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Sunday 4 July 2004

Water cooling madness [lurks]

When I was at the CTS show earlier in the year, I saw this insane water cooling system called the Zalman Reserator 1. There's quite a lot of reviews on the net. It is, to put it frankly, the most insane thing you have ever seen. Well, I just had to try it so I put in a request to their PR firm and grabbed a review one. Here it is, next to my own PC.
What is it? It's basically a water cooling system with no fan. There's a tiny and silent pump in the bottom of that huge column thing. The column is hollow and you stuff 2.5L of water in it. It pumps water through those rather thick pipes onto your CPU and back in. The process of convection in the huge water reservoir spreads the heat through the truly bloody massive surface area of the aluminium fins.
Like a few of us, I'm running a P4 2.8GHz at about the 3.15GHz mark. That with a Vantec aeroflow fan, a pretty big ass mad air cooler and despite having a nifty TIP fan, is monstrously noisy, even with the automatic fan speed controller in use from the Asus motherboard. Under load, my CPU temp flies up to about 59C with that configuration and it does so inside of a minute. The case warms up to about 40C after a couple of hours.
Fitting the Reserator was amazingly easy and unlike my last comedy foray into water cooling (back when the manufacturers didn't understand the concept of galvanic corrosion), this thing is build very well indeed. The water block is insane and comes with a universal CPU clip. The pipes are a really thick gauge and a couple of joiners are provided which you basically slot into a blank PCI slot, so if you transport you can remove the pipes to the cooler without having to remove them from the water block in your case. Fitting took me about 20 minutes and I mean, it really was easy. Am could probably do it.
So then I just poured a few jugs of filtered water into the reserator and switched it on. It gurgled a bit as it pumped the air out of the pipes and bosh, that was it. There's an inline flow indicator which is quite handy. I chuck the PC into Xvid encoding to test. CPU temp started sub 20 and rose, over the period of several hours, up to 38C. Massively cooler than it was before and the thing that really got me was... the lack of that bloody CPU fan noise. Absolute bliss!
Buggered if I know how they've got such a tiny little pump to shovel so much water and without any noise, it's dead impressive. So all set and done, it worked ace which is good right? But would you pay £194 quid for it? Of course you wouldn't. Unless you really liked the idea of the look of that mad tower. It's kinda cute the way it sits there just gently warm. I like it. I wouldn't pay full monty for it though, if only because it's the cleanest looking thing in my lair but a poser type bloke (like Jay) would love it to bits.
Anyhow, since it's running so cool I thought I'd crank it. It ran for an hour before crashing at 3.4GHz so I backed it off to 3.3GHz and it's absolutely fine. Even with the boosted voltage and speed, it sits on 40C comfortably and, of course, that's at a particularly hot time of year as well.
If I was a bit of a nutter for this stuff, I'd use this thing as the basis for a hybrid of the idea I did last time. You can remove the little pump from it and use an external. One of those nice centrifugal fishtank pumps and big lengths of that thick hose, out the window sill, just leaving the passive tower out on the sill. That would be highly effective and it'd make your neighbours think you were conducting nuclear research or something. Until it gets nicked, anyway.
Monday I'm going to ask them what they want for it. I wont pay full whack but it's nice enough now and I can use it with whatever future system I use. Really I just can't bare the thought of going back to that noise and I dare say another couple of hundred MHz wont go astray either.


  1. Of course, you can also use it as a radiator, to dry your pants on!

  2. Oh yes, the system temperature is a good 10C lower too, 30C instead of 40C. No surprise without that nasty CPU throwing hot air around in the case, I guess. Makes me think, even without the optional graphics card cooler add-on - it would make a heck of a difference to your graphics card, having much cooler air in the case.
    I forgot to mention the only problem I had. In that small Lian-Li case, the PSU is directly above the CPU. There's just 20mm clearance between the top of the water block and the internal PSU fan. The thick pipes had to bend sharply, kinking, and really hurting the flow.
    So what I did was basically remove the case on the PSU and the internal fan. That left room for the pipes to bend gently and I reckon I can get away without the spare PSU fan due to having 100W less heat being banged into my case in the first place and the 10C cooler system temperature would seem to back that up.
    Another thing. The galvanic corrosion issue. The water block is gold plated now, so none of that matters or so they say...

  3. This is the coolest coolest thing ever, even if it is a bit geeky-obtrusive. The pump makes no noise you say? Why not disable the fan on the backplate under the PSU, and crank down the pair blowing over the HDs to the low setting?
    3.3GHz... w00tage for sure.

  4. Cute - but I'd want one that was transparent, with bubbles going up the middle. That would just look nicer. Maybe a light in the bottom too, to make it glow at night.
    Hey, you could go a stage further - install a pond in the garden, and pump water out to that too, pond water tends to stay at a constant low temperature if its not in direct sunlight, and would keep your water chilly - plus you could have the pump for that by the pond, so you wouldn't hear it.

  5. Transparent metal?

  6. Transparent Aluminium was invented in San Francisco in 1986 (on a fucking Mac too), everyone knows that you Manx imbecile!

  7. Ladies and gentlemen, Beej has finally lost it for real.
    Anyhow... The fan on the backplate ... there isn't one, just the one on the PSU. That's the only fan running in my case now. The one you see on the top of the case hasn't been running at all for some time. There's nothing blowing over the HDs, no need. It's an aluminium case - it conducts heat like a bastard. The backplane fan on the PSU is actually speeding up and doing more work now, without the other fan on the PSU to help. I'm going to keep an eye on that because that fan is audible now at 3000rpm.

  8. It's looking pretty much like a StarTrek quote to me readers.....

  9. More stuff for the discerning nutter.
    Surely it's better if you went deaf, you'd have no problems with PC noise

  10. Decided to ensure that a failure condition wouldn't result in any harm so I set BIOS and Asus temp monitoring tool to 60C. Then ran a test. It's 5 seconds a pixel on that graph, so that's quite a few minutes just to craw up to 50C. The water block is huge so I guess that's why although that's not under load. Anyhow, I've decided it's pretty darn safe. Asus will warn me for a manual shut down, 10C later the bios will shut the PC down automatically in the event of pump failure.
    Why bother? Well, the water flow indicator that shipped with it was leaking very slowly. So slow, in fact, that it was evaporating on the carpet without me knowing but the reason liquid level in the reserator kept going down was a puzzle (and that's a lot since it holds 2.5L).
    I'll get a replacement but for the mean time I removed it altogether. There's a bit less pipe vibration and higher flow without it, I noticed, so I'm going to leave it off.