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How much better is water cooling vs. air cooling?

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February 23, 2011 5:02:08 PM

Hey guys,

I know this is a pretty general question, but I've never looked into water cooling at all yet...so need a good place to start. Links and advice appreciated.

I plan to be building an i5-2500K system within 1 year. I would like to do as much OC'ing as possible without ruining the longevity of the cpu. It looks like a decent air cooler that's frequently recommended would be the CM Hyper 212+ for $33.98. I haven't really seen any recommendations for a water cooler yet, but it looks like this one is fairly popular CORSAIR CWCH50-1 for $65.99.

What are the arguments for and against water cooling vs. air? Are there enough benefits to WC to justify 2 times the price (assuming the 2 items mentioned are at least decent examples)?

Thanks,
-TG
a c 324 K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:07:25 PM

The H50 is not watercooling.

With a real watercooling loop, you can expect to see temps in the mid 40's C at load. GPUs, the same. Each run (on average) CPU- 60's C at load, GPU- 80's C at load.

The links in my signature have an immense amount of information about watercooling.

What is your budget? What do you want cooled?
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February 23, 2011 5:15:47 PM

rubix_1011 said:
The H50 is not watercooling.

With a real watercooling loop, you can expect to see temps in the mid 40's C at load. GPUs, the same. Each run (on average) CPU- 60's C at load, GPU- 80's C at load.

The links in my signature have an immense amount of information about watercooling.

What is your budget? What do you want cooled?


Well, I'm trying to build a super value system, so the CORSAIR CWCH50-1 for $65.99 was at the top of the budget I'm looking to spend. I'm assuming most "real" water coolers are more expensive than that? I doubt I'll really "see" much difference anyway from OC'ing a i5-2500K and a 560 Ti/6950 for playing WoW.

What is the CORSAIR CWCH50-1 for $65.99 if not a water cooler, and how much lower than air can it bring the cpu temp?
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a b K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:28:19 PM

The H50 will not work as well as a good air cooler, the I5 2500K does not run very hot so something like a hyper 212+ should do the job fine.
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a b K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:29:30 PM


The Corsair cooler kind of needs to get the fan replaced, and run with two good fans, which brings the price quite a bit higher, and it will still not surpass the best high end air coolers which costs less.
Yes, real water cooling is more expensive, to get the most bare bone kit will cost around $150-$175, and that will let you cool the CPU.

For WoW, besides the Corsair would not do as good/better than high end coolers, you will not know any difference. Toms did a test recently which shows Intel CPUs will run WoW maxed on 2 cores, so the i5-2500K will have no problems running it, at all.
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a c 324 K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:31:07 PM

It's a self-contained liquid cooler, but not regarded as watercooling.

You are better off spending less money on the 212+ if those are your choices. For less than $100, stick to air.
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a b K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:36:15 PM

If you want a "super value system" then you can get good air coolers for less than $50. They are easier to deal with and will still control temps for a good overclock.

This will be a real crude generalization, but in the past I've noticed that people can get about 10% more speed when overclocking with a good water cooling system compared to a good air cooler, and a good water cooling system is expensive and a lot of trouble. The few economical water cooling systems that I've seen tested did not perform very well.
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a c 324 K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 5:40:26 PM

LCS loops like the H50, H70, Coolit, etc perform poorly in most cases...the H70 is 'average' but expensive for the actual performance you get.

Watercooling 'kits' like Thermaltake Bigwater, Zalman Reserator, Larkooler, etc. are based off of poorly built waterblocks, poor radiators and weak pumps.

There are other 'kits' that perform better, but it sounds like the OP already has his answer.
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Best solution

a c 145 K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 6:09:25 PM

TopGun said:
What is the CORSAIR CWCH50-1 for $65.99 if not a water cooler, and how much lower than air can it bring the cpu temp?


The H50 is a Corsair rebranding of the Asetek LC550. Antec also sells an improved design as the Kuhler 620. Here's a comparison (benchmarkreviews.com) of performance with the H50, 620 and some of the high end air coolers (stock fans):

Corsair H50 73.1
Prolimatech Super Mega 67.2
Antec Kühler H2O 620 65.9
Thermalright Venomous X 63.0
Cooler Master V6 GT 61.2

As you can see, the better air coolers do about 10C better than the H50

Here's the same comparison with all using the same Delta 113 cfm fan

Corsair H50 68.1
Cooler Master V6 GT 59.5
Prolimatech Super Mega 59.4
Antec Kühler H2O 620 58.7
Thermalright Venomous X 58.0

As you can see, all of them are about 10C cooler than the H50 with the same fan

Looking at both the H50 and 620, it's hard to discern why there is such a huge performance difference. The only visible difference is that the hoses on the 620 are larger, longer and flexible.

