MenuWater Cooling Build - Part 5: Final Product and Performance

This is the fifth and last episode of my water cooling build which shows the final product. Additionally, I want to compare performance between my new and my old setup and talk about some final thoughts. If you didn't read the other parts of this buildlog, I highly recommend doing so.

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The final product

I really don't want to make you wait any longer. So the first thing I want to show you is what the build looks like:

Desk viewDesk view Desk view CloseDownload Desk closeupDesk closeup Desk closeup CloseDownload


I am very happy with the final look on my desk (except the fact that my desk needs a cleanup :-P). But the build really adds a nice touch to everything. Let's take a look at what that thing looks like in the dark.

Desk closeupDesk closeup Desk closeup CloseDownload

CPU closeupCPU closeup CPU closeup CloseDownload CloseupCloseup Closeup CloseDownload

There is only little to fix up to make it look perfect. 

Future changes

I really like the outcome of the whole look. Unfortunately, there are still some details which I want to tackle in the future. 

  • Already fixed the light-bleeding on the case side around the power switch (you can see it on the first two pictures)
  • Need to replace the 90° (cheap) fittings on GPU and pump with EK-CSQ fittings to upgrade the visual quality and consistency.
  • I don't like the tubing between CPU and GPU. I will try to make the curve a little smaller at least. Maybe I will try to "hot-bend" the tubing to get a cleaner and shorter curving.
  • I definitely need to build a nice red holder for the SSDs currently they are velcroed to each other which does not look ideal.
  • Maybe I will paint the headspreaders of the mainboard's northbridge and MOSFETs red.

Some of the initially planned things unfortunately could not be finished


Besides the nice look, the system now also should perform better than before. Due to some complications I have no temperature data to compare real usage situations. One thing challenging my CPU and GPU before was playing some Battlefield 3:

Old Temps during BF3Old Temps during BF3 Old Temps during BF3 CloseDownload

As you can see, the GPU and CPU are having a really hard time. Here is the direct comparision between temps before and after the water cooling:

 Air cooled IdleWater cooled Idle
Avg. Core Temp52°C40°C
Avg. GPU Temp55°C42°C
Avg. System Temp40°C40°C

Idle temps do not seem to differ a lot. But it is important to take into account, that the room temperature was about 5-8°C higher when I was testing the water cooling setup. Looking at some prime95 small fft tests there is a remarkable difference:

 Air cooled prime95Water cooled prime95
Avg. Core Temp> 90°C59°C
Avg. GPU Temp55°C42°C
Avg. System Temp50°C41°C

As you can see, the CPU was quite unstable running a long session of prime95. After some hours it eventually throttled down to keep the temperature from rising to Tj-Max. Interestingly enough to notice that the higher temperature of the CPU does not influence the temperature of the GPU or System noticeable as opposing to the air cooling. The high air cooling temperature heated up the system around 10°C. The GPU however did not heat up because it had a decent air cooler which turned up to compensate the heat.

Enough of the theoretical blah blah ... Let's take a look at a real usage example: Battlefield 3...

 Air cooled BF3Water cooled BF3
Avg. Core Temp77°C52°C
Avg. GPU Temp81°C65°C
Avg. System Temp45°C41°C

The water cooling really brings it on here. About 20°C cooler than the air cooled setup. This does not only conserve CPU and GPU life but also give us some nice margin for overclocking!


Let's see what we can get out of the old i7 920 CPU. To unmistakably clarify where the limits are we choose some nice high values for the CPU clock and torture test it with prime95. Let it burn :-)

Temps @4GHz during Prime95Temps @4GHz during Prime95 Temps @4GHz during Prime95 CloseDownload

As you may see, I have choosen a clock of 4Ghz while keeping the voltage at a reasonable low value. The above image surprisingly strong remembers me of the stock air cooled run ... 90°C avg. core temp, 50°C GPU temp and slightly raised system temp clearly show that this is the limit of what we can reach with the water cooling setup. If we would not want a temperature improvement and only go for performance we could leave it at that and would almost have raised the performance of the CPU by 150%!

Due to the fact that I want to have an as silent and healthy as possible system with a little boost for the CPU, I also tried the following clock tweak:

Temps @3.5GHz during Prime95Temps @3.5GHz during Prime95 Temps @3.5GHz during Prime95 CloseDownload

This time I remembered that a PC is able to take clean screenshots ... looking much better than taking photos of the screen with a mobile phone. Also the temperatures are looking way better with 3.6 GHz! With an average of 66°C the cores stay reasonable cool. Also the GPU and System is not influenced that much by the high CPU temperature.

I think we have a winner!

Final Thoughts

After all that costly shopping and time consuming building and testing ... did the upgrade pay off?!

Let's take a look at the pros and cons:

Cooler systemExpensive parts
Quieter systemRisk of water damage
More powerLower mobility (weight and sensibility)
Work-intensive building
Almost maintenance free (but higher effort to upgrade parts)

For me the pros clearly annihilate all of the cons. This is why I think that the cons are not that relevant:

  • Expensive parts: Yes, the parts are expensive. Especially if you are a tightwad as I am. But the good thing is that you can reuse the lion's share of parts when you buy a new PC or do an upgrade. CPU coolers are compatible to many sockets. If you water cool your GPU anyways, you do not need to buy non reference cards which may need expensive rare coolers so the coolers should not be too expensive. For example: DCII cards usually cost some bucks more than a reference card. If you buy the reference you almost have saved the value of the waterblock.
  • Risk of water damage: The risk is given ... but if you stick to some rules and safety measures during the build the chance to have a leak is little. Even smaller is the chance to damage hardware with a leak (as long as its not running at that time). 
  • Lower mobility: Okay this is a valid point :-P It is a pain in the ass to carry that thing around. Additionally, I would be very careful transporting that thing in my car.
  • Work-intensive building: Well, this can be a pro and a con ... I like the challange and I like tinkering. You may not, but that is your choice :-P 
  • Effort to upgrade: This is a half valid point. It sticks against the low maintenance effort (once set up the cooling can run untouched for a long time). However if you use dyes in your loop you are forced to clean it pretty often to keep it clean. I am not the guy who updates his system every 6 months, so I am not very concerned about the effort to switch the GPU, CPU or other parts.

My conclusion to this upgrade stays the same regardless of any cons. The gains are that great (especially for my system), so that it definitely pays off for me.