Worth it to go water?

nalc

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I remember years ago, when I was new here, watercooling was the best choice not only for great cooling for extreme overclocks, but also the best choice for a quiet PC. This was before heatpipes were used in CPU coolers, and even the best coolers were only small copper/alu heatsinks with 80mm fans. With watercooling, you could get a single or double 120mm radiator and have two big slow quiet fans giving you comparable temps to that single little high-RPM 80mm fan.

Some people went water for extreme overclocks. Some people went water for extreme silence. Some people went water for reasons in between - to get a mild overclock with something that's still quieter than the stock cooling at stock speeds.

The first reason is alive and well today.
CPU TDPs have increased significantly. Most of them were around a 60w TDP, with the infamous "Preshot" being 115w. Now we're seeing the current flagships with 130w TDPs, but no one thinks twice about it because we have heatpipes and much better coolers.
Graphics TDPs have increased considerably well. In the R300 days, most cards were completely powered by the AGP bus, with a select few high-performance ones requiring a single floppy drive connector for additional power. Now, even midrange cards require a six-pin PCIe power connector, with high-performance cards requiring two. Additionally, Crossfire and SLI have become available, meaning that it's not uncommon to see 500+ watts of just graphics cards in a single computer.

Very rarely do we see watercooling loops like those back in the P4 and Athlon XP days. Single-pump (mains voltage, usually Eheim or Danner), single-radiator loops that were often 1x120mm radiator, sometimes 2x120mm radiator. You'd be cooling a 60w TDP processor and maybe 150w worth of graphics (I don't know what the TDP of those cards were, but I do know that many of them had non-heatpipe single-slot coolers with 40mm fans that exhausted into the case. I remember as we watched with awe one day when leaked pics were posted of the Geforce FX cooler, shocked to see that it was a dual-slot external exhaust affair with a squirrel cage blower). Most enthusiasts ran power supplies around 350-400w, which was plenty for those rigs. We thought a 500w PSU was crazy.

Back then, the cost of watercooling was lower. Heater cores were thirty bucks, and you only needed one. Pumps were expensive, but only one was needed. A decent midrange watercooling setup was only $200 or so. If you wanted to have a good overclock, you needed either a top-of-the-line copper heatsink and a Vantec Tornado or Delta high-RPM 80mm fan, or a quiet watercooling rig. If you wanted a ridiculous overclock, you needed the watercooling plus a high-RPM fan.

Is there still a place for midrange watercooling? At that same price point, is there still an advantage to go to water over air? Big heatpipe towers have now surpassed the performance of single-120mm rad loops, as evidenced by the fact that the Corsair H50, which would be representative of an average water cooling loop circa 2002 or so, is not as good as some of the best air coolers. The majority of current WC loops seem to be at least 3x120mm worth of rad, often as high as 6x120mm worth of rad, and many are dual loops with the GPUs having an entirely separate loop.

If you're not doing extreme overclocking, and if you're not doing SLI or Crossfire, is there still an advantage to watercooling? The noise advantage is significantly reduced, since you can now put slow quiet fans on a heatpipe tower and still get good temperatures.

At what point does it make sense to make the leap from high end air (TRUE, Titan Fenrir, Meghalems, etc.) to low-end water? I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
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Skull_Angel

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it mostly depends on the price range you want to look into with water cooling. a decent cpu loop with a single 120mm rad can be had for under $150 which will still out perform the closed loop corsair coolers and most high-end air (should pull ahead of the dual-tower coolers if only slightly).

ppl still use water cooling for the middle ground you're talking about, but most tend to go for high-end air because of component costs. this is pretty much due to the increased availability of much quieter high performance fans along with the new heatsink designs, water cooling will still show better results at lower noise levels, but it does start to become quite costly.

things haven't changed all that much concerning water cooling trends, but the increase in air cooling performance has shifted a lot of overclockers because of pricing. a decent amount of the newer high-end heatsinks will allow you to reach near the full potential of many current processors in safe 24/7 overclocks, but there will always be those chips that surpass the norm and need higher performance cooling to unlock their potential.
 

SticKx911

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I went with water cooling just because I wanted to try something different. I bought a Tt kit and put it together. Been expanding it here and there to make it better. but overall, I'll never go back to air. Is there a logical cooling need for it anymore, not really. is it 100% safe, no. can you get better OC's, not necessarily. does it look and feel awesome to have a full loop going...yes!

The best advantages to water to me is optimal cooling while also being quiet. radiators have grown in size, loops have changed some. but good air cooling can be loud (like the newer video cards have been as of late). I wish they'd release some with waterblocks already attached as they should be hooked into a loop. lol
 

rigurat

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It is if you value cooling performance and low noise.

