Liquid cooling has become infinitely more accessible with plug-and-play AIO solutions, but those lack some of the efficacy and all of the aesthetics. Open loop liquid cooling is alive and well in the enthusiast market; it's a niche of a niche, and one that's satisfied by few manufacturers. We had a chance to stop over at Thermaltake's offices while making the City of Industry circuit last week, and used some of that time to film a brief tutorial on hard tube bending.
It felt like filming a cooking show, at times. The format was similar, but it worked well for this process. Open loop liquid cooling is done with either soft tubing or hard tubing, the latter of which must be heated (with a heat gun) to make necessary bends within the system. Soft tubing is more easily manipulated and is as “plug and play” as it gets with an open loop, though “plug and play” isn't really desirable with open loops. Once you're this deep in cooling, best to go all the way.
PETG hard tubing is more leak resistant by nature of the mounting. Hard tubes are less likely to slip off of their mounting barbs with age or transport (fluid between the tube and its mounting point can lubricate the tube, causing a slip and slow leakage). The downside, as with the rest of open loop cooling, is entirely the time requirement and cost increase. Granted, compared to the rest of the loop, hard tubing cost can start to feel negligible.
We might soon be building a wet bench for open loop liquid cooling, as we're starting to receive GPUs with water blocks for testing. Today, we've got a brief hard tube bending tutorial with Thermaltake's Thermal Mike to lead us into our future open loop content. Take a look at that below:
This week's news announcements include AMD AM4 Zen chipset naming (rumors, technically), NZXT's new RGB LED 'Aer' fans, and a pair of cases from Rosewill and Cooler Master.
AMD's initial AM4 chipset announcement was made at PAX, where the B350, A320, and XBA300 chipsets were announced for mainstream and low-end Gen 7 APUs. The high-end Zen chipset for Summit Ridge was concealed during this announcement, but is now known to be the X370 platform.
X370 will ship alongside the Summit Ridge CPUs and will add to the lanes available for high-speed IO devices, mostly SATA and new generation USB. Most of the IO with the Zen architecture will be piped through the CPU itself, with what remains of the chipset acting more as an IO controller than a full chipset.
This week's Ask GN episode answers viewer questions about FinFET vs. Planar, the impact of cooling on power consumption, CPU load for 120Hz / 144Hz displays, liquid cooler testing, and a few extras. We spend most the time talking liquid coolers and cooler testing – a fitting topic, having done multiple “Hybrid” video card builds lately.
The full list of questions with their timestamps can be found below the video. Thanks to our viewers for the questions and, as always, post more in the video comments on YouTube for inclusion in next week's episode.
German manufacturer Be Quiet! has released its latest line of ultra-quiet fans – the SilentWings 3, first found in the Dark Base 900 that we saw at Computex. Be Quiet! is a company whose name backs most product roll-outs, as representative Christoph Katzer explained to us. The company focuses heavily on build quality and silence, and the new SilentWings 3 fans have been redesigned with fluid-dynamic bearings, now using brass cores and seven blades that have a funnel-shaped design. The frame is rubberized to enable a reported near-inaudible sound level – according to Be Quiet!, the 120mm model produces 16.4 decibels and the 140mm model 15.5 decibels. To put that into perspective, someone whispering is about 30 decibels. The rubberized design also reduces vibration levels to further mitigate noise.
We looked at Be Quiet!'s Dark Base 900 PC case at Computex and were impressed. The SilentWings 3 fans debuted in the DB900, about 3 months prior to launch individually, so owners of the DB900 are already equipped with the new fans.
Thermal testing for cases, coolers, CPUs, and GPUs requires very careful attention to methodology and test execution. Without proper controls for ambient or other variables within a lab/room environment, it's exceedingly easy for tests to vary to a degree that effectively invalidates the results. Cases and coolers are often fighting over one degree (Celsius) or less of separation, so having strict tolerances for ambient and active measurements of diodes and air at intake/exhaust helps ensure accurate data.
We recently put our methodology to the test by borrowing time on a local thermal chamber – a controlled environment – and checking our delta measurements against it. GN's thermal testing is conducted in a lab on an open-loop HVAC system; we measure ambient constantly (second-to-second) with thermocouples, then subtract those readings from diode readings to create a delta value. For the thermal chamber, we performed identical methodology within a more tightly controlled environment. The goal was to determine if the delta value (within the chamber) paralleled the delta value achieved in our own (open air) labs, within reasonable margin of error; if so, we'd know our testing is fully accurate and properly accounts for ambient and other variables.
