Cooler Master Aquagate VivaNov 16th, 2006 | By Archive
Cooler Master Aquagate Viva
: 11/16/06 – 04:09:24 AM
Page 1 : Index
Cooler Master Co., Ltd.
$ 70 USD (Directron.com)
It has been more than 10 years. More than a decade. More than a grade 7 students lifespan. That is how long Cooler Master has taken it upon themselves to cool the computer technology that the rest of the world produces. Everything from complete cases to stock heatsink and fan replacements, Cooler Master has done it all and done so while maintaining a high standard of quality throughout their vast line of cooling components on computer store shelves worldwide.
As the planet earth relentlessly turns on its axis, humans and animals alike evolve. This constant evolution is carried down through everything we do in life most notably, technology. While processors are actually getting smaller, using less energy, and generating less heat, processor coolers are growing like the rising waters in our ever expanding oceans. So large in fact that it is actually easier and smaller for small water-cooling units to step in and do just as good a job as these monstrous heatsink and fan coolers. This is where products like the Cooler Masters Aquagate Viva steps in and takes the ball down the court.
Video cards, unlike processors; have been doing nothing but getting more powerful, hotter running, and using more juice than professional body builders. This trend doesn't appear to be going anywhere for a while so to see a product that can tackle either VGA or CPU cooling is quite unique and practical to say the least. There will be plenty of action in this review as it technically is two headed so enough of my drivel, let's have a look at the CM Aquagate Viva.
Page 2 : Package
We always start with a quick look at the package here at O2, the Cooler Master Aquagate Viva comes in a very neat little box with a carrying handle so its ready for a walk at any time.
The cleverly designed front panel shows the whole system with a see-through window for one of the components that appears to be an in-line flow meter. The photo doesn't really let you know but this package is quite small. Smaller than I thought it would be considering the amount of hardware inside.
A few of the features Cooler Master tries to sell the package with can be seen here. The three that stand out to me are the Super Silent, Warning System, and Smart Temperature control. The last of which is most interesting as hopefully that will allow us to control fan speed.
The side edges of the package aren't really utilized but do have the most basic of basic descriptions of the unit in eight different languages. This is a dead giveaway that the Aquagate Viva will be seeing many different countries in its lifetime.
Like the side panels, the top and bottom edge really don't offer much but again, the thickness of this package is quite small so there isn't a lot of room.
The rear of the package is where all the action is and boy is there some information to be had back here.
The top half has a number of photos of the hardware inside outlining the mounting capabilities of the Aquagate Viva. The various mounting options for the radiator caught my eye immediately and should lead to a fairly large installation section in this review.
The bottom half of the rear has a plethora of specifications and features listed here. I will now go over this information in the specifications section.
Page 3 : Specifications
The box is loaded with information and specifications about the Aquagate Viva and the Cooler Master web site has pretty much everything on the box there. Here is a list of the features that they list at the Cooler Master web site:
- Fan Bracket Design : You could mount 80mm fan to cool CPU and its surrounding components
- Tube over blending protection, Low water-level protection, and etc.
- The safety alarm will automatically be triggered whenever there is any abnormal operation.
- Liquid Cooling System Compatibles with VGA and CPU
- Comprehensive Cooling Solution
- Silent Operation
- Safety Alarm Protects Against Any Abnormal Operation
- Flexible Assembling Applications
- Black Tube Design to reduce evaporation
Here is a list of the Specifications of the pump, tubing, and radiator.
As you can see the radiator is made of aluminum and the fans are 70mm fans that run up to 4800RPM. The radiator being only aluminum will limit the amount of heat it can dissipate and the small size of it will limit the heatload it can handle but I would not be expecting this cooler to be able to compete with the likes of my Asetek Waterchill system when used on a heavily overclocked system anyway. The Aquagate Viva is however, a nice little unit that should handle a hot video card or a standard CPU heatload quite well. Testing will provide the answer for that.
I will be sure to monitor noise levels of the fans and see if I can have them set up to be temperature controlled in some fashion. Since the fans are listed as variable RPM units here in the specifications, that should be more than do-able. With thermally controlled fans, this could be a very nice and quiet way of cooling either a video card or CPU. Let's take a closer look at the components that make up the Cooler Master Aquagate Viva.