Just remember that a single leak has the potential to destroy your PC. It also makes your PC heavier, so expect it to be less mobile. Depending on the person, setting it up can be either a fun experience or a nightmare, it does get messy.

Don't forget about maintenance, it's not like air cooling where a can of compressed air is good enough, with watercooling you'll need to break it down and clean it over the sink, not fun for me!
 

SonDa5

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If you're not doing extreme overclocking, and if you're not doing SLI or Crossfire, is there still an advantage to watercooling?
At what point does it make sense to make the leap from high end air (TRUE, Titan Fenrir, Meghalems, etc.) to low-end water? I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.


For the needs that you question I don't think a high end water loop is needed.

Water cooling to me is about getting the best 24/7 cooling possible for an over clocked system.
 

Skoobs

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i think a lot of people do it for the coolness factor, and/or a need to "tinker"

i definitely need to tinker, and building a water cooling loop was a fun tinkering experience. plus, my computer will be crazy silent and my temps will be better, which is a plus. i was running an h50 with a delta fan but my girl and i couldnt hear movies at night when we had to keep the volume down. i switched to2000rpm rans in push/pull with 2x shrouds, and it got MUCH quieter. now im going to have a hardware labs SR1 with 5 fans on it, each with a shroud of its own, and im going to run the 2000 rpm fans at 60%. should be whisper quiet and have even better performance than the delta on the h50.

so i guess the only relevant thing is that im accomplishing two things. quiet and the urge to tinker.

i dont mind noise on a day to day basis, but i didnt think about the fact that it would drown out the episodes of star trek haha
 

CustomModAddict

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Well my water cooling began with my first series build about 6 years ago, and some little website "ExtremeSystems.com". And it was all over from there :) A few guys there found out I was an air conditioning and refrigeration technician, and then the questions just started.

For me it was a hobby to push the technology, I had an X2 3800 that I pushed to the 2.8Ghz mark, which back then was amazing. But that was on a complete custom water cool circuit, that I even used a little chilled water at times. So I would say 5 years ago yeah it was necessary for overclocking.

With the advent of cost effective phase change, the serious OC'ers get max cooling at a major expense. Gamers and hard core computer users on straight air can almost accomplish the same as water cooling. As I said tho, almost! I think when you throw 2 480 GTX in SLI 6 hard drives, 20 fans, and all the other stuff water cooling is in my opinion the safest and best choice.

Now a days guys are OC'ing these i5 and i7 chips like crazy on air, which is great, and is probably the reason why Intel is locking the chips. Because WC circuit is gonna cost money which everyone doesn't wanna do, throw on a decent air cooler cheap, something almost all can do. See IT! Dam Intel :)

I do have to admit tho, if you play your cards right with water cooling parts they work and you can use them on other systems. I have switched entire systems on to totally new boards and everything was fine. Its not always like that, but for the most part it works. Is it worth it.... time and money? Depends on what your doing with it. But for probably 80% of users, they dont need it. ITS JUST BLING!!!:cool:
 

ekuest

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yeah its definitely a bling thing now. who really needs 4.2GHz instead of 4GHz? you can get so high, and sometimes just as high as water, with a good air cooler that its really not at all worth hundreds of dollars. i see a lot of people building midrange computers, and then putting in a $250 water cooling loop, and it just seems like if they had invested that same amount in better parts, they could have a much better rig and no hassle of water everywhere. i really like water cooling, but in my current build i found that it really just wasnt worth the pain. :/
 

SonDa5

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$250 water cooling loop, and it just seems like if they had invested that same amount in better parts, they could have a much better rig and no hassle of water everywhere.


Are you stating that $250 in poor choice of liquid cooling hardware can lead to water leakage problems?


The way I look at it is if one carefully chooses the hardware and every component is top notch along with some nice over clocks a well built loop will preserve the system and allow it to operate at high over clocks.

I have too much other computer related hobby expenses planned out right now and limited budget to get the bling cooling loop that I would like to have.
 

raveux

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I have a low end loop, better than high end air cooling temps, haven't had a drop of water leave my loop in about 2 years, and experience little to no maintenance. I have 2 heavily volt modded 4850's and a very hot q9550 at 4.1, my rig is also silent - and if I can hear fans while I sleep it's to loud (rig is maybe 10ft away). Best part of all, is when I throw my i7 setup in here next week, the water block will be adequate cooling for 4+ghz and when I get 2 6970's ( in the future) I can make my own mounting hardware and experience bad ass temps, without having to get expensive air coolers every hardware upgrade. Long live WC, do it right once and it will pay for its self a few times.
 

ekuest

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Are you stating that $250 in poor choice of liquid cooling hardware can lead to water leakage problems?

nah, just the hassle of a water loop. i love sff, and every time ive put water in a sff build, its super awesome, but then it takes like an hour to take it all apart or put it back together. its nice when you have a huge tower case and everything fits easily, but for me its never been that way, and the simplicity of air coolers just sounds really appealing right now.
 

