"Out of This World" Liquid-Cooling System: Gigabyte 3D Galaxy Review

We are testing a new liquid cooling system from Gigabyte represents a complete kit including everything necessary for immediate use. This CPU cooling solution turned out very is simple and reliable, quiet and highly efficient. Read more in our review.

by Sergey Lepilov
07/21/2005 | 08:17 AM

We have been very lucky with the latest and greatest samples lately. We cannot claim that all of the solutions we tested were impeccable; however, they were all extremely interesting to take a closer look at, no doubt about that. Today we would like to introduce to you the star of this year’s Computex show. From the news right into our test labs – welcome the liquid cooling system 3D Galaxy from Gigabyte!

Package and Accessories

 

The window on the front side of the box allows you a look at the liquid-cooling system inside – the text nearby reads “that is out of this world!” Through the window you can see a tube with coolant, a heatsink with a 120mm fan, a copper water-block, a pump with an expansion tank, and a water-block’s fan. In other words, you can see all the main components of a decent liquid-cooling system displayed.


The front side of the package also enumerates the basic advantages of this system, lists the supported CPU sockets, and shows a snapshot of the assembled system. The box has a carry handle for easy transportation.

There are no windows on the back side, but there’s more info instead:

Here you see a detailed specification, large photos of the system’s components and more…

The external box contains a smaller black cardboard package:

The black package has two compartments. The first and larger compartment contains a plastic box with carefully placed components of the system. The other compartment contains various accessories.

Let’s examine each component one by one.

Water-Block and Its Peculiarities

I first took the water-block out of the package. It is a copper bar, 70x70 millimeters and about 7mm thick, with a number of round-section needles:

The copper sole is encased into transparent, thick and robust Plexiglas. There are no additional grooves or something in this water-block. A stylish-looking nickel-plated steel cap with two engraved Gigabyte logos is on the top of the water-block. When the water-block is mounted on the processor, the fastening brackets hold on to two sides of this cap. The internal section of the fittings is 8 millimeters. The top cap can be removed…

…for a better view of the water-block.

The sole of the water-block is protected against accidental scratches with a glossy paper sticker:

Do not forget to remove it before mounting the water-block! I personally have twice been an unintentional witness of a client complaining to tech service about problems with his computer after he had replaced the cooler but, as it turns out later, forgot to remove the protective film/paper from the new cooler’s sole.

The sole is perfectly flat and ideally polished.

Note that the sole is thicker at the spot where the water-block touches the processor. This improves the cooling efficiency a little.

The installation of the water-block on Socket 748 and LGA775 processors is accomplished with the help of two brackets. They catch at the standard plastic frame around Socket 478 or at the frame that is enclosed with the 3D Galaxy especially for LGA775.

Gigabyte put its name on the fasteners as well as on the transparent plastic frame. Well, the 3D Galaxy is really something you can be proud of. The fastenings are stiff enough and you have to apply some serious force to mount the water-block, but it means the installed block won’t wobble on the processor’s cover. The mainboard becomes a little twisted in the process. I think a back-plate like one included with Scythe coolers would be helpful here. The installation of the water-block on Socket 754/939/940 processors is accomplished with one bracket that presses down on the central part of the water-block and is hitched to the socket’s standard plastic frame:

When the water-block is mounted, you can connect the pipes but I will discuss this step later on. Right now let’s have a look at Gigabyte’s know-how: a water-block fan.

Water-Block Fan

A serious problem for people who use liquid-cooling systems is that the mainboard’s components in the vicinity of the processor socket may suffer from overheat. Some of these components heat up no less than the central processor itself. Overheat comes as the result of the lack of the stream of air that usually arrives from the CPU cooler. Gigabyte solved this problem in a simple and efficient way – they just added a low-speed noiseless 80mm fan into the 3D Galaxy package:

This device is referred to by Gigabyte as a “MOSFET Cooling Fan”. According to the manufacturer, you can reduce the temperature of the mainboard’s power elements near the CPU socket by as many as 30°C (from 90°C to 60°C) by using this simple device! The fan has a mild color, four slits in the sides to reduce the noise, and four light-blue neon LEDs to add that feel of elegancy and mystery to the components of your system case. :)

This 2000rpm ball-bearings fan actually rotates at a speed of a little below 1900rpm, feeds from 12V and connects to an ordinary connector for CPU coolers. As I said above, the fan is noiseless (its specified noise is 19dBA). The fan is fastened on the water-block by means of four plastic clips which catch at the steel cap of the water-block in four corners:

Despite the seemingly fragile fastening, the fan holds on firmly. Considering the low rotational speed, there’s no talking about vibration or beatings at work.

