Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2 Liquid Cooling System Review
We are going to talk about a liquid-solution from Alphacool, one of the leaders in this field. Although this product is not very new anymore, it is still very up-to-date and has a lot of potential.
Every year summer heat and increasing room temperature impose their negative effects on the microclimate inside the system case, raising the bar for the cooling solutions. This is exactly the time when some overclockers have to slightly lower their processor frequencies and voltages and when even the owners of super-coolers start thinking about getting something even more efficient than what they already have. It is fairly hard to find a better replacement for a super-cooler among air coolers, because at best you will be able to win extra 3-5 °C if you install a more “advanced” heatsink and top it with two-three high-speed fans. This win is definitely not worth the investment.
Liquid-cooling systems look more attractive in this respect. However, an inexperienced user may face a difficult choice here: whether to buy a mass production ready system or put one together on his own from individually selected components. The former is more appealing because it is easier to assemble and there is no need to search for a bunch of components. Moreover, these systems usually turn out less expensive. However, unfortunately, they are not too efficient (take, for instance, the last system we tested – Thermaltake PW880i).
The latter approach requires more work and at least some minimal knowledge about liquid-cooling systems. Here a potential owner of a liquid-cooling system may face such challenges as search for necessary items, high costs, proper placement and fastening of the liquid-cooling system components, etc. However, the result is almost immediate and systems like that usually leave the best air cooling solutions far behind, as they cool not only the CPU, but also the video chip, the mainboard chipset as well as mainboard voltage regulator components.
This task may become way simpler if you go for a special kit put together specifically for building custom systems like that. Do not confuse these kits with mass production liquid-cooling systems, as they contain separate components (including the smallest ones), which will need to be assembled together from the beginning to the end. You won’t get away with simply “bought-installed-turned on” algorithm, which is usually the case with mass production liquid-cooling systems. We have got our hands on a kit like that a while ago, but for different reasons we didn’t get a chance to check it out up close and personal yet. Today we are going to correct this omission and introduce to you Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2 – a kit for wealthy enthusiasts that contains everything necessary to build the highest-quality liquid-cooling system. Let’s get started.
Closer Look at Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2
Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2 is shipped in a large white box with a plastic carry handle. There are no marks or inscriptions of any kind on the box that is why we are not providing the photo of it. The kit includes a radiator, fans, a pump with expansion tank, CPU water block with the mounting parts, fittings, coolant, hoses and other accessories.
Let’s take a closer look at each component.
Radiator and Fans
The first and the largest component of the system is the radiator. Please meet Alphacool NexXxoS Xtreme III.
The radiator measures 395x120x45 mm and weighs 1050 g. It is made of copper, only the side panels are made of aluminum covered with protective clear film that must be removes once the radiator is in place. The impressive size of this radiator together with the material used for it allow us to hope that the coolant going through it will be cooled really well. Moreover, you can equip this radiator with up to six 120×120 mm fans of any thickness. Can you imagine the cooling efficiency you may get in this case? I personally can’t.
There are two G1/4-inch holes in the radiator, where you insert the fittings.You can use any type of fittings with any internal diameter, but the threading should certainly meet the G1/4 standard.
The “naked” Alphacool NexXxoS Xtreme III radiator costs $59, which is not a very shy price, I should say.The radiator comes with three 119x119x25 mm fans, which look very primitive.
However, these fans are certainly not the goods of consumer quality, as they are made by a well-known German company called ebm-pabst that specializes on development and manufacturing of cooling systems and fans. These fans have seven blades each; the blades are flat, with a not very aggressive curve and slightly sloped external edge. You can notice seven round hollows on the fan rotor, which in my opinion are designed for fan blades balancing. Although I didn’t really notice any traces of balancing performed on any of the fans (such as drops of lacquer inside these hollows). I also noticed round rods and flat inside of the fan frame with a rolled edge where the airflow approaches.
The rotor sticker mentions the fan model: 4412 F/2GL, which allowed us to determine that the fan uses a slide bearing.
The fans rotate with a constant speed of 1600 RPM. At this speed each fan should create 55 CFM airflow. The peak power consumption of 4412 F/2GL fans shouldn’t exceed 1.25 W. the slide bearing is guaranteed to run without failing for 35,000 hours.
Each fan is attached to the radiator with four long screws. There are a total of 24 screws included with the mounting kit for the radiator, which allows you to mount up to six 120 mm fans.
To fasten the radiator with the fans on the system case I used a plastic frame and a plastic rail from Thermaltake PW880i system that is an ideal fit for that.
Here is what the radiator with the fans will look like when installed into the Thermaltake PW880i contour instead of the default Thermaltake radiator with two fans.
Although it looks a little bulky, it is pretty nice and convenient.
Laing DDC Pump with Expansion Tank
The next component of the liquid-cooling system discussed today is Laing DDC pump combined with an expansion tank and packed into a small box.