Ludovic

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1st time water cooler here... actually just bought the bits for my loop, not yet bought the guts of my next comp.

Why? Noise!

A air cooled processor is practically silent, my GTX 285 has convinced me that when I upgrade to a GTX 580 I NEED to goto water cooling. Water cooling the processor is really an after thought, but the latest high end graphics cards are just nuts when it comes to noise.
 

LibertySyclone

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Yeah its noise first for me, now that my wife and I share a desk I have to keep this beast as quite as the iMac.
I have a 120.3 rad for my 920 and its 24/7 at 4.2 now, but 4.6 is very do able, I never see load temps over 55c
 

capreppy

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I did my first WC project for the conrad factor as well as something different.

All of the parts will be re-usable when I update my sig rig to an SR-2 w/dual X5650's. I will probably upgrade the GPU at that time to a pair of GTX580's. The loop will be able to handle it because I built in extra capacity.
 

Colonel_Panic

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I'm watercooling my upcoming i7 project because I want to be able to tinker with overclocking, and I want to apply the 4 years of mechanical engineering studies I just completed :D. It is a bit of an investment in strictly hardware terms, but I think keeping the CPU at a lower temperature will increase the lifespan of the system. Another reason is probably bragging rights, which gets a little crazy on forums like this :p
 

SticKx911

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as others have said. it is important to note that even though it may be "expensive" to start. most hardware you get for a w/c setup is transferable across builds. save for maybe a vga block if you go full card or a cpu block if it needs more than just a different bracket.
 

frenchie

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Without a serious overclock on CPU and GPU and ultra power hungry components, you're fine with air. And you'll also be able to reuse whatever components you get for air cooling !! Most of the time, it's a matter of getting a new bracket.
I wouldn't let my water cooled computer on when I leave the house for a week end. Here is how I think about it : The only things that can go wrong with an air cooler, are the fans. Worst case scenario : a fan dies, the computer fries (we'll forget thermal throttling for now, even if it can save the component).
With water cooling, you can kill your computer with any of those components : the fans, the pump, a leak (it might survive if just one fan dies, but so will it with a well built air cooled PC).
I love watercooling, but I really think it's only advantage is for a triple SLI ultra powerfull rig with a huge processor.

As for noise, same thing. A well built air cooled PC will be just as quiet as a water cooled PC.
 

guitarslingerchris

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Frenchie, if you're seriously worried about your watercooling dying or leaking on you over the course of a weekend then I don't think you're building it right. I've taken my systems all over the US to various LANs and it takes quite a beating on the trips there and back in the back seat of my truck.

Another nice thing is that, assuming I'm not under full load my system right now is so overkill that it's not necessary at all to even run the fans on the radiator which is one of the benefits of reusing parts from past builds :)
 

weuntouchable

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I've been water cooling for about six years and have re-used components from my first system into my current one. I do it for a mix of cooler temperatures and a quieter pc, with more emphasis on the quiet part. Its a pain to setup, a pain to take down, and a pain to add in new components; but once you get things to where you want them its worth it. I generally change the water yearly and that is the only maintenance I do.

I currently have an i7 920 and 4870X2 in a single loop cooled by a Black Ice Pro 2x120mm radiator. My temps never exceed the mid 60s and the noise level versus stock cooling is night and day. Water isn't for everyone as it has some potential drawbacks, but I've found it be well worth it for my needs.
 

ekuest

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As for noise, same thing. A well built air cooled PC will be just as quiet as a water cooled PC.

unfortunately, as anyone whos had a high-end gpu will tell you, this isnt true. when i got my 4870x2, i could hear it over games with the sound pretty high. once i changed out the thermal pads and paste, i couldnt hear it over games any more but it was still very audible at night or when gaming with the volume fairly low. with my 5850 ive never even noticed the noise, but people with dual-gpu cards, 480s, etc just cant make a quiet air-cooled computer no matter what.
 

frenchie

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I agree with you ekuest, but those cards are really power hungry monsters (250+W tdp if I'm not mistaken) and yes, in that case (and pretty much in the case of any single component that uses more than 200W) water is the way to go for quiet and efficent. And water does give you a cool looking setup too :)
 

LEVESQUE

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Definitely worth it with high-end GPUs. My Tri-Fire set-up: 5970+5870 was crazy loud with stock coolers!. And one of my friend got a SLI set-up, 2X GTX480, and it is CRAZY loud!!!

