The Kingwin Arctic Liquid Cooler peformed as expected and perhaps a bit better. It was simpler to install than anticipated. Kingwin has succeeded in making a $100 water cooling system that is quiet, reliable and effective.
This is new ground and a product that will help move watercooling to the desktop. No longer do you have to be an over-clocker to be cool!
Pros: Effective cooling, $100 price tag, Quiet, Quality Components, Good Manual
Cons: Some Experience (or Courage!) Required, Unit Loses Threshold Temperature Settings on Reboot, Sensor Reading Consistently Lower than Intel's Onboard Temperature Sensor.
Kingwin Kicks BTU...No Matter How You Spell It...
There's something about water and my valued computer system that strikes a deep-seated fear within me. I don't want the two together -- ever. Or I didn't, until I installed Kingwin's Arctic Liquid Cooler system.
This review is not being done by an over-clocker who will try or do anything to squeeze the last bit of theoretical speed out a CPU or graphics card to play computer games faster than his friends.
But I do use my newly built system for video editing, compressing video and audio files, multi-tasking and other chores that put a strain on system components.
Heat can be a destroyer. Controlling that heat, particularly at the system's brain center -- the CPU -- can add stability, performance and longevity to the system.
When the package arrived at my door, it was picked up by an absolute skeptic (written in red and underlined three times.) Did that sense of fear and dread give way to enthusiasm? Read on.Top
The Kingwin Arctic Liquid Cooler is designed for use with Intel Pentium 4 Socket 478 Chips as well as AMD K7 chips or K8 chips. The Graphics cooling options have a choice of small (55mm) and large (80mm) mounting kits.
Kingwin's engineers in Taiwan had this to say about their new Arctic Liquid Cooler:
"Arctic Cooler is designed for new users who have not used a water cooler before. Arctic Cooler is a stepping stone for users to switch from air cooled systems to water cooled systems."
"Our detailed installation guide makes installing this unit user-friendly. Our main goal is to have a unit that is affordable for most users and at the same time is compact, fitting into a 5.25 inch drive bay. With its control knob for the main fan built into the unit, it also provides the quiet solution that everyone is looking for."
We tested those goals as we pulled the stock Intel fan from a 3.0GHz Northwood Pentium 4 processor and re-arranged previously installed optical drives and other components to accommodate the Arctic Liquid Cooler in a Lian-Li PC-60 case.
The system has 1GB of RAM mounted on an Intel D865GB motherboard. The translation of that is that this is a fast system but entirely industry standard.
Over-clockers, people who tweak the frequency of the system and ratchet up the voltage to the CPU, admit that it's a dangerous game not for the faint of heart. The result is a faster system that is strained and over-heated. That is why water cooling even exists today.
But make no mistake, I do not recommend over-clocking any computer system. It will likely shorten its life span and, if any mistake is made, could easily destroy components worth hundreds of dollars.
Every processor has room for a little more speed. But that "room" was meant to protect the system and enhance stability.
Any over-clocker who has fried their processor will tell you, "...for the price of that CPU I destroyed, I could have purchased a faster processor." You have been warned.
Kingwin has done an excellent job of assembling a complete system capable of cooling one CPU and one graphics card processor chip. These are the two components that most frequently overheat in any system.
- Main Cooling Unit with water level indicator, fan speed control knob, LCD screen showing the sensor reading on the CPU, indicator for pump operation, indicator for increased fan speed when the system reaches its threshold temperature and buttons to set that threshold temperature from 40C upwards to 79C (104-174F)
This unit, with a fan and large copper radiator fits into a drive bay on the front of your computer and is the same size as your DVD or CD ROM drive. Two threaded ports for water input and output as well as a connector for a standard (molex) power plug and heat sensor are on the back.
- Chrome and Copper CPU water block with "in and out" threaded ports for water
- Brackets to mount the CPU water block to either a Pentium 4 (Intel) processor, AMD's K7 processor and a third bracket for AMD's K8 offering.
- Chrome and Copper GPU (Graphics Processor) water block with threaded "in and out" ports for water
- Two brackets to mount the water block for a graphics chip. These are small (54.8mm) and large (79.9mm)
- Second radiator equipped with copper tubing, aluminum heat grille and 80mm 2500 rpm fan that is mounted in the normal "system" fan position usually at the back of your computer case. This also has two threaded "in and out" ports for water.
- 4 lengths of Silica tubing with threaded sleeves to
attach to the threaded input and output ports of the main unit, CPU and
GPU water blocks and auxiliary (second) radiator.
2 of the tubes are 22 1/4 inch (560mm) and two others are 16 3/8 inch (415mm)
- Accessory kit containing thermal compound, heat sensor, thermal tape, and various screws and extra seals.
