Thermaltake Aquarius II Liquid Cooling Review

Admin - 2007-02-18 15:14:37 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: December 20, 2002
Thermaltake
Thermaltake
Price: $150 USD

Introduction:



Thermaltake had came out with several new cooling products at the fall Comdex this year in Las Vegas, and one of these products is the TT Aquarius water cooling kit. This water cooler isn't necessarily built for a hardcore overclocker, but rather for a user seeking an efficient and very quiet cooling solution. Today, we will see how the Aquarius II stacks up against the DangerDen cooling kit and we will also balance the differences between the two to see which kit would be best for you.




Specifications:



Water Block
Dimension 70x50x12 mm
Material Copper Forging / Nickel Plating
Weight 266 grams
Clip Universal fits P4, K7, K8



Radiator & Fan
Radiator Dimension 86x130x89 mm
Material Copper Pipe with Staged Copper Fin
Weight 410 grams
Fan Dimension 80x80x25 mm
Fan Rated Voltage 12V DC
Fan Rated Current 0.14A
Fan Power Input 1.68W
Fan Speed 2400 ± 10% RPM
Max. Air Flow 38.4 CFM
Noise 22 dBa
Connector 3 Pin
Life Expectancy 50,000 hours



Water Pump
Dimension 100x50x86 mm
Rated Voltage 12V DC
Rated Current 0.16A
Power Input 2W
Water Pressure 1.2 kg/cm2
Pump Speed 22.5 GPH
Connector 3 Pin
Noise 20 dBa
Bearing Type Ceramics Bearing
Weight 230 grams
Life Expectancy 50,000 hours




Closer Look:


Included-
  • Water Block
  • Copper Radiator w/ Fan
  • Back-up Reservoir
  • Water Pump
  • (2) Universal Clip (P4 & K8)
  • (5) Springs
  • Water Tube
  • Accessory Box
  • Plastic Claps
  • Coolant Concentrate

    The Aquarius II water cooling kit comes in a very small box. The size of the box was very similar to box size that the Iceberg cooling kit came in. Once you open the small box, you will find that it comes choc full of parts and odd-n-ends. Here is an overview of what you should receive in your box. Be sure to check for each of these items, because you may not be able to complete the installation without them all. There is also a part check list in the first part of the Installation Manual.



    Radiator
    The radiator is basically made of all copper. The pipe and fins are made of copper, but the housing is made of metal. The radiator is nicely constructed and very small (86x130x89mm) so you can install it virtually anywhere in your case. The construction and overall design is much nicer than the radiator found on the Iceberg water cooler. However, the DangerDen radiator is about two times the size of the Aquarius II radiator. The fan that is found on the Aquarius II radiator is a standard 80x80x25mm case fan that pushes about 40CFM at only 22 dBa. The fan has a 3 Pin connector so you can easily read the RPM rate of the fan from your operating system.



    Pump & Reservoir
    The pump comes pre-installed in the reservoir, so you don't have to worry about installing it and sealing the reservoir up so that it doesn't leak. Since this is already complete, it will shave 10mins off the installation process. The pump that comes with the Aquarius II is the smallest pump I have ever seen used in a water cooling setup. I was also very happy to find that the pump runs on 12v DC power! This means, you can plug it up to your motherboard and it will run. Unlike the Aquarius pump, my DangerDen pump AND my Iceberg 1 pump requires AC power which can only be obtained from running a wire out of your computer and plugging it in to a power outlet. Usually all good things have a drawback. In this case, most DC pumps won't pump as much water as an AC powered pump. The Aquarius 12v pump only moves about 22.5 gallons of water per hour. When you compare this to the Iceberg 1 pump that moves 150GPH and the DangerDen that moves 317GPH, it's quiet a difference.



    One VERY cool feature about ThermalTakes water pump is that it has an integrated digital water flow meter! This little device, usually must be purchased separately and also installed by you, comes pre-installed and on the inside of the reservoir. A water flow meter will allow you to monitor the rate at which the water is flowing at.

    This can be an excellent failsafe feature because you can have a program in windows running, such as MBM, that will detect if the pump stops pumping water and then automatically shutdown your computer to prevent damage. (If you already own a water cooling and are interested in buying one of these devices, they can be found on several cooling sites such as HighSpeedPC.com for around $35 bucks.)




