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Swiftech H20-120 Rev2 Athlon 64 Water Cooling Kit Review

Today we have an in-depth look at Swiftech's newest water cooling kit by Mike. We test the H20-120 Rev2 with an AMD Athlon FX-53 processor and compare it against one of the best air coolers on the market today. Read on and let's find out if Swiftech are offering something which really deserves our money.
@TweakTown
Mike Wright
Published Tue, Nov 9 2004 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Swiftech

H20-120 Rev2 - Introduction

IntroductionIf you've been doing any research at all regarding water cooling, the name Swiftech has more than likely come up a few times. While the company was created in 1994, they didn't get involved in consumer cooling products until around 1998. From there, as they say, the rest is history. Swiftech has always been about quality over price. Yes, their products often cost a bit more than other similar items on the market, but the fine attention to detail has always been a selling point to their entire product line.Over the past few years, water cooling has become of great interest to the enthusiast community and Swiftech is still here making a product line with the hardcore overclocker in mind. You may recall a review we did not long ago of the H20-8600 series kit for the Athlon XP processor. This set a high standard for water cooling and we're here to see if they can maintain that high level of quality in a kit designed for the Athlon 64 processor. To make things even more interesting, we'll be testing this new kit on a FX-53 processor based on the .130nm architecture.So sit back and enjoy as we take a look at the H20-120 water cooling kit provided by the friendly folks at Swiftech. With such a high level of past performance, our expectations are high and we need to know if these folks still have what it takes to be a consideration for your own hard-earned money!

H20-120 Rev2 - Contents

In The Box
For those who have heard me make comments regarding so-called "All in One Water Cooling Solutions", you'll likely remember me saying to stay far, far away. When I refer to this type of cooling setup, I am referring to those little wonder-boxes that claim to provide water cooling for the masses that fits in a little optical drive bay. Simply put, these solutions have not impressed me from an overclocker's viewpoint and they shouldn't impress you either.That said, lets make it plain from the beginning that this water cooling kit is not the same thing. It can't even be put in the same category! The kits you get from Swiftech are a kit in name only. They are made from solid individual components that have been proven as standalone products in their own right. The "kit" name comes from the fact that Swiftech has put together a fully operational grouping of components that gives you everything you need to install a full-blown water cooler in your system. You will have everything necessary to install and use this water cooling solution right out of the box, so there will be no need to wonder if you forgot anything.Now that we have that cleared up, lets dig in and see what we have to play with in this version of the H20 series.
Since one of the most critical components of any water cooling setup is the pump, we'll go ahead and start there. The pump included in the kit is the newest available from Swiftech, the MCP650. It is a 12v pump and is the upgraded version of the MCP600. It offers a longer lifespan than the older model and is designed to last over 5 years of constant operation (50,000 hours MTBF). It is equipped with a 1/2" ID barb for discharge and a 3/8" barb for intake. With a flow rating of 317GPH (1200LPH), you're assured of plenty of fluid traveling through the entire system. This higher flow rating also gives you the luxury of using multiple water blocks in series if you desire.
For those who don't want to drill any holes in their cases, you have two options for installation of the pump. You can either remove the protective cover from the adhesive neoprene padding on the base and stick it to the desired location, or you can do it the more conventional way and mount it to the enclosure with the included nuts and bolts. Regardless of the means of installing, though, you'll get the benefit of the neoprene pad on the base, which absorbs excess vibration and allows the pump to work almost silently.
I mentioned earlier that this is a 12v pump, but I have seen several that want an external power source of some sort. This is not the case with the MCP650, though. Simply attach it to the PSU using the standard Molex connector and you're set.I would advise, however, that you have a sturdy power supply being used in the system. The pump draws 24w and 2 amps from the 12v channel so it may cause stability problems in systems with a weak hearted PSU installed.
Continuing on, we come to the radiator. The model used in this kit is the MCR120-FB and is a 120mm variety. It features copper fins and flat brass tubes to help keep heat dissipation at a high level. The radiator is rated at 440w of thermal dissipation, so this will give you a lot of headroom for future upgrades as well.The fan that comes with the MCP120-FB is a solid performing Delta 120x120x25mm type that creates 72.4 CFM airflow while spinning at 2100 RPM. While not entirely quiet, the 34dBA noise level is still a good deal quieter than most high performance air coolers currently available for the Athlon 64 line of processor.