It also contains a tool for properly attaching C-clamps that prevent water from seeping from the hose connections (Very nice addition to the package, Kingwin!)
- 1 small bottle of "anti-freeze" to mix with distilled water. This isn't, of course, to prevent freezing tubes in your system, but to kill algae, bacteria and prevent corrosion. The bottle (be sure to save it!) has a tapered tip for easy and secure filling of your reservoir through a conveniently located plug on the front of the main unit. A water level indicator is built into that filling port.
All of this comes well packaged and arranged in a covered and sealed plastic tray with the various components well protected from shipping damage and logically arranged.
Kingwin gets full marks for their efforts in the packaging department. Anyone nervous about what they're about to undertake (like me!) can draw some comfort that this company knows exactly what they are doing and how they are doing it.
There is also a printed manual with excellent photographs that leave no doubt about how the system is to be connected. It's thorough, logical and helpful.
Let me just say that this was much easier than I had feared. I'm not new to the inside of a computer case and have built many of my own computers. But I think anyone willing to take the time to read the manual thoroughly and take standard (but absolutely critical) precautions, can do this. I installed only the CPU cooler because my graphics card (Matrox P650) does not require anything more than passive cooling.
There are a few things you should know before you consider this project.
First, if you are installing this on an existing computer, you need to disconnect everything and remove the motherboard. This is to enable you to remove the stock heatsink assembly bracket and replace it (from the underside of the motherboard) with Kingwin's CPU mounting bracket.
Second, you need at least two free 5.25" drive bays. I installed the main unit in the top drive bay that has about 1.5" additional clearance at the top and essentially left the drive bay beneath it empty. My advice: remove all CD/DVD or other devices from your computer before you begin. They're really simple to disconnect and reconnect.
Third, you will measure distances the tubing will have to run and cut them, if necessary. While my effort resulted in a neat install, I wish I had left some of the tubes longer to enable me to slide the main cooling unit out of the case. If you're unsure, I strongly suggest erring on the side of longer tubing lengths.
You will install the system, complete, OUTSIDE the computer with
the water block(s) and auxiliary radiator lying on a table next to your
computer (where you'll get power.) After you have checked your
water tube connections and cleared the system of air bubbles, you will insert
your water cooling components, piece by piece, through the front opening
of the 5.25" (CD-ROM) drive bays.
(Hence the advice to remove everything in those drive bays, FIRST.)
Rather than detailing all of the installation here, I've included a closer look in the Appendix at the end of this review.
For most people, the key question now is whether we found this Arctic Liquid Cooler a practical and preferred cooling solution.
The short answer is this: Kingwin's Arctic Liquid Cooler performed as promised...and then some. It is quiet, reliable and effective.
What it seems to do best is to hold your CPU to a comfortable temperature and defy you to do anything to get it hotter.
I tried burn-in tests, illogically large file compressions, you name it. I couldn't get Intel's 'Active Monitor' to push the temperature gauge into the 'Yellow Zone' for more than a second or two, and it never got close to the 'Red Zone.'
I must say that I could not get Kingwin's temperature sensor to give me the same reading as I was getting from Intel's onboard CPU heat sensor. While Intel would report a temperature of 40C, the Kingwin sensor would report 35C. The discrepancy varied depending on the temperature, but the Kingwin sensor was always a few degrees below Intel's own.
This is important, because the Kingwin unit speeds up the auxiliary radiator fan whenever the temperature reaches a threshold you set. The lowest temperature is 40C.
So, when I set my threshold to 40C I wouldn't actually see any added cooling until the processor was hitting 45C or more according to Intel's reading.
Some would say "so what?" 45C is still well within the Pentium 4's "comfort zone."
Kingwin report most users get readings that are much closer to the onboard sensors of the motherboard manufacturers. I may have to adjust the sensor closer to the CPU to get a closer match on the sensor readings.
This was frustrating. Frustrating because once installed, it's hard to get the system to heat up, let alone overheat.
Sisoft Sandra, a well known benchmarking program, gives an ominous warning when you begin their burn-in tests:
Warning: Burning-in stresses components. Any weaknesses may cause them to fail or become damaged permanently. Do not run unless you know what you are doing.
I hate those warnings. I know that if something blows up, all manner of expert and neophyte alike will sneer "Yeah, see, you didn't know what you were doing!"
I ran the test anyway.
Not only did the system sail through it, the temperature would creep up to 43C or 45C for a couple of seconds and then drop right back down.
I ran the test a few more times. 50 more times to be exact. Same result. Nothing. The Kingwin Arctic Liquid Cooler wasn't breathing as hard as I was. The system was running cool.