The chamber used has climate control functions that include temperature settings. We set the chamber to match our normal lab temps (20C), then checked carefully for where the intake and exhaust are setup within the chamber. This particular unit has slow, steady intake from the top that helps circulate air by pushing it down to an exhaust vent at the bottom. It'd just turn into an oven, otherwise, as the system's rising temps would increase ambient. This still happens to some degree, but a control module on the thermal chamber helps adjust and regulate the 20C target as the internal temperature demands. It's the control module which is the most expensive, too; our chaperone told us that the units cost upwards of $10,000 – and that's for a 'budget-friendly' approach.
We've got to give it to marketing – “Wraith” is a good name; certainly better than “Banshee,” which is what the previous AMD cooler should have been named for its shrill wailing. The Wraith cooler substantially improves the noise-to-thermals ratio for AMD's stock units, and is a cooler we hope to see shipping with future Zen products.
At its max 2900 RPM, the Wraith produces thermals that are effectively identical to what the old cooler accomplishes at ~5500 RPM (see below chart). Running the old cooler at a comparable 2900 RPM results in a delta of ~14.3% warmer than the Wraith. This is all noted in our thermal review of the Wraith. What we didn't note, however, was the dBA / noise output. In this video, we compare the noise levels of AMD's two stock coolers for the FX-8370 CPU -- the Wraith and the 'old' unit.
AMD's new “Wraith” CPU cooler makes a few engineering changes: Overall surface area of the aluminum heatsink has increased 24%, the fan has been heavily modified from the previous stock cooler (which should be named the “banshee,” given its shrill output), and it's got an LED. We first got eyes-on with the Wraith at CES 2016, but have returned today with in-house validation of CPU cooler performance.
Today marks the list date of AMD's new Wraith CPU cooler, which will accompany “specially marked” processors for no added cost, we're told. The Wraith replaces AMD's old stock cooler, pictured in this article, though both products will remain shipping. The FX-8370 units with the old cooler will sell for a new, dropped price. MSRP stands at $200 for the FX-8370 Wraith Edition, as we're calling it, bumping the non-Wraith FX-8370 down to $190. That's a $10 difference for the denser cooler with LED back-light – now just to determine whether the $10 is worthwhile.
This review benchmarks AMD's Wraith CPU cooler vs. the original stock AMD CPU cooler, then throws-in an aftermarket air cooler for comparison. We modulate fan RPMs between the two AMD coolers to get a feel for overall efficiency and noise-thermal trade-offs.
Corsair’s CES suite warrants a few articles and videos, not the least of which includes a forthcoming interview on the topic of case manufacturing and tooling. The company’s newest lineup of cases – the Spec-Alpha, 600C (that we reviewed), and 400C – largely dotted the room, though our focus is on an update to Corsair Link.
Corsair Link is the company’s software utility for commanding “i” suffixed products and PWM-enabled fans. The H100i and HXi PSUs are enduring examples, both of which have some level of monitoring and control access through the software. It seems everyone’s got their own software these days, too – NZXT has CAM, peripheral manufacturers offer innumerable programs of varying utility and bloat, board manufacturers provide “smart” utilities that tap-in to the higher-level UEFI for OS layer firmware management. The idea isn’t new, but execution at a level of legitimate usefulness and stability is new; outside of reviews, our staff rarely goes on to continue use of applications required to change fan speeds and LED colors due to general sluggishness or instability.
SilverStone’s Raven RV02 enclosure was once a chart-topper in our bench, laying claim to thermal superiority by taking risks. The RV02 uniquely approached system configuration by rotating the motherboard 90-degrees clockwise, a move that slipstreamed intake from three bottom-mounted, 180mm fans into the video card and CPU cooler. All of the air exhausted through a single top fan, creating a “Stack Effect” solution that yielded high-performance cooling for the GPU and CPU.
It’s been a while since the RV02 came out and made its splash and – a fact we didn’t learn until months after our review – that case was dust-prone, resultant of its positive pressure and all-bottom intake setup. We’ve been due for another risk-taker in the market.
Corsair today officially launches its new 600C and 600Q cases, each deploying an inverted motherboard design and strongly highlighting cooling efficiency. In the 600C/Q, the motherboard is not only rotated by 180-degrees, but inverted – it’s on the right side of the case, rather than the left. Without front-facing I/O, this is the only way to pull-off a 180-degree motherboard rotation. The models are differentiated by the right side panel (which, remember, is the access panel to the board): the 600Q (“quiet”) sacks the window in favor of a steel panel with sound-damping material; the 600C spotlights internals with its large window, somewhat similar to the company’s 760T arrangement (though not glass). The 600C/Q cases are each priced at $150.
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