Personally, I am rather torn and unsure what I'll start using in march / April when SB MoBos start to ship again. At the < $50 price point, the Scythe Mugen 2 Rev B stands alone. At under $100, ya can't help but look at the Cooler Master V6 GT, Prolimatech Megahalems, and Thermalright Venomous X.

The V6 GT is a bit to noisy for my tastes. I haven't grabbed a Venemous X as yet, cause I don't see an option for adding an identical 2nd fan. That's wound up with me using the Mega on all my hi end builds, which I don't mind at all because of its excellent mounting hardware.

I have spent the last year dissing the "faux water coolers" as I have labeled the H50, 620 and their like but the 620 has me rethinking my position. At $10 less the H50 (based upon Corsair's vs Antec's pricing) , it's seems like a "no brainer" if ya considering the H50 both because of the large performance difference as well as the easier installation from having flexible hoses. Its only available direct from Antec as yet (which makes it $4 more than the H50 on newegg) but expect it to be cheaper when it hist open retail channel.

http://store.antec.com/Product/cooling-cpu_cooler/kuhle...
http://www.corsair.com/cooling/hydro-series/hydro-serie...

Other advantages include noise reduction and the not to be dismissed fact that any concerns about interference between RAM modules and the cooler are eliminated. I don't like the fact that then 620's performance is somewhat gimped by the stock fan (Delta fan showed 7C improvement) but ya can't forget that so did the air coolers and the fact that Delta fan amade all but the V6 perform better. For more info:

http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...

The other thing missed in the 620 reviews is that in when installing the 620, they removed an existing case fan. I can't help but wonder how and if performance might have changed if they left that in and sandwiched the Kuhler between the case fan and the cooler's fan.
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a b K Overclocking
February 23, 2011 8:15:36 PM

Note the temps quotes above are tested on an overclocked i7 950 which generates alot more heat than a 2500K so there will be alot less difference on your rig.
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February 23, 2011 11:38:18 PM

It doesn't really look like I can beat the Scythe Mugen 2 Rev B for the kind of value I'm trying to get. I've seen it on sale for $28.99 at one point.

I don't think I can justify more than double that price for any of the WC or "faux" WC items I've seen. I doubt that I would even "need" more than the stock intel heatsink for what I'd like to do.

I do also have an old Sunbeam heatsink that I could swap from my old PC if I want to be really stingy.

If I was to get a new heatsink...say the Scythe Mugen 2 Rev B...would I want to get a better fan than what it comes with? If so, what are the suggestions?

Are they any super-sweet-looking heatsinks that perform pretty well at around that same $28.99 price-point that anyone has seen? I do like the look of the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme, ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B, and COOLER MASTER V6 GT. The leds would look pretty neat with a windowed case.

Thanks for all the info so far guys, I'm learning a ton.
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a b K Overclocking
February 24, 2011 1:22:33 AM

+1 to what Jack and Rubix has said.

Apart from that, IF your budget is ~$100 there are a few options:

1. Use older stuff. A used Swiftech GTZ, HK LT 3.0,etc can be had for relatively cheap.

2. DIY some of the things. For example, you can use $20-25 aquarium AC pump instead of a MCP655,etc. These AC pumps usually have about the same stats as a MCP655/MCP355 but may be a bit louder. Obviously, this requires some skill when it comes to mounting and I assume you have the tools to do it. But it is possible to do this and it has been done. The only draw back of going AC is that you need to build or buy a relay (~$10-20) if you want the pump to turn on/off with the PC or you can just manually turn it on/off (If your PC runs 24/7 this isn't really a problem).

3. Get a cheap radiator (ie. MCR320) or a heatercore (only if you can get it for ~$30-35).
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a c 324 K Overclocking
February 24, 2011 1:28:12 AM

^Most forums have classifieds for used gear. The one here at Tom's is pretty limited for watercooling, but over at XtremeSystems and OverClock.net, there are some pretty good ones dedicated to watercooling gear.
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March 22, 2011 3:58:26 AM

I can only give 1 best answer and all the posts were very helpful. I'm choosing the one that was most helpful to me. Sorry if I didn't get you this time.

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March 22, 2011 3:58:42 AM

Best answer selected by TopGun.
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