Water-cooling has gotten very easy to setup these days, especially with the explosion of turnkey solutions from various manufacturers. The benefits of water-cooling are simple to grasp; they run relatively silent for the same performance (and often better) when compared to extreme air coolers, and are significantly cheaper than phase-change solutions. When properly installed, they are extremely reliable and require minimal maintenance.
On the flip side, even the easiest to assemble water-cooling kit is typically more complicated than most traditional heatsinks. Still, compared to many kits of pre-2004, things have gotten much easier as some kits are as close to plug-and-play as we can get. Some elbow grease is still required, but the real work such as pump and radiator placement is done for you. In some kits, we see PC cases with pre-assembled water-cooling kits, and in other scenarios, external water-cooling kits that sit outside of the case.
What if the kit rests inside the case, and on top of that, it's put together for you? Cooler Master has released such a kit named the Aquagate Mini last year, but today we'll be showing you their latest revision, the .
Cooler Master Aquagate Mini R120
The Cooler Master Aquagate Mini R120 arrived in a large rectangular box with every key component individually compartmentalized (Ed. Note: Is that even a word?). Of course, the Aquagate Mini R120 itself is already preassembled, filled with liquid and all.
The CPU block itself is rather small, just a bit smaller than the stock heatsink found with either Intel or AMD CPUs. The entire kit is composed of a variety of materials, but the CPU block itself is made up of a series of stacked aluminum fins on top of a copper base. The portion of the base that makes direct contact with the CPU is machined to a mirror shine, and is surrounded by four small holes for the retention plate installation.
The CPU block is not just a water block though, but it also houses the pump. The pump is designed for silent operation, and due to the "closed design" of the Aquagate Mini, Cooler Master uses a pump rated for 45 liters and hour. This is a fraction of what we find in more elaborate systems, but usually those use not only wider tubing, but also longer ones. The pump is rated for 2 years of continuous use, but real-world may vary depending on the operational conditions.
Two 11.81" rubber tubes exit the pump to the radiator. One tube is for intake, and the second is for out. There is a third potential opening is for what I assume Cooler Master used to fill the unit.
Power to the pump is supplied by a three pin connection that can go directly into the motherboard. We didn't have any problems with the power draw on our ASUS P5WD2, but Cooler Master does supply a 3-pin to Molex adapter should your motherboard be unable to handle the current.
The radiator connects to the CPU block via the two tubes. The radiator is aluminum based and measures 4.72 x 6.30 x 1.38 (L x W x H). A 120mm fan opening is required for installation, though conceivably, you can simply rest the radiator and fan outside the case if your case lacks such an opening. Either that, or you can look at the 80mm version of the Aquagate Mini which should offer similar features, albeit lesser performance.
The 120mm fan in the package is rated at a maximum of 107cfm, though you'll pay for it as the fan gets very loud (35dBA) at that speed since it's spinning at 2800RPM. At 800RPM, the fan is remarkably quieter, and barely audible at 21dBa.
You can let the motherboard control the fan speed if it supports it, but I'm not sure letting such a powerful fan run off the motherboard's power leads is the wisest thing to do. Instead, the included rheostat is highly recommended in our opinion since it draws power off the power supply and you can tweak the fan speed to your liking very easily.
Rounding things out are the bits and pieces included with the package. The Aquagate Mini covers almost every CPU application, from golden oldies like Socket A and 478 to Socket 939 and LGA775. Basically, every key AMD and Intel CPU from the last 5 years.
There's some odd hex nuts needed for motherboard installation, and credit to Cooler Master for leaving no stone unturned as they also include a hex nut insert for your screwdriver.