It may have taken Thermaltake a bit longer to enter the AIO water cooling game than most of the other companies offering solutions to this currently, but sometimes waiting leads to better things and this happens to be one of those times.
Most of us know there are the two major OEMs to the AIO game, CoolIt and Asetek, the latter of which is Thermaltake's partner with the release of the third generation of kits from Asetek. It used to be that the performance between the two was similar enough that it didn't really matter much as to which OEM water kit you bought. The main thing that separated Asetek from CoolIt was the mounting hardware. CoolIt has for a while had the better solution, but in this new kit from Asetek, that finally gets addressed and the fumbling around during the installation that drove me a little crazy at time has been fixed.
With a third generation of advances and improvements, Thermaltake steps in to take advantage of the improvements Asetek offers. Mainly, these advances are held within the head unit and as with the evolution previous to this, the heat generated from the pump was again addressed and this new version runs off even less power than the previous two. This leaves the AIO liquid cooler to take on the heat of only the CPU now and does not have to deal with the three to five degrees of heat load that used to be delivered to the loop from the pump operation. So like I said, Thermaltake may be a touch late to the game of AIO cooling, but it seems they chose the right horse to throw their money at.
Other manufacturers offer many examples in their lineup and the Water2.0 line from Thermaltake is no exception. There is a Performer model with a 25mm thick 120mm radiator and is what we are going to be looking at today. There is also a fat radiator version that offers a single 120mm radiator with 49mm of thickness and this one is called the Pro. I also have this cooler and will be bringing it to you as soon as possible. The last in the lineup is the dual 120mm, 25mm thick radiator version that offers onboard fan control which the previous two kits are left to the mercy of the PWM control.
Back to the point at hand, let me redirect you back to the single 25mm thick version that ships with a pair of fans and is what Thermaltake refers to as a "good" solution to anyone looking to start off in the AIO market, in the Water2.0 Performer from Thermaltake.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Starting with the head unit of the Performer we receive a 220mA pump and transfer plate combination unit that is round and thin. The black plastic housing holds the pump near the top as the coolant is passed under it, through a Skived, copper heat plate. Skiving is basically taking a block and cutting super thin fins and grooves in it that allows the coolant to absorb the heat from the CPU under the plate. This plate uses ten screws to mount the plate to the head unit with very even pressure leaving the mating surface very flat. Out of the head unit, there are two 90 degree fittings used with a 12" length of black rubber tubing attaching the head unit to the radiator. One other major bonus is the addition of a locking ring to the mounting hardware. So now the top plate doesn't flop around like a dead fish, it sits there locked and in place, ready to have the mounting screws put into place.
The radiator looks like it hasn't undergone much of a change from the other units I have previously tested. It is still an aluminum core that allows the heated coolant to be run through it. The black, 25mm thick radiator will accept any 120mm fan on its standard mounting holes, but Thermaltake equips this kit with a pair of PLA12025S12HH-LV fans and a Y-adapter to connect them easily to the CPU fan header on your motherboard. These fans are proven choices for Thermaltake, as they were used on some of their air coolers previously and can deliver 81 CFM of airflow with a rated noise level of 27.3 dBA at 2000 RPM. These PWM powered fans should suffice nicely with the tightly finned radiator.
As of this moment I can easily buy the Water 2.0 Performer direct from Thermaltake for $79.99 plus another $12 to get the unit to my door via UPS Ground. I thought I would look around to see if I could better this deal, as any money saved is a bonus in my book. What I am finding is that Newegg is the only other current listing and they too are asking $79.99, but are offering free shipping on their units. Even though currently supplies are limited to only a few locations in the US, with a bit of time, the Water2.0 Performer will be available anywhere you can find Thermaltake products.
To be blunt it has been quite some time since I tested an AIO cooler, but from what I remember then, I don't have great expectations out of the box for this cooler. However, it has been redesigned, the fat was trimmed and hopefully we have a leaner and meaner AIO liquid cooler in these new Thermaltake units.
The packaging is what I am used to from Thermaltake with the black packaging and the red stripe. This time on the front is a splash of water and an image of the Water2.0 Performer. It shows this unit is hassle free, comes with two PWM fans and has a universal mounting system including LGA2011 hardware.
On the right side, in 12 other languages, it again explains the features and socket compatibility for all of their markets.
On the back we see the Performer mounted into a chassis ready to cool. To the left is a more defined list of features along with some info on the fans and the full list of compatibility of mounting. At the bottom there are four images showing the transfer plate, the head units pump, a closer look at the fins in the radiator and the fact this unit ships with two fans.
