Thermaltake ProWater 880i Review

Zertz - 2009-02-16 16:09:29 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Zertz   
Reviewed on: March 26, 2009
Price: TBD

Introduction

Everyone needs to cool their processor down, hence why it probably is a lucrative market where a lot, if not most, manufacturers have some sort of presence. Unfortunately, very few manage to truly distinguish themselves, whether it is because of their decent performance and affordability, or simply because they are the best there is. A few names always come back, while others are doomed to stay in the shadow of their superior competitors. However, things aren't as clear when it comes to water cooling. A lot of the components available on the market perform very close to each other and pricing is also quite similar. The advantage is that it gives the user a lot of flexibility in a custom build, but some just want a single package to work out of the box. Unfortunately, a lot of those kits are underwhelming. All hope isn't lost though, as some have managed to show good performance and the all in one offering makes it much easier for anyone to dive under water.

Thermaltake is a well known company who manufactures all sorts of cooling related products, from cases and fans to air and water cooling solutions. One of their latest products for keeping Intel's Core i7's cool is part of their best performing water cooling series - the ProWater 880i. This new kit has very few differences and potential advantages over the one it's replacing, the 850i. However, they are far from negligible. The 880i packs a 240mm radiator, a new water block adapted for socket 1366, as well as the same pump and reservoir included with its predecessor. Being their new top end cooling kit, it's fair to expect great performance out of this.

 

 

Closer Look

 

 

Thermaltake goes straight to the point when it comes to their packaging. The ProWater 880i water cooling kit comes into a large and solid cardboard box showing most of the kit in all its glory. A detailed list of specifications and features is listed on both sides. On the back is more detail about specific components included with the kit.

 

 

 

Inside the box is foam - plenty of foam. There really is very little to no risk to have anything broken due to shipping damage. One half houses the coolant bottle, accessory box, tubing and manual while the other half protects all the main components. The radiator, cooling block, pump and reservoir are all safe and sound in their respective compartments.

 

 

Let's see what exactly Thermaltake has included.

Closer Look

Thermaltake has made sure this kit is a one stop shop, so everything you need to get going is bundled. The nine-language thick, black and white manual is picture rich and easy to follow. The kit is accompanied by a generous length of 3/8 inch tubing. Thermaltake's coolant consists of 93% water, 6% propylene glycol and the last percent is other anti-freezing and anti-rusting additives. The accessory box actually contains a lot more stuff than you will need for a simple cooling loop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All those bags contain a whole bunch of handy accessories, including the ever useful and sometimes life saving tie wraps and even a 20 pin connector to jump start a power supply - a practical tool to have when testing a water loop. There's also a couple feet of what Thermaltake calls iStripe, which really are anti kink coils to wrap around tubing that are obviously supposed to help prevent kinks and eliminate tube deformation. The second bag has more clamps than you'll need to get started, but extras are always welcome and often come in handy. Those who aren't lucky enough to have a case designed with water cooling in mind will appreciate the inclusion of the PCI bracket to route tubes into. Next up are a plethora of screws, standoffs, washers and bolts, which I will cover later on along with the mounting hardware.

 

 

 

Thermaltake's ProWater 880i water cooling kit includes a 240mm radiator, processor cooling block and a pump and reservoir assembly. The plastic box behind the radiator is actually what allows it to be mounted on the back of a case using 120mm fan holes. For your own and the fan's security, the bottom one has a grill while the one on top doesn't need one since the box acts like one. The potentiometer attached to the fan's Molex power cable lets you play with their speed. The aluminum plate will be used to mount the pump and reservoir above the radiator. It may not be as fancy as other kits, but it looks like it should be a walk in the park to install. Again, hold on tight for more on that on the next page. The pumps can flow up to 500L/hour which puts it about 50L/hour above the MCP350 and 355. The parts all are Thermaltake specific, so no design sharing here. Finally, they also provide a flow indicator, which does just that - it indicates whether there is water flowing or not.

 

 

 

The actual block that is going to ship with the kit is the one on top, which is a fully made out of copper. The new mounting hardware will include slightly modified mounting plates. It will be compatible with AMD's socket 754, 939, 940, AM2, AM2+ and AM3 as well as Intel's socket 478, LGA775 and LGA1366. The one I am using for this review comes with a fast to market, but poor mounting solution - push pins. Although both blocks were reflective, they also had unimpressive surfaces. The first one had some sort of sticky stuff covering a fourth of the block, which I partially cleaned before taking this picture. The second block seemed like it had a rough day at the factory and thus has lots of scratches.

 

 

It's now time to get the installation going.

Installation

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.

Specifications:

