If you have ever pondered water cooling a computer, after a bit of shopping around I'm sure you will have seen the Swiftech brand in all aspects of your shopping list. When I got my start in water cooling, the Swiftech pumps came highly recommended; I just wish I had been directed to their radiators a little sooner than I had. When I started out, I had to use very high CFM fans on radiators that worked, but had a high FPI count, and really impeded the air flow through the radiators; hence the need for the loud, high CFM producing fans. If you read my review of the Danger Den GTX 470 block, I grabbed a Swiftech radiator for testing those and I was very pleased with the amount of heat that radiator is able to remove from the water, and I only needed 60 CFM fans to get those results. With that build came hours and hours of prep and set up time. Accounting for all of the barb, angled fitting, and multiple parts to connect to can drag the build out, and almost drive you insane looking for the cleanest, yet still attractive layout.
This is where Swiftech jumps into the game. The idea behind this new kit we are going to be reviewing is to offer great performance with the use of high quality components. In stark contrast to the build I made for the Danger Den review, this kit takes into account the frustration and time caused as I described above, and brings a simple, yet ingenious solution to allow those less skilled, as well as those of us who have built a few loops, a much better concept in plumbing, routing, and cleanliness of the finished installation. Taking the basic components of a CPU water loop, Swiftech took the radiator and added the pump and reservoir directly into the design of the MCR320. This allows for less fittings, less tubing/routing, and best of all, less leak points.
With the release of the H2O-320 Edge Series Liquid Cooling Kit, Swiftech delivers an easy to use, ready to go kit with all the bells and whistles. This kit overlooks nothing! Wiring, plumbing, components, it's all covered, even some smaller aspects you may have not even thought of when you go to assemble a list of components. That is at least until the kit arrives and you realize halfway through a build you need more parts. That isn't going to happen here! Let's get a look at what's included in this kit and get to testing. I am very eager to see what sort of performance the H2O-320 Edge Series kit can produce.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
In the top chart I started out a bit different this time and listed all the components so that you get a better idea of what all Swiftech offers in the H20-x20 kits. There is a H20-220 Kit as well, with the obvious difference of using a double radiator, where the kit we are testing here today is the 320, or triple radiator version. If you are in a bit of a tossup as to whether you want the 220 or the 320 kit, Swiftech added a chart for case compatibility that they have tested their kits with, and know for sure which of the two offerings will easily install in each of those cases. As I mentioned, the included parts is fully inclusive of everything you could ever want or need; hanging the radiator inside or on the back is covered as well. So even if the H20-320 won't fit inside, who says it can't hang on the back of the case with the included Radbox.
Beyond the more obvious things that are needed to make a water cooling loop function, Swiftech has "options". Like the Radbox I mentioned, the "options" keep on coming. There are things like the HydrX additive and a funnel for easy filling of the system. There are wiring kits to allow you to customize the voltage supplied to the three fans they also include in the kit. Of course, you are going to get all the barbs, tubing, and clamps needed to assemble a leak free loop, but Swiftech adds things like an expansion slot cover to allow the wires to easily pass out the back of the case. Like I said, hanging inside, or outside, Swiftech covered all the basics here.
I tried to list as many of the specs for each included component, but if I sited everything they offered in information, I would have had a chart three pages long. I strongly suggest you hop over to Swiftech's site to look over all of the flow charts and in-house testing that they provide.
Currently it is going to take a bit of digging or an email to Swiftech to find these kits. For one, they are brand spanking new, and even during my use of the kit, it is still being adapted slightly to offer solutions to small issues that might arise during testing. While Swiftech does list pricing for the H20-220 and H20-320 kits at $309.95 and $339.95, respectively, when doing a bit of more in depth shopping I was able to locate the H20-220 at CrazyPC.com for $248.99, with no signs of the H2O-320 kit in stock. Frozen CPU seems to be listing both kits currently and is asking MSRP pricing for their kits. So even while very new to the market, these kits are attainable. I know a $300 price tag on this kit may be a bit of sticker shock, but for what is included, you will be hard pressed to come up with a kit you put together that offers what this kit has.
The H20-320 arrived to me in a non-descript brown cardboard box. Be careful when you cut the tape to open the kit as there is no inner package if the knife were to go too deep.
On the end of the package is where you will find one of two stickers on the box giving information on what will be found in the box. There is a full list of parts and some information on how to get an AMD or Intel server mounting kit.
On the opposite end you will find the same information in French.
Once I got the tape loose and opened the cardboard box, you can see there is a layer of bubble wrap keeping your knife from the tubing and included hardware underneath it. As I unpack the contents I grabbed images so I can explain what is what.