The last panel offers the specifications chart that covers the head unit, the radiator, the fans and the dimensions and weight of the unit. At the bottom you can see a performance chart when they tested the Performer against the stock cooler for the i7 975 CPU.
Inside you find a recycled cardboard tray that holds everything you need to get underway. The radiator ships with a protective sleeve of cardboard to keep the finds from any damage and the head unit ships with a plastic bag on it to protect the logo. As for the fans and hardware; they are snugly packed in the middle of the inner packaging.
Thermaltake Water2.0 Performer AIO Liquid Cooler
I just pulled the Water2.0 Performer out of the box and took this image. It does look like something we have seen previously, but in this unit, since you can't see the pump, its more what you can't see that is what should set these Thermaltake units apart from the crowd.
The top of the head unit and the part you will be looking at most of the time, is very well appointed with the Thermaltake logo, the tag line "cool all your life" and of course the Water2.0 with a stylized W that is made to look like water itself. To power this head unit/pump, there is a 3-pin connection for a fan header.
Here you can see the wiring exiting the head unit to the right of the 90 degree fittings used to attach the tubing to while offering flexibility in the installation process. To secure these fittings to the head unit, the screw with the large head on it actually keeps these fittings from "popping" out.
This is the base plate that will take the heat from the CPU and via the skived heat sink on the back, the coolant passed through it to remove the heat to the radiator. There is some pre-applied paste on the plate, but that gets removed so we can see the mating surface.
With the TIM gone you can see the mating surface is in pretty good shape. There are a couple of light marks on the base, but against a razor there is no real deviation in any direction across this surface.
On the head rail of the radiator it shows plainly on the sticker that this is an Asetek built unit, but is directly built for the Performer and it also shows that this unit draws 3.1W at 12V. From top to bottom this radiator is only 27mm thick (including the fan mounting plates) and from left to right it is 120mm wide.
The same type of connections that were on the head unit for the hoses are what are repeated at the bottom of the radiator. Basically they are a clamp to hold the already stretched tubing onto the fittings and these seem to work really well and hold pretty tight.
The fin arrangement is pretty tight as with most of these AIO units. You can see there are pre-drilled and threaded holes in the four corners to allow for the 120mm fans to be mounted to the 151mm tall radiator.
This image is just to show the 12 inches of tubing from the head unit to the radiator and it is enough to offer flexibility for a bay mount, top mount or a rear mount in a chassis.
Once the fans are installed onto the 27mm of radiator we are left with a 77mm or almost three inches of the Performer that we need to mount.
This is more of a glamour shot for the Water2.0 Performer so you see it fully assembled before we start the torture of our testing.
Accessories and Documentation
Breaking up the hardware a bit to make it easier to see, we have the top brackets for AMD on the left, the locking ring in the middle and the Intel top bracket at the right. On the bottom left side is the AMD backplate, while on the right is the one for Intel.
They stayed with the same metal inserts for the back plates, but the top plates got a new two piece universal solution for setting the screws at the top in line correctly. Follow the instructions carefully, these can be tricky. Lastly we have the mounting foam for the back plate that has adhesive on both sides to keep the back plate attached to the motherboard.
In the hardware there is a Y-splitter that will allow both 4-pin PWM fans to attach to this and run from a single header on the motherboard. In front of it is the larger LGA2011 mounting screws.
The rest of the hardware is the four washers for spacing the fan that isn't attached to the case, the standard AMD/Intel mounting screws and eight fan screws that are long enough to go through the case and the fan to grab the threads in the radiator.
Here is the pair of included PLA12025S12HH-LV fans that Thermaltake includes with the Performer. The white blades with black frames will fit in any case build and both are 4-pin PWM powered, so the noise is only up when the heat levels demand it to be that way. Otherwise it just chills in the corner silently.
The user manual is very well written and even if you have used Asetek coolers before, I strongly suggest you give it a quick read and pay particular attention to the clips that insert into the top brackets of the mounting system. If that is installed incorrectly, the cooler will not mount properly. They cover everything from assembly of the unit, to the installation, both with great images, but also with easy to understand text.
There is also a fold out pamphlet that has the warranty information. I am likely blind or it isn't there, but I can't seem to find any information without registering a product to say how long this warranty really is.
Installation and Finished Product
Setting things up for my Z68 motherboard, I took the steel inserts and added them into the 1156 holes. There are also 1366 and 775 holes. We are just about ready to set this behind the motherboard.