Water Block  
Dimension 58mm(L) X 58mm(W) X 35mm(H)
Material All copper designed
Weight 336(g)
Application AMD AM2/AM2+
AMD K8
Intel LGA775
Intel P4 478
Pump  
Dimension 75(L) x 70(W) x 75(H) mm
Bearing Ceramic bearing
Maximum capacity 500 L/hr
Rated Voltage DC 12V
Input current 600 mA
Connector 4 pin
Noise 16 dBa
Lifetime 80000 hr (MTBF)
TMG Radiator  
Dimension 273(L) x 120(W) x 28(H) mm
Material Aluminum
Tube Design Aluminum, Dipole
Fin Design Aluminum, Louvered
Tubing & Hoes Clips For 9.5mm IC(3/8") tubing/td>
Fan  
Fan Dimension 120(L) x 120(W) x 25(H) mm
Fan Speed 1000 ~ 2000 RPM
Noise 20 ~ 28 dBa
Fan Connector 4 pin
Fan Housing  
Dimension 133(L) x 130(W) x 49-61.6(H) mm
Material Plastic ABS
Liquid Tank  
Dimension 86 (L) x 70(W) x 110(H) mm
Capacity 350 c.c.
Tubing & Hoes Clip For 9.5mm IC(3/8") tube
iStripe  
Length 300 mm x2pcs
Material TPU
Flow TX  
Dimension 60mm(H) x 35 mm (W) x 25 mm (D)
Tubing & Hoes Clips Fpr 9.5mm ID(3/8") tube
Tube  
Dimension 9.5mm ID(3/8") tube
Material Green PU
Length 400 cm
Coolant  
Capacity 1000 c.c.
Major Material Ingredient Propylene Glycol

 

Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltake.com/product_info.aspx?PARENT_CID=C_00001371&id=C_00001375&name=PW880i&ov=n&ovid=

Testing

In order to test the ability of Thermaltake's ProWater 880i to cool a processor, I will monitor the processor's temperature over time at idle and under load. Temperatures will be gathered into four different conditions. The first test is going to be performed at idle at stock settings, which will have minimal CPU usage. During the next test, the processor will still be at stock settings, but at full load this time. I will then undergo the same testing, but with the processor overclocked. To monitor the i7's temperature, I will be using the latest version of RealTemp. In order to make sure I am really stressing the processor as much as possible, I will be using Prime95 25.7, which has the ability to achieve 100% load on eight threads. I will be using the Large FFT's test for an hour to ensure I am hitting maximum temperature. The settings used during the overclocked tests are going to make the i7 processor run 25% higher than stock speeds, which ends up at 3.33 GHz using a 166 MHz BCLK and the 20x multiplier. The processor's core voltage will be set to 1.25V. With these settings, the i7 will be dissipating an impressive amount of power. Let's see how Thermaltake's ProWater 880i will handle the load of Intel's latest quad core processors.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Settings:

 

Comparison Heatsinks:

 

 

 

 

At idle and stock settings, Thermaltake's kit fights for the number one spot against the recently reviewed kit from AMA. Cranking the fan speed to the maximum enables it to shave off that degree and take the lead. Under load, the ProWater has a solid advantage even over the custom water cooling. With the clock speed increased to a moderate 3.33GHz, Thermaltake once again wins at idle by a fair margin. It's only when under load that fan speed makes a noticeable difference, where moving from minimum to maximum takes 5 degrees Celsius off. At those settings, it can't quite keep up with the custom water cooling loop, where it loses by a one to six Celsius, depending on fan speed. Now that everything is known about the kit, let's wrap it up.

Conclusion

Thermaltake intends to bring water cooling to more people with their accessible and flagship ProWater series. The 880i is the latest there is and with support for all the latest processors and it's well armed to claim the throne. All you need to get started is waiting for you in a single package, including the radiator, pump, reservoir and the processor cooling block. They also bundle everything you need to easily get the kit installed, and then some. There's plenty of tubing, enough for at least two or maybe three full setups if you take care not to waste any. Even after the kit is built, every little thing from clamps to screws to anti kink coils have leftovers, which can always be handy at some point in time. The supplied liquid is good for about 1 and 3/4 fills provides the protection required to keep a clean loop flowing for several months - up to twelve according to the manual, after which they recommend to replace it.

To a lot of people, the idea of cooling a computer ranges from silly to downright dangerous and Thermaltake seems to be aware and has taken the steps to make it as safe and simple as possible. The manual is clear and does a good job at keeping you on track with the installation. Mounting the blocks also wasn't the best experience ever, although the final product is much better than push pins. It's not as easy to get a good, solid and, most importantly, flat mount than what we have seen from other manufacturers. On the other side, mounting the radiator, pump and reservoir was a total pleasure. Having all three in a single assembly makes it infinitely easier for us and even saves some tubing. People with smaller cases, often forced to air cooling, will certainly appreciate this compact and space efficient kit. Equipped with those tools, only the custom planning, measuring and cutting water cooling brings is in your hands.

Water cooling kits are reputable for their under-performing cooling abilities, but the ProWater 880i proves otherwise. Thermaltake uses their own parts of seemingly good quality, beside the water blocks, which could definitely use some more work. Both came with scratches and one had some sort of sticky stuff on the base. At least they were flat, which is pretty much the only thing a good cleaning or thermal paste can't fix. However, the pump was quiet - silent would be more appropriate, actually. The radiator did a good job since it was able to beat or, at the very least, keep up with a custom Swiftech loop.

Once all the bubbles have made their way out, all I could hear were the other fans in my system, thanks to the potentiometer adjustable fan speeds on the radiator. At the minimum, you really can't hear them, but once you get to roughly 70% and up, the noise quickly becomes very distinguishable, although not nearly annoying as small video card fans. Fortunately, the kit keeps the performance at very good levels while keeping noise under control.

Prejudices aside, Thermaltake, with their new flagship ProWater 880i, was able to deliver a very capable water cooling kit. Not only is it a perfect kit for beginners, but performance also is quite impressive. I wholeheartedly recommend this kit for anyone looking for great performance all in a single, compact and easy to install package. All it needs for success is competitive pricing, which has yet to be determined.

 

Pros

 

Cons