Next components of the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy system to be discussed are the heatsink and the pump.

Gigabyte 3D Galaxy Heatsink

The heatsink of the 3D Galaxy cooling system is a 125x197x64mm aluminum box with the text “Gigabyte technology” on its top and with a built-in 120mm fan.

The 9-blade fan on two ball bearings supports rotational speeds from 1200 to 2600rpm (there is a special speed controller enclosed with the 3D Galaxy). The noise from the fan thus varies from 19 to 39dBA. The fan is to exhaust the warm air away from the heatsink, so the back side of the heatsink doesn’t have any casing:

The heatsink fan connects with an ordinary 3-pin plug to a special control unit I will discuss shortly.

At the bottom of the heatsink there are input and output fittings (about 8mm and 12mm in the internal and external diameter, respectively).

Now the most interesting thing: Gigabyte suggests that the heatsink with the fan is screwed up to the system case’s rear panel with the same two screws that the power supply is fastened with. It looks something like this:

The 3D Galaxy kit includes a special bracket for fastening the heatsink in this position (the bracket is attached to the heatsink top with three screws). I think this is a clever solution. The heatsink doesn’t block access to the mainboard’s I/O connectors (the perspective in the snapshot above is a bit confusing, but believe me, it’s really so). It is very easy to fasten the heatsink. And the most important thing is that the heatsink is cooled with the air from the system fan. The latter point is arguable since the temperature inside the case is always higher than on the outside, but on the other hand, it is the processor that generates the most heat in a computer (unless you own a SLI configuration of two overclocked GeForce 6800 Ultra), and the water-block is going to take all the heat from the processor if the 3D Galaxy is deployed. So anyway, this way of fastening the heatsink is quite convenient. And where do you have the heatsink of your current liquid-cooling system? :)

I should note that in my system case (In-Win S508) the diameter of the system fans is 80mm which is insufficient for giving air to a 120mm fan. Gigabyte took care about such situations, too. Soon you will be able to purchase a system case from Gigabyte’s 3D Aurora series, specially optimized for the 3D Galaxy and equipped with two 120mm fans. Besides that, there are other system cases with 120mm fans at their rear panels. For example, the ASUS Ascot case has even two such fans there (the second one is at the bottom of the case and takes air in, though). As far as I know, such cases are popular among the overclockers due to their appealing price/performance ratio and high functionality.

Pump and Expansion Tank

The pump and the expansion tank are one unit in the reviewed liquid cooling system:

Both devices reside next to each other on a plastic plate and are connected with a stiff pipe. The expansion tank has a volume of 300 cubic centimeters and is divided into two sections. The bottom section contains a chip that monitors the level of liquid in the tank using a special float. When the float is below an acceptable limit, the system emits an annoying sound and shuts the computer down (this is exactly what happened with me at the first launch of the system: the pump pumped out all the liquid out of the tank in a couple of seconds, the cooling system gave out its signal and turned off the computer). Besides that, the bottom section of the tank contains neon LEDs that highlight the coolant when the pump or the system at large is working.

At the top of the expansion tank there’s a threaded cap for adding the coolant to the system and an input fitting for the pipe from the water block:

The pump in its turn has an output fitting:

The DP-600 pump is manufactured by Gigabyte on Taiwan. It works on 12V and consumes about 6W. The dimensions of the device are 61x50x46mm; its capacity is 400 liters per hour; and its noise is no more than 20dBA. The manufacturer claims that using ceramic bearings this pump can work over 70,000 hours without a failure. This is more than 8 years of incessant operation.

The pump and expansion tank receive their power through a typical Molex connector and a Power SW connector which probably should be attached in-line to the appropriate connector on the mainboard. But the system didn’t start up on such a connection and I made the system work by connecting it only though the Molex connector (we got no guides with the system as it came to our labs, so some installation-related problems were unavoidable).

Accessories and Assembly

Besides the water-block with the fan, the pump with the expansion tank, and the heatsink with the 120mm fan, the 3D Galaxy kit also includes the following components in a separate plastic bag:

Besides the fasteners and other small accessories, and the fan-speed controller, the tube with coolant and the pipes are noteworthy objects.

The tube saves you the trouble of searching for distilled water or antifreeze or anything. By the way, the liquid resembles car antifreeze in color and odor.

Gigabyte says this coolant is the company’s know-how and contains antiseptic additives against “undesirable forms of life”. In a dry and dark place this liquid retains its qualities for three years. When filled into the system, it should last for 12 months of use. Gigabyte recommends you to fill the expansion tank with this coolant for 80-90%. Having accomplished this simple operation, I found that some 100ml was left in the tube for further refilling.

