Swiftech MCW6500-T TEC (Peltier) Assisted Water Blockhardnrg - June 14, 2007
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So the Opteron 170 testing phase was a bit of an eye-opener. I really thought the TEC-block would be better than the water-block, but evidently the heat output from the processor at that voltage is too much for the TEC to handle and you end up with worse temperatures than plain water-cooling. The Thermal Design Power (TDP) of the Opteron 170 at stock speed and voltage is 110W. The TDP of the 3500+ Venice is 67W. You might think "oh, well, a 3500+ Venice is really old, why did you even bother testing it?". Well, guess what? An Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 has a TDP of 65W, just 2 Watts less than the 3500+. How would you feel if you could keep an overclocked E6600 at or below ambient temperatures? The CPU voltage certainly isn't going to be as high as the older 90nm CPUs, so you can bank on the temperatures being lower too.
The 90nm CPU fabrication process is getting on a bit now. 65nm has been around for quite some time, reaching its own maturity and 45nm will be widely available in a manner of months. The power consumption and thermal output of processors seems to becoming a slightly more important issue in CPU design and marketing, with the current Intel Core 2 processors making a step in the right direction. The move from 65nm to 45nm can only mean even less power consumption and heat output.
These are merely logical conclusions about processors that I could not test. The factual results from this review clearly show that the MCW6500-T is best suited to processors that do not produce an immense amount of heat in the first place. I think the ideal processor would be one of the "golden" processors that overclocks 50% or more with no increase of CPU voltage. As the increase of voltage largely determines the CPU temperature, one of these golden CPUs operates pretty much at the same temperature whether at stock speed or overclocked.
That isn't to say that the TEC-block cannot handle overvolted processors. The Venice core has an almost identical TDP to that of the Conroe core and the results from this review make me want to install the MCW6500-T on one of the Intel Core 2 65nm processors, or possibly hold out for the 45nm versions, due to be available later this year.
So the Swiftech MCW6500-T proved itself to provide lower temperatures and thus gain higher overclocks for a "normal" TDP processor. That's obviously good. How about the bad? What was annoying about it?
Well, the fact that it couldn't handle my Opteron 170 was a let down, but it was nowhere near as annoying as having to tear down and rebuild my entire rig to install the required Meanwell PSU. I'm fairly handy with tools these days, but I can see this as a limiting factor. Mounting the IEC C14 socket on the case chassis doesn't seem 100% necessary. Maybe a PCI blanking plate with a suitable grommet could be used with an in-line IEC C14 socket. This would save the nightmare task of stripping a fully loaded case and make the installation process a lot easier. That said, you may have to strip most of your case anyway, just to get the motherboard out. For me, I have to remove at least the pump and both graphics cards, the CPU block and the reservoir to get the motherboard out, so there isn't much difference to a full tear-down anyway. The complexity of the installation process is pretty much the highest I can think of for any hardware product. The amount of work to prepare the motherboard and case are up there with installing a phase-change unit.
Getting conformal coating inside the socket even though I'd masked off the CPU socket with multiple layers of masking tape, was extremely annoying. I thought at one point I'd have to buy a replacement motherboard, as the socket would not recognise the CPU for about a day, even using industrial solvent cleaner. The level of risk during installation is quite high here and it should be made more clear that conformal coating can seep under the socket, so simply masking the top surface isn't good enough.
There really can be no excuse for the Meanwell PSU having "non-standard" threads for the drive-bay screws. The whole world uses M3 screws for mounting 5.25" devices, so why should these brackets use the "crazy" #4-40 UNC threads? Ridiculous.
All in all, what do we have here? A superior cooling device that can give you higher overclocks, but it can potentially also give you a few days of hell installing the whole kit and kaboodle. It doesn't claim to be easy to install. It doesn't claim to be able to cool extremely high heat output processors, like the Intel Core 2 Quad / Extreme or AMD Opteron Dual Core at high voltage. What it can do, is keep processors like the 3500+ Venice and E6600 around or below ambient and net you a couple of hundred more MHz, maybe more.
I wasn't sure whether or not to recommend this TEC-block from Swiftech. I will personally definitely use it on my next processor (either an E6600 or upcoming 45nm CPU), but I was hesitant to give a product a recommendation given the complexity and difficulty involved during installation. However, the fact that it is a more involved installation process both for the Swiftech MCW6500-T and the Meanwell S-320-12 PSU that you may well need, is clearly pointed out on the product pages and in the installation guides. The only downside that I didn't previously know about, was that the PSU brackets had those useless #4-40 UNC threads.
Do I recommend cutting the heatspreader off your socket 939 CPU to everyone? No. Or how about soldering on components to a graphics card to give it more voltage? No. Replacing chips and capacitors on a soundcard? No. Using this combined TEC and waterblock? No.
I don't recommend these things to just anybody and yet I have done and will do these things again and again myself. I will recommend these things to people that are competent and willing to work a little bit in the quest for higher performance.
I love high performance. Do you love high performance? If you have a processor like the Intel Core 2 E6600 or AMD 3500+ Venice, or are planning a system based around the upcoming 45nm processors, then you really should consider a TEC-assisted water-cooling system. If you have no experience with modding, then it would probably be a good idea to stick to less extreme cooling methods.
- Capable of sub-zero temperatures
- Can also achieve sub-ambient temperatures under load
- Gains stability, allowing even higher overclocked speeds
- The added heat from the TEC doesn't affect the stability of GPUs in the same loop
- Cool, industrial looking design
- Very involved installation process (as Swiftech points out)
- Not suitable for extremely high heat output processors at high voltages (as Swiftech also points out)
- The Meanwell 5.25" adapter brackets use threads that are not standard for that bay