Swiftech MCW6500-T TEC (Peltier) Assisted Water Blockhardnrg -
Category: CPU Cooling
Price: $159.95 (optional $145.00 for Meanwell S-320-12 PSU)
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Peltiers. What images does that conjure up for you? For me, I think of iced over waterblocks and sub-zero cooling. Nowadays, the term "peltier" is used when talking about the cooling device itself. This isn't strictly true, as the name is a Thermo-Electric Cooler (TEC) and Jean Charles Athanase Peltier is the person who discovered the scientific principal of the temperature differential created when applying power to a semiconductor. Essentially, all you need to know is that a TEC is usually a square flat device, where one side gets very cold and one side gets very hot. If you remove the heat from the hot side, the cold side continues to be cold. For processor cooling, if the cold side is placed to absorb heat produced by the CPU or GPU and the heat produced on the hot side is taken away by something with a high thermal capacity like water, then sub-ambient temperatures can be achieved for the processor.
Swiftech has been around for a long time now, producing cooling solutions since 1994 for high-end industrial computer systems. Many of you will remember the MCX air heatsinks with the unique helicoil heat dissipation system and later mass-producing the world-renowned Storm G4 water block, designed by Cathar. Swiftech produces a full complement of air and water-cooling products and combines its water-cooling products to offer complete water-cooling systems as kits. These kits are high performance cooling solutions that give much better results than the type of water-cooling kits generally frowned upon.
Most people think of Dangerden or Thermaltake when venturing into water-cooling, so it is interesting to see what new products Swiftech has to offer to bring itself further into the limelight. In this review, I will be taking a look at the TEC-assisted water-block, the MCW6500-T and comparing it to plain water-cooling. TEC-cooling is what I would consider to be the cheapest form of sub-ambient cooling and one step above the most efficient "regular" cooling method of using water. This product is a complete water-block, TEC, and coldplate all in-one and designed with TEC cooling in mind. So I will be comparing the MCW6500-T to one of the highest performing water-blocks ever made, the Swiftech Storm G4. Is it worth the effort? Does it increase stability and allow higher overclocks? Let's find out!
The block itself comes in a simple, no-frills cardboard box with a black and white outlined technical drawing of the block on one side and a black and white plain text sticker on the front of the box.
This says to me that no cost has been wasted on needless, glossy, colourful packaging and really screams "understated". So, on the front, we have a straight-to-the-point product sticker basically saying, this is the water-block, it has a 226W TEC (Peltier Module) built in and it has been designed primarily for LGA775 Intel Core 2 processors.
The inside of the box has polystyrene inserts to keep the contents safe from damage during transit or handling. One main insert at the bottom that the blocks sits in and one on the top. The block sits low inside the box. so the pre-installed barbs are nowhere near the top of the box. This means that it is pretty much impossible that the barbs would be damaged whilst the product is inside the box.
As well as the block, there are two neoprene gaskets for the LGA775 socket, mounting screws, nuts, washers and springs. Also included is some Arctic Silver Ceramique thermal paste (without the usual sticker on the side). You also get a black and white installation guide that looks to be laser printed on two sheets of US Letter size paper, stapled at the top left corner. Continuing trend of simplicity and no-nonsense here then.
So straight away, you can see that this isn't a normal water-block - it has gaskets and a short power cable protruding from the side! A cable for 226W, that's some serious power. The hex screws that hold the top part of the waterblock down have an American/imperial size hex hole and being in metric-dominated Europe, it is somewhat difficult to get imperial size tools. I couldn't find any imperial hex drivers (Allen keys) to fit these screws and could not open up the block for you to see the inside. The picture above shows the inner diamond-shaped grid inside the block, similar to the Apogee water-block design. There are no impingement holes to create jets and the water flows from one side to the other through the diamond-shaped grid.
As I don't have an Intel Core 2 processor, I requested that Swiftech send the necessary accessories to use the block on AMD's Socket 939. One of these additional accessories is the 939 version of the neoprene gasket. The centre of it pops out to give you the actual socket gasket and a neoprene pad for the underside of the motherboard, directly under the centre of the CPU socket.
You might think that the top of the block is made of Delrin, the advanced plastic made by DuPont, which is used on other waterblocks. This is in fact an aluminium top housing, plated with nickel and zinc cobalt, and dyed black. The short power lead is neatly sleeved with nylon braiding and terminated with the common 4-pin Molex connector. This allows you to power the MCW6500-T with your PC's own power supply, although Swiftech's recommendation of an Enermax Galaxy 1kW unit and having 18 amps to spare on a 12V rail certainly raised my eyebrows.
The lead itself is tethered to the 775 mounting plate with a cable tie, to prevent damage to the fragile solder joints near the edge of the TEC. The closer I looked at this water-block, the more I liked its industrial look, with the bolted down top housing and mounting plate. The thing just looks serious, as if it means business! The top housing has 1/4" BSPP threads which are pre-fitted with 1/2" chrome-plated barbs. Taking a look round to the side of the block, you can see that the block is surrounded by neoprene all the way down to the bottom.
Down at the bottom, of course, we have the copper cold plate which has been lapped to 0.0003" flatness. This is incredibly flat and I doubt it's possible to achieve this level of flatness by hand. Now, some people obsess over the "mirror finish" of a heatsink or water-block's base when in fact, it is the flatness of the base that is the most important. You can see how flat the base is, by observing the reflection of objects, looking for distortions - the extreme case being something like a fairground funny mirror.
No funny business here then! Just serious flatness. The base has ever-so-slightly visible "grains" from the lapping process. They are quite hard to see and take a photograph of, but you can make them out on the last photo. You could polish this base and it would look more like a glass mirror, but it wouldn't perform any better and may well perform worse with polishing compound tainting the surface.
Okay, so back up to the top and as I mentioned, Swiftech sent me the 939 accessories, one of which being the neoprene gasket/pad, the other is the 939 mounting plate.
The 775 mounting plate is bolted down to the top housing with four hex screws. Luckily, these stand proud of the surface and I could start the untightening, using some snipe-nose pliers. The mounting plate is also glued to the neoprene surrounding the block, so you'll have to cut around it, right next to the underside of the plate to free it from the neoprene. You know how I pointed out that the power cable is tethered to the mounting plate to protect the delicate wires? Well, the 939 mounting plate doesn't have a tether hole! Actually, the 939 mounting plate looks like it might be a near-final prototype version, as it does not have the same chrome plating or rounded edges of the 775 plate. Because it is stated that the wires are so delicate, I felt it was necessary to make my own tether point and drilled a hole through the 939 plate. This was no small task! It took me about one and a half hours and I ended up breaking about eight titanium coated drill bits! There is no way this plate is going to bend or warp under pressure, a magnet doesn't stick to it, so it isn't steel. Whatever it is, it's harder than anything I've ever cut or drilled!
I used Bison Kit Contact Adhesive to attach the new 939 plate to the neoprene.
So with a little mounting plate swap, here is the TEC-block set up for mounting to the 939 socket.