Page 4 : Package Contents
Now that we know a little more about the Aquagate Viva, let's look inside the package and see exactly what we are dealing with here.
With the size of the package I knew things were going to have to be organized inside and they certainly are. The plastic formed interior keeps everything where it is suppose to be and there isn't really a whole lot of space for things to move around so the unit should be fairly well protected for transport.
I have pulled out all the accessories and laid them out here. There is plenty of hardware that comes with this unit and this is mainly due to the fact that you can mount the Aquagate Viva on either a CPU or GPU and place the radiator pretty much anywhere in the case. During installation we will have a closer look at all this mounting hardware.
The Aquagate Viva is a simple enough design with the block and pump integrated into one piece that we can see in the bottom left corner of the image above. The output from the pump goes through the block at the top of the image and into the radiator where the flow of water then goes back to the water block/pump.
I start the look at each individual component with the largest of the three, the radiator. Now despite the radiator being the largest component, it is actually quite small. The fans are only 70mm as we saw from the specifications so obviously the radiator isn't a whole lot wider than 70mm and not much longer than 140mm.
The two fans come pre-mounted and the brackets that come on the radiator out of the box are for the 3.5" hard drive mount. The radiator appears to be an 8 row design with decent fin density throughout. It is obviously just aluminum but for what it will be expected to cool, that should do just a fine job. The large screw in the bottom left hand corner is the fill plug but the unit comes pre-assembled and already filled so we won't have to take that out during this review.
When I removed the fan I almost ripped this thermal probe out at the wires because I wasn't expecting it to be here. This is obviously how the fans are thermally controlled so it doesn't look like we will be able to control the fans as they are controlled by this probe stuck in amongst the radiator fins. I am not convinced this is a great way to thermally control the fans but it certainly is a simple way and I will wait until testing before giving my final judgment.
The two fans used with the Aquagate Viva are Cooler Master units, part# A7015-48RB-3AN-L1. As we can see by the sticker, they are a 12v, 0.30A 3-wire fan with the thermal probe built in to control fan speed.
The radiator itself is only about 20mms thick and has fan mounts on both sides. This is to accommodate the multitude of mounting possibilities.
The tubing used throughout the system is black rubber feeling tube with a 6mm ID and 10mm OD. All the connections are held securely in place with standard hose clamps. There warning label here explains that the fill screw should never be loosened unless filling the system and advises to not remove any of the tubing or warranty will be voided.
Moving along the tubing coming from the radiator we find the flow meter and alarm box that is mounted in-line from the pump. This little device is responsible to make sure that the water is flowing and should it detect that it isn't, the small buzzer inside will sound. The method for how this is done is by using a float and this box needs to be installed in a vertical position with a specific orientation.
The backside of the box is covered in velcro and is to be mounted with the included matching piece of velcro. We can also see that the connections are again hose clamps and this box has its own 2-pin power connection.
The last piece of this neat little puzzle is the all-in-one water block and water pump. The pump sits on top and gets power via the three-pin power connection we see coming out here. The many holes seen here provide the various mounting possibilities for the universal connections on either CPU or GPU.
The underside of the pump is the water block that is made of copper. Tubing is hose clamped on and the face appears to be a nice flat, smooth surface for good contact. The installation section, as mentioned before, will be fairly large so there will be plenty more pictures of all the components on the next page.
Page 5 : Installation
Since the Aquagate Viva is compatible with both video cards and processors, this installation section will be slightly bloated with both methods being covered as well as a quick look at installation into a case.
I will start with the video card installation and the first step is to mount the protective foam octagon on the water blocks surface. I didn't mount it for these images as the GPU I will be using won't require the extra support.
The instruction manual is very straight forward with the mounting method for the various GPUs out there. I will be using my X800GTO for testing so I will be using that for this section as well. You can see the screws have two threaded sections. The one section threads into the mounting plate and the bottom threads will be used to secure the block to the video card.
As you can see, I have prepared the GPU for accepting the Aquagate Viva waterblock and the mounting screws are ready to go. The finish on the waterblock is very smooth and does have some reflective properties to it but we all know that a mirror finish isn't required for a good mount. A flat base is far more important.