A 'TORTURE' TEST
How do you make an Intel 3.0GHz processor really heat up? I don't know the exact answer to that (other than over-clocking.) But I know what made flashing warnings appear in pop up windows and startling, screeching warning sounds to emanate from my system before I installed the Arctic Liquid Cooler.
It happened compressing a .wav file to a variable bitrate .mp3 file using LAME and the buffered-burst mode in Audiograbber, an audio ripping/encoding program. The bigger the file, the more that CPU will heat up.
I threw everything I had at the Kingwin. Bach, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Mahler's Symphonies and Sympathy for the Devil.
The CPU temperature would steadily climb past 45C and head above the 'Green Zone' into Yellow peril. (The software with this Intel motherboard shows temperature gauges marked with an ascending scale from 0 to 100. At 54C you cross from a green area to a yellow area. At 70C the background markings turn to red.)
Just as the Intel Active Monitor was reaching the edge of 'Green Zone,' the Kingwin sensed it was getting warm down at the CPU.
The fan in the auxiliary unit increased its speed from 1100rpm to around 2000rpm. The temperatures began dropping down 2 seconds later...even while the encoding continued.
In this test, done before and after the Kingwin was installed, the Kingwin kept the CPU about 8 degrees Celsius COOLER than the stock Intel heatsink and fan. (46C vs. 54C)
... MORE THAN JUST TEMPERATURE
Someone who has read this review probably commented to himself that his "Heat-Guzzler-Hot-Lava-Swallowing-Turbo-Fan" solution did the same thing.
Yes. Air is an effective cooler when properly used in conjunction with copper or aluminum radiators.
But the price is often a fan system that is deafening (unless Doom is being played at high volume in conjunction with any computer activity, in which case you don't notice.)
One of the key attractions of water cooling is that it is quieter than solutions based on more, bigger or faster spinning fans.
That's not to say the Kingwin can't be noisy if you turn up the main system fan speed in the 5.25 inch drive bay. But the reality is that you don't have to turn it up. I never have it turned up more than halfway.
Frankly, turning it up more does not seem to cool the system below a certain point, say 37C.
This is a relatively quiet, but not a 'silent' cooling solution, in my opinion. You can hear the fans, but they're no louder in my estimation than the stock Intel CPU fan running under normal conditions. As the system is stressed and pushed, I estimate that the water cooled solution from Kingwin is, indeed, a bit quieter than what I had before. But silent, no.
The Kingwin Arctic Liquid Cooler performed up to the promises made and beyond. Whether I'm editing full-motion, broadcast quality video or have other demanding programs working together there seems to be nothing I can do to overheat the CPU.
Those same tasks didn't usually overheat the system with the stock heatsink and fan from Intel, either, but there is no doubt I'm running quite a bit cooler today than before I installed this system.
I was afraid it would leak. It doesn't. Not a drop of water has ever come out of any of my connections (and, folks, I've been looking.)
I'm satisfied that my computer is quieter than it was before.
It is also a fact that with the well-illustrated installation manual, the install went much more smoothly than I expected.
I do wish that Kingwin had put a $1 fan guard on the interior fan for the auxiliary radiator. Ouch! But I only did that once.
Perhaps the big question is whether you, an ordinary computer user with no knowledge of computer building or installation of ANY components should attempt to install the Arctic Liquid Cooler?
You know your own skills better than I do. You know whether you read directions well, too. They're not complicated directions but a solid sense of what's inside the computer and how the components are connected is vital.
Because you have to uninstall a motherboard to install this product, that is a good measure of the skills required.
Installing the Arctic Liquid Cooler is more difficult, certainly, than installing a network card. But if you have assembled your own computer from components, or plan to do so in the near future, this is a good time to consider water cooling.
If you decide water cooling is for you, this product from Kingwin is an excellent choice with quality components, clear instructions and solid performance.
If you've never built a computer, I heartily suggest a visit to:
Not only do they have tutorials and guides, but there's a forum where you can ask all kinds of 'dumb' questions and people will be nothing but friendly and helpful.
When it comes time to apply the thermal paste, I suggest a quick visit to the masters on the subject: Arctic Silver. They have a great guide for all kinds of processors here:
Now, for anyone interested in the details of installing the Arctic Liquid Cooler or if you're just more interested in what it takes to complete the job...
CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY
There are basic steps that come in sequence.
1. Assemble and test the desired water cooling components OUTSIDE the case, connecting the main unit to a free power connector from the system power supply to run the water pump.
2. Disconnect power from the computer. Remove the motherboard and CPU heatsink/fan socket that is mounted around the CPU (see below) You do NOT have to remove the CPU from its socket.
