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Flowmaster XT W\C Kit

For a long time now I have been considering a move from air to water-cooling. It's not that I am dissatisfied with the performance of my air-cooled rig, it's the noise issue. Living in a studio apartment means that the computer is in my sleeping area. This means I long for it to be quiet--especially at night. Since this is my first experience with water-cooling, I may miss a few of the more hardcore issues. On the plus side, if you are also a first time water-cooler, this review will likely highlight a few concerns and answer a few questions that other more technical reviews might chose to leave out.

Packaging

The Flowmaster XT water-cooling kit has the most professional-looking packaging I have ever seen come across my desk in a water-cooling kit. From the high-gloss cardboard exterior, the fitted Styrofoam cut-outs, the individual packaging, to the slickest most user friendly printed instructions and assembly pics--all of this attention to detail should help the XT win some shelf space in the crowded retail environment.

Flowmaster Box     Flowmaster Box Open

Listed below are the contents of the D-Tek Flowmaster XT water-cooling kit. First, we will briefly review each of the major kit components, then we will proceed to the installation. From there we will finish things up with some final thoughts.

Flowmaster Box Contents     Flowmaster Kit

Contents

TC-4 Waterblock
Mounting Kit
XT Radiator
120mm Aluminum Milled Fan
Shroud Kit
Bay Reservoir
Eheim 1048 Water Pump
Clear Tubing (7 ft)
Nylon Hose Clamps (10)
Super Cool
P-4 Adapter Plate

Eheim 1048 Pump

The Flowmaster XT water-cooling kit ships with an Eheim 1048 inline water pump. The 1048 is a 158 GPH pump, with a 4-ft. 11-in. head, well suited for this application. The 1048 is a good, reliable, leak-free pump that I have used personally in various aquarium applications, running 24/7 for many trouble-free years. The Eheim 1250, the larger brother of the 1048, is also available as an option for an additional ten bucks.

Eheim Pump

Radiator

The XT radiator is also sold on the D-Tek site as their popular Pro Core Radiator. The XT Radiator features brass tanks, copper construction, chrome 1/2" hose barbs and a 6"W x 7.25"H X 2" Dimensions (with tanks!). This radiator, with the exception of being painted black, is identical to the popular "Chevette" heater core. The next item up for bat is the radiator shroud, which few water-cooling kits include these days. The function of the shroud is the same as the purpose of spacers on an air-cooled HSF: They help direct the airflow, and act to minimize the dead spot in the center of the fan. The shroud--also painted black--contains a gasket which acts to provide a seal between the radiator and the shroud. This further enhances its usefulness. Two little quirks I noticed with this part are that the gasket adhesive initially has a very offensive odor (think Bog of Stench in the movie Labyrinth for comparison), and next, for some reason--even though the shroud has four mounting holes--only two bolts are included in the Flowmaster XT kit.

Flowmaster Radiator

120mm Fan

The included Evercool 120mm fan is a handsome design. Its frame is milled from a block of polished aluminum. Naturally, the fan blades--while painted to match the frame--are constructed of plastic and not aluminum, which would be too heavy. This fan, though, is not a visual one-trick pony. Unlike many other similar looking gimmick fans I have used in the past, this one actually performed quite well. Rated at 30 dba, and 80 cfm, it nonetheless sounded quieter than my rear 80mm case fans, while still pulling in a large amount of air.

Flowmaster Radiator Fan

Water Block

The TC-4 block features a large copper base. That base, while flat and reasonably well-polished, did have a few slight but just noticeable surface imperfections in the particular unit I received (see pic). The base is capped with a black anodized (helps to prevent corrosion) aluminum top which sports 1/2 stainless hose barbs, and four allen bolts that allows the block to be periodically taken apart for cleaning should it be required. D-Tek even sells a cleaning solution for just this purpose. Inside the block itself are several channels that house a thickly coiled copper wire that according to D-Tek act as "turbulators”, increasing the surface area of the block. The brand-new White Water is also available as an option on the Flowmaster XT kit for an additional 15 bucks. For more info on the TC-4 please see our TC-4 water block review.

