August 23, 2019 | 14:00
UK price (as reviewed): £324.98 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $309.99 (exc. tax)
As water-cooling marches ever further into the realm of the 'mainstream enthusiast', jumping to a custom loop solution over an AIO cooler is proving more and more popular. Two issues that persist, however, are that it's quite a hurdle to overcome in terms of monetary investment, and it's also quite daunting picking out parts for a first loop. One of the joys of a custom loop is just that: It's a custom solution. That means there's a multitude of different components one can choose from, be it different radiator sizes, water block styles, thousands of fittings, reservoir styles, and so on.
To combat this, many manufacturers have turned to offering kits. These contain all the essentials for starting an effective loop, thus simplifying the whole process of choosing components. This has a few advantages for a newcomer: Not only are you guaranteed that the parts (should) play nice together, you know that it will at least be possible to have a working system afterwards, assuming the assembly goes to plan. Additionally, by buying into a whole ecosystem, there are often savings to be had.
Thermaltake offers a number of different kits; the one we're looking at sits fairly near to the top of the product stack and features a COPPER 360mm radiator, so plenty of cooling capacity for a toasty CPU and potentially even a GPU. This particular version uses PETG hardline tubing, although there is a soft tube version available also.
As mentioned earlier, a pleasant feature of a kit is that it comes with all the necessary components to run out of the box. Here, you get a full fat W4 CPU block, the slim 360mm radiator, three ARGB Pure 12 fans, six rigid compression fittings and two 90° angle adapters, 4m of 16mm PETG tubing (8 x 500mm sections), a DDC pump/res combo, 1L of clear T1000 coolant, and a bunch of handy accessories.
You may have noticed that I highlighted copper for the radiator material, and this is important. Previously, Thermaltake used an aluminium-zinc alloy for its radiators, which essentially made them incompatible with any other mainstream water-cooling equipment on the market. Galvanic corrosion is very much a real thing in water-cooling, so mixing aluminium up with either copper, nickel, or brass (essentially every metal component that comes into contact with fluid) is a big no no. Thermaltake always stood by the decision, stating that its coolants contained anti-corrosives, but the only sure-fire way to avoid corrosion is just to eliminate the possibility to begin with. This is why it was good news when Thermaltake updated its product stack to include a host of copper radiators, one of which is supplied in this kit.
The radiator itself is a slim variant at only 29.5mm thick, which makes it a good choice for locations where perhaps a chunkier unit might not fit, such as in the roof of a chassis. Whilst there's more cooling potential to be had from a thicker radiator, the scaling isn't linear, and often there can be advantages for slim radiators when running fans at low RPMs.
A key component for any water-cooling loop is the pump; it's akin to the power supply in a PC, a component where reliability is paramount. Laing/Xylem/Lowara are what you want to look for when purchasing a pump separately; there's a reason why the vast majority of manufacturers opt to use pumps made by them. Both the D5 and DDC pumps are very well established in the water-cooling community, and Thermaltake has opted to use a DDC 3.25 in this kit. This is good, as recently there have been a number of knock-off versions coming in from China, some of which are fine, others not so much. It's nice that it went with the established route rather than trying to go with a different manufacturer for a cost saving.
Tubing-wise you're looking at 16mm PETG, which is pretty standard for TT's water-cooling offerings. I do personally prefer acrylic over PETG thanks to the higher melting point and clarity, but thicker-walled PETG is still generally okay, and it's pretty easy to work with. One thing that's worth mentioning is the tubing comes in 0.5m lengths rather than the usual 1m found in the dedicated tubing packs. These tubes are usually fine, but I do find that there's more waste compared with 1m. This is down to how many times you'll be using lengths in the region of 25-35cm at a time. With a 1m section, you can get three usable pieces that size, whereas you'll often be limited to just one from a 50cm piece.
The fittings themselves for the hardline tubes are rather special, however. The C-Pro models from Thermaltake are quite different to the majority of rigid compression fittings on the market in that they don't have a socket into which you insert the tube. Instead, they have a collar that's compressed around the tube. The base of the fitting is flat; this means that you're able to insert tubes between objects that can't be moved around, such as between two already installed GPUs. This also has the advantage of making it easier to trim tubes to size. Whilst for a kit like this their functionality is likely superfluous, it's still nice to see them included, especially as they're one of the pricier fittings on the market.
January 24 2020 | 12:00