The H2O-320 Edge Series Liquid Cooling Kit
The first thing in the package you will run into is a very thorough and well illustrated installation book. This will get you through all of your questions during assembly and the installation of the kit. Along with the paper version of the instructions you will find a CD with 3D renderings of the suggested setups, and various ways to install the system. These renderings include layouts of the tubing with the CPU block that is included as well as ones with GPU blocks added.
Next we find the box that contains the Apogee XTL. Basically this is the same black as the XT, but with a Delrin top, and the lack of the reversible inlet/outlet plate for the bigger compression fittings.
The top of the XTL is definitely made of black Delrin and has G ¼ threads in the top. This block features a 250 micro-pin matrix design on the inside, and comes with the LGA1366 back plate installed on the block.
The base of the Apogee XTL is made of copper and very flat. The surface is lapped to a near perfect shine, as you can see by the reflection of the USB drive.
You will find six foot of ½" I.D, ¾" O.D, clear tubing included in the kit, and even if you plan to add a GPU block or two, this is plenty of tubing. Along with the tubing, Swiftech includes a 20z bottle of HydrX anti-microbial and anti-fungal additive and a funnel for easy filling once the kit is together.
At the bottom of the outer box, you will find another box that holds the radiator and assembled components. The fans, wiring, and radiator/pump/reservoir combo is shipped in a cloth sleeve to keep minor abrasions to a minimum and deliver a shiny and perfect product. At the left you will see that there is an included bag with two ½" barbs and two black nylon clamps.
Once the cloth sleeve is removed, you can see Swiftech took all the work out of the assembly of the radiator and fans too. The fans are oriented to give you the most length of the wiring to connect inside the PC, and grills are mounted to protect your fingers from any mishaps.
On this end of the MCR320 radiator, Swiftech takes a MCP35X pump and mounts it directly to the bottom of the radiator. This pump comes with a 12V Molex Connection for its power source, but with the use of the 4-pin connection, you can plug it into the motherboard for finite control of the pump voltage, or allow for PWM control. During the shipping, white plastic inserts are placed in the inlet on the radiator and the outlet on the pump. This protects the threads and will make sure leaks aren't caused by something messing with the threads.
Swiftech only supplies three 81 CFM fans to push into the radiator. There is still the option to move them to this side or add another three fans for even better performance than what you are going to see here in a couple of pages.
At the top of the radiator, Swiftech made a larger header to use as the reservoir and added two ways to fill the radiator. With one hole at the top, the hole allows you to fill it if it hangs on the back of your case, and the other is for filling the system if it is hanging in the roof of your case.
Accessories and Documentation
Aside from the instructions we pulled from the top of the kit, included with the Apogee XTL, you will find instructions on how to use the back plate, how to prep the CPU, alignment of the thumb screws, and the flow of the CPU block.
The hardware that comes with the Apogee XTL includes two chromed ½" barbs, two nylon reusable clamps, and a little syringe of Ceramique Thermal Compound.
Since the kit fits LGA 775, and 1156 as well as the 1366 is comes ready for, Swiftech includes the appropriate back plates for the other two sockets.
Laying under the instructions you will find five bags with assorted hardware. On the left, there are two kits to modify the 12V fan power to either 7V or 5V. There is even fill-port hardware if you plan to make a hole in your case to fill the radiator after it is installed. You will also find a kit of mounting hardware and another full of screws, nuts, and spacers for the Alternate mounting kit Swiftech includes.
Swiftech also includes the Radbox to allow for the kit to hang from the exterior of the case via the rear exhaust hole in the case. There is of course all of the appropriate hardware to assemble the Radbox both to the case and the radiator. At the bottom, you will find a steel expansion slot cover that will allow for wiring to be passes in and out of the case, even with this cover still in place. In my build this plate came in very handy!
If you recall the image when the radiator was still in the box there was a bag with goodies in it. These are those said goodies, another pair of chrome ½" barbs, and the nylon clamps to be used in the radiator and pump holes.
Fit and Finish
As I began to assemble things for testing, I ran into the one and only issue. With both chrome barbs in the Apogee CPU block the nylon clamps that are sent with the kit don't fit, the barbs are simply too close together for them to fit. To solve this issue as soon as possible, I added a Bitspower fitting to raise the other barb a bit, which allowed me to clamp both barbs. Shortly after I found this issue, I got a random phone call from Gabe at Swiftech, and we both had a laugh about the issue, and he said my sample was early, the new kits have a solution.
