Saturday, 28 January 2012

Evolution of a PC Enthusiast's Addiction Part 2 - Water Cooling

So, I left off with a very expensive hobby that I was very happy with, except for the silly backwards cooling scenario I was forced into.

Naturally, I began looking into new CPU coolers that would be able to clear my RAM heatsinks, but no matter what it seemed like a gamble and I didn't want to be returning multiple CPU coolers and wasting a lot of time. That's when I began to contemplate water cooling. I always thought it was pretty cool (aka "hardcore") to have a water cooled rig, but also it seemed a little pointless given how effective most air coolers are these days.

Never the less, I searched and found a seemingly really great solution: Swiftech Edge 220 water cooling kit! It's basically a 120x2 radiator (MCR 220 QP) with a small resevoir on top and an MCP 35x pump on the bottom, plus an Apogee XTL CPU block, hoses, fans, and a rad box for mounting externally. Regular price on this was around $300, but I found it on sale for $210. I also added a Silverstone Air Penetrator fan to cool my GPUs better, some blue tubing, and a Scythe Kaze Master Pro 6 channel fan controller. Total: $333.62. Not bad, really.

 Installation was actually quite easy. I just assembled everything and used the rad box to mount it off the back of my case. The loop didn't have any leaks, so I plugged everything in and booted her up. The great thing about water cooling is how quiet it is. I run my fans at low speeds (1300rpm) and the cooling performance is better than ever. My temperatures dropped around 10C under load! This is with a nice overclock, though, at 4ghz 1.32V.

Naturally I was happy again. I was able to put all my fans the proper way again (front to back), my cooling was better, my PC was quiet. Even my GPUs were cooled better by having the Air Penetrator blowing at them - you can see the fan just to the right of the GPUs in the center bay.

This is actually pretty much the end of my purchasing. In one of my first posts I mentioned trying Eyefinity, so there's that, but I backed out of it and returned everything. Eyefinity is cool but not really worth the investment and performance hit for me.

I did purchase myself a bit of a Christmas gift, though, in the form of a Corsair Force Series GT 120gb SSD which I use as my gaming drive. It was $80 off, so can't complain about that. I also got rid of the Logitech mouse and keyboard; I picked up a Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard and a Cooler Master Sentinel Z3RO-G mouse. They are awesome - great feel, response, and programmable.

Having the radiator mounted off the back of the case isn't a bad thing, but I got a bit of the modding bug in me and decided I had to try and install the radiator internally. Keeping in mind I use an Antec 900 II case, which is a mid tower, and the fact that my radiator is much larger than normal because of the pump and reservoir on it, I knew it wouldn't be easy.

I started by stripping out my HDD bays and test mounting the radiator in the front. It fit find, except that it was so tall I couldn't use my DVD drive anymore. Besides that, though, I just had to figure out where to mount my HDDs and SSDs. Eventually I came to an interesting solution. I was able to mount my HDDs on the side panel of the drive bays, and my SSDs on the floor of the case. A little use of a dremel later, it was all done.

I've now planned out what I need for putting my GPUs on water as well, and it will be around $300 for that. Just need to decide if I want a 3x120 rad hanging off the back, or a 200x200 radiator sitting on top like a chimney.

Well, that's my story about how my PC hobby as evolved over the last two years. Hope you enjoyed.