Cooler Master Aquagate S1

robgs - 2007-07-14 19:47:47 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: robgs   
Reviewed on: August 16, 2007
Cooler Master
Cooler Master
Price: $80.00 US

Introduction:

As predicted by the experts back in the day, the biggest hurdle to overcome in CPU frequency is heat dissipation.  When computers were first being made available to the home user, CPU’s didn’t even require a heat sink, let alone any other kind of cooling method.  Today there are a few more options available for the diabolical dissipation dilemma.  Along with the tried and true air cooling methods, you now have the option of purchasing water cooling systems, phase systems, Peltier systems, and a host of combinations therein.

As water cooling is one of the most popular methods for cooling, some manufacturers like Cooler Master are introducing simpler and simpler systems to allow everyone, no matter the level of skill, to take advantage of the water cooling craze.  One of the most recent additions to the Cooler Master water cooling line up is the Aquagate S1.  The Aquagate S1 is a preconfigured, turn-key water cooling solution that doesn’t require any real formal knowledge of water cooling and associated components.  Simple installation is one thing, but the measuring stick for cooling has always been temperature.  In this review, we’ll see how the Aquagate S1 stacks up against some higher end air cooling.

Cooler Master has been a fixture in the computer cooling industry almost as long as I’ve been a computer nut.  Founded in 1992, Cooler Master supplies cooling related products to almost all areas of high technology, as well as to the general public.  An ISO 9001 certified company, Cooler Master always strives to supply a quality product and to maintain a strict adherence to its driving principles of innovation, speed and customer satisfaction.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging the Aquagate S1 comes in is very impressive.  The package is quite large, with a viewing window in the front to show the radiator.  The product information is clearly laid out through pictures and descriptions on the back and side of the box.

 

 

 

Opening the package, you can see that the contents are well protected inside the clam shell enclosure.  The cooler looks to be in good shape and there is no sign of leakage or damage anywhere.

 

Inside the clamshell casing are the water cooling system components, installation hardware, and a manual.

Closer Look:

A close-up of the water block shows a compact design, with the pump mounted inside the block.  The hoses are crimped in place with what looks like a similar clamp on a constant velocity boot for your vehicle.  This type of clamp will help to ensure no leaks from the hose connection, however it is not user serviceable.

 

 

 

 

The radiator is fairly large for a component that will fit into a typical 120mm fan spot.  The bracket for the fan is slightly oversized, so the entire radiator is actually slightly larger than a 120mm fan.

 

 

Inside one of the two plastic bags are the bracket to hold the water block on the CPU and a bracket to hold a potentiometer to vary the speed of the fan.  The fan control fits in a spare PCI slot.

 

 

Inside the other plastic bag is the rest of the hardware required to install the Aquagate S1.  Along with the associated nuts and machine screws are the Cooler Master thermal paste and also a syringe to top off the cooler if required.

 

After verifying that all the components required for the install are here, we can now move on to installing this unit.

Installation:

Installation looks pretty straight forward judging by the hardware that is supplied.  The first thing to do is to ensure the surface on the CPU you are installing the cooler to is clean and dry.  I usually use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of the CPU, as it is both effective and dries very quickly.  And of course, before you start any install on your motherboard or any other electronic components, discharge any static electricity by wearing a propery grounded (bonded) wrist strap.  In addition, consult your hardware owner’s manual to ensure all proper precautions are taken.

 

 

 

First off, we’ll install the mounting screws as shown in the instruction manual.  There are eight plastic washers that are used to isolate the machine screw from the motherboard.  One washer should be inserted first onto each of the machine screws, then the screws inserted through the heat sink support holes in your motherboard.

 

 

Once the machine screws have been inserted into the motherboard, a second plastic washer is inserted to each one, and finally the machine nut can be spun on.  Once the nut is hand-tight, the screw can be tightened further from the back of the motherboard.  Do not over tighten the screws, as you could damage your motherboard or strip the screws.

