It seems like only yesterday I was assembling a computer, and there wasn't even a fan attached to the heatsink I was mounting on the CPU. We have come a long way from those days, even though they were just a few short years ago. The mere though of assembling a computer today without having a fan on, at minimum, the CPU is simply unheard of. Modern CPU's run considerably faster than the CPU's of just a few years ago, but constant increases in heat output have come with each and every megahertz we've squeezed out of our CPU's. While air cooling is still sufficient for the average user, seeing idle temperatures in the 40 and 50 degree Celsius range is enough to send an enthusiast into shock.
To combat these increases in heat, water-cooling has come quite a long way in the past couple years as well. Today's water-cooling kits are easier to use than ever, and Asetek has been one of the front-runners in water-cooling innovation. Today we're going to be taking a look at their newest CPU water block, the Antarctica.
Asetek Antarctica Waterblock
The package that I received came with the Antarctica water block, metal mounting hardware, wrench for removal of the top of the block, plastic washers/spacers, a y-adaptor, and block tops to support Intel Socket 478, Intel LGA775 (Socket T), and AMD Socket 462, 754, and 940 CPU's. The block uses a 3 hose configuration, with the center being the inlet and the two outer connectors being for the outlet.
The base of the block is a much simpler looking design than previous water blocks. There is no fancy spiral pattern or "maze" present for the water to flow through, but rather, what looks like a small heatsink positioned below the inlet for the water to move over. This is surrounded by a flat surface with no obstructions between the inlet and the outlets to allow the water to quickly enter and leave the block. This seems like a much better approach to me, as it doesn't allow the water to get heated up excessively by remain in the block for a long period of time, which would in turn allow the overall temperature of the water in the system to remain cooler and maintain lower over-all system temperatures.
The bottom of the block is not quite a mirror finish, however, it is quite smooth. When placing the block onto the CPU and then removing it, there was a nice spread of thermal compound on the block. Lapping would shine up the surface of the block, but I don't feel that it would make a noticeable difference in performance as the block is already quite smooth.
Installation of the Antarctica block, like most other water blocks, requires that the motherboard be removed from the case. While this may be viewed as a hassle, mounting the block in this way ensures that it remains secure. The included instructions detail quite well the installation process in multiple languages, as well as illustrations. The only problem I found with the installation manual was that all of the illustrations showed a water block with only two fittings on it, which has the potential to cause some confusion as to exactly how inlets and outlets should be configured. However, it isn't that difficult when you take into consideration the "heatsink" looking part of the block under the center connector, which would imply to me, that the center is the inlet, and the two outer connectors are the outlets.
One thing that is of great importance to take into consideration when choosing a water block is the area around your CPU socket. You want to make sure that there are no components that are in the way of the block. On my system, which uses the Abit AS8 motherboard, there was a capacitor that was about a millimeter too high positioned close to the socket, which caused the block to not sit level on the CPU. I used my Dremel to shave off a very small portion of the edge of the block to allow it to clear the capacitor without contacting in. This should in no way effect the cooling capabilities of the block in any measurable way, as it was only an extremely small part of the edge of the block.
Aside from making sure that there is adequate clearance for the block, installation is very straight forward. Simply take the plastic spacers, stick one on each of the included screws, and run them through from the backside of the motherboard. Screw them into the four mounting posts, slide the water block down over the mounting posts, place a spring on each of the mounting posts, and use the included thumb screws to secure the block in place. It is important to note that the springs only need to be slightly compressed to make sure that they are applying pressure to the block, and that the springs are not completely compressed as this would be putting too much pressure on the block.