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Intel Upgrades Hardware Technology

Self-Contained PC Liquid Coolers Explored 86

Posted by timothy
from the very-small-submarines dept.
MojoKid writes "Over the last few years an increasing number of liquid coolers have been positioned as high-end alternatives to traditional heatsink and fan combinations. This has been particularly true in the boutique and high-end PC market, where a number of manufacturers now offer liquid coolers in one form or another. These kits are a far cry from the water coolers enthusiasts have been building for years. DIY water coolers typically involve separate reservoirs and external pumps. The systems tested here, including Intel's OEM cooler that was released with their Sandy Bridge-E CPU, contain significantly less fluid and use small pumps directly integrated into the cooling block as a self-contained solution. Integrated all-in-one kits may not offer the theoretical performance of a high-end home-built system, but they're vastly easier to install and require virtually no maintenance. The tradeoffs are more than fair, provided that the coolers perform as advertised."
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Self-Contained PC Liquid Coolers Explored

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  • Combination (Score:4, Funny)

    by Framboise (521772) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @07:56AM (#38407772)

    When will we see the office PC combined with the coffee machine?

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Or perhaps with an ice-cream sandwich maker, to mention the Slashdot article two stories prior to this one...

    • What this. http://boingboing.net/2002/12/08/coffeemaking-pc-case.html [boingboing.net] boingboing
    • by rishistar (662278)

      Prognosis not good. The technology is just moving in the wrong direction. It's now commonplace to get PCs without cupholders [catb.org].

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      I had a P4 that made an excellent coffee warmer, does that count?

      Seriously if you need a good cooler that isn't gonna break the bank I can't recommend more highly the one i just got, the Coolermaster Hyper N520. the thing was only $35, easy to install, works on pretty much ANY Intel or AMD CPU, and right now I have a modest OC on my AMD 6 core, bumping it up to 2.8GHz with a turbo of 3.3GHz, and with all 6 cores slamming doing a video transcode and without the arctic silver settled yet (don't use anything e

      • I have a (Hyper 212 Plus) which is very similar to the N520, it's the size of the radiators used by these liquid coolers and it has amazing cooling ability. Even without fan it keeps CPU at only a few degrees above room temperature.

        The only problem with these is that they take up a huge amount of real estate on the motherboard, making it hard to work around it. But in terms of cooling, they are much better than liquid coolers and easier to setup and cheaper.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Well with the CPU on the Asrock sitting high frankly with mine there really isn't anything to "work around". I've found it best to do the full assembly and testing BEFORE putting the completed unit in the case, just sit the board on a table with some foam backing and fire it up, just to make sure everything is set. With the N520 the heatpipes raise the unit up enough snapping in the RAM was a breeze, and surprisingly it fit right into a mid tower case with no difficulty.

          I guess I've been in the biz too lo

          • by nabsltd (1313397)

            damned if it hasn't dropped to 84F while still cranking out transcodes!

            You must not be using all the cores, as the N520 can only keep a full 125W load at about 20 degrees Celsius over ambient, and I highly doubt that you have your computer in a 50 degree Fahrenheit room.

            Run something like Prime 95 with 6 threads and see how it heats up.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)
              Don't have the 125w friend, I have the 95w 1035t. I just did as you suggested, Prime 95 64bit let it run for about 15 minutes and it maxed out at 97. I could hear the fans kick up when it did but that was it Once i killed the test it dropped down to 73f in less than 2 minutes which is damned near room temp in my apt. The room is about 72f BTW in case you're curious. gotta say i'm impressed, that is pretty damned good for a $35 cooler IMHO. Hell I could take a pic if you want, my last chip was hitting 139f o
              • by nabsltd (1313397)

                Don't have the 125w friend, I have the 95w 1035t. I just did as you suggested, Prime 95 64bit let it run for about 15 minutes and it maxed out at 97. I could hear the fans kick up when it did but that was it Once i killed the test it dropped down to 73f in less than 2 minutes which is damned near room temp in my apt.

                For a 95W part, 15 degrees C over ambient is about right for that cooler, but the 212 Plus is still about 4 degrees better for the same price.

        • by nabsltd (1313397)

          I have a (Hyper 212 Plus) which is very similar to the N520, it's the size of the radiators used by these liquid coolers and it has amazing cooling ability.

          The N520 performs quite a bit worse than the Hyper 212 Plus. It was a step backward for Cooler Master. For the numbers of damn near every heatsink, see FrostyTech [frostytech.com]. They never drop heatsinks off their comparison, so the latest review always gives the full picture.