H20-120 Rev2 - Contents ~ Continued

This item is one that I am very happy to see added to the Swiftech line. The MCRES-525 is a reservoir that allows a greater volume of water to be used throughout the system. It adds 12.8 ounces (.378 liters) of fluid to your cooling setup. It also keeps air bubbles to a minimum with its dual chamber design. With strong pumps, the turbulence created by the incoming fluid can cause air bubbles to be formed, but you won't have that issue here. After several days of testing, I was unable to detect any air bubbles at all in the lines after the initial bleeding had been accomplished.To fill the reservoir, just remove the top cap and add the liquid. The cap includes a rubber O-ring that effectively seals the system when it is fully tightened, but make sure to tighten it well. You'll need to go a little tighter than just snug to have the watertight seal you want.As far as installation goes, the reservoir fits easily into an empty optical drive bay. The brass inserts you see on the side allow you to install it just like a CD drive. If you're like me and are using a case with a rail system in place, you're still in luck since the holes are set to be lines up with a standard rail. Once it is installed, just pull the reservoir out a bit through the front of the enclosure and you'll have access to the fill port. Overall a very good and workable system.
Next up is the CPU water block. This is where the metal meets the silicon, so to speak. The H20-120 kit uses the MCW6000-64 water block. It is made completely of copper and the solid base is brazed to the housing assembly. Inside the housing are 281 copper pins to help in heat dissipation.Also of note are the 1/2" ID tubes that come attached to the water block. They are more than long enough to reach anywhere even a large server case and have factory crimped clamps to guarantee a watertight seal. Simply cut the tubing to your needed length and attach to the next component in line and you're set.
You say you are worried about the finish of the base of the water block? You need not worry too much in that regard since the MCW6000 follows the long standing tradition of Swiftech and is nearly flawless. The surface is incredibly smooth and factory lapped to a maximum tolerance of 0.0005". After testing several coolers from Swiftech, both air and water, I can say this is a standard feature of every one of their cooling solutions.
When it comes to mounting the water block, you'll get a kit that conforms to the type processor you have. The water block can be used on several types of processor, but the mounting kit is individualized to your particular needs.That said, installation was very straightforward and there were no unexpected problems at all.
Also included in the kit you'll find some extra tubing, an extra length of CoolSleeves, and some zip ties for attaching the tubing to the barbs. We've talked about CoolSleeves in the past so I won't delve too deeply on this item, but in a nutshell it wraps around the tubing to keep it from kinking up on you.Though I haven't mentioned it before, you'll be happy to note that all tubing used is of the 1/2" OD variety with the exception of the tube going from the pump to the reservoir, which is a 1/2" ID type. This is great news for those concerned about the flow rates of the liquid between components. It would be a shame to have such a good potential setup and then ruin it by using small tubing, but that isn't the case here at all.
Remember when I said that this kit comes with everything you'll need to properly set up your water cooling solution? Rest assured that this is exactly what I meant. With the possibility of galvanic corrosion occurring in this type of cooler, you'll want to make sure you have some sort of additive to use that keeps this threat to a minimum, so Swiftech has included a small bottle of HydrX, an additive you put into distilled water to be used in your system.And make sure you use distilled water or you'll be asking for problems. This holds especially true for those who live in areas where hard water is produced from the tap. The added minerals in this type water can cause havoc inside your water system and can also wreck a pump in no time flat. So make sure you get distilled water for use in your system.
Our final stop on this tour is something many folks don't pay much attention to, the installation manual. Swiftech provides one of the best manuals that I have yet to see. It comes complete with color pictures and drawings and takes you step by step through the process of installing your water cooling solution. It covers a general installation of the system and also includes specific guides for each individual component. If you follow these instructions, you will have no problems installing the kit in your own system.

