drive hose clamps). The other components included in the kit were all first class quality components, from the hose to the individual screws and connectors.

Installation

It was time to start putting items in my new case. First, I assembled the large Sunon fan to the radiator.

Fan And Radiator

There was a spot in my case for the larger 120mm fan, so I planned to slip the fan and radiator assembly right in.

Radiator Location

And of course… the Computer Gods immediately punished me for my hubris. Two problems immediately arose - it didn’t fit as first assembled, and I managed to damage the radiator while attaching the fan to it. Asetek recommends that the fan be mounted to the radiator so that cool air is pulled through the radiator. However, the oversized radiator simply wouldn’t fit in the space available within my case up against the back grille. Therefore, in the end, I had to mount the fan to the opposite side of the radiator and then mount the fan to the case using external screws. In this configuration, the air exhausts from the case but it draws ambient warmer case air across the radiator instead of cool external air.

Radiator Corner

Secondly, the screws supplied with the kit for the purpose of mounting the fan to the radiator were too long. Essentially, when driving them with a screwdriver, they exited the other side of the radiator’s metal shroud and entered the fin area. Fortunately, no internal fluid channels were damaged and I was able to use some shorter screws from my hardware bin. At least I did find out that the radiator was entirely made of copper! Once again, though there was a minor problem, there was evidence of a high quality component beyond my expectations.

Note that many people who watercool prefer to place the radiator down low, near the front of the case. However, even though I knew that I would have an issue or two, I felt that it was worth it to raise my radiator to the higher position. I wanted the pump to not have to “push” the coolant through the radiator; by placing it high, the pump has only one high lift and gravity helps the flow through the other restrictive components. Additionally, in order to fit my radiator in front, I would have had to do some really creative cable routing for the case accessories, as well as having to remove the “auxiliary” 3.5” drive cage – for which I have future plans. ;-)

Chipset HSF Removed

At this point, I removed my motherboard from the case. This is a Socket A configuration ASUS A7V600, which is a good value or midrange motherboard in terms of features and overclocking. The chipset is a VIA KT600 and had a small heat sink on it with the standard white silicone thermal compound; it was attached to the motherboard with some small spring loaded clips.

Chpset Block Installed

The Asetek northbridge water-block has long slots so that the block can fit several different hole configurations, but you may have to rotate the water-block on the northbridge to get the spacing correct. Note that one minor shortcoming with the Asetek kit is that they provide some of the same white silicone thermal compound. Instead, I decided to install all water-blocks with Arctic Silver 5 which should be a significant improvement (thanks Artic Silver!)

Next, it was time to mount the waterblock on the CPU. At this point, I ran into another small problem. On my motherboard, the CPU and northbridge are fairly close together – close enough that the rotated northbridge water-block interfered with the space required to mount the CPU water-block as it arrived from Asetek. Fortunately, Asetek included a smaller top plate that fit the standard mounting holes in my particular motherboard. The larger standard plate that comes in the kit already installed also fit these holes but also several other motherboard mounting configurations, and should be just fine for most users right out of the box.

CPU Water Block

Here’s where I ran into another minor problem. The meticulous assemblers at Asetek installed the hose fittings tightly, which is good and helps prevent leaks. However, that makes it that much harder to remove and change over to the alternate top plate. These have Teflon tape on the threads and are torqued in with a 6mm hex wrench (not included) that you insert into the interior of the hose fitting to turn. Fortunately, I happened to have a 6mm hex ball driver in my shop with some extra Teflon tape. The small hex wrench included in the Water Chill kit is for removing the acrylic top plates, and this was used. Once I got both the CPU and northbridge water-blocks mounted, you can definitely see the clearance problem and why I needed to swap the mounting top plates. If you think you may have clearance problems with the larger acrylic CPU water-block plate, you will definitely want to have a 6mm hex wrench on hand.

Ckearance Problems

After I returned and installed the motherboard back in its rightful home, I removed the video card and operated a bit on its OEM onboard chipset fan. I have a Palit Daytona FX5200 Ultra, which is a decent quality mid-range or value video card. Sure enough, though, it had the same generic white goop under a thin anodized aluminum heat sink. As with the northbridge water-block, the mounting plate on the Video water-block had the milled long slots for easy mounting. As on the CPU and northbridge, I used the Arctic Silver 5 and tightened everything up. TOO TIGHT, I might add. Please use a little more caution than I did – even small metric threaded screws can exert a LOT of tightening force. Simply get the mounting screws snug-tight and let the pressure springs do their job. Asetek includes some ties for alternate mounting if your video card doesn’t have thru-holes on your video card. Fortunately, my installation on the video card didn’t cause any damage and everything runs just fine… but I was scared there for a bit.

Video Block Installed

OK, now it was time to install the video card and lay out the location of the pump and internal power relays. The power to the pump is fed through one of the rear open card slots and up to the power supply’s incoming power cord female plug. The pump power cord has a “pass through” fitting that connects to the pump and a power relay. Therefore, the pump comes on whenever your computer is energized but the pump’s power is drawn from the 120v source.