Mounting the Aquagate Viva is a very simple task and the instructions explain what hardware belongs where in good detail. Within a minute or two I had the block mounted and securing screws tightened down.
From the topside everything looks to be mounted nicely. The waterblock is very secure on the card and the simple two-screw method seems to work really well. I was kind of surprised how secure the heavy waterblock really was on the video card. I was expecting a bit of a loose mount based on previous two-screw mounts of heavy blocks on GPUs but that was definitely not the case with the Aquagate Viva.
After my initial mount I pulled the waterblock to see what kind of contact I was getting and the photo says it all, the mount appears to be perfect making good contact at all four corners.
With the waterblock mounted again with a fresh application of thermal paste, I test fitted the bracket that comes with the Aquagate Viva but don't see how it serves any purpose. The manual does state that only some video card models require this piece. I guess the X800GTO doesn't?
I will now take a quick look at installing the Aquagate Viva into a case. I happen to have the Antec Nine Hundred loaded with a set of components and sitting on my work desk so I will use it. I start off by mounting the radiator in one of the hard drive cages. Only one hole will line up because of the front mounted fan on the cage.
I then mounted the video card and the drive cage into its slot. Routing the tubes in this manner made for an acceptable solution but there is one problem. The flow meter at the back of the case is upside down. It needs to have the large fitting at the top in order for the system to function. I tried every possible combination of arrangements but couldn't get an acceptable setup with the radiator in the hard drive slot.
I then moved the radiator up to a 5.25" slot adjusting the brackets as necessary and was able to get a functioning setup possible but the flow meter was not in a very favorable spot. It is just sitting there and not secured anywhere. As you can see, this case doesn't give a lot of room for the Aquagate Viva and a proper installation really wasn't possible.
I found the tubes to be awkward lengths and the flow meter was all but impossible to try and mount correctly. The Aquagate Viva is designed to be universal but using the system is far from easy to install in a case. I also tried using the radiator in the PCI slot by mounting that bracket but again, the tube length wouldn't allow an acceptable mounting position for the flow meter.
I personally think that Cooler Master needs to design a better way to incorporate the flow meter as having it in the middle of the loop and needing to be in a specific upright position just doesn't allow for a universal installation in a case.
Pulling everything out of the case, I will now continue on with the CPU block installation. The first step is installing the mounting screws from the underside of the motherboard. CM includes washers for both sides and again, a dual threaded screw is utilized. The screws are tightened down with the large nuts seen here. You will need pliers or the appropriate wrench to tighten these down.
With the mounting screws in place, we need to prepare the block for mounting on the CPU instead of a GPU. The mounting plate has to come off which is held in place with four screws.
Those four screws we removed are then replaced with these four screws. The instructions don't mention anything about how tight they need to be installed but when it comes time to mounting, you will want these to be almost to the point of being loose. These screws serve the purpose of giving the CPU mounting bracket a place to rest to hold down the waterblock.
You can see the mounting plate just fits into the four screws on the block and hold it in place. Obviously this setup won't work as there is no where for the RAM to go but that is easily fixed.
Simply rotating the block underneath and using the various holes in the mounting plate give us the angle we need for the cooling tubes to not interfere with the RAM. Two nuts lock the mounting plate in place and the system is pretty much ready to go.
Cooler Master does include this bracket for mounting an additional 80mm fan for help in cooling motherboard components. I will be doing testing without the fan in place as I don't have an 80mm fan lying around. I refuse to keep 80mm fans in the house as part of my anti-useless noise campaign.
Because of the issues with mounting the Aquagate Viva in the case I have, I will be conducting the CPU testing outside of a case in the setup above. The video card testing was completed with the Aquagate Viva mounted in the Nine Hundred that we saw earlier.
Page 6 : Testing & Performance
Like the installation page, the testing section will be comprised of a couple sections because of the multiple uses the Aquagate Viva supports. First up is the testing on a video card within the case.
