Thermaltake ProWater 880i ReviewZertz -
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Firstly, before going too far into the installation, remember that component layout will vary on a case-by-case basis, although the basics remain true. Secondly, it's important to take your time when setting up a water-cooled loop, because once you've started to cut tubing, you can't easily go back. As usual, measure twice, cut once. Also, keep in mind that tubing does not bend indefinitely and sharp turns will kink it, or at least hinder flow.
Now that I got the very basics covered, let's get the Thermaltake water cooling kit installed. Take note that this part was not done on the actual test motherboard, but on one that has both LGA1366 and LGA775 mounting holes. I started by installing the processor's cooling block. The one I used for the review is equipped with push pins so while it is an archaic design, it's has a very straightforward installation. The retail kit will use a three piece backplate, so you will need the motherboard out of the case to proceed. First, the thin plastic piece has to be stuck on the metal plate and then the thicker foam piece above the plastic layer. The 3M tape is very sticky, so once it's in place don't expect to take it off in one piece. It can also be stuck on the motherboard, but I really don't see the point.
Owners of socket 754, 939 and 940 AMD processors will need to use the short 38mm screws while all the others get the longer 50mm screws. With the backplate aligned with socket, simply put the screws into their proper holes and install the red washers on the other side.
Next, insert the standoffs and tighten them equally using the foam on the back as a reference. Then, simply slide the cooling block into place, after having cleaned it and the processor as well. Lastly, tighten them up as equally as possible using the thumbscrews. It's not obvious whether the block is level or not, but you can always come back and adjust it later on once you have a way to monitor temperatures. The tested block is also copper, but uses a very simple push pin design that is very tight and stresses the motherboard more than I would like it to. All the barbs are preinstalled, saving a couple minutes of work and a few more to find the proper wrench.
Next on the list is the installation of the pump and reservoir assembly onto the radiator. In order to do this, the plastic base, held by two screws, must first be removed from the bottom of the pump. Then, stick the rubber band onto the base while carefully lining up the holes. Then, with the same pair of screws, screw the aluminum plate onto the base of the pump. The reservoir isn't attached to the base, it's only held there by the pump so it will tend to tilt up until it is filled.
All that is left to do to finalize this part is to attach what has just been assembled to the radiator. Using two more small screws, simply screw it in the proper holes. This whole thing doesn't look too bad and makes the installation a whole lot easier in almost any case.
Now that the radiator, pump and reservoir are assembled, they have to be attached to the case. Fortunately, Thermaltake provides a great way to do so. You can use either the short or long standoffs, it's a matter of personal choice more than anything else. I used washers, not included in the kit, between the standoff and the outside of the case, otherwise it would just slide through. It can then be tightened inside using a thumbscrew. Then, take the plastic box off the radiator and slide it onto the standoffs. Thumbscrews will once again keep this into place, just be careful not to tighten them too much or they will go right through the plastic. Finally, install the radiator back onto the box like it originally was and two more thumbscrews will secure it.
Before inserting tubing on a barb, it's important not to forget to slide a clamp in first, especially when one side is already clamped into place. I found tubing in this kit to be easy to place on the barbs - perhaps too easy. With the tube fully placed onto the barb, slide the clamp in and tighten it. Beside the length, which will obviously vary, the very same steps have to be followed for the rest of the components. Since the pump and reservoir are already linked together, that makes one less piece of tubing as well as a couple less barbs and clamps to deal with. While you're there, install the anti-kink coils if you wish to.
Once everything is wired up, it's time to fill it up with Thermaltake's solution composed of various liquids. Since the pump is right beside the reservoir, it's possible to simply fill it and power the pump for a couple seconds to get some water into the loop. Rinse and repeat until the loop is full, while making sure not to completely empty the reservoir, else the pump will start sucking air which is exactly what you don't want to happen. It's highly possible some bubbles will have gotten stuck somewhere, but they should move out after a couple minutes or so. I let the pump run from another system's power supply for a couple of hours in order to ensure there were not any leaks and, luckily enough, there were none.
Here's a shot of the final product installed into Coolermaster's ATCS840 full tower. As you can see, the system is fairly simple and doesn't require much space at all inside the case, so it's well suited for mid-towers as well.
With the setup into place, let's see how Thermaltake's water cooling compares.