H20-120 Rev2 - Testing

TestingWhen it comes to testing coolers, I have long been an advocate of using methods that measure the stresses of what the common user will come across. To this end I will maintain my usual test methods by measuring the temperatures at idle, again after a continual looping of the 3DMark2001 demo, and once more after a nice Quake III Deathmatch. This will give us a good indicator of performance during slow periods of usage and also at roughly 80-85% CPU usage.Before we get into the testing methodology used, let's take a peek at the test system.Thermaltake SHARK Aluminum Case (Supplied by Thermaltake)ABIT AV8 Motherboard (Supplied by ABIT)AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 Processor @ 2.4GHz (Supplied by Newegg.com)512MB OCZ PC3500 Platinum DDR Memory (supplied by OCZ)Sapphire Radeon X800 XT PE (supplied by Sapphire)Western Digital 80GB SATA Hard DriveArctic Silver 5Testing conditions will follow my standard guidelines concerning coolers. Ambient temperature is kept at a regulated 21C and the cooling system will be tested in a closed case. The processor voltage was set to 1.55v and memory was set to 2.7v. Temperatures are measured at idle after 15 minutes of no activity, after a continuous demo looping of 3DMark2001, and finally after a Quake III Deathmatch.Results
After looking at the results, it is hard to argue the merit of a water cooling system, and this Swiftech variety holds a lot of promise. I have found that some of the good coolers do better at load levels, but seldom give much of an advantage at idle. With the H20-120 we see a noticeable 2C degree difference when compared to a very workable Thermaltake air cooler. Add to this the significant differences when tested during gaming situations and we have a clear-cut winner in this little contest.

H20-120 Rev2 - Conclusion

ConclusionWhen it comes to your computer, chances are good you've spent a lot of time, effort and most times money to get it just the way you want. It has also been shown that excessive heat is one of the #1 killers of components. Since we always strive for lower temperatures anyway, it makes sense to look at products that have this concept in mind. The Swiftech H20-120 does exactly that.I have heard many folks state that they feel it is an unworthy investment to look into water cooling if you have no plans of overclocking. While I can understand where this line of thought comes from, I tend to disagree. Just because a person doesn't plan on voiding their warranties (like a lot of us do anyway) doesn't mean that they don't deserve the same consideration in regards to lower temperatures and less noise. To give a simple example, the Thermaltake cooler used in this very review does a good job of cooling a hot processor, but it does so at a noise level of 48dBA! The Swiftech water system reviewed today does a better job of cooling with a noise output of only 34dBA. While this is far from silent, the difference is more than just a little noticeable.Don't think this is going to be a walk through the park, though. When you start delving into water cooling, you're going well beyond what the casual user is capable of doing. This installation kit is complete, but it is designed for those who are considered "advanced" in their overall computer knowledge. As one who has installed water kits before, it still took me in the neighborhood of 2-3 hours to complete the setup. It can be done without case modifications (considering you have a case capable of a 120mm fan), but I chose to do just a little drilling to mount the pump properly.As far as price goes, MSRP is listed at US$224 through the Swiftech site, but it can be found for around US$190 from different online retailers. While this may seem a large amount of money for a cooling solution, you get an excellent group of components for the price. With results like those shown earlier, it isn't terribly out of line. It is also nice to know you can purchase a single kit and know you have everything necessary to install it. There won't be any chances of forgetting a crucial part since its all here to begin with.Bottom line... If you're serious about your computer but don't want to spend much on something as insignificant as cooling, then don't look here. If you are serious about your computer and want something that does a far better job than average, then keep this product in mind. If you are serious about your computer and want a cooling solution that ranks right up there with the best in the market, then take a very good look at this Swiftech water kit. It offers everything you need in one package and offers cooling that is well beyond most other offerings currently available.- ProsExcellent coolingKit includes everything necessaryVery good water flow and long-lasting pumpUses 1/2" OD tubingIncludes a reservoir- ConsPriceRating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's MUST HAVE Best Performance Award!

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