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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by David Ramsey   
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid Cooler
Closer Look: Antec Kuhler H2O
Antec Kuhler Detailed Features
ChillControl V Software
Heatsink Test Methodology
Testing and Results
Liquid Cooler Final Thoughts
Antec Khler H2O Conclusion

Heatsink Test Methodology

Benchmark Reviews is obsessed with testing CPU coolers, as our Cooling Section has demonstrated over the past few years. We've solicited suggestions from the enthusiast community, and received guidance from some of the most technical overclockers on the planet. As a result, our testing methodology has changed with every new edition of our Best CPU Cooler Performance series. Because of this, each article is really its own stand-alone product, and cannot be fairly compared to the others. Benchmark Reviews continues to test CPU coolers using the stock included fan (whenever applicable), and then replace it with a high-output fan for re-testing.

Manufacturers are not expected to enjoy this sort of comparison, since we level the playing field for all heat sinks by replacing their included fan with a common unit which is then used for every CPU cooler tested. Many manufacturers include fans with their heat sink products, but many 'stock' fans are high-RPM units that offer great airflow at the expense of obnoxiously loud noise levels, or, conversely, quiet fans that sacrifice performance for low noise. By using the same model of cooling fan throughout our heat sink tests, we can assure our results are comparable across the board. This is one of the more significant changes we have made to our test methodology, since many of the benchmark tests we have conducted in the past have compared the total package. Ultimately we're more interested in the discovering the best possible heat sink, and we believe that you'll feel the same way.

For each test, ambient room temperature levels were maintained within one degree of fluctuation, and measured at static points beside the test equipment with a digital thermometer. The Antec Kühler 920 and the comparison coolers used a common Thermal Interface Material of our choosing (listed in the support equipment section below) for consistency. The processor received the same amount of thermal paste in every test, which covered the heat spreader with a thin nearly-transparent layer. The heat sink being tested was then laid down flat onto the CPU, and compressed to the motherboard using the supplied retaining mechanism. If the mounting mechanism used only two points of force, they were tightened in alternation; standard clip-style mounting with four securing points were compressed using the cross-over method. Once installed, the system was tested for a baseline reading prior to testing.

At the start of each test, the ambient room temperature was measured to track any fluctuation throughout the testing period. AIDA64 Extreme Edition is utilized to create 100% CPU-core loads and measure each individual processor core temperature. It's important to note that software-based temperature reading reflects the thermal output as reported from the CPU to the BIOS. For this reason, it is critically important (for us) to use the exact same software and BIOS versions throughout the entire test cycle, or the results will be incomparable. All of the units compared in our results were tested on the same motherboard using the same BIOS and software, with only the CPU-cooler product changing in each test. These readings are neither absolute nor calibrated, since every BIOS is programmed differently. Nevertheless, all results are still comparable and relative to each product in our test bed (see The Accuracy Myth section below).

Since our test processor reports core temperatures as a whole number and not in fractions, all test results utilize ADIA64 to report averages (within the statistics panel), which gives us more precise readings. The ambient room temperature levels were all recorded and accurate to one-tenth of a degree Celsius at the time of data collection.

When each cooler is tested, Benchmark Reviews makes certain to keep the hardware settings identical across the test platform. This enables us to clearly compare the performance of each product under identical conditions. Benchmark Reviews reports the thermal difference; for the purposes of this article, thermal difference (not the same as thermal delta) is calculated by subtracting the ambient room temperature from the recorded CPU temperature.