DTeK Water Block Top     DTeK Water Block Bottom

Bay Reservoir

The Bay-Res is a clear 1/4" cast acrylic reservoir designed to fit in a 5 1/4" drive bay. It is mounted in the same manner as a CD-ROM. On the rear of the Bay-Res are two hose barbs threaded through the acrylic. This seal is further reinforced with a ring of silicone which surrounds the base of both barbs. On the top right front is the fill hole. This hole is tapped with a 1/4" NPT thread to give the user the ability to use a standard hose barb if needed. The Bay-Res I received in the Flowmaster XT kit seems to be a new revision as evidenced by the acrylic insert in the middle, creating defined water channels not present in earlier versions.

Flowmaster Reservoir

Installation

If you have never installed a water-cooling kit before I have a few tips for you to make your life easier. If you are an old hand, sit back and prepare to laugh at all the stupid mistakes I made. The first mistake I made was not removing everything from the case before starting installation of the Flowmaster XT water-cooling kit in my Cheiftec Dragon. My reasoning was that I had removed the motherboard, and I figured that would be plenty of room to work in, and maybe it is if you are an old hand at water-cooling. However, if this is your first time installing a water-cooling kit do yourself a favor and take everything out of the case before you begin your installation. You will likely thank me for this tip later.

Following the instructions I started my installation by mounting the Pro Core radiator. This probably would have been a good time to rinse out the radiator and check for sediment. At the time, though, I didn't think of this step. It turned out I got lucky: The Pro Core radiator appears to have been flushed prior to being sent out. Still, next time, I will think to check that. To mount the radiator in the recommended lower front portion of the Cheiftec case I first had to detach the two front fan cages. I also had to remove the bottom drive cage which was riveted to the case. I accomplished this by cutting off the heads of the three offending rivets with a pair of dykes (diagonal cutters) and pushing out the stems with a small barrelled screwdriver. Another rivet removal method some of you may prefer is to drill out the offending rivets. Once the bottom drive cage was removed the radiator easily fit in place. Next two pics courtesy D-Tek.

DTeK PR Pic

Next I assembled the radiator, shroud, and fan unit. This is done by aligning the shroud on the radiator and marking the hole patterns on the the fins. Using these marks carefully make a channel through the radiator baffles, making sure not to puncture the water channel in the process. I used a long ice-pick-thin screwdriver for this task. Once completed, reassemble making sure to place the shroud between the radiator and fan, then use the two bolts to secure the assembly to the front of the case with a wing nut on each end of the two bolts. I then mounted the Eheim 1048 pump with four strips of Velcro on the bottom of the pump ~ 6" in front of the radiator. The reason I used Velcro is that D-Tek claims that this method reduces vibration between the case and the pump. This seemed to work as the pump was near silent. The reason for this particular mounting position is that it minimized the length of the hoses and helped ensure the hose connections weren't under undue pressure, which over an extended period of time could possibly lead to a cracked pump.

DTek PR Pic

In an AMD system the TC-4 water block is attached using four holes surrounding the CPU socket in much the same manner as you would attach a high-end Swiftech or Thermalright air-cooled HSF. Attach a washer to each of the four bolts and insert them through the four holes on the bottom of the board. Attach another washer on each bolt on the top of the motherboard and then attach the four nuts. From here, apply your favorite thermal paste. Arctic Alumina is included, but I personally prefer Ceramique. Gently push the water block down onto the core, and finger-tighten the ThumbScrews, using a ruler or something similar to check that all the ThumbScrews are evenly tightened. If you have a Pentium 4 system D-Tek has you covered also, including mounting hardware for you guys also.

Once the radiator, pump, water block, and reservoir were mounted in place I took the tubing and started measuring out how long each run needed to be. I cut the tubing and put two clamps on the tubing, having learned the hard way that I couldn't easily attach the clips after I had secured the tubing on the hose connectors. Doh! After you are finished, check again for kinked tubing, and loose hose clamps now, while the system is dry.