The box bears the detailed pump specifications and its brief description.Besides the actual device, you also get an instructions sheet and a set of screws with washers.
Laing DDC has been in the market for a long time, for over 4 years now, but it has proven so efficient among computer enthusiasts that no one has any intention to discontinue it or replace with a new model. There are quite a few modifications of Laing DDC in the market today.
The pump and expansion tank (mostly the tank, of course) look very attractive.Clear acrylic casing of the tank is installed right onto the pump and fastened to it with four screws.
You can even see the pump blades through clear acrylic. There is a small sticker with the marking and electrical characteristics on one side of the pump.
According to the specifications, Laing DDC performance is about 420 l/h, maximum head is 3.7 m and maximum operational temperature – 60 °C.There is a threaded lid on top of the tank with a sealing rubber ring and two G1/4” holes for the fittings on the side.
The pump is powered from a 12 V Molex connector is consumes no more than 11 W. There is another cable for monitoring the pump operation that should be connected to a three-pin mainboard connector.
During the tests Laing DDC was installed onto the radiator retention plate from Thermaltake PW880i, i.e. onto the same exact spot where the default Thermaltake pump used to be.
However, this is not the only way you can install Laing DDC, because it comes with four anti-vibration screws that allow fastening the pump and the expansion tank inside the HDD chassis. Very convenient and practical.
Alphacool NexXxoS XP Water Block
Alphacool NexXxoS XP water block is shipped in a small plastic box together with a tube of some no name thermal compound and a brief manual. In our case the water block also included a a set of retention brackets, screws and a full installation guide.
As we found out, potential owners of this water block will have to purchase the necessary retention brackets separately, because they are not included with Alphacool NexXxoS XP by default.
This water block is a pretty heavy (330 g), but at the same time compact metal square measuring 50x50x18 mm. it consists of a copper base and brass middle and top parts covered with some nickel alloy.
There are incoming and outgoing holes at the top of it, and ideally even mirror-polished base surface at the bottom.This water block boasts pretty interesting internal structure: a top lid with fitting holes, middle part with distributing canals and 20holes with a little over 1 mm diameter and a copper base with 168 pins 1×1 mm big and 2 mm tall in the center.
To ensure leak tightness of the water block, there are sealing rings between all three parts that sit in special grooves.The water block is installed using special screw-on retention brackets and a screw in the middle that presses the water block against the CPU.
The pressure provided by this retention is very high that is why there is no need to worry about the secure contact between the water block base and the CPU heat-spreader (we will show you the thermal compound imprint later in this review). Unfortunately, there were no LGA1366 brackets with the kit that we received for review, but we managed to use the LGA775 retention after slightly bending the ends of it towards the outside.
Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold Water Block
The second water block included with the kit is Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold for LGA775 mainboards. I have to say that it is not included into the standard Alphacool liquid-cooling kit. The water block is shipped in a clear plastic box with instructions sheet and retention kit inside.
Among the included accessories we also found gray no-name thermal compound.The water block looks pretty attractive.
It consists of clear acrylic lid, brass nickel-plated middle part and copper base.You can see the internal structure of the water block middle part through the top lid.
Two threaded holes for the fittings are marked the same way as those on Alphacool NexXxoS XP, so you won’t mix them up during assembly. The base of the water block is covered with protective plastic film that prevents oxidation and protects against accidental scratching.
The base finish quality is superb.The surface is extremely even, there is nothing to pick on here. Although since the kit stayed in our lab for quite some time, the water block surface grew dim.
Let’s take Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold apart.The copper base is exactly like the one of the above discussed NexXxoS XP, while the middle part is different.
As you see, numerous small holes are cut out in an X-shape and there are grooves next to them. According to the developers, it has been done on purpose to ensure even better cooling of quad-core CPUs, which have larger die than dual-core ones. Moreover, this liquid flow distribution scheme allows reducing hydrodynamic resistance and increase the cooling efficiency.
As we have already said, the base is exactly the same as that of the NexXxoS XP water block.Small particles that got caught between the pins are the result of water block usage for 50 hours with the coolant from Thermaltake system. Most likely, I wouldn’t have this issue if I had used the native Alphacool liquid or clear distilled water. Longer term use of a water block like that in a system with distilled water inevitably result to complete clogging of the pin structure after 4 months.
The water block installs onto the processor very simply and intuitively. First you have to insert long screws into the retention holes from the bottom of the board and lock them with rubber rings and screw-nuts on the front. After that you put the water block on them and tighten large screw-nuts with washers and springs over it.
You can insert the fittings before as well as after installing the water block. After that all you have to do is attach the hoses and fasten them with screw-nuts.
The most important thing in this case is not to mix up the incoming and outgoing fitting holes. And that’s all you need to know about proper installation of Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold water block.
