Asetek Antarctica WaterChill CPU Cooling Kit Review
Reviewed by: Admin
Reviewed on: April 25, 2004
Price: $220 USD
Hello and welcome again to another OverclockersClub.com review. Today we'll be looking at the Asetek Antarctica Waterchill kit - the newest iteration of their popular Waterchill line. Using the latest methods of jet impingment waterblocks, we should really get a taste of some high class cooling today. Using popular market choices for the majority of their kit pieces, we'll get a feel for a couple of 'market standard' watercooling pieces as well. Once again, today we'll be looking at the 'upgradability' of watercooling - seeing as everyone starts with air and progresses to watercooling (including myself) we'll take a look at the success of this system from that perspective. Will the Waterchill be everything you're looking for in a watercooling system? Let's dive in (har har har) and find out!
"Meeting the market's needs for higher computing speeds, the constantly growing demand for cooling of electronic devices and requirements for more silent performance asetek develops unique cooling systems that effectively solve the problems of computer overheating and annoying noise.
In this respect the asetek mission statement is a simple one:
We will develop and provide for the global computer market the best and most effective cooling technologies. And we will continuously improve our technologies to reach this goal.
For as long as computers generate heat and other computer equipment generate noise, there will be a need for asetek and for the products we are developing."
Let's hope they've reached this goal! Only one way to find out...
The Waterchill package is pretty darn big, about 2 feet in length, in fact. Made from a plastic corrugate (I believe) the package itself is fairly side, and all of our components are nestled securely inside wedged between two thick pieces of foam. Everything arrived safe and undamaged.
This kit has a ton of components, so let's get right to that.
To start it off, the biggest part of this kit - the fan and radiator. The radiator is a 120mm Black Ice Pro, with push-on fittings. From the Asetek website, "This Black Ice Pro radiator is specifically designed for PC water-cooling.
It uses a full copper-finned core with a high-density louvered copper fin configuration, flat tubes for maximum coolant-core heat conductivity, built-in mounting brackets and plenum chamber with tap tight screw holes for outstanding cooling performance that fits perfectly inside your PC. This edition of the Black Ice Pro radiator is equipped with easy push-on fittings for easy and better mounting of the tubes."
It comes with a ton of features:
Closer Look (Cont.)
So, to summarize, it's top of the line in its class for heat dissipation (at 440W) and comes built for silent operation. The only point I have a problem out of that is the high-durability paint. After really basic handling, we see the paint...isn't so durable.
The copper fins are well painted, and fairly stable, they don't bend too quickly (and I don't really suggest bending them anyways...)
As previously mentioned, the Radiator has push-on fittings, a very useful feature that we'll talk about that later on in this review.
The fan is a Sunon 120mm Low Noise fan.
The Waterchill kit allows the fan to be run at 12V full speed, or switch to 7V which will cut down the noise to the point where you really don't hear it anymore. The fan doesn't have an RPM sensor, so unfortunately I don't have the RPM number at 7V. The Sunon fan has scooped fins, which grab and pull air better then traditional flat fin fans, and this thing pushes a TON of air (not to mention that it's huge to begin with). Definately a good choice for pulling air through that big Black Ice Pro radiator.
With the included screws, we get:
Man, that thing's a beast, getting a bit more excited about putting this thing together now.
Next up we come to one of the oft neglected yet still important pieces of a watercooling kit: the reservoir. While some would argue that a fill/bleed line works better as a whole, I like the reservoir as it allows for a very simple line filling - no hassles with the extra t-line. As well, the reservoir (in some setups) will allow water to cool a bit more, after resting in the reservoir, allowing for a better overall system temp. The Asetek reservoir is a bit small for that though (as well as its odd place in the system line), and really only allows the added ease of kit filling.
Again we see the push-on fittings. The only problem I can see is that 90° difference in the inlet/outlet tubes. This might cause a couple problems in fitting it into the case properly.
Closer Look (Cont.)
Moving on, we come to the Hydor L20 pump and Waterchill Powerplant. The two are attached to one another, ensuring that power will be running to your pump when your system is turned on.