Please keep in mind that that these test results are only valid within the context of this particular test: as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Intel Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz LGA1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601950, core voltage set to 1.35V
  • Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth X58 (Intel X58-Express chipset) with BIOS 0603, BCLK set to 175MHz for a processor speed of 4025MHz

Support Equipment

  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition version 1.50.1200
  • MG Chemicals Heat Transfer Compound 8610-60G
  • Stock fan (for heat sinks without fans): Thermalright TR-FDB-12-1600 (63.7CFM advertised)
  • High-speed fan: Delta AFC1212D (113CFM advertised)

All of the tests in this article have been conducted using vertical motherboard orientation, positioned upright in a traditional tower computer case. Air-cooled heat sinks are positioned so that heatpipe rods span horizontally, with the fan blowing air out the top of the chassis. The radiators of water coolers are mounted as per manufacturer instructions. In both cases, fans are connected directly to the power supply (rather than motherboard headers) and run at full speed during the test. At the start of our test period, the test system is powered on and AIDA64 system stability tests are started with Stress CPU and Stress FPU options selected. AIDA64 loads each CPU core to 100% usage, which drives the temperature to its highest point. Finally, once temperatures have sustained a plateau (no observed change in average temperatures for 5 minutes), the ending ambient room temperature and individual CPU core levels are recorded thus completing the first benchmark segment. The time to reach stable temperatures varied between 10 and 20 minutes for the heat sinks in this test; larger heat sinks typically take longer to stabilize.

The second test segment involves removing the stock cooling fan and replacing it with a high-output 120 mm Delta AFC1212D cooling fan, then running the same tests again.

Note: The Antec Kühler H2O 620, Kühler H2O 920, and the Coolit Vantage A.L.C. are designed to drive their own RPM-controlled fans directly; in the case of the Vantage, an alarm will sound continuously if there is no fan connected. For these coolers, the fans were left connected as designed during stock fan testing. For high-speed fan testing, the Delta fan was connected directly to the power supply (and the alarm on the Vantage ignored).

The Accuracy Myth

All modern processors incorporate an internal thermal diode that can be read by the motherboards' BIOS. While this diode and the motherboard are not calibrated and therefore may not display the actual true temperature, the degree of accuracy is constant. This means that if the diode reports 40°C when it's actually 43°C, then it will also report 60°C when it's truly 63°C. Since the design goal of any thermal solution is to keep the CPU core within allowable temperatures, a processor's internal diode is the most valid means of comparison between different heat sinks, or thermal compounds. The diode and motherboard may be incorrect by a small margin in relation to an actual calibrated temperature sensor, but they will be consistent in their margin of error every time.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerDoug 2011-04-12 00:12
Yep, since late 2008 I've been keeping up on coolers, since I built my i7 920 3.8OC in August of 2008. Although the V6 and V8 both are impressive coolers, the liquid offerings have not really impressed me because of cost and cooling performance--and you still have the noise of a fan.

A good case point is my current cooler, which is the old Cogage True Spirit 39 dollar wonder. I did put a Gentle Typhoon 1800rpm fan on it and also installed a backplate, bringing the grand total to about 65USD. I would have bought a Megalhelems probably, but back then I thought I was going to use the push pin mount system.

The thing is, with my current rig running the Gigabyte UD5 ver. 2 and my Bloomfield 920, I get a max temp running Prime 95 in heat mode of 75C at a 3.8Ghz OC. This is with a 21C ambient. And, more to the point, 75C is well within tolerance for a Bloomfield 920. You could run it 24-7 like that and never have wear from heat.

But more applicable is when I run Crysis 2 at maximum settings for two hours and never break 60C.

So the conclusion is why buy high when you can cool low for half the price? I love the V6, but just can;t justify replacing my old Cogage since it cools so well anyway.
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# RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerShakey 2011-04-12 02:21
Although I agree with you, you're slightly missing the point (as do a lot of people when they look at these all-in water units).

Because of the ridiculous amounts of heat generated by modern chips, the coolers required have become seriously massive, most of them to the point they either need substantial backplates to prevent motherboards from warping, hanging over RAM slots which limits RAM use or simply just being too big to fit into a case.

Nobody ever said these all-in water units were as good as a proper custom loop, but they're not supposed to be. They're intended to compete with top-end air coolers without having the ridiculous mass to contend with, and in that regard I think they've been very successful.

I never used one on the Bloomfield builds I did because either I was pushing for some serious clocks (and therefore needed cooling performance beyond what these units can do), or was on a tight budget, so I fully appreciate the price point for these units always leaves a big "do I or not" question.

