We all know that water conducts heat much more efficiently than air, but is it so effective that a water-cooling kit can run without any fans? That’s what we wanted to test with Innovatek’s SET passive water-cooling kit, which foregoes the standard radiator/fan setup in exchange for a massive external radiator that can either be bolted to the side of your case or stand on its own little feet. We expected the passive cooler to run super hot and cause instability with our test system, but we were totally wrong.
As stated previously, the radiator is passive, meaning it moves heat from the system and out of its heat exchanger without using fans. In a typical fan-based setup, water flows through tiny channels in a radiator and the heat moves from the water into the cooling fins.
A fan blows cool air over the fins in order to blast heat out of the system. With smaller radiators, or radiators placed inside a case, a fan is absolutely necessary in order to dissipate heat from the radiator, but with a huge external radiator, a fan isn’t needed—after all, the device isn’t surrounded by smoldering hardware. External radiators are also sublimely easy to set up (just set it on your desk), don’t occupy precious space inside your case, and operate in absolute silence thanks to their fanless nature.
Aside from its beautiful radiator, the rest of the SET kit uses standard water-cooling parts. The XX-Flow CPU cooler is ridiculously easy to mount, though it does require motherboard removal. We also attached a Micro II hard drive water block, which mounts below the drive. It kept our WD Raptor lukewarm, even under a full load. Unfortunately, the HDD water block will only mount in a drive cage that doesn’t use slots for the drives, as it extends below the allotted drive space.
In our circuit, water flowed from the pump to the radiator, then to the CPU block, onto the HDD block, and then back to the 12V pump/reservoir. The instructions call for the pump to be hard-mounted to the case, which requires you to drill holes in the bottom of your case. Though time-consuming, this method insures that the pump won’t vibrate, shift, or topple over, and it’s better than using an adhesive pad that will muck up your case should you decide to remove the kit some day. The SET kit uses skinny Â¼-inch tubing, which sacrifices all-out cooling performance for easier tube routing and less susceptibility to kinking. Tubes attach to blocks via screw-on compression fittings that are simple to operate.
As our benchmarks show, the SET kit performs impressively. Its full-load temp of 50 C is totally acceptable, and its 13 C delta from idle to load is fantastic. The kit even goes toe-to-toe with the $400 Koolance Exos 2 (reviewed in August), which is also an external unit, though the Exos has an unfair advantage because it uses two 12cm adjustable-speed fans to cool a massive radiator. To keep it fair, we’re only comparing the temps from the Exos 2 with its fans set to their lowest speed. Because the SET kit doesn’t support LGA775 sockets, we couldn’t test it on our regular Intel-based test bed, only on our Athlon 64 rig.
Our only complaint is that while we had no trouble configuring the kit, a beginner could be confused by the bewildering instructions; they’re mostly text with very few photos and diagrams. Its overclocking performance wasn’t super impressive, but that’s not the kit’s goal—it’s to keep your PC cool and quiet, and in this respect it totally succeeds.
— Josh Norem
Month Reviewed: November 2005
COPPER BLOCK: Totally silent, great performance, easy to install, and elegant.
COPPER ON YOUR TAIL: Instructions are not newb-friendly; pricey.
|INNOVATEK SET||KOOLANCE EXOS 2||STOCK HEATSINK/FAN|
Best scores are bolded. All temperatures were measured from the onboard sensors using the utilities provided by the motherboard manufacturer. Idle termperatures were measured after 30 minutes of inactivity and full-load temps were achieved by running CPU Burn-in for one hour.