I can't tolerate those screaming jet engine. My system is totally silent, even when heavily OCed (GPUs and CPU). So it was worth it to me. I can't believe it when people write that their 480 SLI set-up ''is not that loud''. I think they all deserve those Star Trek double facepalm pics. :)
 

fullvietFX

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I've always wanted to go water but I'm always too chicken. H50/H70 in my opinion isn't really going water, well technically it is but it's not what I consider hardcore water cooling. I had the H50 myself but chose to keep my Zalman 9900A over it. Loudest thing in my computer now is my HDD. One day though when I get the balls I'll go all out water.
 

SonDa5

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I've always wanted to go water but I'm always too chicken. H50/H70 in my opinion isn't really going water, well technically it is but it's not what I consider hardcore water cooling..

But if H50/H70 can cool similar to an expensive water loop it seems like a good deal. Plus it's a real liquid cooler.



I have been thinking about making a loop with a 360 radiator. I have done the pricing and for the hardware that I would like in the loop I would be spending close to $300.


I think I would have a blast building the loop.

The BIG question that I have in my mind is "Will this cool significantly better than my H50".

To me it is about cooling for over clocking and value. My modded Corsair H50 seems to do very well for my system. Not sure if a HW Black ICE GTX 360 radiator loop would cool significantly better.
 
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weuntouchable

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I've always wanted to go water but I'm always too chicken. H50/H70 in my opinion isn't really going water, well technically it is but it's not what I consider hardcore water cooling. I had the H50 myself but chose to keep my Zalman 9900A over it. Loudest thing in my computer now is my HDD. One day though when I get the balls I'll go all out water.

As long as you take the necessary precautions and properly test everything before attaching it to your computer its really not that big of a risk. I had a leak once due to a plastic clamp fitting wearing out. It was a small leak and aside from getting things wet it didn't do any damage. I dried things out and left the case open over night, the next day everything was fine. It did make me switch to compression and worm drive clamps. Do the research and properly test and cooling with water won't be hardly any risk at all.
 

Colonel_Panic

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what do you mean? it depends on the card and on personal noise preferences.

I mean GTX480 and other high end cards now operate at 90 degree+ temperatures. Sooner or later they'll be putting out so much heat that air cannot properly cool the cards, especially in SLI configuration. If you check out some videos of 480s in triple and quad SLI, the top card is almost 20 degrees cooler than the bottom one.
 

Cat1yst

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There are a couple questions to ask.

How neat are you?
How willing are you to not take shortcuts?
How patient are you?
How much do you like to maintain your computer?

I answered NO to all of these, but i still managed to pull together a loop even though i was demotivated...
 

Omegas

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I enjoyed it for a little while till my pump leaked and took out a $125 PSU. Granted a leaking pump is almost unheard of but I still can't go back just yet. Maybe next build, who knows. Was fun though!
 

SonDa5

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The more I think about making a custom water loop the more it interest me.

I'm really thinking about building a custom water loop now.

Why is it worth it to me?

1. Number one reason is enjoyment of building it. I love building stuff.
2. Cooling should be better than my Corsair H50.
3. It is another chapter of computer building that I have yet to explore.
4. Last but most important goes back to number 1 reason. I'm having fun thinking about it and seeing
my plan come to reality is magic to me.
 
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scook9

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While watercooling is never necessary, it is often quite fun (assuming you do not damage anything!) and looks awesome once done. It also really helped demystify it for me after doing it.
 
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I'm addicted so it wouldn't matter much if air-cooling were somehow better. I did take the video card out of the loop a while back (frequent upgrades, PITA) and had planned on adding a second loop for video. Never got around to it since I've been busy with other things for the past several years.

Still running my old water-cooled Opteron as my main rig; 3GHz for close to 5 years now; just ran Prime95 for 12 hours and Memtest86 for 8 last week and it's still rock-stable.
 

index1489

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Same here next built because I want it to be slient, and because I want it to try something different.
 

Flopper

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I used watercooling for several years.
with the high end air I switched it out for a meghalem cooler.
I can run 4.2ghz with it at a i7 950 and even if temps at load goes up its stable for my purpose (gaming/surfing).

Its as some people here noted not worth it for most, at 4ghz and above the difference isnt that big and high end air reach that easily.
Now, then we can consider other things like, noise, temp, geek factor, tinkering.
I am a dabbler, I often test and run different things for a time to test them out,
so I likely will trow back the water set up, find out if I get this chip stable at 4.5ghz and can run it for 24/7 if so, I am sticking to that for now.
The upcoming sandy bridge might change this around due to high end air might be as good as watercooling except the last few procents.

I build air systems, silent as people even wondered if the machine was running with 4 harddrives in it.
Its all fun ;)

You can build so many different systems so it all comes down to ones own preference.
 

Mr. K6

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While most high end air cooling is good enough for all but the most extreme CPU overclocks, I've found water cooling really shines with video cards. The $50 MCW80 I added to my loop can keep my 5850 @ 1050MHz between 35-38C at load. No air cooler can do that, especially while being silent like my setup.
 
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