I do agree with you that the Cogage True Spirit is a little gem!
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# RE: RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerComputer Ed 2011-04-12 04:29
I have to agree a big advantage that these units provide, well at least the 620 provides is that it is not obstructive when working in the case on the system. There are also two other advantages however.

The first is that in the case like the 620 the cooling is one with one less fan, there by less noise. What I mean by this is the fan used by these types of coolers replaces the existing exhaust fan on the case. The typcial cooler system introduced another fan to the system and often two to achieve the same level of cooling, thus more noise.

The second advanatge is the reduction of overall internal PC temperature. Normal air cooling solutions take the CPU heat and then blow it back into the case. These liquid cooling solutions take the heat and move it outside the case, reducing overall internal temperature. It might only be 2c or 3 c but every little bit helps.

While there are some great standard air coolers I have been sold on the self contained liquid coolers from day one of the H50 and Coolit ECO. Sure you can cool for less money but then again you can drive a Festiva for less than any other car model.
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# Nice reviewPtah 2011-04-12 07:02
All in all a very fair review. I think the only selling point (from my perspective as a buyer) would be the software. It doesn't outperform the H20 60 when you put a second fan on it.

Have you considered including the coolermaster 212 plus with your benchmarks? The 2600k has a mockery of a stock cooler so many people consider the $30 212 the minimum solution. It would be interesting to see how much more cooling you get for spending more money.
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# RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerAntec Jessie 2011-04-12 10:54
Just a heads up - you certainly can replace the fans with any PWM fan of your choosing.
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# RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerOlin Coles 2011-04-12 11:15
Thank you, Jessie. It's always nice the have the manufacturer lend advice and guidance! I think that most enthusiasts know they can change the fans out, but expect the manufacturer to give them the best option right out of the box.
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# RE: RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerStupido 2011-04-12 13:58
yes, true... but would be interesting in you can buy such cooler without fans on a bit reduced price. this will give the costumer a chance to customize on fan :)
this is just my 2 (euro) cents... ;)
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerAntec Jessie 2011-04-14 09:39
Interesting take but we feel that most users would find that this would be the equivalent of selling a car without the tires.
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# RE: Replacement FansTravis 2012-12-14 22:59
Figured this was worth a shot seeing as the post is a bit old.

I have actually replaced the fans on my 920 with the same Delta fans as in this review. While the fans run the software does not display any data for them. Since it is not communicating with the fans, it can not follow the settings I have for the rpm changes. Frankly, the only way I know they are even running is if I have it on the Extreme setting and can hear the air movement. I have tried uninstalling and re-installing all software related to the 920 and it is the same. Any ideas concerning the issue? Anything would be appreciated.

Travis
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# Not exactly correct.Olle P 2011-04-13 01:48
"Larger hoses can flow more water, assuming the pump can handle the extra load."

Larger diameter hose will lessen the load on the pump, resulting in higher flow.
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# Neither is your statementOlin Coles 2011-04-13 09:03
Larger diameter hose doesn't automatically result in higher flow. If the pump isn't strained by the current diameter, and it's not rated for higher volume flow, nothing improves. Plus, you'll actually get slower movement with larger hose presuming same pump output.
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# RE: Neither is your statementOlle P 2011-04-13 13:49
"If the pump isn't strained by the current diameter, and it's not rated for higher volume flow, nothing improves."
Every millimetre of hose length does impose *some* flow restriction, no matter what diameter, so increasing the diameter *will* to some degree reduce the restriction and thus increase the flow.

"Plus, you'll actually get slower movement with larger hose..."
So? The flow rate (volume/time) is what matters, not the flow speed through the hose.
On the contrary I'd argue that since larger diameter, same length, hose will hold a larger volume that factor alone is a bonus in terms of increased thermal inertia.
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# Quiet performance?Olle P 2011-04-13 01:57
As noted this cooler is by no means quiet with the fans running at full speed, so it would be very nice to know how well it performs at the "Silent" setting, just as the H70 was also tested with the fans on low speed.
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# RE: Quiet performance?David Ramsey 2011-04-13 07:46
At the "Silent" setting, it was unable to keep the processor cool enough to prevent throttling. The Silent setting would probably be fine for non-overclocked operation, but in that case, the stock cooler would work fine, too.
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# Quiet Vs. 620Farnsworth Worthington 2011-04-13 17:42
How would you compare the noise of the Delta-equipped Antec 620 to the noise of the 920 (using either fan setup)?