First we have to add the foam padding that I have stuck to my Intel back plate. For testing purposes I am leaving the top cover on, but it makes installation much easier to have this stick to the motherboard and aligned with the holes.
With a large open area in the middle, it allows the back plate to twist a bit out of square so that you can align the 1156/1155 inserts up with the motherboard. If you were to use the 1366 holes, this plate would be squarer with the socket.
To get the head unit ready, you add the inserts to the ends of the top bracket, slide the ring over the head unit and set the tabs in the locks. Then with the new locking ring, you snap it and the top locking ring together. This keeps everything square to the head unit as you add the long thumbscrews to mount the Water2.0 Performer to the motherboard. Notice though that I do have to have two fan headers free to power both the pump and the pair of fans.
There aren't any real clearance issues with the head unit for the memory or any of the heat sinks around the socket. As for the radiator, some rear I/O panels in case may not accept the length of the radiator and spacers may need to be used if adapting this unit into an older chassis, most new chassis will easily accept this unit. Now all that is left is to power this thing up and get to the testing!
The Test System and Thermal Results
Testing for the CPU coolers is done with the use of RealTemp to ascertain temperatures, Intel Burn Test to deliver the load to the CPU and CPU-Z to verify the CPU speed and the voltage being used in Windows. All of the testing is done with an ambient temperature of 24.5-25°C and humidity is maintained to 35% sometimes less.
For the "stock" runs, it's more of a plug and play setup where the PWM of the motherboard is in control of the fans speeds for both the idle and load results. Speed Step is active and the processor idles at 1600 MHz and loads at 3500 MHz for the stock settings. I also set the memory to run at 1600 MHz for stock. As for the overclocked runs, I load the CPU at 4.5 GHz and idle results are obtained with 7.5V to the fans while the load run is set to deliver 12V to the fans. This allows me to gauge the lowest and highest fan ratings for my charts.
No real surprise to me that this Water2.0 Performer can almost stay right in line with custom water cooling at the idle end of the testing, but we all know the overclocked results is where we define our winners.
With the processor running stock, The Performer was only bested by custom water cooling as it pulls in front of all of the air coolers we have currently tested. With the overclock applied, the Performer really shines with a result that again beats out the air coolers on the chart, but does fall a bit behind custom water cooling.
I have to say I am really eager to see what the other units can deliver if the base unit, the Water2.0 Performer already does so well.
Noise Level Results
With the fans idling for this result, running at 1275 RPMs, the performer does very well against the pack. It does get beat by the Quiet Mode of the Vantage ALC, but on the whole 35 dB is respectable and barely audible.
Once we got the heat levels up with the PWM control or when I maximized the voltage to 12V to obtain this result, the noise levels do come up a bit. Delivering 55 db to my sound meter isn't really that bad considering these are 80+ CFM 120mm fans and there are two fans being registered in these tests.
When I started this review I was eager to see what the third revision to the Asetek design was going to bring, but deep down my hopes weren't all that high for Thermaltake this late in the game. I have to give it to them, though. For a unit that was always second best to me, this revision puts Thermaltake and Asetek in a great partnership with these newer units. More specifically, this is the "good" rated cooler, not the "better" (Pro) or the "best" (Extreme) model, but just the Performer and it still handled its business and really made me look at the results. Besting the air coolers on the list and some of those are huge sellers and only being beaten by a custom loop, I am very pleased with what Thermaltake delivers in the Water2.0 series of AIO liquid coolers.
The one thing that used to kick Asetek right in the pants was the lack of a real or should I say secure and easy to use system for mounting the head units. With the release of the Water2.0, those days are long past, replaced with a new set of universal clips to align the screws and the masterful piece of technology, the locking ring. Just allowing users to mount the head unit and the bracket as one piece now instead of the old way of loosely installing the bracket and twisting the head unit into it and then trying to keep it all in place at you tightened the screws; man am I glad that is over. I really have to say, for the first time, an Asetek OEM built unit was a pleasure to install.
As for the price versus performance, the results speak for themselves. This cooler was able to best all of the air coolers on the chart. Most of those cooler start at the $60 range and even a few tip the $100 mark! There is a bit of hit and miss with this over a tower cooler. You lessen the weight on the socket dramatically, but you do lose some of the airflow to the motherboard. With that being said, I had no issues with my phase area during testing. For the $79.99 price tag, there may be cheaper air coolers or even some of the older AIOs, but you aren't going to get this level of performance out of any of them.
Thermaltake really chose a great time and partner to come forward with their Water2.0 Performer AIO Liquid CPU cooler and units from Antec and Corsair are in for some sales loss from what I am seeing.
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