Pump Power

I’ll jump ahead here a bit and state that the included suction cups for the base of the pump were pretty much useless. After the first installation, I noticed that the pump was “walking” a bit and was causing some extra vibration up against the rear of the hard drive cage. Therefore, I removed the pump and reinstalled the base using some short sheet metal screws through the case. This provides a much more stable platform for running the pump, and also allows the mass of the case to help smooth out any vibrations that the pump may have. The pump is set upon the base at an angle, and then rotated about 30 degrees to lock it into place. While I had plenty of self stick Velcro on hand, I didn’t feel that the pump base offered sufficient area to be a good anchor point for the Velcro. By using small screws, I could have even mounted this pump near the top of my case if I had wanted.

Pump Mounted

Next, it was time to install the tubing. Asetek provides a generous length of tubing in the kit. And frankly, they have done their homework in this area – I have seen tubing that was too flexible, which might kink or collapse when bent. Other tubing can be so stiff that it places abnormal side pressures on the fittings and components. Asetek’s tubing is just right… not too stiff and not too pliable. It was easily cut with a straight razor blade (be careful!). After installing the small reservoir at the end of the pump, I ran tubing to each fitting on the three waterblocks. Simply make sure that you firmly insert the tubing as far as it will go into the connector fitting, and make sure that the blue locking ring is pulled up and away from the component. Once the tubing is completely installed, you can then partially fill your reservoir. The reservoir has a small thumbwheel attached to a screw that is set into the top of the reservoir cap – this is what you use to bleed the air out of the system. Asetek provides a small jumper wire for your power supply ATX power fitting that plugs into your motherboard – this allows you to run your pump without power to the motherboard and CPU for testing and filling purposes. This same relay also runs the 120mm fan. Note: the relay uses a “mini” molex plug to draw juice from your power supply – the same one that will fit your 3.5” floppy drive.

Additionally, pay close attention to the small tubing between the pump and the reservoir – when complete, the fittings will almost touch and you will not be able to see much tubing in that length. On my first fitting, I cut the tubing a bit short and had a small leak. Leaks are definitely NOT GOOD. However, once I got the right length of tubing in place and reinstalled, I filled up the reservoir again and was able to run in dry mode.

The extended test that followed (12+ hours) did not show any leaks and the pump operated quietly with no problems. The pump seemed to be a lot quieter than the previous two fans I had used (80, 74mm) and the overall system noise was much improved. The pump was physically located appx. 16-18” away from my test bench monitor and I did not notice any EMI problems. SAFETY NOTE: run your extended test with pump power only, NOT your motherboard and other components!

Safety Dance

Here’s a picture of my final hose runs and components in place; all I had left to do was install the “cap” on the reservoir, bleed the system a bit more, and make sure all final touches are done – everything tight and in place. The overall installation took me about 8 hours – but that included the installation of some new parts to go along with the water cooling kit – essentially, I built a computer with all new components and incorporated a water cooling solution at the same time.

Final Install

Results

Before I started installing this kit, I decided to do a little benchmark work on temps. I used a stock AMD heat sink with a copper core. The CPU is an unlocked AMD 2500+ “Barton”, which has a reputation as a decent overclocker. The ambient room temperature was adjusted until I was able to obtain a consistent ambient case temp of 31-32C for every test. Each load test was cooled to idle with virtually no applications running, and load was performed with Seti@home running at full CPU usage and no other applications. I decided to obtain the “best fit” on overclocking settings since this is more of a temp review than an overclocking capability review. Measurements were taken using PCWizard and the internal temperature diode onboard after at least 30 minutes of time in each test condition.

Test System:

Asus A7V600 motherboard (VIA KT600 chipset)
AMD 2500+ “Barton” CPU 333 Mhz
Palit Daytona FX5200 Ultra video card
Dane-Elec 256MB PC2700 DDR memory
Windows XP Professional OS

The Results:

Asetek Graph

This represents a significant improvement and a much cooler running system. While I was able to take my overall MHZ a little higher, I was able to significantly increase FSB. This has a disproportionate improvement compared to overall speed… i.e., it’s better to raise FSB instead of the multiplier if you can. I am sure that some more tweaking would yield even further incremental improvements. In my opinion, the WaterChill system has plenty of extra cooling capacity that I have not yet exploited – faster memory will be my next personal computer equipment purchase. Note that these temps are relative to my system and measurement diode – your mileage may vary significantly. However, the general temperature drops should be consistent within similar system setups.

Tips and Suggestions

Asetek has a well designed kit that consists of high quality components. However, even the best instruction manual can’t hope to cover every possible situation. If you will do some basic planning and take note of the following tips, maybe you can avoid some of the minor pitfalls that I encountered.

Lay everything out and plan for spacing – twice!
Measure, measure, measure
Make sure you have extra hardware and tools on hand in case you need them
Make sure that your power supply has TWO mini molex plugs; or an adapter
Make sure you have good thermal compound on hand
Run and test your system for 12-24 hours before final installation
Plan for a leak and then be glad when you don’t have one!

Pros:

  • Asetek has a VERY nice kit with impressive components
  • There are generous quantities of the consumables (anti-algae formula, hose, etc)
  • Asetek prepared for the major contingencies with items such as the extra CPU waterblock plate, etc
  • Did I mention quality? It was good enough to mention it again
  • The overall system experienced a significant drop in temps, about 12C in the most important measurement

Cons:

  • The instructions could show additional details in some areas such as problem solving and leak detection
  • While there were some very minor installation glitches, they were all easily overcome
  • Could include a little better thermal compound in the kit

Added: April 24th 2004
Reviewer: Insulglass
Score: 8  
Related Link: Asetek
Hits: 12821
Language: english

  

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