Aquarius III WaterCooling Kit Review
There are many ways of cooling your processor. First, there is air-cooling, which is the most common approach. Second, there is Peltier-cooling, which is not commonly used yet because it requires massive power. Third, we have water cooling used extensively by the overclocking and computer enthusiast crowd. Water-cooling has gained popularity and looks to become mainstream soon, for even non-computer geeks have been talking about it lately. PC World mentioned it and if PC World writes about it, you know it’s catching on.
Thermaltake, a worldwide leader in cooling products, have been producing for a number of years and they know their cooling. The Thermaltake Aquarius II was a good water-cooling kit as it was easy to install and provided similar but not superior performance to air-cooling solutions without the cost of having a CPU fan. This helped to reduce the overall noise of the PC. Today I will share with you Thermaltake’s newest watercooling kit, the Thermaltake Aquarius III. As you know, this will be MODSYNERGY’s first water-cooling product review so I will try to provide some basic education on water-cooling as well.
Here is a fast “Watercooling 101.” Watercooling consists of at least four basic things: a radiator, a water reservoir, a water pump, and a CPU waterblock. These are the basic things that are needed in order to start watercooling. There can be additional waterblocks made for chipsets, Northbridge’s, etc, which are added into the water flow cycle. This cycle moves cold water to the CPU (and sometimes other components) and then moves the now heated water to the radiator where it is cooled, then sent to the reservoir. From there it goes back into the computer, completing the cycle. If you add any other waterblocks to cool down other chips, then these should be connected after the CPU waterblock because you want the coolest water hitting the processor first, the greatest source of heat. An important thing to remember is to use pure distilled water. You also need to mix into the water some coolant. Some coolants are provided by the manufacture and some can be picked up from local shops. “Water-wetter” is one of those coolants you can pick up at local (auto) shops. This is to ensure that the water over time will flow easily without hesitation by preventing a build-up of algae and retarding corrosion.
Thermaltake has adopted a red color scheme and it shows throughout the big box the Aquarius III comes in. The box shows images of the product along with features and the specifications of what the Thermaltake Aquarius III is all about. The box is a bit heavy and contains the main unit, protected via Styrofoam on opposite ends, and an accessory box containing all the other components.
Let’s start with the accessory box first. The accessory box contains all the tools and equipment needed for the installation. These include:
Thermaltake adds a harness bag, which allows you to easily transport the main unit to LAN parties or events. This ties in to their LAN Party side of products.
One of the most important things in this bundle is the manual. If the manual is not good, it will be hard for you to install this unit because it is a complex piece of equipment. Thankfully, the manual is very easy to read and to understand, with easy to follow pictures.
Please wait while the flash animations of the pictures load...(1.27MB in size)
Let us take a look at the external main unit. As you can see, the external unit is where everything happens. It is a very sleek unit and is constructed out of thick aluminum. Plastic covers the LCD screens to prevent any scratches and can be removed. You also see the fan rheobus controller knob that has the Thermaltake logo on it. The LCD on the top left measures the water temperature and the one on the right measures the processor temperature. Around those LCD’s you have the functions of tweaking their desired values. The fan RPM monitor on the lower left is big and easy to read. There are a couple of switches below them. From left to right is the RPM reading for the 80mm fan inside, RPM reading for the pump, and the last two to the right are for readings that say “0”. More on this a bit later.
The rear of the unit is interesting. In the middle you can see the Thermaltake Aquarius III utilizes a copper radiator. Another really cool thing is that the Aquarius III features water pressure valves. Turning them clockwise will close the water valve allowing no water to flow and turning them counter-clockwise opens to valves so that water may flow freely. These valves make transport easy. Once you close the valves, you can take the tubing out and move them.
The top of the main unit is where you can access the plastic water reservoir to add the liquid solution. To do it, you remove the thumbscrews and take away the metal pieces. You need to remove the cap to fill up the system and close the lid after you have finished, then reposition everything and tighten down the thumbscrews. Very easy.
The bottom of the Thermaltake Aquarius III is very basic. It has four rubber feet to give it ground clearance for cool air to flow from the bottom inside through a 80mm fan grill.
Lastly, on the left side of the Thermaltake Aquarius III unit is the water reservoir. The water pump is submerged inside the reservoir. It is not a big water reservoir or a big water pump for that matter. It is very small and pumps out around at 3200 RPM according to the Thermaltake Aquarius III unit’s LCD screen. This is all going through 3/8” OD-sized tubing. In theory, the bigger the flow rate going through the wider the tubing size, the more performance you will receive. We will see if this is the case for the Thermaltake Aquarius III.
Water needs to be filled above the “LOW” line for optimum effectiveness. If you do not fill above this line, the pump makes a loud sound that informs you that it does not have enough amount of water to pump. This can be dangerous for the pump for extended use.
