Thermaltake Water2.0 Pro & Performer CPU Coolers – Water vs. Air
We received the Water2.0 Pro and Performer CPU watercoolers from Thermaltake for evaluation at the beginning of July and we have had them in two different PC systems. Previously we had issues with reaching speeds over 4.8GHz with our Core i7-3770K using our Noctua NH-DH14 CPU cooler. Now that we are testing faster and faster graphics including the GTX 690, we’d like to increase the speed of our CPU and this is our adventure in overclocking it further.
The Thermaltake Water2.0 Performer (above) is on sale for $47.99 at Newegg.com after a $15 mail-in rebate; the suggested price is $79.99 . The Water2.0 Pro (below) is currently at $95.99 at Newegg after a $15 mail-in rebate and it compares fairly closely in price with our Noctua NH-DH-14 at Newegg for $84.99.
All three of these CPU coolers are ready for the hottest 6-core Intel CPUs or 8-core AMD FX processors, and none of these coolers are considered budget by any means although the Performer is currently sale-priced at entry-level for watercooling. The Noctua NH-DH14 is aimed at the higher end of air coolers and we are interested to see the performance of these 3 coolers compared to each other as we try to push our Core i7-3770K to 5.0GHz.
Thermaltake offers an easy entry into the world of watercooling with the Water2.0 Pro and Performer, both of which are each complete packages that offer everything that you need to cool your overclocked CPU, including thermal interface material already pre-applied. Both Water2.0 units ship with a Thermaltake multi-socket mounting system that has a relatively easy and very straightforward installation. They are also adapted for 1156 and 775 platforms and Intel’s latest extreme 6-core CPUs as well as AMD socket AM2, AM2+ and AM3/AM3+ platforms.As important as saving money on hardware is, this editor believes that the choice of a CPU cooler is critical to any PC build. The cooler should never be cheap or retail. Too much depends on it if you value keeping your CPU cool, or especially if you plan to overclock. It is highly recommended that you instead look for sales and use rebates to save money.
This review is not just about “value”. If you want to cool a Phenom II X4 or even an X6, a value CPU cooler such as a Coolermaster Hyper N 212+ will suffice. Even Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs such as Core i5 and Core i7 run relatively cool until you begin to push the core speeds up to 4.5GHz or so. Unless you are supplying a relatively high voltage to most CPUs, a budget cooler will work nicely. Even stock heatsinks are evolving to keep up with the hotter running quad-, hex-core and octo-core CPUs.
Intel’s newest Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPUs mark a new and exciting advance in processing power, but they definitely require a higher quality heatsink than for an older Core2Duo or Core2Quad CPUs, or for overclocking our older AMD Phenom II 980 BE X4, especially if you want to cool them without excessive fan noise. Our review sample of the Intel Core i7-3770K requires excellent cooling once you approach 4.4-4.6GHz as its stock clock is only 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz with Turbo on.
The FX series of AMD CPUs almost require watercooling or a high-end air cooler and a very beefy power supply unit (PSU) if you are really serious about a Bulldozer overclock in excess of 4.4GHz as we were. In fact, AMD also uses Asetek-built liquid coolers for their FX series just as Thermaltake has done with its Water2.0 series. Heat is drawn away from the CPU by the watercooler’s heatsink and is transferred by a liquid that is pumped through flexible tubes up into the array of hi-grade aluminum fins for dissipation in a radiator. Two large 120mm fans spin – one on each side of the radiator work together in a “push-pull” configuration – blowing cooling air through the radiator to cool the CPU-heated liquid which is cycled for as long as the PC is on.
However, the main question we want to answer is, are Thermaltake’s Water2.0 CPU coolers able to beat the air-cooling of our current Noctua flagship cooler which allows us to clock our Core i7-3770K confortably to 4.8GHz? What about air-cooling vs. watercooling regarding convenience, safety, and ease of installation? We feel that after spending months with each cooler, we can give you some answers.
Before we compare theseWater2.0 watercoolers to each other and to the flagship Noctua air-cooler, let’s unbox, install, and test them individually using OCCT 4.1 as an extreme test to load all the cores of our CPU to 100%. This thermal torture test produces far more extreme temperatures than you will ever find in gaming and it is a great test of thermal stability.