Thinking that I was nearly finished, I attached the drive rails to the side of the Bay-Res, using the screws that were in a little plastic bag taped to its side, careful not to over-tighten them and possibly crack the acrylic. Before doing so, though, I had to make a new set of holes in my drive rails because the existing ones didn't match up with those on the side of the Bay-Res. From here, I slid the reservoir halfway into the drive bay, removed the plug, grabbed my funnel and began filling the system with distilled water. After bleeding the system of the excess air through a combination of rocking the case and momentarily starting and stopping the pump, add the Supercool, and some UV dye if you want. When finished, re-cap the reservoir. Check for leaks one last time and let the water cooling system run overnight before turning on the computer.

Flowmaster Installed

Final Observations

For whatever reason, many water-cooling reviews fail to mention the fact that all water pumps put out EMI, which interferes with normal CRT operation. The solution to this problem is to either move your CRT away from the pump, (in my case the CRT had to be at least 12" away from the case) for the CRT to be usable (I can't tell you how far the CRT would have to be moved to totally eliminate the EMI as I am out of desk space!), or buy an LCD monitor. Due to the different nature of their design, they aren't affected by this problem.

Testing Procedure

For the CPU idle test I boot to Windows XP and do nothing for 20 minutes, and then I take a temperature measurement using SiSoft Sandra Professional. For the CPU loaded test I boot to Windows XP and run SETI for 20 minutes at 100% stated CPU usage. For thermal paste Arctic Silver Cermaique was used.

System Specs:

AMD Athlon XP 2400+ o/c 2.32GHZ (186X12.5) 1.75V
EPoX 8RDA+ Motherboard
512MB Samsung PC3200
Western Digital 80 GB SE HDD
I/O Magic 52X CD-ROM
Samsung 48X CDR
Albatron Geforce 4 Ti 4600 (320,700)
Thermalright SLK-900, D-Tek Flowmaster XT
Enenermax 431W PS
WIN XP Home - SP1
DirectX 8
Det 44.03

Temps

Case Temp

Idle

Load

SLK-900 92mm Delta AFB0912HH 58 cfm

33C

42C

48C

Flowmaster XT w / 120mm Evercool 80 cfm

33C

47C

50C

I was not entirely satisfied with these temps, the temperature delta between case temps and CPU temps is too high. Feeling that the culprit was the air intake restrictions at the front of the case due to the 120mm fan trying to use the twin 80mm factory intake ports, I grabbed my dykes and cut this whole area out. The resulting hole is as tall as the XT radiator but not quite as wide. The results--seen below--were an instant 4C drop in temps.

Temps

Case Temp

Idle

Load

SLK-900 92mm Delta AFB0912HH 58 cfm

33C

42C

48C

Flowmaster XT w / 120mm Evercool 80 cfm

33C

44C

46C

Conclusion:

Temps with the Flowmaster XT and my overclocked rig were originally not quite as good as I had expected, however once I cut out the front case fan area everything was golden. Stock temps were also measured and were even more impressive than those aboe but are not included because you likely are not using this water-cooling kit to run your CPU at stock speeds. Personally, I feel the more powerful Eheim 1250 water pump would lower temps another 2 to 3 degrees C. At this stage, though, that is just personal speculation, not fact. If I am able to swap out my 1048 for a 1250 I will update my findings.

Priced at 225 bucks the Flowmaster XT is not cheap. It is in line, though, with what other quality water-cooling kits cost. As for the sound issue, I can state that the Flowmaster XT is by itself nearly silent. In my case, though, this made me painfully aware of just how loud my other five case fans are. Naturally this isn't D-Teks fault and I have already started work to remedy this, by replacing the two rear 80mm case fans with two of the silent variety, and dialing down the second fan in my Enermax power supply. More work is definitely needed in this area though, maybe I will even write a separate article about it. As is though my PC for the first time is now more quiet than my wife's. If you are married you will understand that this may not necessarily be a good thing. [grin]

Pros:

  • Nearly Silent
  • Decent Performance
  • No cheap components used
  • Many Kit options available

Cons:

  • Installation may require moderate case modification

Added: August 29th 2003
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 9  
Related Link: DTeK
Hits: 15370
Language: english

  

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