3. Install Kingwin's metal socket from the underside of the motherboard (this will hold down the water block.)
4. Re-install the motherboard securely in the case
5. Install the Liquid Cooling system components in the case and attach the water block(s) to the processor(s).
If Kingwin's manual falls short anywhere, it's here:
Remove the original Intel P4 plastic socket, as illustrated (remove the back plate, if there is any.)
Talk about "easier said than done!"
Motherboards vary greatly. Kingwin is talking about the plastic mounting that is pre-installed on Intel (or AMD) motherboards to accommodate the stock heatsink and fan that come with retail versions of this component.
On an Intel motherboard, this means removing plastic plugs from the four corners of the plastic mounting on the top side of the board using a small, thin-bladed screwdriver to pry them upwards. They are typically round plasic "plugs" that go through the motherboard and "expand" a plastic socket on the underside of the board to hold it securely.
They're in there TIGHT. Some pressure will be necessary.
You may find that after prying the plastic "plugs" upward a bit, a small pair of needle-nosed pliers will let you grasp and remove the plugs more easily. Don't destroy or discard those plugs if you have any desire to re-install the stock heatsink or use it on another computer.
Once all four plastic plugs (they resemble threadless 3/4" screws) are removed, you can push the plastic retaining mounts back through the underside of the motherboard and lift off the square-shaped plastic heatsink/fan receptacle.
ASSEMBLING THE WATER COOLING SYSTEM
I measured and cut the plastic tubing by putting the main unit in the computer and holding lengths of the tubing between it and the locations where my water block and auxiliary radiator would be installed.
Again, if in doubt, err on the side of longer lengths. The performance of this unit is such that any heat added by a few more inches of tubing will have virtually no impact.
All of the following is done OUTSIDE your computer. Do not try to install the components before assembling the system outside first to test it. Trying to fill the system with water with the water block already installed on the CPU is suicidal. When you turn on the system, the processor will instantly heat up and will have no water to cool it down. IT TAKES 10 SECONDS TO FRY A PROCESSOR THIS WAY.
Follow the instructions and use distilled water mixed with the "anti-freeze" to fill the reservoir in the main unit. This is dead-easy. You'll repeat the process.
You remove air from the system by pinching the tube carrying water back to the main system. It works! You'll see, hear and feel the air being purged into the reservoir.
Again, following the clear instructions, you should run the test setup and look closely to see if there are any air bubbles that show up in the tubing. If there are, pinch and purge again.
GETTING THE COMPONENTS INSIDE THE CASE
Again, it's a simple process. No matter how your case is built and the motherboard placed, just make sure the motherboard (inside the case) is lying flat on the desk or floor when you move to this part of the assembly.
The water blocks are heavy. If they get dropped on components, they could damage them. You're not going to be able to seat that water block on the CPU properly if it isn't lying flat on some surface.
The procedure calls for putting the auxiliary radiator into the case first, carefully followed by the water block(s)and then insert the main unit into the appropriate drive bay on the front of your computer.
ATTACHING THE THERMAL SENSOR
The instructions show you clearly where the sensor should be placed. It goes on the UNDERside of the water block, as close to the CPU location as possible.
You don't need the whole piece of tape that ships with this system to attach that sensor! Just cut off a piece large enough to cover the sensor itself and an equal amount on both sides.
Remove one side of the protective layer on the tape and attach the sensor down the center of the sticky tape. With the other protective layer still on the tape, press the tape and sensor firmly into position on the water block.
Finally, peel off that protective layer and you're done.
Use pure iso-propyl alcohol to clean fingerprints, grease or any traces of thermal tape from the CPU water block.
I suggest assembling the top mounting bracket on the CPU and water block at least once before you apply any thermal paste...just to get the correct orientation for that top bracket.
After you apply the paste and place the water block and bracket on the CPU, tighten down the screws gently, at first, moving from one to the other and increasing the tension on all of them before you tighten one of them all the way. Even pressure will help ensure a good, conductive layer of the thermal paste.
Once the water block is in place on the CPU (Unless you're also installing a GPU water block) the tough work is finished.
Mount the fan and plug it into the auxiliary fan header on the motherboard (you probably had to unplug it when you removed the original system fan.) The systems works off the System fan header -- not the CPU fan header.
It's worth noting that when you reboot the system for the first time, you'll get all kinds of warnings because there is no fan attached to the CPU fan header. On the Intel board and others, the monitoring software will allow you to disable that fan so the warning doesn't scare the living daylights out of you every time you boot up.
You don't need a CPU fan anymore. Baby, you're WATER COOLED!