Two decades of innovation and we still get sore fingers

Posted on 19th Mar 2009 at 11:06 by Antony Leather with 6 comments

Antony Leather
I'm often asked how to build a water-cooled PC and what components are compatible with what. Mainly what frightens people is the assumed complexity of the cooling system compared to air cooling.

Having just completed the labs test for Issue 69 of Custom PC involving numerous CPU coolers, I can honestly say that mounting a waterblock like the D-Tek FuZion V2 is an awful lot easier than many CPU coolers I've seen.

In fact, the FuZion V2 costs a lot less than most air-coolers too. Alright, I'll concede that you need to fork out for pumps, radiators and reservoirs too, but the fact remains.
Two decades of innovation and we still get sore fingers
What really frustrates me though is; why on earth are modern enthusiast water blocks so much easier to install than many supposedly high-end CPU coolers? After all, off the shelf water-cooling has barely been available for a decade, but I remember the early PCs I owned in the early nineties coming equipped with some sort of cooler.

My point is, why, given the extra time that CPU cooler manufacturers have had to improve upon mounting mechanisms, are we still encountering CPU coolers that leave your fingers in a worse state than if they’d found their way into a food blender? Or have a ridiculous amount of parts? Or just don’t mount properly at all? Some require so much pressure that you risk damaging or even bricking your motherboard. We’re not talking about cheap and nasty hardware here either - some coolers costing over £50 are named and shamed in the latest labs test.

Two decades of innovation and we still get sore fingers
The humble push pin. Isn't it time it was resigned to the history books?

I see plenty of air-cooled systems in the wild that use CPU coolers that look like they fell off some passing spaceship, but are well known to perform worse than stock coolers. So, maybe watercooling enthusiasts are an exceptionally well informed and mercenary bunch in that, if there aren't very good reasons other than aesthetic to buy a water-block, they simply won't buy from that manufacturer?

I doubt it. In fact, there are plenty of dire watercooling kits out there too which perform worse than good air cooling, yet people buy them either because they assume any form of water-cooling is better than air cooling or just so they can say they have a watercooled PC.

However, you usually have to have some experience with air cooled PCs before you even attempt to build a water-cooled one. Many of these people seem to have cottoned on to the fact that manufacturers who make these awful products are preying on the innocent members of the public who have never visited or picked up a copy of Custom PC and simply go on looks and size alone.

Bigger means better right? Well, in the case of PC hardware, no. It’s very rarely that simple. My advice is to steer clear of the fanboys, the pages of hyped-up specifications and pretty pictures because buying hardware just because of how it looks, what it claims to do or even because previous models have been good is the worst thing you can possibly do.


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Skiddywinks 19th March 2009, 15:48 Quote
Also have to give serious credit to the Fuzion V2. My first water cooling experience on my first ever computer build and it worked like a charm. It made me wonder why everyone is so scared of water cooling.

The best parts are fairly common knowledge (just ask anyone in the know), it is hardly rocket science to put together, and most importantly, it''s fun. Not only that, but a fully loaded, overclocked by over 150MHz (on both the core and memory) 4870X2 at less than 50c is a sight to behold.
Saivert 20th March 2009, 02:32 Quote
Also many people install water cooling because they believe it will always yield lower temperatures. This isn't the case. There are many decent air-coolers out there that rival the best water-cooling setups. The ambient temperature stays the same regardless. If you want to really cool your computer look into phase change cooling.

The best reason to go with water cooling is to reduce the amount of fans in your case. Having two large fans instead of say 5 will reduce noise a lot. Let the cooled water circulate through all the hot spots and bring the heat out of your case.
Combatus 20th March 2009, 12:48 Quote
Yeah the FuZion V2 is awesome, I'd highly recommend the Pro Mount to any V1 users too.

@Saivert, it's true you'll never be able to cool a CPU below ambient with water-cooling but with substancial overclocks, unless you use a Vantec Tornado, you'll never beat a high end water-cooling setup with plenty of headroom with air cooling. Certainly not in the small toasty room my PC's in at home anyway! But I agree, it won't always lead to lower temperatures, especially if everything's at stock speed.
Skiddywinks 20th March 2009, 18:11 Quote
Originally Posted by Saivert
There are many decent air-coolers out there that rival the best water-cooling setups,

No, there really aren't. High end water cooling will only ever be beaten by phase change and LN2/DI.

Low end water cooling can, and often is, beaten by high end air cooling, but high end water is in a league of its own in comparison.
Xir 20th March 2009, 19:30 Quote
Starting to go to LAN's and not wanting to carry the weight kept me from going for watercooling.
I only wanted it for silence anyway...but I had big troubles finding a website doing comparison of watercooling components that would compare the noise of pumps.

Nowadays aircooling can be pretty silent as well.'re right, the poor pushpin design for coolers is a joke. Likewise is having to push on a (slippery) feather or bar with a screwdriver where you're likely to slip and pierce your motherboard. Demounting is often even worse.
wuyanxu 20th March 2009, 21:55 Quote
i always thought when choosing watercooling, never buy off-the-shelf kit. always fork out that extra cash and extra time to build your own.
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