          Although it's a little pricier now than when I bought, the Zaward Vapor 120 is the best under $50 heatsink by far, but the 212 Plus at $26 [macmall.com] is definitely worth it, and makes me wonder why the $34 at best N520 even exists.

    • by vadim_t (324782)

      I am a computer and coffee nerd, so:

      The optimal temperature for brewing coffee is somewhere between 92 and 96C. That's way too high for a CPU. CPUs specs generally say that the max safe temperature is about 70C, the highest one I've seen is 100C, which would work, but is far too dangerous to operate at continously.

      Add to that that unless you're going to be continously brewing coffee you need to exhaust the extra heat at any time you don't need it. And that a water cooling system's water (distilled, probably

      • No it's not. Nehalem era CPU are rated to run up to 105C. Sandy Bridge lowered it a bit at 100C but the maximum safe temperature is definitely not ~70C.

        • by vadim_t (324782)

          It depends on the CPU. Some AMD ones shut down at 70C [amd.com]

          Also, if you need water at 96C, then you have all of 4 to 9 degrees of safety margin before the CPU performs an emergency shutdown, or starts skipping clock cycles. That's a pretty complicated problem: you have to provide just enough cooling at the heat exchanger that the CPU temperature doesn't go over the maximum, while keeping it hot enough for coffee. But cooling effect takes time to affect the CPU, so you may not be able to react fast enough.

          Also, yo

          • Don't forget to take into account the thermal resistance between the CPU die and the coffee. the 70/100/105 degree limit is for the die temperature
    • When will we see PCs, refrigerators, sewers, and other waste heat sources combined with household hydronic heat transfer systems?

  • Print link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Print link [hothardware.com]
    • The money quote (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpzToid (869795) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:02AM (#38407790)

      "In every cooler we tested, the pump noise was actually louder than the fans when the CPU was idling."

      • Re:The money quote (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:28AM (#38407862)
        Some labs have experimented with solid state pumps using a conductive coolant propelled using an electromagnetic system. Quiet as can be, but the expensive coolant (gallium alloy) renders them cost-prohibative.
        • Some labs have experimented with solid state pumps using a conductive coolant propelled using an electromagnetic system. Quiet as can be, but the expensive coolant (gallium alloy) renders them cost-prohibative.

          Won't a conductive coolant corrode exposed heat sinks faster?

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          What I dont understand with water cooling system is whats wrong with simply taking advantage of convection, rather than having pumps.

          Is there something about water viscosity being too hard to overcome or something?
          • Correct. To get convection alone moving the water fast enough would require an unacceptably high source temperature. Same reason even air-coolers have a fan on the processor and more mounted on the case.
          • by gl4ss (559668)

            then you would call it a heat pipe.

            • Heat pipes tend to rely on phase changes and capillary action or gravity to complete a simple refrigeration cycle.
              Convection alone would make a pretty weak heat pipe.

        • by Intron (870560)

          Both water and conductive liquids seem like terrible choices for cooling electronics. A motherboard can be immersed in cooking oil and run fine with no fans. If you want to get fancy you can use fluorinert. A magnesium case like the NeXT would be good for radiating the heat..

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Virtually all cooking oil is far more corrosive than you would want to use with your PC. Mineral oil is probably the best cheap option. In a metal box with a metal lid and no airflow there should be virtually zero fire hazard, but I wouldn't take my word for it. The material of the case is less important than the color; a thin coat of flat black is what's wanted here. You may, however, want to keep a fan and heat sink on some of the components, because you can't count on convection circulating the liquid qu

          • by TheLink (130905)
            Not such a good idea if you ever need to open it up to do maintenance/upgrades on it.
      • Re:The money quote (Score:4, Informative)

        by Yaotzin (827566) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:43AM (#38407900)
        The HDD is sometimes louder than the fans when the CPU is idling, it's not a big deal. What's attractive for me is that they offer roughly the same performance as more expensive non-H2O coolers and weigh half as much. I have used Corsair's H50 and Antec's Kühler H20 620, which are made by the same company apparently, because they look exactly the same. Slightly annoying installation, but I am satisfied otherwise. Leaves a lot of space in my case, which is appreciated.
      • Which is why I went with a DIY (i.e. non-preassembled) solution, mostly consisting of EKWB parts. That way you can choose fans, pumps and a radiator to suit.

        The reason I went with water cooling wasn't extreme cooling performance, but noise. The CPU fan was fairly quiet but I have a 480GTX GPU that sounded like a jet engine, even when idling. Switching to water cooling eliminated a lot of noise, and I found that the pump noise can be reduced a great deal by mounting it on adhesive foam rather than scre
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        "In every cooler we tested, the pump noise was actually louder than the fans when the CPU was idling."

        Apparently they didn't test the Corsair H50, the pump is quiet, very quiet once the coolant gets going. The fan on the other hand sounds like a jet taking off all the damn time. The sealed unit coolers have gotten better without a doubt in the last couple of revisions, the H60 was much quieter, the h70 was much cooler the H80 had more function and better cooling and was even quieter, and so on. Same followed with the Antec series, though to point out they're both made by the same company Asetek [asetek.com] I believe

      • Funny. I liquid-cool, and the only sound I here are my intake/exhaust fans. The impeller is silent, and the radiator fan is nearly so.

    • by Yetihehe (971185)

      Your link doesn't work, they probably detect referrer and send user to normal version when link is not clicked from their site.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I read it as "Self-Contained PC Liquid Coolers Exploded".

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Yeah, and I read it as Self-Directed DC Loquacious Comic Explained, but that's my problem. Seriously, I don't care about everyone's reading comprehension and/or spelling problems.
  • by RanceJustice (2028040) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:52AM (#38407928)

    I've always appreciated Corsair's products; in an industry where the typical MO is to push out the newest widget, sell before everyone forgets about it or gets upstaged, and never look back, they are one of the few companies that seem to understand that you're making an investment with their hardware. For instance, I wrote them a thank-you email after discovering that they offered two Upgrade Kits for their flagship 800D chassis. When the 800D first launched, SATA6 and USB3.0 weren't included. Had this been LianLi or Silverstone they would have released the "801D" and tell you to upgrade by buying a new $200+ chassis. Corsair on the other hand, offered a couple of $10 kits; one a new backplane for the hotswap SATA board, SATA 6.0 compatible and a new front port assembly with USB3.0 support. I have no second thoughts supporting them.

    For years those of us trying to make significant overclocks on our PCs, but not wanting to commit to an additional $500 or so in homebuilt liquid cooling, were left to HUGE air coolers that required $80-120 investment, plus fans and cooling paste. These were huge monoliths that were heavy and difficult to install. The advent of the Corsair self-contained coolers is the first "ready for prime-time" solution that fixes this issue. You are given equal or better cooling than high end air at an equal or better price, with a much easier install process. With Sandy Bridge-E and AMD FX, we're just dipping a toe back into the days when serious cooling is necessary to attain a high overclock, so its great that this hardware is maturing now.

    For anyone with a high-end air cooler or looking to build a new system and overclock it, these are probably the best off-the-shelf solutions you're going to find these days that don't have the learning curve of building and maintaining a custom-liquid setup and for most people who aren't trying to break records, they'll give you a ton of extra performance through the overclock.

    • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:59AM (#38407952) Journal

      Even if you're not overclocking, water cooling is good, especially for GPU heavy machines. There are companies which will assemble a water cooled 3 GPU setup. It looks inside like the kind of system which would be a hassle to do, but paying for it makes it hassle free. They generally have the gamer look which is kind of funny at work, but they work well. They are also very quiet considering the gigantic heat output.

      • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10MENCKENlink.net minus author> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:39AM (#38408334) Homepage

        Even if you're not overclocking, water cooling is good

        The mid to high end cooling market gave up on conventional heatsinks ages ago. Nowadays they use either heatpipes or watercooling (the so-called "high end air coolers" are heatpipe based). Conventional heatsinks aren't very good at getting lots of heat out of small spaces.

        Both methods can take heat quietly from from a small and/or difficult to cool space (PC expansion cards suck from an air cooling perspective because they the motherboard and the connector plate on adjacent sides) and take it to a large radiator that can be more easilly cooled.

        The advantage of heatpipes is you don't need a pump.

        The advantage of watercooling is flexibility. Heatpipes tend to be (I don't know if they technically have to be) sealed copper pipes, slight bending is possible but there is little flexibility in the system and so the radiator has to be attatched to the pickup. This isn't a problem for a laptop where custom mounts can be designed in but in a conventional desktop it means you end up with the whole cooling assembly bolted to the heatsink mounts on the motherboard. This is bad for robustness and means you can't easilly route the heated air directly out of the case.

        Sealed unit watercoolers give a bit more flexibility, enough to bolt the radiator to the outside of the case (which is obviously superior to just having it sit above the motherboard.

