There's no doubt that watercooling looks ace, and that it can cool better than air can under higher-heat circumstances. But there's also a lot of risk and a bit of fiddling with any loop. What if it leaks? What if there is an algae build up? How about corrosion?
The easiest way to avoid these questions is to just not use water. No, I don't mean throw your loop out – I mean fill it with something different! There are quite a few products out there that claim to be safer than good old distilled water, but also better for your loop – in more ways than one.
Non-Conductive fluids aren't water, and they each have their own strengths or weaknesses. They won't fry your system for a small leak, they can't grow algae, and they are usually chemically designed to prevent multi-metal corrosion inside your loop. Many of them even claim to be better than water at cooling. The downside? They can set you back a pretty penny.
Are they right, or are they full of it?
Today, with the help of Danger Den, FrozenCPU and Coolercases UK, I'm doing just that. I've got three of the top NCF names – FluidXP+ Ultra, MCT-40 and Feser One. We'll put them all through their paces...but first, let's take a closer look at each one.
Most people who have heard of watercooling are familiar with FluidXP+. The company has been around for a little over three years now, specialising in non-conductive cooling fluids. Though FluidXP+ was initially designed as a multi-purpose idea, it's certainly taken off well as a replacement for water in computer cooling loops.
FluidXP+ Ultra is the latest fluid in this legacy, released around the start of this year. Like its predecessors, FluidXP+ Ultra is non-conductive, meaning that a drop or three on your graphics card or motherboard isn't going to leave you crying a river. It's also an anti-corrosive agent, handy in multiple-metal loops where either your block or radiator is aluminium.
An oddly notable feature of FluidXP+ that is not present in any of the other fluids is that it is completely non-toxic. In fact, the whole thing is made from food-grade materials, making it definitely the safest fluid for use around children and pets. Though one wouldn't normally let Fido or Baby go play in your watercooling loop, it's nice to know that nobody is going to be calling Poison Control if it did happen (however that may actually happen). You still shouldn't go chugging a litre for fun, but it's a nice touch.
FluidXP+ Ultra (Blood Red) in the test loop. The colour was quite deep and blood-like, though this particular one is not UV reactive.
Anyway, back to the actual cooling-loop-useful properties. FluidXP+ Ultra's biggest boasting point is an additive known only as z-7, which is a pretty high-tech sounding name. This "mystery meat" is designed to bond with metal shards that inevitably flake off during the use of your watercooling rig. No matter how well they're cleaned, particles of metal will find themselves in your fluid from the inside of your radiator and blocks. Over (considerable) time, these shards find themselves back against the block or radiator walls and form deposits, restricting or altering the flow of your loop.
The z-7 additive present in FluidXP+ Ultra will prevent that deposit formation, at least according to the guys over at FluidXP+. And one would expect that they know what they're saying – the team is led by an ex-NASA researcher. Though it's not a guarantee of future performance, the blood lines speak well of this latest offering.
Surprisingly, FluidXP+ Ultra is somewhat viscous – at least, considerably more so than water. I'd give it the consistency of a very thin syrup, or perhaps a light oil. The colour in my sample of Blood Red product is quite rich – it should last quite some time without fading. However, these same qualities are not quite as they seem – I will cover some of the problems that they caused in our results section.