In order to solve the issue of the thick nylon clamps not being able to both fit in the limited spacing, Swiftech sent me the solution. What I received was a pair of black, steel, screw-drive clamps. I have used these in other loops and never had an issue with them; they are the perfect solution to solve that issue.
On the opposite end of the tubing, you have a pair of barbs and with the offset of height, the nylon clamps are a perfect fit. To set the clamps on both ends, I simply squeezed them by hand and primed the loop. After running the loop for a bit, I found there was no leaks and I was ready to get to testing on the TECC we love to abuse coolers with.
I installed the H2O-320 Edge kit to the back of a 600T. Reasoning behind this is that for one, you can see the unit installed on a chassis and get a much better feel for the size of the unit as well as how clean the loop looks when completed. Secondly, as you are about to see, the H2O-320 kit was a bit much for our TEC, and I got some real world results in this configuration as well.
Test System & Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
TweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
With the system running the idle testing, it really didn't matter the amount of fans voltage I used. It bottomed out as low as 46.3 degrees with 12V and only rose to 46.9°C when I crippled the fans and only supplied 5V to them. As expected, the H2O-320 Edge kit took top honours against all air coolers.
Load testing, I found very similar results. No matter what voltage I applied to the fans the H2O-320 Edge kit outperformed air cooling by a good margin, and is right where I would expect a water cooling kit to perform. With a maximum temperature of just over 50 degrees with very little airflow and just under 50 degrees with maximum airflow, I knew it was time to really abuse the loop and see what sort of gains are to be had.
With the 12V to 5V kit installed in line to power the fans, the noise level registered at a very acceptable 47 dBA. I noticed that once I used a fan controller (not included in the kit) I was able to lower the fans to an almost inaudible level once the unit was hanging from the rear of the chassis.
With all three fans pushing 81 CFM each, the 2000 RPM fans can make quite a ruckus, but to be honest, aside from the testing, I have yet to need to run the fans that high during day to day use. Don't forget! Swiftech made this kit fully customizable, so these are just the maximum and minimums that I recorded for me tests, there is a full spectrum in between for you to maximize performance and have control of the noise levels.
Typically I don't do this, but since it put such a beating on the TEC, I figured I would try to put a beating on the H2O-320 Edge. This is my system idle with the fans set as low as I could set them with the fan controller.
And here are the temps with everything in the system loaded.
Same settings on the system, just this time around I set the fans all the way up as far as the dial would allow.
Fully loaded! The extra fan speed allows for a couple of degrees drop over both the CPU and the GPU. Not that the temperatures were bad with only five volts, but to have another two degrees of love with the twist of a dial is very nice indeed.
If only you could see the smile on my face when I think about what the H2O-320 Edge kit offers. Not only does it take away a lot of the issues found in a kit you shopped all the pieces for separately, such as leaks in the various components, or in the tubing and fittings that connect them, there is straight out simplicity with this kit. I have had maybe five rigs in the past that I either adapted an existing loop to, or purchased a new loop all together, and I have spent more than what the pricing of the H20-320 is asking, and gotten similar, and even sometimes worse results.
Huge benefits of this kit include things like less fittings in the loop. Essentially it makes this water cooling loop rated for just about anyone over the age of 10 years with a bit of mechanical ability. Now that may be a bit of a stretch from reality, but the kit is really fool proof. I know there are all of the all-in-one kits on the market now, and with a CPU and GPU version of those, the cost is going to be more, and the performance won't be as good. Then there is the fact that when Gabe assembled this kit, he put together everything you would ever need into the kit, so when you get it home, there is no frustrations, just sit down and start the assembly.
Considering the fans have multiple connections to limit the fan speed, and in my instance, I was able to use a fan controller to power the three of them, full control is granted to you. As for the pump, well, when it is run at 12V or just over 4000 RPM, the pump does produce a bit of whine. Again, this is easily remedied with a trip into my BIOS. Setting the fans voltage lower or even to a PWM setting will greatly reduce the noise in the pump, but not kill performance.
With the pervious experiences I have had with water cooling, Swiftech's H20-320 Edge kit is the easiest bit of kit I have ever had the pleasure of using. On top of that, it looks damn sexy installed on that 600T, and has made my spare PC much cooler when I fold on it as well as something I want to show everyone as soon as they walk into the room. I know the $330 asking price of the H2O-320 Edge Liquid Cooling Kit is a bit hard to digest. With what I have seen in buying my own kits versus the results I got with this, I can tell you the pricing is spot on, and if you are in the market for a new loop capable of handling today's hottest components like 4 GHz processors and Fermi cards, this is definitely the solution for you.