The kit also includes one pipe: 16.5mm external diameter, 11.5mm internal diameter, and 2.5 meters long. The pipe, like the rest of the components of the 3D Galaxy system, is special. First, the name of the company is printed each 10cm of the pipe. This should help you measure and cut the pipe up precisely.

Second, the pipe is made of polyvinylchloride by a special technology that makes it shine in ultraviolet in darkness – just a nice trifle. By the way, I had about 1 meter of this pipe left after assembling the system in a standard ATX system case, so you will certainly have some left, too.

Seems like I’ve described everything, but there’s also a curious thing at the bottom of the box:

“Optional Parts” – “VGA Waterblock” (Coming Soon)! So, Gigabyte is going to offer a graphics card water-block for the 3D Galaxy system. Well, that’s good, but why don’t they add a chipset water-block, too? The pipe is long enough. :)

The connecting clamps are rather simple here:

You need to lift the levers up to put the clamps on the pipe or to turn them around on it. Seemingly simple, the clamps are rigid enough for a safe connection. For example, it is impossible to turn a clamp on the pipe with the levers down. There are six clamps in the kit and you can replace them with rubber ones if you still have some apprehensions about their efficiency.

Despite the lack of an installation guide in our test sample of the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy, the installation of the system on an LGA775 platform went without problems. First you install the plastic frame on the mainboard and mount the water-block on the processor (using the thermal compound, of course). Then you hang the heatsink on the rear panel of the system case and install the speed-control bracket with holes for the fan power cable and for the pipes into any of the expansion-card slits. Having put the fan-control unit in a convenient location, you can connect it to the speed controller, the 120mm fan and the mainboard. The connectors of the control unit are all unique, so you won’t confuse them. After that you must decide on the place of the pump with the expansion tank (for example, I put them into the system case with ease), and measure and cut up the pipes. Then put the clamps on the pipes and complete the system. The final step is to install the water-block fan. Overall you’ll need two fan connectors on the mainboard and one Molex connector of the power supply for the pump. The assembly process takes no more than 20 minutes, and the result looks like this:

If you wake up in the night to check up the status of Prime95, for example, you’ll see an even more astounding picture:

The ultraviolet in your system case will also make the pipes shine, which should look even more fantastic. We’ll see shortly as to the efficiency of this beautiful solution, while the next section is about the technical characteristics of the 3D Galaxy.

Gigabyte 3D Galaxy Technical Specification

I quoted characteristics of some components of the reviewed cooling system at the beginning of the article, but now I offer you a table that lists all of them with some additions:

Specification

Gigabyte 3D Galaxy (GH-WIU01)

Water-block

Dimensions (with connecting pipes)

68mm x 92mm x 30mm

Material

Copper + plexiglas

Connecting pipes diameter

~8mm internal
~11.5mm external

CPU compatibility

Socket478
LGA775
Socket754/939/940

Water-block cooling fan (MOSFET cooling fan)

Dimensions

80mm x 80mm x 25mm

Fan rotation speed

~2,000rpm (±10%)

Fan bearings

1 frictionless bearing

Noise level

19dBA

Additional features

4 neon LEDs and side slits for noise level reduction

Heatsink

Dimensions

125mm x 197mm x 64mm

Material

Aluminum

Connecting pipes diameter

~8mm internal
~11.5mm external

Heatsink fan dimensions

120mm x 120mm x 25mm

Heatsink fan rotation speed

1,200-2,600rpm (±10%)

Noise level

19dBA (1,200rpm)
39dBA (2,600rpm)

Fan bearings

2 frictionless bearings

Pump and expansion tank

Pump dimensions

61mm x 60mm x 46mm

Pump performance

Max. 400 l/h (liters/hour)

Pump noise level

20dBA

Pump bearings

1 ceramic bearing

Pump MTBF

~70,000 hours

Expansion tank dimensions

75mm x 75mm x 92mm

Expansion tank volume

300 cubic mm

The accessories to the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy have been described earlier.

Testbed and Methods

We tested the cooling system Gigabyte 3D Galaxy using the following computer:

The OS and drivers: Windows XP Home SP2, DirectX 9.0c, NVIDIA ForceWare 76.50.

There’s no thrill in testing a liquid-cooling system on a non-overclocked processor, even though it is the hot Prescott core. So I sped up the Intel Pentium 4 3.2E to 4100MHz to increase its heat dissipation (to do the overclocking I raised the core voltage from the default 1.3625V to 1.4625V):

Running a little ahead, I want to say that the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy made it possible for this processor to work at 4170MHz with 1.4825V voltage, while neither a GlacialTech Igloo 5100 PWM nor a super-effective Scythe Ninja could ensure a stable operation of the same CPU at frequencies above 4100MHz.

