So once every 6-7 years, I buy a new PC. I kinda go all out and get some better than average components b/c I expect the PC to actually last that long and don’t want to be constantly upgrading. I’ve found that when you buy quality components, the stuff does last that long. Wouldn’t you know it, but it’s time for a new PC. Since I have a rather small apartment and PC noise drives me crazy, I decided to go with a liquid-cooled setup. Yes, liquid-cooled PC’s are normally for overclockers and tweakers. However, they can be really quiet as well and that was the selling point for me. Here’s an inventory list followed by some pictures and a quick writeup.
Case: Koolance PC3-724SL
Motherboard: Asus Maximus Formula
CPU: Intel E3110 Xeon
Hard Drive: Western Digital Raptor 150GB drive (10,000 RPM)
Graphics card: XFX 8800GT Alpha Dog Edition 512MB
Power Supply: Corsair VX450
RAM: 4GB Corsair Dominator 8500CFD DDR2 1066mhz
CPU Cooler: Koolance CPU-330
NB & SB Coolers: Koolance CHC-122
HD Cooler: Koolance HD-57
Keyboard: Razer Lycosa
Trackball: Microsoft Trackball Explorer (from old PC)
The box from Koolance with my case. Here’s my leg for reference (I have about a 32" inseam). It’s a good sized box but not a huge case. I can’t do the super huge monster tower thing.
Unboxing pr0n. Everything arrived intact and without damage. Standard delivery from Koolance to SF is 2 days, too.
The CPU cooler. Most Koolance blocks come without nozzles. I went with 3/8" tubing and nozzles everywhere (mostly compression fittings).
Said compression fittings.
The Koolance case is a souped up Lian Li PC-V1100. I’ll be really objective here and say that the stock Lian Li case is dope. Everything about it reeks of quality. There are tons of little touches that you just don’t get in cheaper cases — even "nicer" cheap cases like my previous Antecs.
Side shot of the case. The tubing and radiator setup is installed by Koolance prior to shipping.
Closer look at the radiator. It’s pretty big.
Nice tool-less latching system on the case. Solid mechanism with precise fit.
Rolling wheels on the bottom. Comes with rubber overlays for those of us with wood floors (nice touch). Also shows the intake for the bottom chamber (and filter).
Side shot of the front door. The front door has a very solid feel to it and adds to the case’s sound damping. Notice the strip of light grey rubber insulation where the door meets the case. No metal on metal or plastic on metal here. Very nice.
The case has a really nice power supply mounting mechanism. Much nicer than previous cases I’ve dealt with (most recently Reza’s Antec P180 which I hated).
PSU screwed in snugly.
Nice offsets in the case for power supplies with a bottom fan intake (like mine). Great attention to detail. EDIT: Actually the fan is on the top. Forgot that I had to re-install the PSU upside down (but it was very easy to do).
Shot of the HD cooler. The warning basically says, "this is scratch resistant but not scratch proof."
The first loop! Radiator to CPU to HD. It’s funny you’ll hear people harp that the order of blocks is super important. It really isn’t, it’s a closed loop system. It’s going to equilibrate after a few minutes of use. Create a loop which works best for you.
Another shot of the loop. I actually screwed up here. Notice?
Closer in….yeah…CPU retention block FAIL. Well, more like Richard’s brain…FAIL.
Shot of the case’s top. This is the integrated pump, radiator, reservoir system. The pump has manual and automatic controls. I mainly use the manual setting of 3. I can’t hear it all and it provides enough cooling for gaming.
Yeah, it’s a tight fit up there at the top. Honestly, I’d recommend unscrewing the top panels and removing the loop when installing your motherboard. It makes things go much smoother (did that the second time).
Front radiator shot and the front drive bays (which have their own neato mounting process).
Top view of the reservoir.
Powered on and blue LED’s in full effect. Honestly, I could care less for the LED’s but what the hell. I don’t notice it under my desk.
Replacement fans for the case. This is one of my main grips with the Koolance case. You pay over $480 for a case, and you expect everything to be quality. Overall, everything was except for the fans. The case fans were from ADDA and had great CFM figures but were really really loud. Why do you need such a powerful fan for the lower chamber intake? You don’t. So I swapped in these highly rated fans from Noctua. One is 800RPM (case intake) and the other is 1200RPM (case exhaust). I’m very pleased with them. That is, they keep the case at very reasonable temperatures when gaming (38C), and I can’t hear them at all. I left the Koolance fans above the radiator. They’re fine for now but might swap them out later if they get noisy with age.
The motherboard with the stock heatpipe removed. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that the stock cooling setup didn’t work worth a damn. It was one of the reasons that I chose this board. The stock NB and SB temps were way too hot for my taste at idle (50C) and got downright scary when gaming (61C). Goodbye passive cooling, hello liquid cooling.
Close up of the northbridge and southbridge sans heatsinks but with a lot of the adhesive still on.
Shot of the stock heatpipe. Don’t be fooled, it’s not copper. It’s copper colored aluminum and was honestly terrible. Asus FAIL.
NB with goop.
