Kit Reviews & Testing Begins

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Kits
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As water cooling has evolved over the past few years the quality and performance of kits has seen a similar progression and development.  Today you can spend anywhere from $80-$500 on a water cooling kit.  Up to this point my reviews have all been individual parts based.  I have never before attempted doing any sort of kit review and wanted to try.  I very much appreciate a good value and wanted to review beyond your typical unboxing or screenshot level of testing and understand the finer details of how kits compare at a more scientific level.  My first round of kits is focused on “Under $150″ and ” 2 x 120mm (240) radiator” as I feel to really see worthwhile silent water cooling benefits a  240 radiator is needed and I also wanted to keep in tune with the value concept and 100-150 seems like a good price point to start with.

Kit reviews shall begin!!

Before going too far, I would like to thank my Sponsors:

frozencpu_logo

I would like to thank Mark from FrozenCPU.com for sponsoring the XSPC and Larkooler kits.

Swiftech_logo_white_backgrounds

I would also like to thank Gabe from Swiftech for sponsoring the H220 kit.

150DollarKitTesting

I am also looking to expand and include some sealed kits such as the Corsair H100i, Thermaltake Water 2.0, and other sealed AIO systems, but I haven’t found sponsors for those yet.  The H220 does come filled and more plug and play, but all three kits are all easy enough to take apart and expand from a removable parts perspective.

COST COMPARISON

Larkooler BA2-241 – $129.95

Swiftech H220 – $139.95

XSPC Raystorm,750,RS240 – $144.95

So these kits are all under the $150 criteria and have 240mm radiators so they should be similar in terms of case compatibility being able to fit a 240mm sized radiator.  So, here we go…an adventure in kit testing for those looking to spend under $150.

GENERAL TESTING STRATEGY

I’m looking for feedback on testing requests before I am done.  So far I have developed the following general strategy:

  • Phase 1 Kit Core vs Noise level (Core vs dbA) – Basic Kit testing with the kit fans focusing on what you get from the box and attempting to measure noise levels in both a qualitative and quantitative means.
  • Phase 2 Kit + Fan Mod (Core vs RPM) – Testing each kit with the same fans.
  • Phase 3 Expansion (Remaining Pump Power PSI vs GPM) – Breaking down each kit to test the remaining pump power including the kit.  This will be done via pressure manometer and flow meter to understand exactly how much pumping power remains to push through additional components
  • Phase 4 Expansion CPU + GPU test (GPU Core vs RPM) – While I don’t yet have a  sponsor or a block for my (currently air-cooled) 570GTX, I may do a test with CPU & GPU put in the same loop as a thermal expansion test. I could see a lot of people wanting to add a GPU block to the system and I want to see how well they can handle that and do some GPU testing as part of the kit review.  I will keep trying and see if I can find some support for this latter test.
  • Phase 5 Mods – Possibly look at what happens if you expand the radiator or better understanding what parts should be upgraded for future expansion.

If you have any testing wishes or suggestions, please let me know.  I am just getting started on these and plan to spend some quality time.  The H220 showed up first at my door, so it’s going to be first in line.  I will be focusing on Phase 1 in the near term.

THE CASE (XSPC H2 Tower)

I have two platforms, my Danger Den Torture Rack open test bench and my XSPC H2 Tower case I reviewed here.  While I could test the kits on the open torture rack, I wanted to simulate an actual enclosed case test condition including some grill restriction to simulate the air flow restriction and to also help evaluate the installation in a case condition.  I also wanted to the the kit radiators in a top mounted setup which is probably how most of these will test out.  Finally, I wanted something large enough that could be expanded for larger kit testing down the road or modified testing where you add a second radiator to the existing kit.  The H2 is massive in size and arguably overkill, but the grill in the top and 15mm fan spacing screw holes should make mounting the kit radiators very simple and easy to install.  There will be no case modding needed to fit any watercooling kit so it makes for a good 240/360/480 kit test case as well.

This case was sponsored by XSPC some time ago, a special thanks to Paul from XSPC for the sample.