I followed our traditional testing methods: the processor was warmed up with the latest version (1.7.1) of the S&M utility:

The thermal throttling feature of the Intel Pentium 4 3200MHz processor on the Prescott E0 core was controlled with the ThrottleWatch version 2.02 utility.

I tested the 3D Galaxy at three speeds of the 120mm fan and performed three warm-up/cool-down cycles in the “long” mode of S&M (60 minutes long) at 100% CPU load. Considering that the S&M utility creates a very high load on the CPU, untypical for most applications, I also used the Super PI utility that calculates the pi value up to 32 million decimal digits which takes about 24 minutes on a fast enough processor (I launched two copies of the program to load the both virtual processors). The end result was the average of the three test cycles. It was rather hot here during my tests, so the room temperature was about 27°C. All tests were performed with the system case closed and standing in an open niche of a computer desk. The CPU temperature and the speeds of the fans of the cooler and of the cooling system were controlled through the ABIT µGuru utility during the tests.

Performance

I tested the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy against a modest, inexpensive but very efficient air cooler from GlacialTech, Igloo 5100PWM, that was working at its maximum speed of 3600rpm. With all its positive qualities, the Igloo 5100PWM is too loud at its highest speed, I should say. If you are not satisfied with the comparison of an air cooler with a liquid cooling system, you can just evaluate the efficiency of the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy by its cooling a Prescott-core processor overclocked to 4.1GHz. But first I want to tell you about the noise from the tested system.

The pump and the water-block fan work noiselessly inside the system case (the declared noise is 20dBA and 19dBA, respectively). When the side panel was open, I could hear the sound of the pump against the noise of the otherwise rather quiet system case, while the fan was still inaudible. As for the noise from the 120mm fan, everything is in your hands. It is absolutely silent at 1200rpm, and the whole computer becomes almost silent (I say “almost” since you can still perceive the general low hum of the system case). Steadily giving more speed to the fan, I found that it remained silent up to 1600-1700rpm. After that mark you can hear its hum, but it doesn’t become annoying until 1900-2000rpm. As for the maximum speed, the 120mm fan is loud at 2600rpm, but is still quieter than the Igloo 5100PWM at 3600rpm! Since a second argument in favor of liquid cooling is quiet operation, I tested the system at the quiet 1650rpm as a speed you are likely to use (the system was also tested at the min and max speed of the heatsink fan).

I performed the first cycle of tests when the processor worked at its default 3200MHz frequency and 1.3625V voltage. Here are the numbers:

Water does it! The 3D Galaxy cools the CPU by 11°C better than the Igloo 5100PWM does, their levels of noise being incomparable. At the normal Super PI load the liquid-cooling system is 3°C worse the roaring air cooler in the idle mode! Note that the efficiency of the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy is increasing linearly under S&M as the speed of the heatsink fan grows.

Now I increase the CPU voltage and frequency and rerun the tests once again:

The Igloo 5100PWM stopped just one step short of Throttling – the maximum 3600rpm speed does not help anymore. The 3D Galaxy is, on the contrary, all right: 54°C under S&M, 49°C under the two copies of Super PI, and 37°C in the idle mode. A person who has only dealt with air cooling may find these numbers miraculous for a Prescott core overclocked to 4.1GHz. Talking about the 3D Galaxy alone at the maximum 2600rpm I think that 45°C under Super PI is excellent for a “pre-Freon” system with such a hot processor.

Conclusion

First thing I want to say in this conclusion is that the reviewed 3D Galaxy system from Gigabyte is a complete kit for high-efficiency liquid cooling of your processor. The kit has everything necessary for immediate use. The half an hour you’ll spend deploying the system seems just a second in comparison with weeks or even months you’d spend searching, ordering and fitting together all the components of your custom cooling kit. Yes, it’s just interesting and morally satisfying and educating to create such a kit with your own hands, but not all people would like this kind of pastime.

Gigabyte’s 3D Galaxy is simple and reliable, quiet and highly efficient. At the time we were working on this review, the system was not yet selling, but was expected to come to shops in a month. Another piece of good news is that one kit will cost you only $150 in retail.

If I decided to check out this system for drawbacks really seriously, I’d point at the lack of a back-plate among the accessories, at the simplicity of the clamps (which work all right, nevertheless), and at the orientation on system cases with a 120mm fan at the rear panel. If these things do not trouble you, I do recommend this system to you (if you live in this part of the galaxy).