    Backup Reservoir
    Another reservoir?! Yep! Included in the Aquarius II water cooling kit you will receive not one, but two reservoirs. This reservoir is known as the "backup" reservoir as it holds extra water for when the main reservoir water evaporates. When the water slowly evaporates from the main reservoir, the backup reservoir will keep the main reservoir full. This is yet, another nice failsafe feature that is found in the TT Aquarius II. If you don't want a back up reservoir you don't have to use it. I'll discuss this later on during the Installation.



    Water Block
    When I first saw the water block TT had included in this water cooling kit, I wasn't as impressed with it like I was about everything else. It's solid copper (with nickel plating) and from the weight, you can tell! However, the bottom of the heatsink wasn't imperfection free, but close. I noticed that some paint got on the bottom of the heatsink :/ I didn't really like that, but atleast it isn't where the CPU core will be at. The water block is a solid block of copper that doesn't have any screws in it, or any cracks where water could possibly leak out one day. Only time will tell if this water block can handle the heat we place it under.




    Odd-n-End Parts
    In the kit you'll receive a clear box that is filled to the rim with screws, claps, magnets, and heatsink clips. You may not use all of these parts, so if you get your water cooling kit installed and have parts left over, don't sweat it :) You'll also receive several pieces of metal shaped like an "I". These are for P4 based motherboards, too bad we won't be using them in our installation ;)








    Installation:



    If you have a K7 based CPU then you're in luck! The installation is the easier for K7 motherboard owners, than P4 motherboard owners. P4 motherboard owners will need to do several other steps in order to install the water block. These steps include installing the "I" shaped pieces of metal on the back side of the motherboard. Since I do not have a P4 based motherboard, I will not discuss the process in detail but P4 owners will have to completely remove their motherboard from their case.




    The clip is made up of three parts. One of the parts is the clip itself or referred to as the "center clip". This is the part of the clip that will be on top of your water block. The other two parts are called the side handles. They are attached along the side of your waterblock and connect to the center clip and also to your CPU socket. The side handles have many "teeth" along the side of them. This is where the center clip attaches to the handles. You can't just pick any one of these teeth to attach the center clip too. Instead, you should go by the manual and use the teeth it recommends. On one side of the clip it states that you should use the third teeth from the bottom and on the other side use the fifth teeth from the bottom.




    Once you have the clip assembled you can proceed to install the water block on your CPU that already has thermal paste on it. (Remember to apply a very thin layer, don't cake it on) To install the water block on your CPU, simply place the water block on top of your CPU like shown in the picture. Place the clip on top of the water block and install the clip on the opposite end of the water outlets, first. After you've attached it, attach the other clip and you will notice that the clip places pressure against the water block so that it makes contact with the core of your CPU.



    When I was installing one of the clips on this Asus motherboard, I ran in to a slight problem. I could not install the clip because it was hitting the top of my DDR memory. I had to first, remove the memory and then install the clip. If Thermaltake would make the clip slightly less longer, this problem wouldn't exist. If your CPU socket isn't positioned like the one on this motherboard, you shouldn't have this problem.




    I'm really not going to be installing this cooler in a computer case because my test system sits on top of a table, and NOT in a case. However, I will show you some ways to install the pump, reservoirs, and radiator. Thermaltake has included parts to install this water cooler in an aluminum case and a steel case. The parts for steel cases are magnets, and the parts for aluminum cases are 3M double sided tape. If you have a steel case, the installation is actually a little quicker and easier. All you have to do is stick some magnets to the case, and then attach the water cooling part (radiator, reservoir, pump, ect). If you have an aluminum case, you'll need to place some double sided tape to your case, and also a flat metal bracket that will attach to the water cooling part.

    For example, this is how you would install the backup reservoir. Place a couple magnets beside each other on the back corner of your computer case. Then, stick the reservoir on top of them and the installation is done. If you choose to use the backup reservoir, you'll need to install the provided PCI slot cover in the back of your computer. This slot cover has a hole in it where you can feed the water tubing out of to attach to the backup reservoir.




    Here is the cooling kit, before I added water to it. I love the size of this kit, it's so small! If you don't install the back-up reservoir then you can take away two more tubes.



