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Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Conclusion

Few liquid-cooling companies cater to the high-end desktop chassis market, and we’re glad to add Zalman to the list. But is there any reason to choose its LQ1000 over a similarly priced Koolance PC5-1326SL-based kit? The answer is complicated, because it depends on what kind of user you are.

Cooling components occupied the top two bays of the Koolance system, giving Zalman the lead for external drive support. On the other hand, the PC5-1326SL had six internal bays, compared to four on the LQ1000. The total number of usable bays on both cases is nine, so the LQ1000 can be “made equal” in hard drive support through the use of bay adapters.

The PC5-1326SL does have a clear advantage over the LQ1000 in interior space, however. The LQ1000 has barely enough room to support today’s largest consumer graphics cards, and there’s no room to insert power cables on the leading edge of slightly shorter cards, such as the HD 4870, once these cards are installed. Zalman’s LQ1000 further hinders certain graphics configurations by blocking the bottom slot with a tall pump and with its questionably positioned water line, though the blocked slot can usually be addressed by replacing a double-slot graphics card cooler with a single-slot GPU water block.

The big Koolance case even has enough space for extended ATX motherboards, but its extra length could prevent it from fitting on your desk. A little over 23” long, it will at least stick out beyond the monitor and keyboard when placed on a large two-foot deep desk. The wheels might suggest that you’ll want to stick it on the floor beside your desk, but front-panel ports along the lower edge demand desktop placement.

Koolance has a larger radiator and more powerful fans, so we’re certain that if we added enough devices, its PC5-1326SL would eventually take a performance lead over the LQ1000. Koolance also offers a far better variety of graphics water blocks than Zalman does. Add the PC5-1326SL’s better interior space and a weight advantage of 10 pounds compared to the heavyset LQ1000, and the PC-1326SL begins to look like a gamer’s best friend.

Zalman does have a huge advantage over Koolance in the area of noise, and we can’t possibly stress this difference enough to users who sit at their desks for extended periods of time. At low fan and pump speeds, the PC5-1326SL starts out as slightly bothersome—and the level of annoyance progresses throughout a workday. At higher PC5-1326SL cooling system speeds, you’d better wear headphones.

The LQ1000’s cooling system is barely audible at low speed and even its highest-speed noise level is hardly more noticeable than the PC5-1326SL’s lowest settings. Innovative design, relatively small external dimensions, and superb quietness make the LQ1000 the perfect companion for discriminating power users.

So what about our hand-picked SBM case and cooling configuration? It performed adequately at a noise level only slightly lower than the Koolance PC5-1326SL’s lowest setting, which makes it look like a top value, given the $200 price difference. However, our custom-assembled cooling system can’t be “turned up” when more cooling is needed, and it’s very time consuming to assemble. Because of its moderate noise level, our custom assembly is also unlikely to appeal to the folks who’d be inclined to buy Zalman’s LQ1000.

  • or buy a cheap case... mod it with a 50 $ dremel... and then add your own watercooling setup and get much better cooling performance...

    thats what i'm going to do... not buy some case w/ water cooling.... unless its like a modded lian-li case... but those are like 800 bucks... so no thanks
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Whoa the 4870 is still a pretty hot one even with that massive Koolance radiator. I wonder if that can be improved using a custom build with 2 separate loops and radiators - would be a bit more hassle though. Also be interesting to see how it compares to a 4870 X2 - my first assumption would be the X2 is hotter but that might not be the case as there could be a larger flow and surface area to allow for more heat dissipation. If your talking W/C for silent running, then custom built systems with big passive radiators (Toyota anyone?) and a good pump or 2 has to be the only true solution. Otherwise you're just running fans like an air cooling rig and the name of the game is still who has the quietest one..
    Reply
  • yadge
    nerrawgWhoa the 4870 is still a pretty hot one even with that massive Koolance radiator. I wonder if that can be improved using a custom build with 2 separate loops and radiators - would be a bit more hassle though. Also be interesting to see how it compares to a 4870 X2 - my first assumption would be the X2 is hotter but that might not be the case as there could be a larger flow and surface area to allow for more heat dissipation. If your talking W/C for silent running, then custom built systems with big passive radiators (Toyota anyone?) and a good pump or 2 has to be the only true solution. Otherwise you're just running fans like an air cooling rig and the name of the game is still who has the quietest one..
    I'm pretty sure the videocards weren't water cooled.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    thogromor buy a cheap case...Yea but alot of cheap cases are fugly.
    Reply
  • nerrawg
    Hehe whoops you're right - I guess I should have looked at the pics - no wonder it was so hot. Don't understand why they didn't use some splitters and cool 4870beast #1. Can't see how you can complain about noise and temp when you're not even using your full 750-1000W water cooling capasity. Also good eye editor on changing frames per sec to temperature celsius on graph X axis.
    Reply
  • gaiden
    nice info, though i'm not sure, as hardware gets smaller - lesser heat, would i need a water-cooled setup. personally i think fan setup with a top of the line HS would do plenty. the TJ-09 and Lian Li's are very well built - i have a 7 fan setup + IFX-14 in a lian li 2100 plus II cant hear anything at all. (though it really helps to get good fans :) for GPU's there are several 'spot-cooler' options. overall 7-8 'good' fans + 1 'awesome' cooler would cost only less than 1/2 of the $500 TH spent on water-cooled solution, and the air-cooled should improve air movement inside the case as well.
    Reply
  • stoner133
    I find it strange that the video card temps are so high, I run a Koolance system and using their waterblocks on both of my 4870's in crossfire my temps never get above 42c after hours of playing Crysis and my coolent reaches the GPU's after it goes thru the CPU waterblock. The two degree temp difference does happen, AOD does show the first card at 40c while the second is 42c.
    Reply
  • stoner133
    thogromor buy a cheap case... mod it with a 50 $ dremelhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dremel ... and then add your own watercooling setup and get much better cooling performance... thats what i'm going to do... not buy some case w/ water cooling.... unless its like a modded lian-lihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lian_Li case... but those are like 800 bucks... so no thanksThe Koolance cases are modded Lian Li cases and there no where near $800, they start at just under $400 and go to just over $600
    Reply
  • Shadow703793
    They could have silver plated the Koolance CPU-340 block instead of gold plating it (silver > than gold in heat transfer).

    These kits are worth an entire PC so imo, I would mod it my self. It's not that hard to do, providing you have the time to do it.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    9463632 said:
    The Koolance cases are modded Lian Li cases and there no where near $800, they start at just under $400 and go to just over $600

    The case with no pump, water block, or reservoir is $400, but what do you do without the parts? A basic liquid cooling kit from Koolance, complete with only the needed parts, starts at around $600.

    Also notice:

    Test Configuration
    Liquid cooling often offers excellent cooling capacity, but that wouldn’t matter much if hot case air destabilized another part of the system. In order to test both, we used an overclockedhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overclocking Intel Core 2 Quad processor to heat the liquid and a pair of HD 4870http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radeon_R700 X2 graphics cards to heat the air.

    Graphics was left air-cooled to help determine effectiveness of case airflow. It would have been even better to use two 4850's for that, since they don't vent outside the case.
    Reply