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Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?

Posted on 10th Apr 2014 at 08:59 by Antony Leather with 25 comments

After a couple of years of mediocre progress, we're seeing some genuine innovation with cases that are leaning ever more towards water cooling. Pretty much every medium to large case that's released these days - even smaller mini-ITX ones on occasion - sports double, triple or even quadruple fan mounts, and though these of course boost air cooling potential too, they also allow for larger radiators to be installed.

Manufacturers such as Corsair and NZXT are now in the habit of listing radiator compatibility in their case instruction manuals too - they're clearly taking it seriously and rightly so. Water cooling is one area of the PC industry that has certainly been growing over the last few years with all-in-one liquid coolers and full-on custom water cooling topping cooler graphs and featuring in many eye candy-filled systems - both modding projects and standard builds alike.

However, there is one small issue with many cases - specifically their radiator mounts. They're usually designed only for half-height radiators, which lack surface area and thus cooling potential compared to their full-height siblings, and many cases also seem to be listing radiator and water cooling compatibility as little more than tick-box features.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
Some manufacturers are shunning space for large air coolers in favour of radiator mounts such as Lian Li with is PC-V360 - Click to enlarge

My point here is that when you try to install a water cooling system in one, there's so little space that tube kinks become a real issue and there's also little thought as to where to put pumps and reservoirs. One big factor here is that case manufacturers aren't actually that concerned with custom water cooling loops (as in separate components connected together at home) and rather more with all-in-one systems such as a Corsair H80i.

It's not just Corsair and NZXT, who incidentally make some of the best all-in-one liquid coolers out there, that are doing this. After all, you can forgive them for promoting a combination of their own case and cooler, but plenty of other manufacturers are doing it too.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
Many all-in-one liquid coolers come equipped with half-height radiators while larger radiators are available with custom water cooling that can provide additional cooling capacity

For instance, I've recently borrowed the Lian Li PC-V360 we looked at recently to see how well it can cope with a water cooling system, seeing as it has a dedicated dual 120mm-fan radiator mount in the side panel and is too slim to fit large air coolers.

In short, it wasn't easy at all and I had to use anti-kinking springs on the tubing for everything to fit inside - and that's using the skinniest radiator I could find. Also, this turned out to be only just capable of cooling my overclocked Core i5-3570K and GeForce 660 Ti with the fans on full blast, which for me half defeats the point of water cooling, which is noise reduction.

Do case manufacturers really understand water cooling?
You usually have to opt for larger cases such as Corsair's Graphite 760T, but just a few changes could mean smaller cases are just as water cooling-friendly - click to enlarge

Even with an all-in-one liquid cooler things would be tricky, but as we speak I'm in the process of dismantling the system to go back to my trusted BitFenix Prodigy, which is much more water cooling friendly. Of course, that's my point; some cases do work well with water cooling, the Prodigy being one of them. It's also far from being a large case - the PC-V360 is taller and deeper but can't quite decide whether to jump off the fence on the air cooling side or water cooling side.

A lot of the issues, then, revolve around radiator depth, and at the moment, many case manufacturers are content to leave their cases with the bare minimum. You probably can't blame them to some extent as the vast majority of all-in-one liquid coolers use skinny radiators - one reason why a custom kit with a full-height double or triple 120mm-fan radiator will likely perform much better and quieter with an overclocked CPU.

So, what would I like to see? Better consideration for water cooling enthusiasts for one, but this could just as easily be brought about by all-in-one liquid cooler manufacturers beefing up their radiators too, especially where double fan radiators are concerned. That way, we don't only get better cooling from their own coolers, but you won't have to opt for enormous cases or go through the hassle of having to use multiple radiators too. It wouldn't require massive changes either - a few small modifications to existing case designs could make a world of difference.

How do you think current cases could be improved for water cooling purposes? Let us know in the forum.

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Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts

Posted on 7th Apr 2014 at 13:20 by Antony Leather with 22 comments

As we reported here, Intel has announced the rest of its 2014 line-up. However, I for one am extremely excited by what the future holds for LGA1150.

With Broadwell being delayed and Haswell seemingly focusing more on power efficiency than giving anything significantly new to the enthusiast and performance user, I was pretty amazed when I read the finer details of Intel's latest roadmap that was announced on 19th March.

In the press release, the company has announced its intentions to better-support the enthusiast and overclocking communities and has detailed a couple of very interesting products.

The first is a new Pentium that will feature an unlocked multiplier to celebrate 20 years of the brand. Could this be the first cheap overclockable CPU since the likes of the Pentium G9650, all the way back on LGA1156? If so, it could prove a huge boon to those looking to overclock on a budget and give a massive boost to overclocking and the enthusiast market.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
Click to enlarge

At the moment we're forced to buy comparatively expensive K-series CPUs, and there have only been two to choose from for each of the last several generations too. It never used to be this way and certainly for the majority of my overclocking life, it wasn't a case of if you could overclock a CPU, it was a question of which one out of an entire range of CPUs was the best at it.

If the Pentium retails for current Pentium prices - ie around £80-100, but you can add 500-1000MHz to the clock speed, this could potentially match the performance of a Core i5, at least in software that isn't massively multi-threaded, and give AMD's cheap FX-series CPUs some competition too.

The new Pentium will be supported by current 8-series chipsets and also forthcoming 9-series chipsets, presumably Z97, although we'll have to wait and see whether it will need a BIOS update to run in current boards.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
Click to enlarge

Another gleeful bit of information is that Intel will also be launching its first 8-core desktop CPU. The monster will likely feature hyper-threading, for 16 threads in total, will also support DDR4 and will be supported by the new X99 chipset.

Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs meanwhile have suffered from hot-running chips, especially when you've overclocked them. It's fairly common for people to de-lid their CPUs - having done so with my Core i5-3570K, I can honestly say it made a huge difference. However, Intel appears to have admitted the issue as it will be introducing 'Improved thermal interface material' to the expected Haswell refresh CPUs, codenamed Devil's Canyon, due out this summer.

Intel's 2014 line-up: It's looking good for enthusiasts
Click to enlarge

As well as the expected performance boost that comes with every refresh, this could mean better overclocking too. The new CPUs are slated to be supported by a new Intel 9-series chipset, although it's likely Z87-based boards will support them via a BIOS update too.

Finally, there was scant information on Broadwell - Intel's 5th gen Core processor range. However, it did confirm the new CPUs would be based on a 14nm manufacturing process, will feature unlocked CPUs, and for the first time, offer its Iris Pro Graphics to socketed unlocked processors too, which could give AMD some competition in the APU department.

It looks like we could have some exciting new products just around the corner. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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