 

 

 

Now that the mounting screws are installed, the motherboard can be installed back into the case.  Next apply the heat sink paste provided to the CPU or to the water block.

Installation:

Next, remove the protective plastic from the water block and install the four black plastic spacers in the holes on the back.

 

 

 

 

 

Then place the water block on top of the CPU and place the universal bracket on top of the water block.  You may have to orientate the tubes away from any obstructions that may be present, like your northbridge heat sink.  Once the bracket is installed, the last set of nuts can be tightened down to secure the water block to the CPU.  Again, refrain from over tightening the nuts.

 

At this point we’ll install the radiator, but as stated in the instruction manual, we must ensure there are no air bubbles in the water block.  To do this, with the computer on its side, lift the radiator above the water block and tap on the tubing with your finger.  Once the air has been evacuated from the water block, insert the radiator into a 120mm fan location and secure it with the four screws provided.

 

 

The next step in the installation process is to install the potentiometer into the PCI bracket supplied.  Then install the fan control into a spare PCI slot in your case, and finally install the knob on the potentiometer.

 

 

As a final step, attach the fan and pump power connectors to the motherboard and the installation is complete.  Now we can put our new water cooler to the test.

Specifications:

 

Application

Intel LGA775, AMD Socket (754/939/940/AM2

Water Block Material

Copper

Water Block Dimensions

Φ40MM

Radiator Dimensions

158*128*88mm

Radiator Material

Aluminum

Fan Dimension (W / H / D)

120*120*25.4mm

Fan Speed

Manual Mode: 800~2500R.P.M.

Bearing Type

Long life sleeve bearing

Fan Life Expectancy

40,000/ hrs

Fan Noise Level (dB-A)

20 dBA (Min)

Fan Speed Adjustment

Manual

Bearing of Pump

Ceramics Bearing

Noise of Pump

21 dBA

Life Cycle of Pump

50,000 hrs

Tube Dimensions

3/8

 

Features:

Testing:

To test the Aquagate S1, I will heat up the CPU with a well known “burn-in” software called Orthos.  Orthos is a software program that will automatically run two instances of Prime95, a well known Mersenne number test, for dual-core CPU’s.  The test will be configured for “Blend – CPU and RAM” and run for at least one half hour to let the temperatures stabilize.

I will record the temperature as shown in Nvidia Monitor while at idle and at load.  The CPU will first be tested at the stock speed of 2.4 GHz.  Then I will record the temperatures when overclocked to 3.5 GHz.

I will compare the performance of the Aquagate S1 against a high-end Zalman air cooler, the 9700.

 

Test Setup:

 

 

The following graphs display the temperatures of the CPU at stock speed of 2.4 GHz. Measurements were taken at idle and under load.

 

 

Now we'll overclock the CPU to 3.5 GHz and check the temperatures at both idle and while under load.

 

 

As you can see, the Aquagate is only marginally better than the air cooler.  But cooler temperatures could equate to higher overclocks on some systems and maybe even better system performance.  I am sure that individual results will vary.

Conclusion:

When I started the system up for the first time after the install, I could hear a distinct rush of liquid through the system.  When I checked the system temperatures after a bit of time to allow the system to stabilize, I was pleasantly surprised that the water cooling was working a little better than the air cooling.

In addition, the noise level of this system is very low for what I am used to.  With the pump running at 20dBA and the fan at maximum, I couldn’t hear the difference between my old air cooler and the Aquagate S1.

The installation was a little tricky, and at times I felt like I could use a third hand, but nonetheless, it went smoothly. The hose can be a little bulky and difficult to manage.  With its radiator’s size and excess cooling hose, you have to ensure that you have enough room in your system to support this cooler.

Although I don’t think this unit has the capacity for extreme overclocking, for the price of a higher end air cooling unit, the Aquagate S1 makes the move toward water cooling much more affordable.  The look of the cooler is sharp and with the cool blue lighting, is a welcome addition to my system.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: