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Review: Asetek WaterChill KT12-L20

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 10 February 2004, 00:00

Tags: Asetek

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One stop watercooling from the phase change experts

WaterChill logo

The course of this review has been an interesting one. With my high praise for Asetek's VapoChill XE system, taking a peek at their water cooling hardware was an attractive proposition. There's always that strange curiosity to see if a company can execute well across their entire product range, to check that any perceived success isn't isolated to one product that they sell.

So saying yes to a WaterChill sample wasn't a hard decision. From sample arrival however, it's been a labour of love to get this review completed. The way I work, samples to review get prioritised into some sort of order, from 'this needs to be done now otherwise we miss NDA expiry' right the way to 'check this out when there's nothing else on the pile'. With the recent fall refresh for the top GPU makers, WaterChill has slid down my pecking order a little, never quite making it to the front of the queue.

That's had its advantages however. Doing the news for HEXUS gives me a decent insight into what everyone else is looking at too. My HEXUS news InBox is a barometer of sorts; a cool market snapshot into the latest and greatest new products, along with what's being pushed hard by various companies. Any other news poster at another hardware site will also know the joy in getting 40 new emails about Vantec fan controllers every day. So since the WaterChill sample arrived, every time a WaterChill review email hits my InBox I've taken a good look, both for insights into the product itself before I take my own look, and also to see what I'd improve if I'd written the review another site has published, so my own can be as good as I can possibly make it.

So while I've been toiling away on other hardware in the meantime, by the time I actually got round to hooking the kit up, I had a fair idea of what to expect and a fair idea of what to write. The general concensus is one of a well built, well specced, nicely presented, decently performing water cooling kit.

Combined with the knowledge gleaned from my VapoChill XE articles about Asetek themselves, I looked forward to eventually taking a look at WaterChill to vindicate or disprove my opinions.

Water cooling

Before I move on to the specifics of the WaterChill, a quick piece on water cooling in general. I last looked at water cooling for HEXUS nearly exactly a year ago, with a review of Swiftech's full system, the FS020. Featuring CPU and GPU waterblocks in an integrated case, pre-filled with coolant before it arrives, it was definitely above average, finally giving me the 3GHz I desired from my underachieving 2.26GHz Northwood Pentium 4. At the time I commented that water cooling was the next logical step from air cooling, should a top of the line air cooler not give you the performance you're looking for.

At its simplest, water cooling works a lot like the VapoChill. A coolant is pumped round a closed system, removing heat from your cooling site, transferring it to a heat exchanger which usually removes it to the atmosphere as hot air. While there's no expansion and compression of a refrigerant material, the net effect is still the same, as with all cooling devices. An air cooler uses air, water cooling uses water, phase change uses a phase change refrigerant.

In modern water cooling systems, it's now rare to find poor quality equipment. Gone are the days where you have to screw in barbs to blocks yourself, where you need to use hose clips to keep the tubing tight on the barbs, where non-priming fishtank pumps were standard equipment and rarely supplied. Everything these days revolves around ease of use and tried and tested block designs. Push fittings are prevelant and simple screw fittings are common too. Everything is supplied with the kits, no shopping around for little bits and pieces you might need, like water additives, zip ties and thermal paste.

It's safe to say that while putting together a system yourself based on individual components is the route to maximum performance, buying a kit for ease of use and warranty no longer singles you out for online ridicule, unlike the old days. You get good cooling for kits like WaterChill.

So let's take a closer look at WaterChill, specifically the KT12-L20 version that Asetek sent along, to see what you get.