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Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate Review

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Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate Closer Look:

At first glance you may be wondering where are the F/A-18 Hornets that will be taking off from this aluminum radiator (or is it a flight deck?). This thing is the size of an aircraft carrier! Ok, there aren't any 27mm thick aircraft carriers, but if you do the math, 360mm x 120mm gives you 43,200mm2, which is an impressive amount of area. Compare that to a 120mm x 120mm radiator, which gives you 14,400mm2 of area. Of course the area is just a part of the picture. You also need an effective, well designed coldplate, a capable pump to move the fluid through the system, and fans to move the air through the cooler. The tubes are made from rubber and have a smooth surface and are just under twelve inches long. Along the sides of the frame are the twelve mounting holes for the fans.

 

 

 

 

 

The small radiator end cap (tank) has a label with a bar-code and the other end has a larger tank that contains the infeed and exit tubes along with the baffle in the middle of the tank. The baffle is what directs the coolant through one half of the radiator where it changes direction and flows back through the second half and to the exit tube. So if you think about it, your coolant travels down the length of the radiator and back, making it a 360mm x 2, or a total of 720mm trip. It takes a little bit of time for the coolant to cover that distance and this maximizes the time that the coolant is in contact with the long, thin aluminum tubes, which ultimately allows for the fans to do their job and transfer heat away from the radiator. Of course, the entire system is factory sealed and requires no maintenance.

 

 

The Water 3.0 Ultimate pump is based on the low profile Asetek Gen 4 unit, which was released in 2012 and has proven itself as a reliable unit that is used as the heart of AIO coolers supplied by several manufactures. The pump comes with a circular patch of thermal paste applied from the factory and the coldplate is protected by a clear plastic twist-off cover. Some people like the convenience on not having to fool with paste application so this is a plus, while others prefer to apply it themselves. You can simply scrape off the OEM paste, clean up the shiny copper surface and apply a brand that you favor. I will be testing with the as-supplied paste so you can see how it performs. This pump has a single 3-pin lead for power, but some manufactures (including Thermaltake) are beginning to use software for pump monitoring and control and this requires dual leads coming out of the housing - one would be for power and the other would be plugged into a USB header for pump control and monitoring. I would have expected the Water 3.0 Ultimate to have the software control feature, but it does not, however, the smaller Water 3.0 Extreme does have the software control feature.

 

 

There is a little bit of pre-installation work to be done. First, the notched retaining ring has to be assembled, which involves assembling and installing the retaining clips at each of the four corners. These consist of two pieces that sandwich over the corner hole and snap together. There is a very specific way that these retaining clips assemble and the instruction sheet shows it quite clearly, so you will want to have it handy during the assembly. The base plate comes with the adjustable studs already assembled, so all you have to do is to slide the studs to the proper position based on which socket you have and again, the instructions clearly show you what to do. Also, on the base plate, there are two rectangular adhesive-backed foam spacers / isolators that you apply to the base plate. For normal installations you will peel the adhesive liner off of both sides of each spacer. One side will stick to the base plate, leaving an exposed adhesive face, which will allow the base plate to stick to the back of the motherboard and hold it in position for the rest of the assembly process. Since I will soon be removing this cooler to make way for the next review, I will leave the white adhesive liners intact. The last thing to do on the retaining ring is to add the four hold down studs. These simply snap into each of the four corners that you just assembled.

 

 

Now it is time for the retaining ring to be assembled to the pump. The ring has a series of bent rectangular tabs that correspond to rectangular shaped pockets on the pump body and this ultimately allows some flexibility as to how the pump is radially positioned. The last step is to lock the retaining ring to the pump and this is achieved by using a round plastic lock ring that snaps to the retaining ring and locks it to the pump body. This makes the assembly of the pump to the motherboard much easier since the retaining ring won't become disengaged from the pump. 

 

 

The fans are 4-pin PWM style with seven white contoured blades in a black plastic frame. Another nice touch is that the fan cables are sheathed with a textured plastic cover. I placed he fans on top of the radiator for a quick test fit. These three fans will move a lot of air. At 99CFM each, you are moving nearly 300CFM of air. But will they be quiet? We will soon find out during the thermal testing. There are mounting holes for fans on both sides of the frame, so you can have up to six fans in a push / pull configuration.

   

 

Here is the plastic base plate as it is mounted from the rear of the motherboard. You can't see the two foam pads we installed earlier, but they are sandwiched between the base plate and the motherboard, the adhesive on the pads will hold the base plate in place. You can see the adjustable studs at the four corners of the base plate, which are slid into position based on your socket. The rest of the installation is smooth sailing now since the retaining ring is now locked to the pump. Previous designs have the retaining ring loose and it could be a little challenging to line up and get the corner fasteners screwed down. But now thanks to some clever engineering, it is a breeze and requires much less effort.

    

 

After the radiator is mounted in the top of the case and the three fans are plugged into the included triple fan connector, you can then plug the connector into the CPU fan header. The Phanteks Enthoo Primo case is large and can actually handle up to a 480mm top radiator, but the 360mm radiator of the Water 3.0 looks right at home. If I only had enough fans for one side of the radiator, I like to put them in a pull configuration, meaning they will pull the air through the radiator. Any dust will collect on the intake side, which is easier to clean. The Enthoo Primo case has plenty of room to add three more fans for a push / pull configuration.

  

 

It is hard to get a shot with the pump and the 360mm radiator since the radiator extends into the case past the field of view, but most of it is there. Of course with an AIO cooler, RAM clearance is not an issue. Plenty of room to access all the RAM slots and all the fan headers. Another nice advantage to an AIO cooler is that you can show off your RAM with tall, colorful heat spreaders since there is no fin stack to block your view. Now we are ready to turn up the heat and put the Water 3.0 Ultimate to the test.




  1. Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate: Closer Look (Continued)
  3. Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate: Specifications & Features
  4. Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate: Testing: Setup & Results
  5. Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate: Conclusion
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