Systm #48: Watercooling is Fun!

Posted in Podcasts on November 17, 2008

On David Randolph's final episode we go deep inside the thermal management on a $5000 PC, install a watercooling kit on the $500 and fabricate a fan adapter with the VersaLASER.

Greg writes in, "I'm building a new gaming PC, and I'm trying to get as much power as I can, while being as quiet as possible, and still have adequate cooling. Could you guys do a segment on liquid cooling? Are combo kits, like the Thermaltake Bigwater 760i comparable to building a custom system piece by piece? And are the results worth the money?"

Oooooh good questions! In order: yes, they're simpler to set up and install tho they might not have all the bits you want and maybe... we go deep on water cooling for David Randolph's last episode of Systm.

If you've never dabled in water cooling, it's all about removing heat from the components in your machine using water instead of air, tho instead of having a 'cooling jacket' designed into the engine block, you attach a waterblock to the component you want to cool on your motherboard (or GPU, HD, memory, etc) in place of a heat sink, along with a set of tubes, a heat exchangher (ie, radiator) along with a pump to move your coolant.

The process works like the radiator and coolant in your car, unless, of course, you're driving something that's air cooled like a vintage VW Bug

Why do people watercool? 'Cause H20 transfers heat better than air. And if you have a quiet pump, your machine can be super silent.

On the show we go inside a spectacular example of water cooling (and thermal management), HP's BLACKBIRD002.

Then we replace the 'quiet' fan on Patrick's $500 PC with a kit from CoolerMaster, the AQUAGATE Mini R80... which teaches us three things: 1) There are a lot of parts to track down if you're building a water cooling systm from scratch, so kits are convenient, especially if they make it easy to add in additional waterblocks. 2) If you can hear the pump whine, water cooling doesn't seem very quiet, even if it -is- quieter than the fan it replaced 3) Order a 120mm kit if you have a 120mm fan so David doesn't have to fabricate an adapter on the VersaLASER to make your kit fit! 4) Chances are you'll be mail ordering your water cooling supplies... even here in tech heavy San Francisco, CA, water cooling supplies were -thin- on the shelves of the half dozen stores we checked in on.

That said, the results can be pretty amazing. Patrick is still running Prime95 against a small stack of air coolers and the R80 to max out the processor (and thus max out the heat thrown at the cooler), but early testing under light cooling suggest a 20 degree drop in processor temps (From an average of 55 °C to 32 °C). He'll be posting his results up in the forum and will link here... it takes about an hour to swap out the mobo for each cooler change along with at least an hour of Prime95 to get things stable.

Did we mention links? Of course we did. Our fave makers of water cooling parts include CoolerMaster, Koolance, Swiftech, ThermalTake and Zalman.

Places to buy water cooling bits and pieces? Check out Xoxide and Newegg.

Since this is Randolph's last show, we're going to be doing a bit of reorganizing here on Systm. That means we need to hear from YOU about what you want to see on the show. Email us at with your ideas. No idea is too big, and no idea is too small. Throw out any suggestions you have so we can figure out how to compensate for the absence of Randolph. Email us Email, or check out the forums, where we'll have a thread set up for this purpose.

We're hosting a meeting on Monday May 5th at 12:00pm East Coast time with 15 of our fans to get your feedback and suggestions for Tekzilla and Systm. If you would like to participate, Send an EMAIL to with the subject line of "GoToMeeting Contest" - and include your GoToMeeting confirmation number and contact information!!

Our Netflix sponsored movie pick of the week is The Explorers! You can score a free trial at Netflix and get this, or any of 90,000 other DVD and Blu-ray titles delivered to your doorstep by signing up for a free Netflix trial!

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Tags: Technologies, Hardware, Systm, Revision3, Modding, Overclocking