In Case GPU testing:
CPU: AMD Opteron 146 (CAB2E 0546GPAW) @ 2800MHz (1.51V)
MB: DFI LanParty NF4 Ultra-D
RAM: OCZ PC4000 2GB EB Platinum Ed. @ DDR500 3-3-2-8
GPU: HIS X800GTO IceQ II Turbo 256MB
PSU: Silverstone Zeus ST56ZF 560W
HD: Seagate SATAII 80GB 8MB NCQ
OS: Windows XP SP2 (with all updates)
CASE: Antec Nine Hundred
Ambient Temp: 22C-23C
Arctic Cooling Silencer (stock with HIS IceQ II)
nMedia Ice Tank
Out of Case CPU testing:
The same list of components were used for testing the CPU thermal cooling abilities of the Aquagate Viva. This is how that setup looked during testing:
I utilized ATI Tools "Scanning for Artifacts" to load the video card for the testing. It ran for 2 hours with each cooler and I took temperatures 3 times randomly then averaged those out for the results below. I then left the system to idle for a full hour and recorded the idle temperature at the end of that period. Let's look at how the Aquagate Viva faired compared to the very strong cooler on the HIS X800GTO IceQ II:
In Case GPU testing results:
There you have it, the Aquagate Viva is quite capable of cooling a relatively hot GPU. The Arctic Cooling Silencer that comes mated to the HIS X800GTO doesn't even compare to the Aquagate Viva. I set the fan to run at a constant 53% for the testing and the fan was even louder than the two fans on the Aquagate Viva so not only did it do a much better job at cooling, the Aquagate Viva was noticeably quieter. Time to see how it faired on a pretty heavily overclocked CPU.
CPU thermal testing was done through Orthos Beta (based on Prime95), which ran for 3 hours. Again, 3 readings were taken randomly then averaged for the results. The idle results are based on the temperature after a 1 hour idle period after the load testing was finished.
Out of Case CPU testing results:
I chose to compare the Aquagate Viva to the nMedia Ice Tank because not only is the nMedia Ice Tank a very capable cooler but it is relatively quiet and it would allow for testing while the processor was overclocked substantially. The stock AMD CPU cooler couldn't handle this voltage or overclock and I knew the Aquagate Viva would be up for the challenge. As you can see the CPU worked the Aquagate Viva a little harder than the GPU did but it still managed to beat the Ice Tank and kept the processor a couple degrees cooler throughout testing.
The one number that stands out is the PWM value and that is because of the lack of air flow in that area. This is where the 80mm fan mount would do wonders and likely bring that number inline with the Ice Tanks result. I honestly didn't think the small aluminum radiator of the Aquagate Viva wasn't going to do as well as it did on the CPU testing but I was pleasantly surprised. Keep in mind, a 1.51v Opteron 146 running at 2800MHz is a rather hefty overclock and the Aquagate Viva held its own throughout the 3 hour stress test.
I also mentioned earlier that the fans were very quiet and throughout the testing they really were. I tried to sense if they would speed up or down based on the thermal probes but couldn't conclusively find out. There is a connection to the motherboard from the power cable that all the devices hook up to for power but the motherboard didn't get a fan speed reading.
Page 7 : Conclusion
The Aquagate Viva is an interesting piece of hardware. The ability to cool a processor or a video card is very unique for an all-in-one water cooling setup of this nature. The built in waterblock/water pump really cuts down on the footprint inside of a case and the small radiator that can mount in any number of positions really makes the Aquagate Viva a versatile product.
The biggest drawback takes away from a lot of that versatility and that drawback is the flow meter. It is a great idea and the alarm certainly will alert you if something is wrong because boy is that alarm a piercing buzz. The only problem is that it really makes installation tough. Because of the flow meter, the tubes become gangly and awkward to manipulate, especially considering the flow meter has to remain in an upright position to function.
If Cooler Master can refine the flow meter then this Aquagate Viva is really a great product that can be used in any number of ways. As it stands now, I would definitely recommend users to make sure that their case has room, in the right spots, that will facilitate an acceptable installation. The performance really surprised me because I did put it through a pretty tough test and the Aquagate Viva performed admirably, but the installation really diminishes the overall appeal.
Excellent VGA cooling
More than acceptable CPU cooling
Near silent operation, even under a high heatload
Multiple radiator mounting positions is nice
Installation is difficult because of the flow meter
Overclockers Online would like to thank Cooler Master for providing the Aquagate Viva for review.