By – Mike Bezek
Computers are scary, unpredictable, fragile beasts. Building one has always been a stress induced, Operation-style procedure where one false move will bend a component into inoperable oblivion. How many times did I check that I was grounded? Should I put on a rubber suit? Maybe 4 more ESD bracelets will make me static-proof. I do love customizing my PC, but I also hate the headache of assembling higher-end components with promises of sub-zero temperatures or adding 100 more graphics to my games (that’s how it works, right?). Due to these reservations, I have avoided the enigmatic solution known as water-cooling. It seemed like such a dangerous and exciting solution to a heat problem, but I was always pictured placing a toaster next to my bathtub so I can enjoy a quick bread snack while bathing. Both ideas were convenient, but very foolhardy.
With Thermaltake’s Water 2.0 Extreme, the legendary complexity of water cooling is debunked by a solution to allow anxious types like myself become awash in hydro-induced operating temperatures. Being an all-in-one solution, installation of this unit is one of the easiest coolers you will ever install, and I am willing to place rather large bets on that claim. Installed on a LGA1155 motherboard, positioning the backplate was a simple operation of snapping grommets through the plate, applying some space age Mylar adhesive on and slapping that bad boy on the rear.
The waterblock is held down by a very simple bracket system that will take no longer than 20 minutes to assemble. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to get this previously unobtainable technology ready to go with virtually no previous experience. The test unit’s motherboard had an array of capacitors positioned closely to the CPU, but the clearance given by the waterblock bracket means even the most compact of mobo designs can benefit from the Water 2.0 Extreme. There is no greater joy to system builders and enthusiasts alike than to avoid wrestling with a stubborn CPU cooler whose installation called for baby hands and unbreakable knuckles.
Supporting the CPU cooler is a large, 240mm wide radiator that can be mounted to the top of your case while allowing plenty of clearance for capacitors and the like. The cycling tubes are made of a thick, black rubber, rebuffing the skeptics in believing that leakage is still a very big concern. The length of the water cycling tubes allows for mounting on the top or bottom of the case, depending on where your PSU is located. Your rear fan can sit comfortably as the compact design requires no adjustments to your current fan setup, unless you are using a mini-ATX case. The radiator is assisted with two 120mm fans to ensure a consistent pace of outward airflow while maintaining whisper quiet dB levels.
After popping in the included software CD, customizing the cooling experience is incredibly easy with a simple, low-overhead interface. Changes can be made on the fly via the clickable control knob sits at the upper right hand corner of the app, which allows you to quickly change your settings to Silent, Extreme, or Custom. Clicking Extreme will give you the optimal gaming experience, but it also generates quite a bit of noise. On the other hand, Silent mode is sufficiently capable of providing excellent cooling while being noticeably quieter than modern Intel CPU box coolers. Users can also get detailed by specifying certain fan speeds and even add alarms to notify them when temperatures reach a certain threshold. The applet nestles itself in the system tray for ease of use, and two quick clicks in the app before loading up a game is a no-hassle approach.
We put the unit through the wringer by testing it with the most demanding games on the market right now. Here are the results:
Even in comparison to top-end radiator CPU coolers, the Water 2.0 Extreme holds its own under the harshest of conditions. Entering high density areas in Guild Wars 2 with Supersampling On and every graphical feature on High didn’t even cause the cooler to flinch. Crysis 3 produced similar results, and while the lacking framerate optimization in this game made graphical improvements negligible, it never even approached my designated 45C “Danger Zone”. Liquid temperatures held steady at an average of 29C at all times, providing a consistent gaming experience throughout.
Is It Worth Your Money?
It seems overly simple, and in reality, the Water 2.0 Extreme takes the complexity of water cooling and places it into the hands of even the most inexperienced of builders. There is no finegaling, no jury-rigging, no drilling new holes into your case to ensure smooth operation. If you are looking for affordable and easy water cooling, the Water 2.0 Extreme is a must-have. The compact design, ease of installation, and customizable features makes it one of the best coolers I have used in recent memory. I came into this review with many, many doubts; the stories of simple installation and stellar results did not compute to a person used to wrestling with cooling behemoths. If this is the beginning of user-friendly all in one water solutions, I am excited to see what Thermaltake will do next.