Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus Reviewairman - April 16, 2012
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The main unit consists of all of the typical components that a water cooling unit requires in order to function. At a bare minimum, this would be a pump, a radiator, and a fan (minus the water block itself). Additionally, the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus has a reservoir contained in this housing that will greatly assist the unit in "bleeding", or removing air from the tubing. Reservoirs are not needed in sealed systems as they are already bled from the factory; if they weren't bled, the air would be trapped inside indefinitely since it has nowhere to escape. The radiator and fan are located at the front of the housing. On top of the fan is a grille, which will protect its users' fingers from the potentially dangerous fan speeds! At the back of the unit, further into the case, are the pump and reservoir. The inlets and outlets are clearly labeled, and the reservoir has two graduations for "Low" and "High". Coming out of the reservoir are two wires that hook into a sensor inside. This sensor turns on the "Refill" light when coolant levels are too low.
Inside the housing, the fluid-containing components are all securely joined and are obviously not meant to be separated once put together. As such, I will do the best that I can to show as much detail of each component as possible without completely disassembling the Thermaltake Bigwater 760. Beside the radiator and the fan is a nest of cables and plugs tucked away inside the housing. These are to remain as is, since everything is powered by a single 3-pin connector. Providing power to both a pump and a high-pressure fan with a single 3-pin header from the motherboard is a little scary due to the expected amount of current draw, but Thermaltake has obviously deemed it as acceptable. The next plug connects power to the fan, pump, and the lights on the front. The two lights on the front are a "Normal" light and a "Refill" light. Obviously, these correspond to the coolant level sensed in the reservoir. Underneath these lights is a variable-speed controller for the fan, which may get rather noisy at maximum RPMs. The fan draws cool air from inside the computer case, as well as from outside the case through a vent in the top half of the unit's front panel.
The pump is a Thermaltake-branded 12V ceramic-bearing model that is listed to have a maximum capacity of 500L/hr at 0.6A. Thermaltake lists this pump to have a MTBF (mean time between failures) of 80,000 hours, and it produces a very quiet 16dBA of noise. The black, 12cm (153 x 120 x 28[mm]) radiator is constructed entirely of aluminum. The fin density looks typical, if not lower (less fins) than other water cooling units on the market today. Manufacturers will generally match a high fin density with a high pressure fan, as Thermaltake has here. Its internal construction is said to have "Dimple Tube Technology" that swirls the coolant and effectively increases heat transfer rate.
The waterblock is a very simple specimen. The two 3/8" fittings are placed on opposing ends and are labeled with an "IN" and an "OUT". The main body of the block is made from black, reinforced plastic and has a small metal plate bolted to the bottom. Though it appears to have a silvery color, it is actually nickel-plated copper. Copper is a great thermal conducting material, which we want, but it can also oxidize on the surface and cause reduced performance. Since nickel is far more inert than copper, Thermaltake used a very thin, plated layer of it on the surface of the water block to prevent oxidation. I'd like to take the block apart and look at its internal channels, but I'd rather not risk breaking the proven, factory seal and potentially risk future leaks. In total, the block weighs in at a very light ~76g. The mating surface is quite smooth and reflective. The machining marks are visible, but the nickel plating improves the overall surface finish.
The fan itself is a Thermaltake brand, 120mm fan that is labeled to operate at up to 2400RPM on 12V and pull 0.4A. At full speed, the fan operates at 1600-2400RPM, generating a noise level of 29.4-39.9dBA. Anything close to 40dBA and above is considered rather loud, so I'm going to try not to be too alarmed when I first power on the unit. Since power for the fan is routed directly into the 3-pin connection, swapping out this fan for a user-chosen model may be difficult but is certainly possible. This fan is also equipped with four LEDs, one in each corner. From the looks of it, there isn't a way to toggle these on and off easily. However, since they are separately powered, the smaller, 2-pin plug from the fan can be disconnected if the user chooses.
Setup per the manual is rather simple. First, the block is attached to the motherboard using the supplied mounting hardware and universal back plate. Once securely in place, the Bigwater 760 unit is installed inside the 5.25" bay area. Tubing is cut to the required lengths and attached from the water block to the inlets and outlets as labeled on the unit itself. A good seal is ensured by squarely cutting the ends and making sure the clamps are properly seated (pliers make this exceptionally easier). The next step is important and crucial — filling. The computer is powered on only after the reservoir is filled. The pump will deplete this supply in the reservoir as the loop begins to fill up, so you must be prepared to keep the reservoir full. The importance is two-fold: first, it's bad to run a pump dry, and second, running the loop dry can cause the processor to overheat in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Once the reservoir is at a steady level during operation, the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 is set up and ready for testing.
With the system powered up, I can confirm that the fan could be loud for some folks at full load. Thresholds for sound levels vary from person to person, but I can say that it's not terrible. I probably wouldn't want to try to sleep with the fan fully ramped up though. Luckily, the Bigwater 760 has a fan speed knob making the noise level easily adjustable. The blue LEDs aren't too intrusive and offer a slight glow through the front mesh and into the case, nicely illuminating the UV-reactive fluid and tubing. Now that everything is in place, it's time to get into the testing portion of the review. First, for your viewing pleasure, a table of specifications and a list of features can be found between this page and the testing results.