Earlier I mentioned the need to add coolant to your water. Thermaltake includes the coolant for you. You will have to pick up some distilled water in order to mix them together. Thermaltake recommends a coolant-to-water ratio of 3:10. It is really awkward mixing them together inside the reservoir, as there is no measuring system for you to use, other than your own judgment. An easier way would be for Thermaltake to include a pre-mixed fluid solution so you can use it out of the box. If that is not an option, then a simple measuring cup that would allow you to mix water and coolant a portion at a time would be a real help.
Let us go inside the Thermaltake Aquarius III unit now. Opening up the unit, you will find great amount of space for air to flow around. The cool air comes in from the 80mm fan-less grill, upwards to the triple-bladed 80mm fan that pushes the cool air across the copper radiator and then out the rear. The cables inside the unit are bundled together for neatness. You remember the two extra RPM readouts that were “0”? Well, those are for the two extra fan connectors I found inside. Thermaltake choose to leave out the extra fans. This can be due to the fact that the one 80mm fan is well enough and that there is no other room for the extra fans. The fan inside the unit is the 80mm triple-bladed fan found on the Thermaltake Venus 12 we reviewed a while back. It can pull a maximum of 72-73 CFM in the case of the fan on the Venus 12 at a maximum noise level of 48 dBA. At the lowest fan speed of 2000 RPM, it hums at a relatively low 21 dBA. The low fan speed will be used for most folks.
copper radiator utilizes 66 fins for optimal heat dissipation and is
of great quality. Near the radiator is the temperature probe measuring
The CPU waterblock is made of copper and weighs in at 0.54 kg. It is coated with what looks like nickel. The base is semi-polished with some visible scratch marks (no protection on the base). It looks flat, though, when placed upon paper. The waterblock has the IN and OUT barb ports that you have to match up with the tubing. The tubing is also labeled.
The silicon clear tubing has springs that prevent kinking and block water flow. This is an excellent idea by Thermaltake. The tubing also has metal clamps already on so they can be tightened after you get the tubing on the barbs.
The Thermaltake Aquarius III is a very unique watercooling kit because the external main unit does not require you to have any other hardware inside your case other than a PCI Slot piece. The PCI Slot piece comes with a pair of water valves and the connection for the power readouts. You then have to connect the 4-pin MOLEX connector to your power supply and place the thermal probe either on top the water block or near your CPU.
There is an accessory toolbox included in the package. Here you will find more replacement clamps, screws and magnets. This is another great idea by Thermaltake to add extra accessories that we might misplace. The Thermaltake Aquarius III can be used in the Pentium 4, AMD K7 and K8 line of processors, which makes it universal for any needs.
Overall, I have had great first impressions by the Thermaltake Aquarius III. The installation is super easy and the quirks are small ones that don’t detract from the easy installation. As always with watercooling, you should test it out for a day to reveal any problems or leaks. No problems were found here.
Testing consisted of running the Thermaltake Aquarius III on my AMD Athlon 64 3000+ test bed. The 3000+ runs on 1.5V and a frequency of 2GHz. The motherboard is a MSI Neo-FIS2R (reviewing pending). Arctic Silver 5 is used for testing and set in for over 300 hours. Ambient temperatures were around 20-23 degrees at time of testing.
Low and high fan speed results are included.
I think the results speak for themselves. Let me tell you that when the ambient temperatures went down, the Thermaltake Aquarius III did better also :o
Update: I have had complaints for a temperature comparison so I am comparing to a stock AMD copper cooler that came with my K8. I added some of the other coolers that we reviewed for the K8 a while back. They are just copied as reference..
As you can compare the coolers, the Thermaltake Aquarius III provides the best temperatures I ever tested on my AMD64 3000+ while being completely silent as there is no large fan noise on the heatsink/waterblock. The air cooling products all have fans that bring noise to your system.
The Thermaltake Aquarius III really does well despite the small flow rate and small tubing size. The ease of installation is an exciting feature of the Thermaltake Aquarius III and is one of its best features. Everything is labeled and ready to connect and there is tons of stuff included to make your life easier. The performance blew me away. Really. The low speed results were excellent. The best part is having a CPU heatsink without a fan. This makes your system quieter than before. Just imagine, better or as good performance than with your current heatsink but with far less noise.
There are some small problems, though, that could be fixed. There is no pre-mixed fluid ready to use, there is no measuring system for mixing the coolant and water, and the metal clamps hurt your thumbs, as they are very tight. Another small problem of the Thermaltake Aquarius III is that overtime the water level will drop. You will have to refill with some more water solution every few months. I just want to point out that this happens when you go into watercooling, not just the Aquarius III. The water evaporates overtime. Other than that, everything else is on the money.
If you are looking for a great watercooling kit, look no further than the Thermaltake Aquarius III. Do I think it is worth the money? Yes.
Pros and Cons
Works on P4, K7 and K8