Besides the above mentioned components of the Alphacool liquid-cooling system, there are a lot of other useful things included with it. For example, so-called grills for the fans, fan adapters from the three-pin to Molex connectors and even 24-pin connector pad for the pump that allows pumping the system through without turning on the computer.
There is also a pretty firm hose about 4 m long, 8 mm in internal and 10 mm external diameter, and some strange cord.Besides, there are also eight fittings of four different types.
That’s a lot of stuff! The kit costs $229.90. It is not very cheap, but let’s see what it is worth in tests before making any conclusions.
Testbed and Methods
All tests were performed inside a closed system case. We used a testbed with the following configuration:
- DFI LANPARTY DK X48-T2RS (Intel X48), LGA 775, BIOS from 10/03/2008;
- ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express), LGA 1366, BIOS 1606;
- Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650, 3.0 GHz, 1.15 V, L2 2 x 6 MB, FSB 333 MHz x 4, (Yorkfield, C0);
- Intel Core i7-920, 2.67 GHz, 1.25V, 4 x 256 KB L2, 8MB L3 (Bloomfield, C0);
- Thermal interface: Arctic Silver 5;
- DDR2 2 x 1 GB Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-9136C5D (Spec: 1142 MHz / 5-5-5-18 / 2.1 V);
- DDR2 2 x 1 GB CSX DIABLO CSXO-XAC-1200-2GB-KIT (Spec: 1200 MHz / 5-5-5-16 / 2.4 V);
- DDR3 3 x 1 GB Corsair DOMINATOR TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN (Spec: 1800 MHz / 7-7-7-20 / 2.0 V);
- Graphics card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896 MB, 648/1404/2108 MHz (1030 RPM);
- System HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-II, 300 GB storage capacity, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” HDD silencer and cooler chassis;
- Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
- Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L;
- System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 820 RPM and Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan at 840 RPM; back panel: one Scythe Slip Stream 120 fan at 840 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2;
- Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan and a power consumption monitoring panel).
All tests were performed under Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86 SP1. We used the following software during our test session:
- Real Temp 3.30 RC10 – to monitor the processor core temperature;
- Linpack 32-bit with LinX shell version 0.6.0.2 – to create maximum CPU load (two test cycles, 15 Linpack runs in each cycle with 1624 MB RAM capacity involved);
- RivaTuner 2.24 – to visually control temperature changes (with RTCore plugin).
- CPU-Z 1.51 – to monitor processor core voltage and frequency.
The workload was created with two consecutive Linpack runs with the settings described above. The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest processor core of the four for the results charts. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1 °C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature was unusually high and stayed at 25.5-26 °C.
Today we are going to compare the cooling efficiency of the testing participants not in quite common manner. The thing is that we tested Alphacool kit right after Thermaltake PW880i, which we have already referred to multiple times today. So, I decided to take advantage of this situation and performed the following tests. I took the performance of Thermaltake PW880i with Thermaltake PWB100 as a reference point for the analysis. Then I replaced the original Thermaltake dual-section radiator with triple-section Alphacool NexXxoS Xtreme III radiator with three ebm-pabst fans. I ran all tests for this configuration. After that I replaced the original Thermaltake pump and expansion tank with Alphacool Laing DDC and again ran multiple tests. In the end I replaced Thermaltake PWB100 water block on the Intel Core i7 processor with Alphacool NexXxoS XP and ran all efficiency tests all over.
So, in the end there was only coolant from Thermaltake PW880i and the retention plates for the radiator left in the system. Even the hoses were replaced with Alphacool’s original ones (they have the same cross-section, but are more robust. The cherry on top of this step-by-step modification of Thermaltake PW880i was the use of three Noiseblocker fans (1830 RPM) on the radiator instead of the ones by ebm-pabst. By the way, the latter fans were tested in three different speed modes: at very quiet 850 RPM, moderate 1170 RPM and maximum speed of 1550 RPM. I believe you understand why it was especially interesting to check out the results of such test session: this way we can determine the contribution from each liquid-cooling system component into the resulting cooling efficiency.
Besides Thermaltake PW880i liquid-cooling system, we also added the results ofThermalright IFX-14 with two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe MF12-S3HS fans working in quiet mode at 1110 RPM and at maximum rotation speed of 1830 RPM, according to monitoring data.
In addition, we tested our system on an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 LGA775 processor in order to compare the efficiency of Alphacool NexXxoS XP and Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold water blocks, since the latter cannot be installed onto LGA1366.
Intel Core i7 Platform
During this test session we managed to overclock our 45nm quad-core processor with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 3.97 GHz (+48.9%). The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.3625 V (+13.5%) in the mainboard BIOS.
The memory voltage was at 1.62 V and its frequency was 1500 MHz (7-7-7-14_1T timings). All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged (set to Auto).
