Water Coolers: Four Power Kits Starting at 200 Dollars


Water Cooling Systems For 200 Dollars: Innovatek Vs. Swiftech

For real gung-ho overclockers, the only CPU cooling system even worth considering is a powerful water cooler. These overclocking fanatics usually remain far removed from the madding crowd of fans of the low-grade, conventional coolers on the market. After all, there's something exhilarating about causing a stir at the next big LAN party. And nothing will earn more respect and admiration from the hardware fan as a water cooler. In fact, water cooling systems are some of the best cooling solutions for PC processors available on the market. Sales for water coolers, however, have remained subdued, which can be explained by their incredibly high prices.

One important difference between the newer and older water cooling systems is that the newer systems turn out to be surprisingly rugged when it comes to installing and handling them. Long gone are the days when this kind of system was only available as a pre-assembled PC. The whole kit and caboodle isn't cheap, though - for example, the cooler sets we tested will run you at least 200 dollars. This is a far cry from the 25 dollars you have to shell out for a run-of-the-mill cooler. However, these kits have a cooling capacity that is far superior to that of any available air cooler.

Today's classic coolers, consisting of a metal heat sink and a fan, are trapped in a Catch-22: the trade-off for high cooling capacity is a very high operating noise level, which is caused by the higher fan speed. Basically, nothing can be done about this problem, since noise levels increase proportionately with increasing fan speeds. Even your best designed standard cooler can't begin to compete with a standard water cooling system. This is nothing new, though. We have been testing water cooling sets in our laboratory during the past several weeks. These four kits (two each from Innovatek and Swiftech) are more innovative than the coolers previously available on the market.

The cooling systems we tested cannot be installed on an Intel Pentium 4 platform based on Socket 423 or Socket 478. Instead, all four kits are intended for use with the Socket 462 (AMD Athlon and Duron) and Socket 370 (Intel Pentium III and Celeron II). They are ideal for use with overclocked AMD processors with a Thunderbird or Palomino core.

This time around, we are using a new testing procedure: new testing equipment in our lab subjects each cooler to a constant, precise amount of heat, thereby allowing us to display a time/ temperature heating curve for each cooler.