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Test System & Benchmarks

A Beginner's Guide For WaterCooling Your PC

Now that we've gone through all this trouble to set it up, let's see what advantages this water-cooling system has afforded us.

System Hardware
Processor(s) Intel Core 2 Duo e4300
1.8 GHz (overclocked to 2250 MHz), 2 MB L2 Cache
Platform Biostar T-Force 965PT (socket 775)
Intel 965 chipset, BIOS vP96CA103BS
RAM Patriot Signature Line
1x 1024 MB PC2-6400 (CL5-5-5-16)
Hard Drive Western Digital WD1200JB
120 GB, 7,200 RPM, 8 MB cache, UltraATA/100
Networking On-board 1 Gb Ethernet
Graphics Card ATI X1900 XTX (PCIe)
512 MB GDDR3
Power Supply Koolance 1200 W
System Software & Drivers
OS Microsoft Windows XP Professional 5.10.2600, Service Pack 2
DirectX Version 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Graphics Driver ATI Catalyst 7.2

We used a Core 2 Duo platform in our test bed because the e4300 CPU is a great overclocking candidate. This let's us push the CPU a bit and see how high the temps will go with stock air-cooling versus water-cooling.

Our methodology is simple: push the e4300 as far as it will go with its stock air cooler, then benchmark it with the water cooling system and compare results. As it turned out, the e4300 was willing to go much higher than its stock 1.8 GHz. With the CPU frequency increased from a stock 1800 MHz to an overclocked 2250 MHz, the e4300 easily handled the 450 MHz over clock without a voltage increase or other problems. However, the stock cooler proved it wasn't up to the task, with the CPU temperature rising to an uncomfortable 62 degrees Celsius under load. While the core would have gone higher, we weren't happy increasing the temperature at this point so we recorded the results and installed the water-cooling system.

Before we dig in to the load temperatures in detail, let's have a look at the idle temperatures:

Idle Temperature Graph

At idle, we're seeing a respectable decrease of about 10 degrees in CPU temperature when using water-cooling. This doesn't seem like a big deal at all when we consider that the stock cooler is a low-end part and that a premium aftermarket air cooler would probably be more effective. But we have to keep in mind that water cooling cannot bring the temperature down any lower than the ambient temperature, which in our case was about 22 degrees Celsius.

When we put the system under load-a 10 minute run with the Orthos stress tester-the water-cooling setup really shows its stuff:

Load Temperature Graph

Now things are getting really interesting. The stock air cooler can't even keep the CPU below an uncomfortably high 60 degrees Celsius, but the water-cooling setup is under 50 degrees at its lowest fan speed. Not only are we running cooler, but things are much quieter than the stock CPU cooler's fan.

With the water-cooling system running fans at full tilt, the CPU is kept under 40 degrees! This is 24 degrees cooler than the stock cooler at load, and is even on par with the temperature the stock cooler provides at idle. This is a very impressive result, although at this fan speed the water-cooling system produces more noise than I'd like. The fan speed is adjustable in 10 steps however, and I can't imagine needing to run it at full power in a real-world situation. Orthos pushes the CPU harder than anything I'd use on my PC other than benchmarking, but it's interesting to see how well the water-cooling system can theoretically perform.

Finally, let's focus on the results we've had with the video card. The X1900 XTX is generally a very hot beast, but we had one of the best air coolers money can buy on it: the Thermalright HR-03. After a 10 minute stress test with Atitool's artifact tester, what advantage did water-cooling provide?

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