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LQ1000 Installation and Operation

Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Installing the LQ1000’s ZM-WB5 CPU water block begins with a bracket of the same design as other Zalman CPU heat sinks. Notice that we removed the motherboard plate for photography purposes, but this isn’t required (nor helpful) for typical installations.

Hard drives slide easily into place across rollers, where a drop-down bar retains them. A thumbscrew can provide additional security if needed. We were disappointed to find the bars made of flexible plastic, rather than a stiffer material.

We reinstalled the motherboard plate, followed by the graphics cards and RAM, before trimming and attaching coolant lines and filling and purging the air from the cooling system. Zalman recommends removing the CPU water block prior to initial purging, as doing so allows air to rise out of crevices in the water block.

Notice that very little room remains under the bottom graphics card of our CrossFire configuration. The water pump blocks longer cards from being inserted into or over the bottom slot, which could prevent several SLI systems from being used. Recent SLI motherboards typically rely on slot numbers six and seven for the graphics cards and their extra-thick coolers. For cards such as the GTX 280, the only workaround is to use liquid cooling to reduce thickness, thereby freeing up the space of the seventh slot.

Zalman could have easily opened up the lowest slot of its case by using an integrated pump/water block such as Swiftech’s Apogee Drive 350, but doing so would have required the firm to step outside of its own product line—which would be an unlikely scenario. Additionally, getting the water line “out of the way” could have been achieved by angling the elbow at the bottom of the radiator approximately 60 degrees upward.

Another potential issue for builders of high-end gaming systems is the LQ1000’s limited card length of 10 11/16”. Super-long cards such as the HD 4870 X2 and GTX-280 are a tight fit, but the real problem occurs when slightly shorter cards with power connectors on the leading edge are installed. There’s very little room to insert a power cable between the hard drive cage and a card, forcing us to first connect the power connectors to our cards, then fold the cable over far too tightly before slipping the cards into place.

The Z-Machine LQ1000 supports two operational modes: automatic and manual pump/fan speed. Manual speed is controlled by an analog dial on the front of the case, marked “Volume.” At its lowest speed, the LQ1000 is quieter than most pre-built systems, while at its highest speed, noise levels are slightly higher than the “lowest” settings of the competing Koolance PC5-1326SL. Based on the ratings of the LQ1000’s cooling fans, we estimate noise levels to be around 38 decibels at the highest settings.

Because of the thick panels and ventilated left side, the LQ1000 showed odd characteristics for containing the noise of internal components such as the fans of our graphics cards. Noise isolation when observed at 45 degrees to the right corner of the case was excellent, while the noise level from the same angle to the left side was much more unpleasant. We suggest placing the system to the left of your monitor for the best experience.

Zalman, of course, would like you to add one of its graphics water blocks to your system. But the company hasn’t released anything yet for recent high-end cards. Feel free to consider other brands of graphics water blocks if Zalman doesn’t have what you need—they’ll still work.

Finally, one issue that drove us crazy was the motherboard mounting holes, which were approximately 1/8” too high and too far forward (away from the port and slot panel). We slid the motherboard plate as far down and rearward against the case as we could, then loosened the motherboard screws and slid it as far down and rearward against the mounting plate as we could. However, we were still confronted by ports that didn’t align properly with the holes of our cover plate and cards that didn’t quite reach the mounting screws. Pushing and twisting allowed us to finish our installation, but the system wasn’t quite right. This is something that no high-end buyer should be forced to accept.

We ordered a retail LQ1000 to find out if the problem is unique to this review sample, and our findings on the retail part were just as unfortunate:

With our test motherboard in perfect alignment with the port panel and slot plate, the holes of the support plate aren’t even close to being centered on the motherboard. We further checked to be certain the problem was not a fault in our motherboard, and confirmed that the misalignment is unique to Zalman.

This type of misalignment is typically caused by rounding errors in the conversion from inches to millimeters. We have no idea why anything as modern as the ATX form factor is based on inch measurements, but the problem indicates that either Zalman made a mistake, or "everyone else" did.

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