The thing we replaced in Thermaltake PW880i was the radiator with the fans and this resulted in a 1°C improvement with all three fans in quiet mode compared with the same operational mode of the Thermaltake radiator (two fans at 1020 RPM). When we increased the fan rotation speed to moderate 1170 RPM we gained another 3°C, then another 2°C when the ebm-pabst fans were working at their maximum speed, and another 2°C when we replaced the default fans with Noiseblocker ones at 1830 RPM. So, a higher-performance radiator and fans lowered the peak CPU temperature by 4°C in quiet mode and 3°C at maximum fan rotation speed of Alphacool and Thermaltake PW880i systems. Frankly speaking, it is not too much, but let’s not stop here and move on to see what happens when we replace the pump and expansion tank unit.
I would like to remind you that the claimed performance of Thermaltake PW880i is 500 l/h with 1.8 m maximum head, while Laing DDC should pump 420 l/h at 3.7 m maximum head. The liquid volume in the tanks is about the same. So how did this modification affect the results? Well, actually it practically didn’t. 1°C that the system with an alternative pump and tank managed to win is a very doubtful justification for this modification that is why let’s move on to the next step: replacing the processor water block.
It turned out that by installing Alphacool NexXxoS XP water block instead of Thermaltake PWB100 was the most significant modification for cooling efficiency, as it lowered the peak CPU temperature by 7-9°C! This is an excellent result, and if we also recall that Thermaltake PWB100 is not the default water block that comes with Thermaltake PW880i liquid-cooling system and already is 3°C more efficient than the default one, then the importance of Alphacool NexXxoS XP in the system becomes even greater.
Summing up the results of our Alphacool system tests on an Intel Core i7 platform we have to add that at comparable noise level this liquid-cooling system outperforms the best air cooler by 7°C in quiet mode and 9°C at maximum fan rotation speed. In conclusion I would like to offer you a screenshot showing maximum CPU overclocking with this system.
This is an excellent result at +26°C room temperature and 1.375 V processor core voltage.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Platform
The tests on Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 based platform were performed in a simpler manner. Here we didn’t investigate the efficiency improvement from the step-by-step replacement of the cooling system components, but simply compared the efficiency of two water blocks: Alphacool NexXxoS XP and Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold at different rotation speeds of the default ebm-pabst fans on the radiator. Thermalright IFX-14 super-cooler has also been included into this test session in the same configuration as on Intel Core i7 platform.
As we have expected, Alphacool NexXxoS X2 Hiflow Bold allows lowering the processor temperature by 2-3°C compared with the Alphacool NexXxoS XP water block. The overall advantage of the liquid-cooling system discussed today over the air cooler is between 6 and 12°C depending on the fan mode and the water block.
We didn’t measure the levels of noise from the liquid-cooling system and its individual components, but I would like to share with you my subjective observations. First, the pump. It is definitely not completely noiseless, but compared with Thermaltake PW880i pump it is considerably quieter. Moreover, I have already worked with over two dozens of different liquid-cooling systems and I have to admit that Laing DDC is the quietest pump of all I’ve seen. And if you place it onto anti-vibration spindles somewhere deep inside the system case, then it will be incredibly difficult to distinguish its noise against the background of a quiet case. The second components in question, is the ebm-pabst fans, which proved to be of extremely high quality, although they couldn’t boast impressive looks. We didn’t discover any parasitic noises during their operation, no crackling sounds of any kind. They are extremely quiet at 850 RPM and this is the most acoustically comfortable mode. At higher rotation speed we can hear the airflow (there are three fans working at the same time), but up until 1150-1170 RPM the noise is quite tolerable. Compared against Noiseblocker fans, as ones of the best out there, ebm-pabst at 1000 RPM are about as loud as Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe at 1150-1200 RPM.
The owners of Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2 do not need to worry about the stability of their overclocked processors even in scorching summer heat, because this liquid-cooling system boasts efficiency unattainable for the air coolers outperforming them by about 6~12 degrees in peak CPU temperature. Large copper radiator, high-quality quiet pump with a beautiful tank, efficient universal water block and everything else that one needs to build a proper CPU cooling contour – all this goes for only $229.90! Why “only? Well, remember the recommended retail rpice of the recently tested Thermaltake solution…
Speaking of the drawbacks, I think Alphacool Xtreme Pro 360 Rev.2 could use a retention kit for the radiator and fans so that you could mount this unit onto the system case (like the one in PW800i). It would also be nice to have a universal VGA water block. The fact that Alphacool NexXxoS XP water block included with the kit cannot be installed onto LGA1366 mainboards with the default retentions is not an issue, as the new water block revisions already come with everything necessary for that. Other than that there is nothing else missing about the Alphacool system reviewed today. And as usual, it is up to you to decide if it is worth the money they are asking for it.
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