AHANIX Iceberg 1 Water Cooling System Review

Bosco - 2007-01-29 15:35:52 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Bosco   
Reviewed on: May 31, 2003
Ahanix
GF City Computers
Price: $199 USD

Introduction

Water cooled computers get a little more mainstream every day. I don't think it's for gramma just yet but more and more manufacturers are packaging up and marketing all-in-one H2O cooling solutions. KeyNet Computers asked me to build them a couple of rigs based on my past experience with water cooling and gave me clearance to review the hardware, "just don't fry anything!" One of the rigs was built using the AHANIX Iceberg1 system, let's learn about it today.


Picture Courtesy AHANIX

Closer Look

The AHANIX Iceberg 1 has been out a year or more now. I had read a couple of reviews but never seen or been hands on with one until this one arrived. It's very well packaged, all components having individual compartments in a stiff foam liner inside the box.


Contents

Opening up the box (and breaking out the patented FuzzyCam), I found the waterblock, mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel, a polycarbonate reservoir, small radiator, 80mm fan, small pump, about 8 feet of surgical tubing, various warranty and instructions literature, thin foam padding for isolating the res/pump from the case and ..... what's this? Looks like you have to install the plug on the end of the pump yourself. Remember I said before that water cooling ain't for gramma just yet? Mine would probably hire an electrician at $75 an hour just to install the plug on the pump cord. The benefit of supplying it this way is obvious, that you can run the wire out the back of your case THEN install the plug, making stealthing the cord a little easier. From the manufacturers standpoint, they don't have to pre-install the pump in the reservoir, which was a bit of a chore as we shall see. The downside is the extra time it takes to set up and, if you're not at least somewhat savvy around electrical stuff, some pretty serious danger if you install the plug wrong. My hair's still straight and flat so I think I got that part right.


The Block

I actually got a decent shot of the surface of the block but believe it or not, it's even worse than it looks. Made of aluminum (well, 95% alloyed with 5% copper), it was covered with gouges, nicks & scratches. Otherwise flat but I wonder how on earth it gets abused like this and passes quality inspection? I didn't have the time to lap it, we'll see how it performs as is.


The Tubing

I was curious to see the size of the tubing in relation to the 1/2 ID hose I use on my DangerDen rig. As you can see, the blue surgical tubing fits inside the other hose with plenty of room to spare. Generally (always?) more flow rate of the water = better heat dissipation off the cpu - hand in hand with this, smaller tubing may tend to restrict flow and offer poorer cooling. You do have to factor in the strength of the pump into the equation. The Iceberg 1 comes with a rating of 150 gallons/hour on its pump, as opposed to the 317 gallons/hour of the Eheim 1250 I currently have, and the barbs are only 3/8", so I'm not expecting an ongoing 'tornado' in the reservoir, but we shall see.


Reservoir and Pump

Installing the pump into the reservoir took quite a while. The instructions say to cut a short piece of the tubing and attach the lid of the res and the pump via this short piece. What you can't see in the picture is that the hole and barb on the lid of the res are offset by about 1/2" from any possible position the pump might take. I tried mounting the pump vertically and running a little longer piece of tubing up but it crimped the tubing so that didn't work. After much *grunting* I did eventually get it to work with no crimps in the tubing. Thank goodness the res is polycarbonate, which is basically bulletproof - if it were acrylic, I have no doubt I'd have busted it. You can also see above how the cord for the pump goes up through the lid of the res and the opening is sealed by a screw down plastic 'bolt' (ya, I don't know the name for it). There's also a thin rubber gasket that goes between the lid and the body of the res, I was able to get a nice tight seal and screwed down the lid fairly firmly with no evidence of cracks.


Nice Big Filler Opening

One thing I really liked was the position and size of the filler opening on the reservoir. It will depend on where you mount it in your case but putting it on the floor of the case just back of the drive bays, I was easily able to fill the reservoir using distilled water and a funnel. The rubber gasket under the lid again gives a good firm seal with no evidence of leaking.


AMD Hold Down

I didn't try out the included Intel hold down for the block, as this is a system built around an XP2600+ AMD and a Gigabyte GA-7VAXP-A Ultra motherboard. You can see above, the block hold down is 2 pieces that grab all 3 of the socket lugs and looks like this........


