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DTek TC-4 Waterblock

Why in the world would anyone ever want to put water inside their computers? That is both a simple and complicated question…so let’s try to keep it simple. As computers get hotter and hotter we need to find a way to get rid of that heat. In the early days a simple passive radiator (chunk o’ metal) on top of a CPU sufficed…but as heatloads increased we needed a larger radiator and finally a fan in order to transfer the heat from the radiator to the air more efficiently. More recently heatloads are surpassing 0.7 watts per square millimeter and we need ever more extreme methods to cool the CPU down in order to prevent them from melting themselves. The original heatsink/fan idea can still work but there is very little room for error here and the fans can be quite loud since they must move much more air to shift the heat from the radiator.

So we need to figure out a way to move heat more better…water is a stable and easily available substance that can move heat better being denser than air. There is added complexity and risk but the rewards are lower CPU temps, quieter operation and more overhead for overclocking. The normal user need not watercool (for now) but the “gear head” among us will find it a necessity sooner or later.

Enter DTek…a manufacturer of high end watercooling gear, their TC-4 is similar to other waterblocks in execution - It is a chunk of metal with hollow channels machined in it allowing water to pass through. That water is heated by your CPU during its journey through the block, propelled by a pump to a radiator (and sometimes a reservoir), cooled down then the process repeats. I have been testing this block for six weeks now in the Monster Hardware Secret Underground Labs and am now ready to give you the straight skinny….

DTek has brought a few refinements to the game by using a large copper base plate, turbulence inducing channels and “turbulators” – wire assemblies within the channels designed to stir up the water and create even more turbulence; this exposes more of the surface area of the water allowing for more efficient cooling. Let’s look at the block OK?

Black Block Top      Clear Block Top

The waterblock is available in either a clear top or a solid anodized aluminum top (anodizing is important to prevent the corrosion between dissimilar metals) and this one is equipped with handsome stainless steel ½” OD fittings exclusive to DTek. The bottom is finely machined with no visible tooling marks and requires no lapping. The block may be disassembled for future maintenance and DTek offers O rings and cleaning kits for your convenience.

Some other companies clear topped waterblocks have had problems with cracking and leaking but it has been pointed out that DTek’s Poly Tops are made of much tougher stuff…polycarbonate is the same material that bullet proof glass is made of! A popular mod for clear topped waterblocks is the installation of those new generation high intensity LED’s…It really creates an awesome effect. Let’s hope that DTek offers this as a factory option eventually!

I really like the thick and heavy base that is capable of absorbing more heat even though new cutting edge tech is moving towards thinner bases…however, I still like a thick 1/2” base in case of pump failure… it gives the system more time to shut down.

The ½” OD fittings are a real plus here…some people have told me that you need not use large diameter tubing for good performance but I prefer the “bigger better hammer” theory. Larger diameter = better flow = better cooling!

Wanna see it mounted in the box? OK!

Block Mounted

I would show you a full shot of my open PC but I am tired of E mails from smart-alecs saying “…dude…looks like a family of rats live in there….” Kids! Sheesh! If you were in and out of your box as much as me it would look messy too… wait…that didn’t come out quite right…err… >sigh<

Here are the test system specs:

Epox 8K9A (a wee bit modified)
XP2600+ @ 2547MHz (factory unlocked)
PC Power and Cooling Whisper 400
OCS Radeon 9700Pro L2 watercooled with an 80w TEC (480/760MHz)
DTek TC4 Waterblock with solid anodized aluminum top
Via Aqua 1300 - 370GPH Pump
CPUFX Heatercore radiator
120GB Maxtor HD
Liteon DVD and Burner

The mounting kit is a simple but straight forward screw and spring variety and works well. The installation requires that the motherboard be removed in order to use the 4 mounting holes to dog down the waterblock…but removal of the waterblock after that is quite easy and you shouldn’t have to remove the motherboard again.

When mounted the block is quite attractive but not overly flashy… it has that “Lets-settle-it-in-a-back-alley” look the older Mustangs had.

Hooked up and running the system returns quite reasonable numbers at idle even with an 80W TEC installed on the video card…there is a caveat here…this motherboard uses an in-socket thermistor which is less than accurate then polling the internal diode but we can get an idea of what is going on in there … I had a flat thermistor but it, ah, died in a tragic overclocking accident involving water, fire and a lot of screaming J…anyways here are the temps running at idle and at load:

CPUCool 1

CPUCool 2

Load temps were achieved using the program HeavyLoad ran for 30 minutes. Note: With the Whisper 400 PSU there is NO 5v rail drop and nearly NO 12v rail drop…and the 80W TEC draws 8A all by itself… Kudos to PC Power and Cooling for such excellent performance in a three year old PSU.

Do the turbulators and turbulence promoting channel design work? I would say that they do…watching the water hit the return tube is fascinating…it is a literal hurricane of water…you know that it has been stirred up.

Since this motherboard is different from previous ones and the system configuration has changed greatly it really wouldn’t be fair to compare it to other installations I have run but I would say that I have been able to return a higher stable overclock with the TC-4, about 100MHz higher…and that is a not an inconsiderable gain in overall speed.

An interesting feature is the expandability of this waterblock…most peltier installations require a dedicated block that can only be used for that narrow application. The TC-4 and other DTek products are designed to allow for the reversible installation of a peltier by sandwiching it to the block with a copper plate secured by mounting holes that are currently present on all of DTek’s waterblocks. It is likely that upgrade kits will be offered soon for existing blocks reducing the overall cost of a peltier upgrade. I personally would not recommend the clear top for peltier installations in case of overheating…I have seen some nasty pictures of the aftermath of accidents whilst browsing the [H]ardForums (ouch).

Conclusions and Mutterings:

This is a handsome waterblock that I am happy to have in my system. It performs better than the Z4 waterblock I have used in the past and I have been able to achieve truly excellent overclocks with it. I would like to thank Danny at DTek for sending me the gear and being such a genial fellow.

Pros:

  • Excellent Performance
  • Good Looks
  • Upgradeable
  • Stainless Steel Large Diameter Fittings

Cons:

  • I would like to see the fittings permanently affixed upon request to prevent loosening
  • A little bit expensive ($50.00 for the solid top)

Added: April 2nd 2003
Reviewer: Outcast
Score: 9  
Related Link: DTek Customs
Hits: 14868
Language: english

  

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