SB with goop. To be honest, I don’t think that the SB really needs to be in this heatpipe thinger. If anything, the heatpipe just transferred heat from the NB to the SB and made it run even hotter than if it had simple, standalone passive cooling.
Cleo’s hairdryer to the rescue. Adhesive goop be gone!
The goop stained the SB cover. Works fine though.
NB cleaned up nicely. Sucker is large (look at the CPU block next to it).
The new Razer keyboard. My old keyboard worked out ok, it was just 8 years old. 8 years of dust and other related nastiness. To be honest, it was quite funky. Chose this keyboard not because it’s a gaming keyboard, but because it feels great to me. Sure the backlit keys are kinda nice but overall the feel was just perfect. SUPER A+++ WOULD BUY AGAIN.
The touch sensitive media "keys." They’re not really keys but a touch sensitive pad. Works well I just wish it had a mute button (or that hitting volume up and down simultaneously would mute).
You can turn off the backlighting altogether or just have it illuminate WASD for FPS gaming. Yeah, it’s a gaming keyboard. 😉
It also fits nicely on my desk which was a rather imporant requirement. Some of the keyboards I liked were just too big to fit.
A shot of the final loop. Yeah the angle sucks but I took it through the case’s side window while lying on the floor. I went CPU-SB-NB for the loop. CPU to NB was just too close and the 3/8" tubing kinked up too much for my taste.
Top shot of the case with the Asus BIOS poster up top. It’s a little display that comes in handy for overclocking. If your PC won’t boot or POST, it will tell you the last step it tried to give you some clue as to where to troubleshoot.
View of the right side from outside the case. Don’t love the see-through panel but don’t mind it either. I’ll probably replace it with the solid metal version and extra soundproofing later. Looks nice though.
Another shot of the final loop.
Closeup of the motherboard’s audio card. The motherboard doesn’t have onboard audio — it really is a mad overclocker’s board. Instead you get a PCIe x1 card for audio. It works well overall, but the ADI drivers are buggy. The drivers corrupt the heap when resuming from S3 suspend and makes it look like Event Viewer is crashing. In reality, Event Viewer and the ADI drivers run inside the same svchost and EV is the innocent victim. Use the stock Windows drivers and everything will be fine.
So was everything butter and perfect? No, not really. First off some gripes. Some of the Koolance stuff just does not work well together. For instance, the HD cooler is not in my loop right now b/c using the cooler in THEIR OWN CASE puts too much pressure on the fittings. Eventually the fittings started to slowly leak. Luckily nothing was damaged. Still, it pisses me off that I wasted $50 on it. I would have gladly put that $50 to a waterblock for the video card. Why no GPU cooling? Easy, I don’t plan on keeping this card more than a year. This board doesn’t support SLI, only ATI Crossfire so my current Nvidia graphics card can only go so far. Eventually I’ll switch to two ATI video cards once they’re competitive again. Right now Nvidia has their number and it’s not worth buying ATI anything. My other Koolance gripe is that the case doesn’t have a front drain plug, even though the manual says it does. Boo outdated documentation! I ended up buying an inline temperature sensor to do draining when needed.
Boo Corsair/New Egg! I bought two sets of Corsair Dominator DIMMs from New Egg. One package was 2.1V the other was 2.2V. I split the difference and run 2.16V and everything appears fine. If I cook one of the 2.1V DIMM’s, go go lifetime warranty! Overall I’m pretty pleased with the DIMMs as they’re quite fast.
Boo Intel! For over 2 months it was damned near impossible to find any 45nm CPU’s in stock. The only ones people had were the crazy extreme editions that cost $1000. Sorry, I’m not paying that much for a desktop CPU. I really wanted an E8400 originally, but nobody had any in stock anywhere. Luckily, I found an E3110 for a good price instead. What’s the difference? None really. The E3110 is the Xeon version of the E8400. They have the exact same specs other than voltage. The stock E3110 just runs at a lower voltage than its E8400 sibling. Think of it is a more efficient, better operating E8400. That also means it will overclock better. Speaking of overclocks, I got mine up to 4GHz without exceeding the 1.25V vcore warranty limit. That’s a 33% overclock in stock voltages….nice.
My brain fail! I was reading the product descriptions on Koolance’s websites for chipset coolers and relied too much on that info. I bought two of the same cooler for both the SB and NB. Had I used their product wizard, I would have known to only order one of those and instead order another cooler instead. In the end, I got it to work, but it’s not totally clean. I’ll probably have to move things around when I go with a dual graphics card setup.
Yay XFX! This video card is pretty powerful for the price ($190 on sale) and it’s got a good fan control setup. I can’t hear the fan when I’m not gaming and it’s not obtrusively loud when I am gaming. Even then I have the sound cranked up and can’t hear too much. Overall a quality card.
Yay Corsair! This Corsair power supply is really efficient and totally quiet. According to my UPS, I’m only using 240W at load when overclocked. That’s really not a lot. Assuming an 80% efficiency, I have an extra 120W to play with when adding another video card. Did I mention it’s quiet? No really, it’s silent.
Why Project Kool? Koolance -> liquid cooling -> Kool.