        Full custom water loops are even more flexible but are more expensive and more hassle.

        especially for GPU heavy machines.

        Agreed, PC expansion slots were simply never designed for good cooling (if they were they would have the backplane opposite the connector plate rather than adjacent to it). So the only way GPU vendors can make a workable integrated cooling system for high power cards is to use a leafblower like setup.

        Unfortunately they don't make third party cooling easy either, pretty much every GPU model and sometimes even different cards with the same GPU needs a different waterblock so you are unlikely to see sealed unit watercooling for GPUs.

        They are also very quiet considering the gigantic heat output.

        Probablly about a kilowatt or so at most. That is like a fan heater on it's low setting, it's not that gigantic really.

        • by TeknoHog (164938)

          Heatpipes tend to be (I don't know if they technically have to be) sealed copper pipes, slight bending is possible but there is little flexibility in the system and so the radiator has to be attatched to the pickup. This isn't a problem for a laptop where custom mounts can be designed in but in a conventional desktop it means you end up with the whole cooling assembly bolted to the heatsink mounts on the motherboard. This is bad for robustness and means you can't easilly route the heated air directly out of the case.

          I recall reading about a laptop design where heatpipes went from the CPU to the back of the display, for a larger cooling area. I imagined there would be a hinge-like joint with two solid pipes, but even then it didn't seem too robust. Heatpipes need to be sealed and solid, because they need to work at a specific pressure, so even a flexible tube might distort it. The wick for returning fluid might also be a problem in a flexible tube.

    • I picked up the 600D. Love Corsairs attention to detail. I picked up such a large case as it was difficult to find a case that would hold both an extended video card and multiple hdd's. While still looking like something other than a transformer.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And you still use your computer to read Slashdot all day.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:06AM (#38407988)

    Even IBM is returning to water cooling for their mainframes: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9183068/Water_cooling_returns_to_IBM_mainframe [computerworld.com]

    The reasons:

    . . . IBM saw fit to offer water cooling to help reduce overall data center cooling needs . . . the optional water cooling system can improve overall environmental needs by about 12%, which may help some IT managers "squeeze the last piece of floor space in before they go buy a new data center . . . Water is more efficient than air in removing heat . . .

    Need a reason to justify the higher cost of your PC? Hey, it's "green" . . . !

    . . . and my data center is getting full . . . I constantly trip over USB cables when I get up off the sofa . . .

  • liquid coolers are not attempting to compete with the liquid coolers we have known of for years. They are competing with high end air coolers. As someone who was looking in to some of the all in ones. I ended up with one of the high end air coolers. Granted my case had the room for one of the dual 120mm fans with the corresponding heat sink. Price, Noise and cooling capability for all in ones equal the larger traditional cooling methods. The other thing they are good for is getting people into water cooling
    • Re:All in one (Score:4, Insightful)

      by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10MENCKENlink.net minus author> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:44AM (#38408350) Homepage

      I see a few advantages of sealed unit watercoolers compared to their heatpipe based competition

      1:they tend to be smaller and lighter
      2: there is some flexibility in radiator placement (good for those building small form factor systems)
      3: they exhaust the CPU heat straight out of the case from the rad rather than relying on general case airflow to take it out
      4: a large portion of their weight is mounted on the case rather than the motherboard. That means less risk of damage when moving the machine.

      • Only downside I've had from liquid cooling is that the fscking radiator needs to be dusted on a nearly weekly basis.

        • Dryer sheets make decent disposable filters. Just stick them in front of your intake fans with magnets or tape or some other method that works well with your setup. As a bonus, your computer room will smell like a Fresh Mountain Spring Breeze!
      • I see a few advantages of sealed unit watercoolers compared to their heatpipe based competition

        1:they tend to be smaller and lighter 2: there is some flexibility in radiator placement (good for those building small form factor systems) 3: they exhaust the CPU heat straight out of the case from the rad rather than relying on general case airflow to take it out 4: a large portion of their weight is mounted on the case rather than the motherboard. That means less risk of damage when moving the machine.

        A few tweaks to your points...

        1. 1. The water is just transferring the heat from the source to the radiator, the same as heatpipes or direct contact would do in other heatsinks. The amount of material is similar, and possibly even larger and heavier when you include the pump. You still need airflow through cooling fins to actually do the cooling, so the radiator tends to be pretty similar to the fin assembly of traditional heatsinks. However, the weight and size is distributed between the mobo and case a
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Questions: Which unit did you go for? What are the temps? Did you OC? Because having previous exp with the bigger air coolers I figured that to get decent cooling to fit in this plain jane mid tower box I have, just an average black box with no extra fans other than the 120mm on the PSU, I'd end up having to break out a dremel but I was frankly surprised how much smaller and lighter some of the new units are.