XSPClogo

XSPC-H2-28

More to come…

Cheers!Smilieparty0012
Martin

Comments
  1. This is going to be an excellent article (when it’s complete) Martin; there are many folks that have decided to ditch air cooling in favor of diving into the depths of water cooling, can I forward your results to the water cooling forum I belong to (so long as I credit you and your site) ?

    • Martinm210 says:

      Absolutely, sharing the work has always been a goal. Some forums don’t let me link to my blog here, but most don’t care if other members do and I would encourage any sort of sharing.

      Broke out my H2 case for this testing, it’s a little bigger than needed for these 240 rad kits, but it should work and provide a similar grill restriction in the top of the case to mount these to.

  2. PunkNugget says:

    Hi Martin,

    You want to try and see if Enermax can give you fair all-in-one Water cooling units as well. The reason why I’m mentioning this is because they have some type of channeling “technology” that is supposed to be far better than the rest of these all-in-one water cooling units that are out there. See if you can get in touch with the guys at Enermax and see what they would be able to do to provide you a sample or to the test and compare.

    I do know one of the re-sellers that is a representative here in United States that I could give you his contact information and you can go from there and see what he can do to help you out if you looking for a sample to test I’m sure they would want that to happen as they’re trying to get this product noticed. Let me know if this is of interest to you and I will give you his contact information through your email if you have one that I can forward that too. Take care and talk to you soon… 🙂

    • Martinm210 says:

      I am interested, but I need to at least finish phase 1 on the first three before taking on more. I get stressed and crabby 🙂 when the que gets too long, three is my max. I will send you an email when I am caught up, thanks! Martin

  3. Lutfij says:

    Martin my man! You have gone ahead and paved the ground work for those who try really hard in trying to distinguish what a real watercooling setup and the AIO coolers are. Seeing as most people just ditch the Hyper 212 or a Noctua NH D14 in favor of the hassle/maintenance free watercooling setup coined by Corsair.

    Your results will be my lunch ticket the next time I’ll suggest going $100+ on a CLC.
    * but I’d like to post your findings on Tom’s with credits to you ofc 😀

    • Martinm210 says:

      Thank!
      I am excited to see the results myself. I just got my system moved over into the H2 case yesterday and installed the H220. Did a couple of trial runs and it is working great. Now I just need to iron out my Crystalfontz sensors and make a new excel data log dump template. Think I will add a radiator surface temp sensor for supplemental data.

  4. Rognin says:

    This is a great idea!

    Thanks Martin!

  5. EMU says:

    Martin,

    I really appreciate all of the work that you have put in to your research. I am currently in the market for a GPU waterblock (probably universal). I would like to donate a GPU cooler for you so you can complete your work. Shoot me an email and we can work out the details.

    -EMU-

    • Martinm210 says:

      Thanks!
      I need to figure out which test method I’m going to choose. If I test in a case, the 240 rad kits may not have enough reserve to add more heat, but if I test open air, they probably can. I may be looking for modifying the case or getting a different one to test in, not sure just yet, but thanks for the offer.

  6. emuracing says:

    I would love to see how the H220 waterblock/pump with the XSPC RS240 radiator would compare to the Raystorm with 750 pump on the same rad/fan configuration, as well as a D5 or 35x if that is feasible. This way we can get an idea of performance of the H220 for a full custom build with an additional pump… using the H220 as a redundancy pump rather than a primary pump.

    • Martinm210 says:

      I will be doing some of that in the latter phases, I am interested too. I have plenty of spare pumps and parts to try all sorts of combinations..:)

  7. Church says:

    Though they are also rebranded aseteks, kit roundup should include Corsair H80i/H100i as imho maybe most popular from those, others – with less priority.
    Hmm, air cooler, IIRC from Jordan’s tests best noise/cooling wise were Thermalright Archon with default fans, and Phanteks PH-TC14PE as absolute winner if with two Thermalright TY-140 fans (stock ones were noisier). So if it’s up to choice with what air cooler to compare, i’d say – with Archon and with stock oem box cooler.

  8. Critical Thinker says:

    Hi Martin, do you know anything about the EK 360 HFX kit? Thanks for any insight you have on this!!