Some stats for the Hydor pump:
Key benefits & features:
The pump comes completely ready to use, again with those handy push-on fittings.
The Powerplant - SafeStart and NoiseControl - being its two main features, make its name. SafeStart refers to the kit's feature of leeching power from the PSU's line only when it's turned on. Using the hermaphrodite power connector, the Asetek kit requires no skill whatsoever in electric stuff, soldering or anything along those lines when it comes to making sure your kit is on. Simply plug the PSU power line into one side of the hermaphrodite plug, and the other into the PSU. Take a look:
The hermaphrodite plug comes with an attached PCI bracket as well, allowing you to feed the plug cleanly through the rear of your case to attach to the powerplant itself.
As for NoiseControl, this refers to the powerplant's control over the Sunon fan. Don't have a fan controller? No problem, the NoiseControl feature allows you to switch from 12V to 7V to control the amount of air - and subsequently cooling - you need. It also adds the helpful feature of being able to control the noise from the fan...explaining the name, how convenient :) . The powerplant also requires a small floppy molex connector be attached to it, presumably to power the fan.
Still more parts, lets keep on truckin...next we'll take a look at the hardware. First, a pretty promotional shot.
And a nice closeup:
All the hardware that's included is as follows:
4 large screws (attaching fan to radiator)
4 Small silver screws (attaching radiator to case)
4 small black screws (CPU block assembly)
8 small plastic washers
4 CPU standoffs (those long metal pieces)
4 thumb screws
4 suction cups (the pump feet)
1 thing of thermal goop
1 small piece of wire
Some pretty Asetek stickers
1 nice thick instruction booklet
1 small bottle Anti-Algae fluid
1 'tube set'
1 reservoir bracket
1 'Y' fitting (for the Antarctica block)
Man, that is a LOT of stuff. But, its everything you need.
Closer Look (Cont.)
Continuing on...the last part...probably the most important too.
I present to you, the Asetek Antarctica.
Ooh! Gorgeous, let's take another look.
Yup, I like it already. Upon closer inspection, we see the key to the Antarctica, based in the inflow nozzle, the impingment flow nozzle - basically a slit as opposed to a full circle. The principle is that the slit will provide higher water pressure and speed over the core of the CPU.
On the back of the block, Asetek has covered it with a big white sticker. Be sure to remove this before use. I'm sure you all knew that though...
Of course, what fun would it be to get a fun new part without tearing it apart. That only makes sense, right? Here we see the channels that the jet impingment pushes down upon - the higher area of pressure, flow and surface area directly on top of our oh-so-hot CPU die. The water is forced to wither side, where it flows out the normally shaped (low pressure) outtake tubes. Less surface area is needed, because less heat exists here. The Antarctica shows us a nice clean, well machined block, precisely done with no burrs or scratches, and clean, straight channels.
And with all that done, we can get to some more interesting stuff. Such as the Installation...here we go!
First step is make sure you have all the parts. This is really important, since you need all the parts (duh). Now, since I'm running on an Abit Nf7-S v2.0, they've subtly ignored the Stay Clear Zone, and put some big freakin capacitors to the left of the CPU slot. So, the Antarctica, with its Universal head, cannot fit. Solution? Antarctica AMD-only block top. Below you see the two side by side, and the difference between the two in terms of mounting holes.
AMD block left, Universal right
Simply remove the Universal blocktop with the provided Alenn key, and replace the blocktop. The AMD head will provide the exact same performance as the Universal head, with easier clearance around the CPU bracket. As previously mentioned, this will be a requirement if you have an AMD board that breaks the rules, such as my NF7-S. Last, we see the completed top.
Next steps are pretty simple. Stick your feet onto the bottom of the pump, the suction cups just push into place. Next, screw the long screws through the fan, and into the holes on the radiator. You come up with this:
After this, its mostly finding the best fit for wires and tubing within your system. Remember - less tubing = more cooling. Also, try to avoid sharp corners and bends, cause the slightly heated (or bent) tube, may become a kink, and that's the end of your CPU. After fitting, TEST YOUR KIT! Using either the wire trick (using the included wire) to hot-wire your CPU to active (simply connect the green power wire to any black ground wire in the large ATX power plug) or using a piece of desk and your current box (which is what I did) leave it running for at least a day, if not more, to check for any leaks, and get all the air out of your system.