      I ended up having to go a little cheaper on the HS than I wanted thanks to having to change out the

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I paid $20 for a Hyper TX3 [coolermaster-usa.com] and I have my Phenom II X3 720 oc'd from 2.8 to 3.4, which wouldn't run reliably on the stock cooler. I don't know if that was a sale price or what but I am quite happy. I have a bunch of fans in my system but I can still hear the CPU fan when I am using the CPU, not so much otherwise. Maybe the additional $15 was spent making it quieter :)

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Cool, what's the temps? I keep my apt at about 74 degrees and the N520 is keeping the chip under load at about 85 degrees F, so damned near room temp, not bad for a $35 cooler. I'll have to keep an eye out for the TX3 because if i could score them for $20 that would be a shoe in for the standard cooler.

          I don't know if you heard but AMD announced Dec 5th they have halted production on ALL AM3 CPUs, so if there is some chip you've had your heart set on now's the time. Ever since i heard of the Thuban with t

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            It's about 70 in here and my CPU is 85, so a little warmer. But I should probably do a dusting in my PC.

          • by kermidge (2221646)

            I'm fairly pleased with my current rig, although the two fans on the Noctua NH-D14 are noticeable when I turn off my air filter (I smoke). Video card is a MSI 460GTX and it's fan is relatively quiet - but then the most demanding things I run these days is Civ V and Silent Hunter IV with mostly default settings at whatever resolution fits in a window.

            1090T is running stock (and if I remember correctly, cool&quiet and turbo are enabled), worldcommunitygrid is set to run all cores 100%, system is fast and

          • by tibman (623933)

            Are you sure am3 cpus are discontinued? Google is only turning up rumors and nothing official from AMD to include second hand quotes.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Yep fraid so, it was announced Dec 5th by the CEO himself. The skinny is they are having such a run on Bobcat and Bulldozer (Bobcat has become the "go to" chip for the OEMs, its in everything from netbooks to HTPCs to all in ones, and the A series is getting sucked up by HP and Gateway for quad laptops) that GloFlo and TSMC can't keep up with production of those AND the AM3s, so instead of losing their higher profit chips they just killed the AM3s. I originally read it through the email daily links I get fr

  • Nobody uses water any longer. Oil [youtube.com] is silent and more efficient.

  • They did? (Score:4, Funny)

    by arisvega (1414195) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @12:16PM (#38408738)
    I read, "Self-Contained PC Liquid Coolers Exploded"
  • I use to use a cooler on my old P4 HT computer...back when I played video games. Computer ran almost 5 years, without a hitch, til it was time to retire it. It was a HUGE external affair, with two big cooling tubes. Loud, but under no load or full load, the CPU temp hardly ever moved 5 degrees one way or the other. I think that is the ideal thing for a cooler. Keeping the CPU stable and not the up & down temperature swings, I think, keeps a CPU running longer. I don't play RPG or FS games any more, s
  • That would have been a headline.

  • I did it for one reason: less noise. My case already had a 120mm exhaust fan, so I simply added the radiator to the back of it, eliminating one fan from the case altogether. The fact that the radiator is the last thing exhaust air sees means very little CPU heat is being relieved inside the case.

    My i960 is clocked at 4GHz and I see a water temp of about 40C at idle at 50C at full load, and the case is nearly silent with the exhaust fan on low (3-speed Antec fan).

  • Asetek specifies a Rth of 0.124 K/W for the 570LC [asetek.com]. While official values are hard to find, for a high end air cooler like the NH-D14, frostytech found 11.2 K [frostytech.com] rise above ambient for 125 W, which is 0.09 K/W - with (slow) stock fans. So you'll need a 240mm cooler like the H100, which is only slightly better, or something like the EPIC 180, which is not available standalone, to get better than air cooling. Or you can strap more powerful fans on the NH-D14, which is what I did.
    There must be a reason why I have

    • by kextyn (961845)
      I just purchased a heatsink for my new system and decided to go with air after looking at frostytech charts. These liquid cooling units cost as much as, if not more, than the high end air coolers and don't cool better. But of course that depends on where you look. I think HardForum has better results for the liquid coolers. If you have the space for a high end air cooler you're better off with it in my opinion. Either go air or get a real liquid cooling setup.

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