Although air-cooling is still viable for the majority of users, water cooling has jumped by leaps and bounds, especially in this past year thanks to a few companies offering turnkey solutions. No longer restricted to hardcore enthusiasts, watercooling has become easier to acquire and setup. Granted, it is still more complicated to setup than air coolers, but the payoff is usually better performance, and lower noise levels.
Putting together an effective water cooling solution isn't about slapping a bunch of blocks, radiator, pump and fans though, as the quality of each component is very important. Naturally, water blocks are a major part of the equation, and we got a chance to look at a couple of .
PolarFLO is actually the water block division of the , which is a family-owned and operated precision machine shop. PolarFLO started selling water blocks a mere five months ago, and although their name may not be too familiar with some people, in the water cooling community they are establishing themselves quite a reputation as makers of some quality water blocks.
Here's a bit from their product page:
This is the most beautiful high performance CPU water block on the market today! Precision CNC machined for the ultimate performance andaesthetics. The PolarFLO Universal CPU water blocks fit AMD socket 462 and Intel socket 478. The water block comes with all the hardware, fittings and hose clamps for 1/2" or 3/8" ID water cooling systems.
The rest of the specifications can be .
The PolarFLO Universal CPU Water Block SF
We received a couple boxes from Horse of Iron, that contained the water blocks and the necessary clamps and installation accessories. The CPU block had a blue film to protect the base, and the entire block was wrapped in a small foam bag. Good job by PolarFLO to protect the product.
The PolarFLO Universal CPU Water Block SF differs from most water blocks, where instead of two barbs (a single inlet, and a single outlet), we have three barbs. The reasoning for this is that the center barb is used as the inlet, whereas the two outer barbs are the outlet connections.
The build quality is very good. The top of the CPU block is made of aluminum, anodized to the colour of your choice. I chose black, but there are to choose from. The basic colours are "free" upgrades, but the metalic finishes come at an added cost.
The base of the water block is 100% copper. These blocks we received are part of their latest Super Finished (SF) series, which was released just this past November. As you can see above, the surface is very reflective, and upon close examination, very flat. A quick thermal paste to CPU test revealed a very clean impression. Lapping is not required, and in fact, discouraged by PolarFLO. The base's specifications call for a 0.000050 Flat and 0.5-1.0 RaMicroinch Surface Finish. These specs exceed (by that, I mean improve upon) those of most other water blocks we've looked at.
The water block is a universal one, meaning both Socket 478 (Pentium 4) and Socket 462 (Athlon XP) processors are covered. Inside the block are small indents that will increase the turbulance of the water for better performance.
PolarFLO Universal VGA-Chipset Water Block
Looking like a couple of battleship cannons, the PolarFLO VGA-Chipset Water Block is almost as impressive as the CPU block. We received a matching anodized black block, configured in a 12 O'Clock orientation.
Like the CPU block, the VGA block is universal, though you do need to specify the mounting plate, depending on what video card, or chipset you use. You also have a choice on the hose connector orientation (horizontal, vertical, or a combination of either one), which will be determined by how your water cooling needs to be setup.
The base is finished to a mirror shine, but as you can see above, there are some machining swirls left over. There is no warning on PolarFLO's site about lapping the VGA-Chipset block, but I don't really think it's necessary. Quality thermal paste should do the job of properly mating the two surfaces.
With our water blocks, we received plenty of accessories. Pictured to the above left is an AMD bracket for those of you who do not have the four mounting holes for the water block, but even if you have the four holes, you can still use this bracket if you're not keen on removing your motherboard. This is an extra cost of ten bucks.
To the right is a Y-splitter for splitting flow from one hose into two hoses or the other way around. The Y-splitter is included by default.
There are plenty of hose clamps plus mounting screws and nuts. Above are the CPU parts (the VGA parts aren't pictured, but are the same pieces), and are all made of hard nylon. I suppose the good thing about being nylon based is you don't need to worry about possibly shorting out the motherboard, but I'm a little wary of how secure they'd be if you were to move your PC around a lot. They are fairy sturdy though, and it'll take some real abuse to break them.