February 14th, 2011

XSPC Watercooling Kit

Introduction

Over the last few years XSPC have produced some products that even the top water cooling companies in the world have taken notice of. However they have always been very much part of the single components crowd, that is until they came up with the X20 kit near the end of last summer. The guys at XSPC have been kind enough to let me road test this kit, and needless to say for such a simple kit I have been very impressed, read on to find out why.

XSPC X20 Specifications and Features

  • CPU Waterblock with Universal Mount
  • Compact 12V Pump/Reservoir
  • R120 Radiator
  • 80mm to 120mm Radiator brackets
  • Low Noise 1700rpm 120mm Fan
  • Clear 10/8mm Tubing
  • Anti-Corrosive Water Additive
  • Thermal Paste

Designed for:

  • AMD Sockets 939, 754, 940*
  • Intel Sockets 775, 478, 603, 604
    *Requires mounting holes

First Look

The box of this product is very tastefully colored and nicely designed to showcase all the major parts of the kit. There is also a rather fetching picture of the kit in full motion on the site of the box to gear you up to get the kit installed and running.

Upon opening the box, you have a lovely view of lots of little boxes filled with the goodies you need to build your XSPC kit.

As well as the general components of this kit shown in the features section, you also have a manual and a little blue LED that you can sit anywhere you want. Although this is intended to be fitted to the top of the reservoir/pump to accentuate any reactive fluids you add to the water, I stuck it behind me radiator fan to give me a nice blue glow.


The pump and tubing received in the package. Plenty of tubing supplied, I overcut since this was my first attempt at a water cooling setup and I managed to have at least 20cm left after all the cutting.

The mounting plate, mounting screws and CPU block. All very nicely wrapped in plastic and bubble wrap to make sure that the chrome finish isn’t damaged in transit.

Here we have the underside of the pure copper CPU block. If your thinking the surface looks terrible, that’s because the underside of the block was actually covered in some soft of packing grease. I assume this is to protect the surface during transit. As you overclockers know, the smoother the underside the better, we don’t want any scratches on there now do we?

The nice 120mm radiator, finished in a subtle but sexy black. Fits in with my case brilliantly.

Something essential to every water cooling kit, the anti-corrosion water additive.

Here we have the 80mm fan mounting plates, the blue LED mentioned before, a 3 pin to 4 pin converter, the radiator barbs and a circular mounting plate.

Installation

Wow, this was quite the mission. Through little fault of XSPC, but mainly a compatibility issue with my Thermaltake Armor case. For some reason the 120mm radiator would not fit where my 120mm fan sits at the back of the case. Also, when trying to mount it outside the case instead, I realized that the TT armor has mounting clips not screws, so there was no go there. I pondered and chin scratched for a bit, eventually coming up with idea to fit the radiator to my spare, front mounted HD cage which had a fan sitting on the front of it. This turned out to be quite difficult but possible.

After some serious messing about and some sliced fingers the HD cage was finally attached to the radiator and fan. However this now presented a problem because I was unable to have this radiator in the front of the case, clipped in properly, without it getting in the way of the front dust collectors. O how annoyed I was by this point. I resorted to moving the rad back slightly and by a stroke of luck just managed to get the clips hooked into the HD cage, holding the rad and fan in place.

At this stage I left I connected up the tubing to the radiator, pump and CPU block and leaving the latter outside the case, preceded with the 24 hours leak testing. For this I placed some kitchen roll around each barb to see if any moisture was picked up at all.

Fortunately when I returned the next day all was well. I then began the mandatory removal of my motherboard’s original CPU cooler mounting block, and then began attached the screws that were there to make sure that the CPU block sits on the processor nice and tightly.

This is where things got complicated. I went to place the CPU block over the mounting screws, and it simply wouldn’t fit. Needless to say I was a bit confused, but not to be defeated I whipped out a file and filed the edges until the screws fitted perfectly. Job done. Now with the heatsink sitting nicely (with a blob of AS5 to compliment the kit) and the radiator in place, all that was left to do was to stick the pump in place behind HD cage, excellent.

Now with the kit gurgling away happily inside my case I bandaged my wounds from the mounting and prepared for the testing.

NB. For the record, after showing this review to XSPC’s marketing rep, I was informed that the wrong mounting plate had been send. They were fantastic and sent out the correct mounting plate straight away, kudos to them. Their reputation was restored in my mind :).

Here are a few pictures of the kit installed in my rig:

Testing

For the testing I used the following setup:

AMD 3500+ @ 2.75ghz & 1.65v
DFI LanParty NF4 SLI-DR
OCZ 1gb PC4000 VX @ 250htt & 3.3v
Nvidia 6600 256 @ 420/518
TT Armor Case

To test the kit in Idle and load environments I left my rig running for 30 minutes and tested the temperature using speedfan and a temperature probe. I then ran my computer at full load for 15 minutes using S&M CPU stress tester and tested again with the temperature probe and Speedfan. I also compared these temperatures to my previous air cooler, the Gigabyte 3d Pro. All figures are in Degrees Celsius.

XSPC kit Gigabyte 3D Cooler Pro
Idle – Speedfan 27.9°C 33.7°C
Idle – Temp. probe 27.4°C 33.2°C
Load – Speedfan 33.3°C 40.2°C
Load – Temp. probe 32.9°C 39.8°C

As you can see the XSPC kit is a huge leap ahead of my previous air cooler. The temperatures at idle and at load show very significant temperature drops. The low speed fan (1700rpm) was also exponentially quieter than the Gigabyte cooler (4000rpm).

Overclocking

With reduced temperatures it is quite common for people to achieve higher overclocks; so I set about raising by HTT. Unfortunately I think I am pretty much at the limits of my chip and even upping the Vcore to 1.7v allowed only another 30 MHz of stable OC. I was able to suicide run at 2.9 GHz though which I was quite proud of, however this crashed as soon as I tried to run any benchmarking programs.

Conclusions

If I’m honest, I didn’t expect much from a sub £100 water cooling kit, but how wrong I was proven. This kit not only met, but exceeded my expectations by miles. The cooler performance for such a simple and compact setup is fantastic and the noise reduction going from air to water cooling is worth the price jump in itself. The fact that my overclock did not improve much was a shame, but was limited by the chip itself now the temperature it was running at; with a decent chip under your hood this kit would work wonders on your OC.

All in all, a fantastic beginner’s water cooling kit that packs enough punch to do you right for many years to come, while keeping a price that won’t have you too out of pocket when your pay cheque comes in.

Pros Cons

Efficient cooling

Possible compatibility problems
Cheap in comparison to other kits
Quiet and compact

Coolers