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CPU Water Cooling Units: Water Cooling for the Masses

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 10/23/2009

Water cooling is a very efficient way to cool a PC, but it is complex and difficult to implement. Luckily, there are some CPU water cooling kits available which provide easy water cooling for a processor. These units are easy to install and effective.

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    Water Cooling for a CPU

    Dedicated overclockers have long stood by the use of water cooling as a must for those who really want to push a processor to its limits, but the complexity and expense of a water cooling setup has made it an inaccessible art form for those who are faint of heart or light in the wallet. Now, however, that may be changing.

    Recently several single-piece CPU water cooling products have been released. These simple products lack the huge radiators of a serious water cooling setup, and as a result their performance is about on par with the very best air coolers. But these CPU water coolers are also smaller and quieter than air coolers. The three CPU water coolers listed here are all new products, but reviews have praised them as being the best.

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    Corsair H50

    The Corsair H50 is a small and elegant CPU water cooling unit Corsair has been making a substantial effort to move into the role of a general purpose gaming hardware company. This has included new products like PC cases, PSUs, and this, the H50 CPU water cooler. The most noticeable feature of the Corsair H50 is its size. The largest part of the kit is the radiator, which is made to fit in a 120mm fan slot so is about the same size. Far smaller is that tiny water block which attaches to the processor. This water block is quite a bit smaller than the stock coolers provided by either AMD or Intel.

    Performance of the Corsair H50 is roughly on par with a good air cooler. Considering the Corsair H50's price of $79.99 at most retailers, this may seem like a bit of a rip-off. But what the H50 lacks in absolute performance it makes up for in performance relative to its size. The H50 is small enough that it can fit in most Micro-ATX towers. Air coolers with similar performance are usually massive towers of metal requiring a decently sized ATX case. If space is limited in your PC, the H50 is likely the best CPU cooler you'll be able to buy.

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    CoolIT Eliminator

    The massive CoolIT Eliminator is an effective CPU water cooling unit The CoolIT Eliminator looks like it was designed by Mr. Freeze. It is a massive beast of a thing consisting of heatsink fins and hunks of metal connected by thick liquid-filled tubes. There is a good reason for the Eliminator's size, and that is the thermoelectric cooler which is at the heart of this monster. This is undoubtedly a cooler which will require a large case to accommodate. TECs also use quite a bit of electricity. The Eliminator draws about 40 watts on the 12v rail through a 4-pin connection.

    That said, the results are worthwhile. Reviews of the CoolIT Eliminator consistently rank it as capable of providing the lowest CPU temperatures of any pre-assembled CPU water cooler. In some cases the CoolIt Eliminator was actually able to cool the processor below room temperature - no small feat. That said, there is also a price attached to this performance. The CoolIt Eliminator runs around $200 dollars, so only hardcore overclockers need apply.

    TEC might just be the wave of the future, at least for high end cooling. Cooler Master's V10 (review here) also cools to below ambient temperature, and is a lot cheaper than the Eliminator. It ususes only TEC, no liquid, and draws 70 watts.

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    CoolIt Domino

    The Coolit Domino performs a little better than the H50, but is a little louder The Eliminator is certainly an impressive cooler, but its size makes it too large for many users to consider. On the other hand, the Corsair H50 is small enough that some users may want something a little more impressive installed in their system. Enter the CoolIt Domino.

    In truth, the CoolIt Domino isn't any larger than the Corsair H50, but the way the recommended method of mounting the radiator - at a 90 degree angle to the exhaust fan - is likely to be incompatible with smaller cases, particularly those that are not tower cases. That said, it is no hulk like the Eliminator. The Domino also includes three performance options to make it more livable - quiet, normal, and performance. As one would expect, gaining more performance results in more noise.

    Performance of the Domino is a little better than that of the Corsair H50 when keep in performance mode. On the other hand, the CoolIt Domino makes more noise than the Corsair H50. Since the Domino's $79.99 dollar price puts it in the exact same ballpark as the Corsair H50 it is really up to the user to choose what is more important - silence or performance?