AMD Hold Down II

I had no trouble whatsoever installing the clip over the block and onto the socket. The clip is far 'springier' than some HSF units I have installed, but the pressure on the block is firm - as it should be.


Block Installed

Well, you can sorta see the clip there in that picture. Next up was the radiator. It measures 6 1/2" X 3 1/2" X 1 3/4" deep including the 3/8" barbs (135 X 94 X 46mm). It has a full plastic shroud all the way around it, fully open on one side and with an opening that fits the included 80mm fan on the other. I decided to see if I could take advantage of the existing rear case fan and mount the rad sandwiched in a push/pull configuration between the existing fan and the case fan. More grunting. Done. My expectation is that the temperatures being seen may vary and be lower than what you would expect using only the included fan - if only by a degree or two.

Closer Look (Continued):

Here's the rear of the rad, for perspective compare the size to the power supply. You can see some slightly bent fins in the radiator but nothing was punctured, no leakage was found at any time in the review from any component. I was a little worried about the provided hose clips but needlessly - the surgical tubing REALLY grips well on the barbs of the res, rad and block. I had a lot of difficulty removing the tubing even without the clips when I wanted to re-do one connection so have concerns no about the clips. The tubing itself is overall nice to work with, but being so flexible you have to watch that you dont crimp it, either by making a connection the wrong length or by, say, installing another component in the rig that might be near where the hose runs.


All Mounted 'N Ready to Run

Here's one more shot of the installation, you can clearly see the clips - I used the flexible spring steel clips around the rad and res barbs, and the more conventional screw down clips on the block. I went in the recommended order of res/pump - block - rad - res. I also prefer this, as it gives the most water pressure directly to the block, though we are having a *minor* debate about this in our forums, some preferring to run to the rad first and take out pump heat prior to hitting the block. I have no conclusive evidence one way or the other but there is compelling evidence to maximizing water pressure at the block, based on my reading.


Yes, I cleaned up the wires!

But before I cleaned up the wires, I wanted to make sure everything ran. I filled up the res with straight distilled water and plugged in the pump briefly to circulate some water in the system, then refilled the res and plugged back in. Seemed to run fine but I let it run overnight and checked one more time for leaks before firing up the computer. As mentioned before, there were no problems.


Tiny Bubbles

Back to the FuzzyCam, you can make out the bubbles in the rad, primarily caused by the water coming down into the res over the distance of the gap between the lid and the top of the water level. I filled it a bit more and most of the bubbles disappeared, and there was no indication of air trapped or moving through the hoses.

Well, you're dying to know what temperatures I saw. Let me first say a couple of things. One, I didn't have a ton of time with the rig and I never ran it on its stock cooling. Two, I'm not going to compare it to other rigs on other motherboards - my experience has been that every motherboard reports temperatures differently and it would be untrue and unfair to you the reader to compare apples to oranges. What I will report is what the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP-A Ultra's bios and Motherboard Monitor5 told me. At stock 166 front side bus, I ran it idle for an hour to get a reading then loaded up SiSoftSandra's burn in wizard at 95% utilization, plus ran Folding@Home in the background, for half an hour to get a load temperature. Then I ramped up front side bus to 180 with an extra 7.5% volts over default and repeated the process. Yes, I'm a wimp with other people's gear, I did not feel the need to burn something and have to write a big cheque =P so I am not going to be able to tell you what the upper limits of the system are overclocked. I had enough time to repeat the process twice.


You can see that as the voltage and processor speed increase, there's a fairly steep increase in temperature, although 49C is still well within safety margins for this cpu. I speculate that the combination of a fairly low volume pump combined with the small inner diameter tubing, while being fine for stock cooling, really can't cut it once you start to ramp up the heat output wattage via overclocking.

Conclusion

Not bad, not spectacularly good, somewhere in between. Whisper quiet, it's barely audible when running and most of what I heard was case fan noise. I will speculate that lapping the block might be worth another couple of degrees of cooling, if you are inclined to do the work. Overall, it's a decent value, it performed better than what I had expected when I first opened the box and saw the size of the radiator, pump and tubing. But it's probably not what you're after if you're after the maximum overclock for your system 24/7.

Pros

  • Good price to value ratio
  • Quiet
  • Polycarbonate reservoir
  • Cons

  • Poor finish on block
  • Have to install pump cord plug yourselfk
  • Installing pump in reservoir was difficult
  • Temperatures rise steeply with increased voltage/cpu speed