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Nathan Edwards

Jul 12, 2008

Cooler Master Aquagate Max

At A Glance

Rome

Powerful cooling, beautiful appearance, software-based control of fan speeds.

Sparta

Meager ESA functionality; short fan cords force you to mount radiator near reservoir.

We never said water cooling was simple, and Cooler Master’s Aquagate Max doesn’t make the delicate assembly process any easier. But once you connect your last run of 3/8-inch tubing to this beastly setup, you’ll have accomplished two goals: doubling your geek cred and giving your processor an awesome heap of non-peltier cooling.


The Aquagate Max comes with its own coolant additive that gives the kit a neon-green glow.

Both the kit’s 120-gallon-per-hour pump and 260ml reservoir fit within a monstrous black-and-green enclosure that takes up two 5.25-inch bays. Two holes on the enclosure’s face indicate how much fluid is in your reservoir and allow you to wonder why the Aquagate’s flow indicator is spinning so slowly. The pump is half as strong as the market’s best (the Laing D5), but it’s still powerful, leading us to believe that the indicator is improperly placed if Cooler Master intended for it to do anything more than sluggishly rotate.

This is the first Enthusiast System Architecture-certified water-cooling device we’ve tested. Two sensors you attach to the tubing report information back to an Nvidia software GUI, which lets you adjust the speed of the two 12cm fans attached to the Aquagate’s 30x14x7cm aluminum radiator. The only other information presented in the GUI is the temperature of the coolant and the reservoir’s fluid level; we expected far more options than that, such as the ability to control pump RPMs or automatically vary fan speeds against temperatures.

While the din of the Aquagate’s fans will keep your neighbors up at night, the cooler performs impressively. It cools a bit better than the best air cooler we’ve tested, Thermaltake’s DuOrb (July 2008), in both our CPU idle and burn-in tests. And its large size allows it to bully smaller all-in-one water-cooling kits—like its predecessor, the Aquagate S1—right off the benchmark chart.

The installation process is taxing, but the cooler’s overall prowess is worth the payoff, making the Aquagate Max our water-cooling kit of choice. But if ESA is where the future of cooling is headed, we’re curious to see what other manufacturers­, or even a Cooler Master firmware update, might offer.

Benchmarks

CM Aquagate Max Thermaltake DuOrb
Stock Cooler
Idle (C) 32.0
34.0
40.0
100% Burn (C)
46.0
51.0 66.0
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity. Load temperatures were measured after an hour’s worth of CPU Burn-In (four instances). Test system consists of a stock-clock Q6700 processor on an EVGA 680i motherboard.
THE VERDICT

Cooler Master Aquagate Max

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