There comes a time in every young PC builder’s life when he seriously considers outlandish ideas for modifying and cooling his smokin’ new gaming rig. But you don’t need to mod your PC into a refrigerator to reach subzero temperatures, not if you have CoolIT’s latest 12 TEC cooler, the Boreas.
Zalman is no stranger to gigantic external liquid-cooling devices. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing its huge, tower-like Reserator coolers that we nearly choked when the 15-pound Reserator XT arrived in our Lab. For starters, it’s not a large, awkward-to-carry cylindrical column. The rectangular apparatus is comparably compact and sleek, more akin to a subwoofer than a home-theater speaker.
Sweet mercy, at first glance Koolance’s PC4-1025BK case seems like a perfect power-user box. Unfortunately, this water-cooling-enriched case is simply too small to contain certain enthusiast hardware and too complicated for the average user.
A lot of the enclosed “for newbs” water-cooling kits we see at Maximum PC are pretty lame. You get a pump/heatsink combination that’s mildly irritating to install, connected by tubing that’s slightly wider than the veins in your arm. The tubing goes to a radiator that’s often unable to handle the heat output of the processor—even with a noisy 12cm fan pushing more air through it than a jet engine. You spend half an hour installing the device for a whopping cooling difference of three degrees versus what you get from a stock air cooler.
If we could give points for looks, Cooler Master’s new Aquagate S1 liquid cooling system would rank among the top products we’ve tested. But sadly, we base our judgments on performance. This thing is supposed to be able to cool a quad core, but it’s obviously designed for CPUs less powerful than even the FX-60 in our test machine.
If Maximum PC’s tests worked like a beauty pageant, SilverStone’s Tundra TD01 might win the swimsuit competition. Talentwise, however, this water-cooling rig would be akin to your average 18-year-old girl trying to belt out “Since You’ve Been Gone.” It isn’t horrific, but it’s no Kelly Clarkson.
Swiftech’s dual-radiator Apex Ultra water-cooling kit is the current cooling record-holder (in our Lab, at least), so when the company told us it had a Micro kit that was designed to fit in tight, cramped cases, we were intrigued. Like most hardcore PC users, we assumed a small radiator couldn’t get the job done—at least without making a ton of noise. Boy, were we ever wrong.
Zalman’s Reserator is a silent, fanless cooler that needs no introduction. Though we’ve praised the previous versions of this water cooler, Zalman has seen fit to completely redesign the newest Reserator model. And in doing so, it addresses the few issues people had with earlier versions, while unceremoniously introducing a few new issues.
Koolance’s new Exos-LT is a cross between the too-expensive Exos 2 and the previous-gen Exos system. At just $200 (plus an extra $40 for a Koolance CPU block, which isn’t included), it’s the budget contender of this roundup. Of course, it’s the sole CPU-only kit in the group—if it were spec’d with extra blocks, we’d expect it to be priced like the others.