It's interesting, because I can't imagine replacing a (pair of) 2400rpm fan(s) with something else and expecting increased airflow while getting much less noise, and yet it seems like Antec would have had to unintentionally design their 620 better than they expected for it to perform better than the flagship with only a simple fan swap. That could be the exact situation here though, is what the testing shows.
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# RE: Quiet Vs. 620David Ramsey 2011-04-13 18:00
Although I have no way to accurately measure the sound of the fans, I'd say the sound of the 920's fans at full speed and sound of the Delta fan are in the same ball park. And while the 620 did outperform the 920 when the Delta fan was used, it definitely did not outperform the 920 in other situations-- temperatures with the 920 were significantly lower than those with the 620 in normal use, and the 620 had to spin its single fan more loudly to reach the performance of the 920's dual fans. There's also the fact that dual-thickness radiators simply don't perform well with single fans, which I mentioned in the review. Although our tests can't cover ever situation, I can say that at all but extreme settings, the 920 performance is better than the performance of the 620, with less noise.
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# RE: RE: Quiet Vs. 620Farnsworth Worthington 2011-04-13 20:30
Thank you for the excellent (as expected) response.
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# RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerRobert17 2011-04-15 05:48
Nice review David. I've got an H50 I installed a year ago, shortly after they came out, and follow this line of CPU coolers out of developmental curiosity. Air coolers are fine, and like several commentors has added, the bigger they are the more cumbersome they are as well as more case heat and constriction when working within and around the box.

Olin is correct: the larger diameter hose will permit more fluid flow, but that is entirely up to the pump. I guess the secrecy act needs a full frontal assault by a U.N. committee to let us know what we're dealing with here.

A little hint on mounting of the radiator. I ran a thin metal pin (a straigtened paper clip actually) through the case mounting hole, fan mounting hole and into the radiator screw hole to align, making it much easier to line up and secure a screw through the case, fan and to the radiator. Saves a lot of headaches even when almost blindly mounting anything. (There are tapered pinning tools used in construction designed specifically for this same scenario, just bigger joins.)
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# RE: RE: Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid CoolerDavid Ramsey 2011-04-15 07:38
Nice tip on mounting, Robert.

Determining the inner hose diameter and pump flow rate isn't hard, but it's destructive to the coolers...
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# Optimising the fan settings.Olle P 2011-04-15 07:50
Here?s how I?d optimise the settings to prevent throttling with an overclocked CPU while keeping the noise level down:
1. Find out at what temperature the CPU throttles. One way is to run the cooler at ?Silent? and use a third prty program to read the CPU temperature when the CPU throttles (Tt).
2. Set the cooler to ?Extreme?, and calculate the difference in temperature between the liquid and the CPU (deltaT) when the CPU is working att full load without throttling.
3. Close the program keeping the CPU busy. Enter the cooler Settings panel. For the Full fan speed temp I chose
Tt ? deltaT- 5 degrees
to keep some margin.
For the Ramp start temp I chose 25 degrees, to keep the fan working in the lower register longer without having to actually go to full speed.
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# Corsair brackets!Bunzing 2011-04-19 03:59
I think it looks really weird when actual parts are the same of that of a different company... Or are they the same bussiness?
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# RE: Corsair brackets!Olin Coles 2011-04-19 07:44
As mentioned in the article, Asetek builds this cooler for finished-goods companies like Corsair and Antec.
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# MrWilbur 2012-12-18 18:44
ChillControl V gives the option to save data to a log file at pre-selected intervals but provides no means to view the logs or to delete them. I have found the log file locations and have to delete them, after viewing them with Notepad, using Windows Explorer. Perhaps Antec could add this functionality to their Program.
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