The push-on connectors are fabulous in this kit, especially for someone just getting into the watercooling game (like myself). Simply firmly push the tubing into the connector - be sure to get it all the way in, some are deeper then you might think - and bam, you're connected and sealed. Since the entire kit is done like this, it makes for an easy setup.
Speaking of getting the air out of your system - you're gonna have to fill it with water! Do NOT use tap water. Normal tap water is FILLED with impurities that'll mess your temperatures and your system up. Shown below is a length of tubing, originally clear, that has been used in a system with tap water.
Nasty stuff eh? Alright, so instead of tap water, go out and buy yourself a bottle of distilled water. Its darn cheap, so don't forget this part. If you happen to know any scientists, your ideal solution is distilled, deionized water. That stuff is the purest of the pure. Its a bit more expensive, but wonderful for watercooling. Unfortunately, I don't know any scientists.
So, take your distilled water, and while your system is OFF, plug in that watercooling system. Pour water into the reservoir, and sort of shake it down the tubing to get it into, or at the very least close by to the pump. Pumps don't like sucking air, so use our good friend gravity to give it a head start. Once this is done, turn your system on. Your pump will flick on if you've done everything right, and start chugging that water like it ain't no thang, dropping your reservoir level very quickly (a feature I did NOT like in the overly-small Waterchill reservoir). Just keep filling that reservoir until you have a full system. It'll bubble like mad as the air gets pushed out of it. After you have a basically-filled system, fill the reservoir to about 3/4 to leave room for the top. Before closing the reservoir, put about 1/2 of that bottle of anti-algae fluid Asetek included into the system. Close the reservoir and proceed.
Next, take the various parts of your system and shake them around a bit (except for the pump) and rotate them, and so on, in order to get the majority of the air bubbles out. You'll especially find air in your radiator, so pay close attention to this. Once everything seems to be running smoothly, leave it be. I know you're excited to get it into your system, but don't do it yet. If any leaks are present, it'll take a while for them to show up, and a little patience is MUCH better then a fried motherboard and CPU.
Next up is installing the heatsink retention system. I don't think I mentioned it before, so in case you didn't notice from the two compared block tops earlier, this system is installed via the 4 holes around the CPU bracket. If you don't have the holes, well, you're a bit out of luck.
To install the system, it goes Screw-Washer-Mobo-Washer-Rod. They just screw together, and its not all that hard to do in actuality, pretty straight forward. Here's the look.
Its pretty key to pay attention that those plastic washers aren't going to crush any tiny important pieces. I had to trim 2 or 3 of mine to get them to fit perfectly. Just pay attention and you'll be A-OK.
After this, put your thermal paste on however you normally do it, and slide the waterblock through the holes and down onto your CPU die.
Hold on a second - the block bottom! We still have that 'Remove Before Using' sticker stuck to it. Let's take this off, and take a look at the bottom of the Antartica. As you can see, its a highly reflective, well polished surface. Certainly no machining can be felt, and you can only see the barest of marks remaining. Quite the well protected, high performance lapped surface. (I apologize for the picture, I actually DID leave the sticker on until this point - the waterblock is still attached to my filled system - but it still gives an excellent representation of the quality of the workmanship)
So, slide that waterblock down over those metal rods, and you're almost there! Overtop of those rods next come the spring, and finally the thumb screws. The springs keep you from crushing your CPU die, and maintaining a fairly consistant pressure over the entire CPU base. Screw them down, and guess what, you have an installed watercooling system.
This is just a generalized guide - I can't give you any notes on lengths, because they change from case to case, and it is really a learning experience. Some things I picked up during the installation and my research are as follows:
1) Always have the radiator with the in/outlets at the top, not the side or the bottom - this will allow for air bubbles to escape more easily.
2) Make sure to get the waterblock head facing the right way - there is a top and a bottom, found like normal on the bottom with the ridge on one side of the waterblock.
