Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus Review

airman - 2012-01-20 08:52:44 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: April 16, 2012
Price: $129.99

Introduction:

It's not often that we get to test a water cooling kit here on OverclockersClub. Compared to heatsinks, there is an obvious reason for this lack of testing — there aren't many of them! I could probably count all the brands that have released a kit in the last year on my two hands. Since the variety of these products is so limited, it's always a treat to get the opportunity to take a new one for a spin. I will be examining the Bigwater 760 Plus from Thermaltake in this review. It is substantially different from the concept of a self-contained system where you screw in a couple components and plug in the power. Some assembly is required, but its customizability is superior. On top of that, the UV reactive fluid, tubing, large pump, and front panel speed controls are all neat features that you won't find with a sealed system today. Even though Thermaltake has been around for as long as I can remember (10+ years since I've been into computers), I've never owned any large Thermaltake items due to the top-shelf pricing. At a general price of $129.99, the Bigwater 760 Plus has a noticeable premium above the currently most popular sealed water cooler, the Corsair H100. For about an extra $25, I hope I clearly see higher performance from the Bigwater 760 to make the extra cash worth it. Let's get started and work our way from the outside, inwards!

 

Closer Look:

The packaging of the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus has a square cross-section, is about twice as long as it is wide, and includes a built-in handle on the top to facilitate transportation. The front of the box has a picture of the bay unit and its front panel, as well as a picture of the water block attached to a CPU with the UV reactive tubing flowing off to the side. Some of its key features, which I will cover later in this review, are listed on the bottom-left of the front panel. The left side of the box has a tabular list of features that quantifies weight, dimensions, fan speed, noise, voltage, and more. These will also be discussed in later sections of this review. The right side of the box displays the same features that were listed on the front in a number of different languages for our foreign friends. The rear of the packaging has up-close pictures of the Bigwater's features that put a face to a name. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The large packaging size for the Bigwater 760 Plus appears to be influenced by the large chunk of foam in which each piece fits nicely. I have a feeling the delivery man could have launched it out the back door of his truck onto my front doorstep, and everything inside would have been just fine. When opening the box, the first components we see are the large roll of Tygon-like tubing (very flexible and stretchy material) along with product manuals, hose clamps, and what looks like the Socket 2011 compatibility kit. Underneath these items, we find the 2U bay unit itself, a filling bottle, coolant solution, water block, and a small box for mounting hardware.

 

 

Typically when you think about a do-it-yourself water cooling kit, a lot of work and assembly ideas might go through your head. Luckily, most of the work with the Bigwater 760 Plus is already done for you. Simply mount the block and drive bay unit, cut and clamp the hoses, fill it, and turn it on (checking first for leaks, of course). Having everything laid out in front of me makes the kit look very simple, and I have the feeling that putting everything together is not going to be a problem!

 

Closer Look:

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.

 

Specifications:

2U Bay Drives
Dimension
232mm(L) x 148.6mm(W) x 85mm(H)
Weight
1.245(kg)
Application
CPU
AMD AM3/AM2+/AM2
Intel LGA 2011*/LGA1366/LGA1155/LGA1156/LGA775
Water Block
Material
Copper (Base)
Dimension
80mm(L) x 52mm(W) x 27mm(H)
Weight
For 9.5mm ID (3/8”) tubing
Pump
Dimensions
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
80,000 hr (MTBF)
Radiator
Dimensions
153(L) x 120(W) x 28(H) mm
Material
Aluminum
Tube design
Aluminum, Dimple
Fin design
Aluminum, Louvered
Fan
Dimension
120(L) x 120(W) x 25(H) mm
Speed
1600~2400  RPM
Rated Voltage
12V
Noise
29.4 ~39.9dB
Life Expectancy
30,000 hr
Connector
3 pin
Reservoir
Dimensions
72.4 (L) x 70.5(W) x 69.4(H) mm
Capacity
130 c.c.
Tube
Dimensions
9.5mm ID(3/8”) tube
Material
Green UV
Coolant
Capacity
500 c.c.
Major Ingredient
Propylene Glycol

 

Features:

 

Information provided courtesy of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1444&ID=2058#Tab0

Testing:

Testing of this water cooling system will involve applying a load simulated by Prime95, using small FFTs in stock and overclocked scenarios, where both idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in RealTemp after running eight threads in Prime95 for one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum recorded value by RealTemp with no computer usage during a period of one hour. The temperature values for each of the four cores will be averaged and displayed in the graphs below. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 23°C throughout testing of the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus as well as the comparison units. All the data shown in the graphs below is in degrees Celsius. The included thermal paste from Thermaltake will be used during testing, and thermal pastes on other heatsinks from their respective manufacturers will be used. The fans on each cooler will be run at full-speed for these tests, and I will provide results of both LOW and HIGH speeds for this unit.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Heatsinks:

 

 

 

 

Overall, the performance from the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus doesn't match, due to its higher cost compared to the other coolers. There are benefits to it though — I will share those in the conclusion.

Conclusion:

The Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus is a good looking water cooling system in a box. It's modular and doesn't require a case to have room for two 120mm or 140mm fans right next to each other like other water cooling units. However, I think the primary reason why I would recommend the Bigwater 760 to someone over a 2x120 water cooling unit is if there is a size restriction. Any case that has two adjacent 5.25" bays can fit the Bigwater 760 Plus, assuming enough room is on the other side of the 5.25" bays.

In my opinion, the water block included with this kit is the weakest link. I wish I had a nice LGA 1155 block that I could slap in the kit and see the performance difference, but I've been out of the water cooling game for two generations now. Compared to all-in-one units, the pump is much larger, and having a reservoir is a passive way to remove heat from the water. Aside from these limiting factors, I am afraid of the single, 3-pin connector powering the entire unit. I can't say for sure that the power source was the cause, but I did have some strange issues with hang-ups and other problems shortly after beginning the testing for the Bigwater 760 Plus while running it off of the 3-pin connector. After being scared by the 3-pin connector, I found a 3-pin to 4-pin Molex adapter and finished the remainder of the tests with that configuration. I couldn't recreate the issue.

Overall, the only real advantages to the Thermaltake Bigwater 760 Plus when considering it's higher price are that it's customizable and does not require a 2x120 footprint. The noise level isn't terrible, but is easily identifiable in a semi-quiet room. I wish Thermaltake had used a slightly higher-end water block in order to help remove heat from the processor more efficiently. Before anyone chimes in about it, I probed the reservoir temperature and it remained significantly cooler under load than the reported processor temperature. If the radiator was the weaker link, the water temperature wouldn't be so far off from the CPU temperature. All facts considered, the Thermaltake 760 Plus belongs to a smaller market of people who are into do-it-yourself projects and customization. Not having to deal with the stiff hoses from other water cooling units is a plus, and actually putting the 5.25" bays to use gives me a good feeling too.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: