Thermaltake BigWater 12cm Liquid Cooling System - Page 1 of 1
By Brian Cochran - May 3, 2005
Two words simultaneously throw fear and excitement into every hardware geek's head - Water Cooling. Taking a liquid and running it through your case next to all your expensive pieces and parts sounds like a dangerous proposition, and it could very well be. If done with care and planning, you can cool off your system and reduce fan noise. I had the opportunity to upgrade my system from an air-flow based cooling system to a water cooled system thanks to CrazyPC and Thermaltake's BigWater 12cm Liquid Cooling System.
Did this cooling system drop the temperatures in my case and on my CPU? Yes. Did this cooling system quiet the
PC I installed it in? Yes. Did this cooling system come with a sufficient amount of bling? Yes. Do I still need 8 case fans to cool my system? No. Now I don't.
SPECS AND PACKAGE CONTENTS
Specifications for the BigWater are available at the Thermaltake and CrazyPC web sites. In short, the fan for the BigWater radiator is 12cm with a variable speed that ranges from 1300 to 2800 rpm. The pump speed is 120L/hour and the tubing is all 1/4 inch. This is important because it means that the BigWater pumps around 33% less water per hour than most of the 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch kits.
The package contains everything you need to get your liquid cooling system up and running. It contains:
You have to prepare to install a liquid cooling system and I started by preparing mentally. I meditated on it for 3 days. Then I read some web sites. It turns out that people have been crazy enough to put liquid in their cases for a few years now. At the very least this gave me some reassurance. I guess I should be optimistic since a lot of companies are manufacturing water cooling kits.
So, the best thing that I did to prepare was RTFM. The kit came with one and who better can explain how to assemble the BigWater kit than the people who made it (or at least, the people who packaged the pieces into the box for me.)
Measure Twice, Cut Once
I examined the inside of the case to determine the best location for the pump and the radiator. Because it's a full tower case, I had plenty of room above the power supply for the radiator and 12cm fan. It fit almost perfectly. I also found a location for the pump. It had a nice little foot bracket and there was some included Velcro and decided to mount it even with the waterblock for the processor.
Location For Radiator/Fan
The included tubing was UV sensitive and I decided that when the parts were laid out that I wanted the perfect length for the
tubing using something more generic. I picked up a 10 foot roll of quarter inch tubing at a parking lot sale at an antique store
for $.25. I have no idea why someone would have tubing at an antique store, but the price was right. I also have no idea why I
was at an antique store to begin with. I vaguely recall being clubbed on the head by my wife and my clothes looked like I had
been dragged there.
Location For Pump and Waterblock
Installation of the components took place in the order given in the manual. I first installed the waterblock, which involved
completely tearing my PC apart, un-mounting the motherboard, and removing the parts that the CPU heatsink and fan were mounted with.
The mounting plate on the back side of the motherboard was the toughest to remove during this step.
I used a flat-head screwdriver and carefully pried the mounting plate off. I continued to follow the manual and installed the H plates, insulator, and Mylar on the back side of the motherboard. With the mounting brackets in place I re-attached the motherboard to the case. Then, I applied a dab of Arctic Silver 5 to the CPU and affixed the waterblock to it. After tightening the nuts on the last H plate, the waterblock was secured.
The next part to be mounted into the case was the radiator/fan. I placed it above the power supply and mounted the unit onto an existing set of fans using a couple of screws. After the radiator/fan was installed, I installed the pump using an existing hole in the case and a bit of Velcro. Installation of these two parts was almost a no-brainer.
To get the correct length of tube, I cut pieces of my parking lot tubing and connected them in the case. When I was happy with the
lengths, I cut the UV sensitive stuff that came with the kit for the official install. The way that the tubing connects is quite ingenious
in this kit. The tubing goes through a nut and over a valve that starts out smooth and ends threaded. You then tighten down the
nut and the tubing becomes secure and leak-proof. I found it really easy to mount and secure the tubing.
Fully Installed BigWater
Filling the system with the supplied coolant was almost as straightforward. The BigWater comes with a Refill Water Tank. You attach
the water tank to a fill nozzle on the pump and turn the pump on. Holding the water tank above the pump, you then pour coolant into the
water tank until the pump and system are full. Cover the nozzle on the pump and you're done. Damn, that was easy! No mess, no fuss.
There are still a couple of molex connectors and LED power connectors that need to be hooked up, but you should be able to find plenty
of places to plug them into, as you now no longer have a need for case fans. The coolant looked a lot like Mountain Dew, but it sure
didn't taste like it (don't try that at home!)
Is That Mountain Dew?
OPERATION AND TEMPERATURE RESULTS
I tested for leaks for about 24 hours before reconnecting all of the hardware. The manual doesn't tell you to do this, but common sense tells me that I should really check to make sure the BigWater system is working before putting all of my hardware back in the case. Any leak and you could ruin some pricey hardware. After 24 hours with no leaks, I got the system up and running and was finally able to tell the difference the BigWater made.
The first thing I noticed was how much quieter the system was running. Noise from the pump is almost undetectable. The radiator fan is also very quiet, although you can detect a slight noise when it's running low. On high, I might as well have left all of the other case fans on. Even with the fan on low, I still managed to get good results.
Oooh, Purty Lights!
With the fan on low, I noticed a 2 degree drop in the CPU temperature while idle and a 4 degree drop under load. That's a 4% and
7% drop, respectively. The ambient case temperature had a 1 degree drop both at idle and under load.
With the fan on high, there was a 4 degree drop in the CPU temperature at idle and 8 degree drop under load. That's a 9% and 15%
drop, respectively. The ambient case temperature has a 3 degree drop at idle and a 4 degree drop under load.
The Thermaltake BigWater Liquid Cooling System is a nice package. It contains everything you need to get up and running with liquid cooling. It cools off a system under all circumstances and quiets it down. Sitting a couple of feet away from the system and I can barely hear it running, which is quite a difference over stock.
I would recommend this kit to anyone wanting to lower their system temperatures or for a casual overclocker. Although serious overclockers will probably want something with bigger diameter tubing, they would be hard pressed to find something as easy to install as the BigWater kit. Overall, this is a complete package and is more than adequate for the average user or gamer. Thanks to CrazyPC for providing the review sample.