Fact or Fiction: How Can Watercooling Help Me?
Do you need to watercool your PC. As a hardware enthusiast and overclocker I will hands down say, “Yes”. Watercooling is the pinnacle of modifications you can do to your PC and even if you cannot get certain components for your particular build that shouldn’t stop you.
There is one stipulation, you must be able to afford it. For instance if you start modifications and have your LCD monitor die or lose a hard drive. If you cannot afford to replace it then you might consider a PC savings plan. Watercooling is expensive and there is nothing worse than having a half built computer and empty bank account.
Despite the expense Watercooling is very straight forward. You are using the superior heat capacity of a liquid to remove heat from your processors and move it somewhere else. Most of the time this is a radiator but in extreme cases you can use a Single Stage Phase cooler and tweak the formula a bit.. It might create an icing problem but, if you need to go cold there is no substitute.
What do you intent to cool? If you are doing a CPU loop then you will need the following items. Cpu Block, Pump, Reservoir, Radiator and Tubing. Technically you can get by without a reservoir its purpose is to aid in bleeding the air from your coolant can be difficult without a large water mass to collect the bubbles. Remember PC watercooling is a closed loop whereas a car is only semi closed. (read: burp tank)
Sizing the Reservoir. You ask 10 people and you will get 10 answers to this question. My suggestion is to size the reservoir to match the size of your radiator. Reason being, heat capacity. There is a delicate balance between how much heat you can dump into the water loop and how efficiently you can dissipate it. The extra liquid helps equalize that and generally makes your loop more efficient whereas too little fluid can cause your system to never cool down. (fluid in the lines counts)
Hardline or Softline? Most enthusiasts are going with hardline tubing over the flexible tubes. Reason? Hardline retains its shape and can be routed exactly where you want it to be. Overall it tends to look better. Downside: Installing hardline is more expensive and takes longer to install. Cost for fittings is a tossup, you have compression style fittings for softline or compression style fittings for hardline, if you go extreme budget you can do classic hose barbs and clamps.
Pump: There is a formula for pump head pressure over line length and block restrictions and I’m sure it is super accurate. The way I see it, one pump per 3 waterblocks and consider any uphill climb as a waterblock.
Leak test: Most “experts” online will say to do a 24 hour leak test before powering on your system on and I would say this is a good idea and also overly cautious. What I have discovered over the years is that if your system is going to leak it will do so in the first hour and not the first hour of just running but the first hour of stress. Yes, break out the blue shop towels and fire up your favorite game or benchmark and check for drips.
Overclock or run stock: This is the big question and really based on personal preference. If you watercool and overclock 11 times out of 5 you will have better stability and handle more load than over aircooling alone. Most of the time you “might” even get a higher overclock or a stable system using less voltage but, in most cases you can get that with a good aircooler too so I wouldn’t count on it.
In this article I discussed the many sides surrounding a watercooled PC. As a hardware enthusiast I feel watercooling is the ultimate mod, it will give you the best performance and looks great. Of course watercooling is also very expensive and requires a good deal of maintenance from blowing dust from the radiators, changing fluid and watching for leaks. On top of that many companies have refused to build “universal” waterblocks for chipsets and video cards which has alienated an extremely large portion of the enthusiast market.
Sadly watercooling really is for the elite running the latest mainstream enthusiast hardware. It really shouldn’t be this way however a quick YouTube search for “Hardline Tubing” returns many videos proving that people are interested in “watching” how the other half live. Our computer hobby is dominated by those who are vocal in the enthusiast market and while this group is massive it has gone quiet over the years. Maybe it is the allure of the Android tablet or the discovery of the opposite sex I’m not one to judge. The bottom line is the only way to change the market is to make some demands and hope someone listens.