    You'll notice that the main reservoir, which also holds the pump, doesn't have a top where you can fill it up with water. That's where the backup reservoir comes in handy, because we will use it to fill up the system with water. As you fill the backup reservoir with water, you will notice the water spreading throughout the entire system by first filling up the main reservoir. Thermaltake has made a low water line on both sides of the main reservoir. You'll want to kept he water above this line at all times. After you have filled the system with water, and it won't take anymore water then turn your computer on and the pump should start working. You did remember to plug the pump up to the motherboard, right? Lets hope so! Keep your eye on the low water line and make sure the water doesn't go below this. If it does, turn off your computer immediately and fill the reservoir with more water.




    After turning the PC on, I noticed a very cool feature of the pump. It has a built in bright blue LED light! This should bring some life to your case and draw attention to it.




    Testing:



    Before I started doing benchmark tests on this water cooler, I thought I would switch the cooler to my test computer which lies on top of my work bench. The motherboard in my test setup is an KR7A-133R. After I installed the water block, plugged the pump up, and then plugged the radiator fan up. After doing that and turning the computer I noticed the temperatures in the bios was reading about 50°c! I knew for a fact that something wasn't right, because when I had the water cooler installed on the Asus A7V8X motherboard the temperatures were much lower than that. I used the same exact thermal paste on the two motherboards, so I knew it wasn't that. However, I did remove the water block and reapplied the thermal paste to make sure that wasn't the problem. After I did that, I booted the computer up and the BIOS still read 50°c for the CPU! Then it struck me, that it may be the clipping mechanism. While the computer was still on and in the BIOS, I applied pressure to the middle of the water block with my fingers. Almost immediately after doing so, the temperatures began to drop. I remember it dropping around 8-10°c in a matter of minutes. Now I know what the problem is, all I have to do now is fix it.

    I used the exact teeth recommendation for the clipping mechanism as the manual states. Instead of using the specifications it says to use, I had to make one handle 4 teeth from the bottom and the other 5 teeth from the bottom. This applied enough pressure to the water block so it would make contact with the core of the CPU.

    Testing System:

  • Abit KR7A-133R motherboard
  • AMD XP 1800+
  • Geforce 2 MX video
  • 512MB PC2700 RAM
  • Windows XP


    Testing Procedure:

    I allowed the system to idle in windows for 10 mins after a cold boot, to get the idle temperature. I then ran CPUBurn for a total of 35mins to get the load results. I also shutdown the system and allowed it to cool for 10mins before running the next test. The ambient temperature during the time of testing was 18.8 - 19.5°c.





    Water Cooler Buying Guide

    I'm looking for a.. then you should... because...
    Quiet Cooler definitely buy the TT Aquarius II its the quietest H20 cooler we have in our lab
    buy the Iceberg 1 and save a little money. you won't get as many features and as the performance that comes in the Aquarius II but of course you do save some money
    Performance Cooler buy the DangerDen it's the best performing cooler we have tested, hands down.
    Budget Cooler buy the Iceberg 1 it's cheap no doubt about it.. maybe that's why my reservoir cracked after only two weeks of running the cooler
    Expandable Cooler buy the DangerDen the DangerDen can be bought in a couple different standard sizes. the Aquarius II and Iceberg I uses odd size fitting and you'll have a hard time trying to replace a water block or adding a video cooler.


    Conclusion:

    I was actually surprised by the performance of the Aquarius II. I had originally thought, it would not of perform as well as it did. If the reservoir on my Iceberg 1 water cooler wouldn't have cracked, I'm betting that the Aquarius II would have beat the Iceberg 1. I'll try and rig up a reservoir for the Iceberg 1, or maybe have the manufacture send me a new one so that we can do a shootout between the two water coolers. I liked the fail-safe features Thermaltake included in this water cooler. The water flow meter is a really cool feature, which serves as a flow rate monitor and a failsafe device. The blue LED inside of the reservoir, was a nice touch but I wish it was a little brighter.

    The clipping mechanism needs a lot of work. I think Thermaltake needs to take the clip back to square one, and design something different or either perfect this one. The one problem with the clip being a little too large and touching my RAM was irritating. I also had to adjust the clip several times to get the clip to fit on my Abit motherboard and for it to apply enough pressure to the water block. If it wasn't for the problem with this clip, I would have given this product the OCC Recommend Award. Thermaltake did a good job on their first water cooler, and I hope they continue to improve this water cooler and fix some of the things I have pointed out.

    Pros


    Cons