3) Use shorter lengths of hose from your waterblock outlets to the Y-connector then I did - this will let system pressure come back more quickly, but more importantly, the Y-joint doesn't flex too easily. My idea was to get the Y to turn half the corner, when in reality the Y should have been short and straight, and just let one tube turn the entire corner.
4) The Asetek Anti-Algae stuff sucks. Invest in some Water Wetter, which can be found in any Auto enthusiast store, and even in some major computer modding and watercooling stores. I'd suggest the auto stores, because they are cheaper. Its generally pinkish-reddish stuff, smells like alcohol (don't drink it) and you only need about 4 full capfuls for an entire filled system. Just pour it into the reservoir when you're done filling the kit. I don't know what happens when you mix the Anti-Algae and the Water Wetter, but I don't particularly suggest it.
5) You're probably going to need to mod your case to fit this nice big 120mm radiator in. But we all love modding, right? Personally I cut the bottom HDD rack out, cut a 120mm hole in the front of my case, and drilled 4 holes to attach it. Finding the ideal placement was a bit difficult, but that's really part of the fun.
On we go...
So, after everything, finally we come to the bread and butter of this experiment. Does this system work? Well, let me give you a bit of a preview (Yes it does).
As before with our Chaintech ZNF3-150 ZENITH Motherboard Review we're going to be taking a 'real life scenario' view on testing the Waterchill system. Simply put, as with real life, most people upgrade from Air cooling to Water cooling, so we'll be taking a similar look to truly demonstrate the usefulness of the upgrade. All the system I'm using has remained identical throughout testing, with the one change of air to water cooling.
The system I will be using is:
All Idle temperatures are taken after 20 minutes of 0% CPU usage
All Load temperatures are taken after 45 minutes of 100% CPU usage created with Prime95 Torture Test and Folding@Home
All temperatures are recorded using the onboard temperature sensor on the NF7-S and Winbond Hardware Doctor.
So, lets see what we have at stock speeds on this Barton CPU
Wow, already we have the Waterchill kit clearly in the lead with a whopping 5°C delta even on silent(7V) mode at load! With the fan running at full tilt we have an astounding 8°C load delta!
Of course, watercooling can only mean one thing: We have the NEED to overclock. So, of course, that is what we have next!
So, basically holy smokes, the watercooling kit was DOMINANT! Not only that, the Antarctica gets some incredibly respectable temperatures in terms of what I've seen in other watercooling reviews as well. Overall, with a load delta of 12°C between Air Cooling and Water Cooling (12V) the clear winner is the Asetek kit.
Furthermore, something very important to point out is the very slim load deltas between the Idle and Load temperatures. Take a look at the WC 12V overclocked temperatures. There's only a 2°C difference between stock and load, as opposed to the 8°C difference in OCd Air temperatures. This is incredibly important in terms of overall system stability - that continuous lower temperature means longer life for your CPU, and a much lower chance of failure due to overclock instability.
While many people can argue that air cooling can reach the same low temperatures as watercooling (with the proper heatsinks and fans) I have this to say to you: I can hear myself think! This system, even when on full blast is more then tolerable at a respectable 34dBa. Other advantages include less chance of tearing a hole through your motherboard with an obscenely heavy air heatsink, and better load deltas, even when heavily overclocked. On 7V mode, this system produces similarly impressive results, at nearly silent noise levels. With the ease of installation this system provides, even a beginner in watercooling (such as myself) can find themselves 'getting wet' in no time at all. My only beef with this system is the reservoir, I find it to be poorly designed and too small. However, it functions, and does its job properly, so I can't knock it for that. With a proven low temperature track record, impressive results overall, extreme ease of setup, overall quality and attention to detail and the fact that this kit comes with everything you need to get into watercooling, I would recommend this kit in a heartbeat to anyone looking to get into watercooling. In a word, it's fantastic.
- Completeness of Kit
- Ease of Setup (Love those push-on fittings)
- Excellent performance
- Ability to switch from 12V to 7V
- Overall silence of the system
- Great user manual
- Anti-Algae fluid sucks