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Corsair Nautilus500 External Water Cooling

Date: April 19, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

It may come as a surprise to some, but memory moguls Corsair actually threw together quite a great water cooling kit called COOL. Well, now they are testing different waters.. an external kit! We will be testing it on a very, very hot Intel Dual Core, so let’s see how it does.



Introduction

When a company excels at one specific type of product, they sometimes stick to it only. This is the case with memory companies especially. If any move away from desktop/mobile ram, they may try their hand at flash memory. Companies like Corsair don’t stop there though, as we seen when their released their COOL water cooling kit. That kit proved to be well worth anyone’s time, because even though they were new to the market with such a product, they did most everything right.

Because of the success of the COOL, Corsair wanted to expand a little bit further. How do you go about expanding beyond a water cooling kit? How about an external water cooling kit? Surprisingly, there are actually quite few of these products on the market. The only other that immediately come to mind is the solution from Koolance, the Exos.

Why would you want an external kit? Well, the main reason would probably be because you are new to water cooling and want a solution that’s very easy to setup and install. Reports from CPU Magazine show that the entire kit could be installed in 9 minutes, but this of course, assumes you already know how to install such a system. First time setup should really take around 20 minutes after reading through the manual.

Another reason may be that you are in and out of your computer all of the time, installing new components. If you have an internal water cooling setup, you will have a rougher time unhooking it in order to take care of things. With an external kit, it’s all very straight forward. Enough reasons.. let’s move on to the features and benefits of the system.



Closer Look

Corsair claims that the Nautilus ‘Defines a new generation of watercooling solutions’.. and are they right? We’ll soon see. As mentioned previously, one of the biggest selling points for the kit is that it’s user friendly and even a ‘noob’ can install it very quickly. Many people think that because a product is designed to be accessible for new users, that it will seriously lack the performance that enthusiasts expect. This is not the case as we will see in our temperature reports.

You may wonder exactly what the 500 in the name represents? That’s the amount heat is can dissipate (500W). That shows that the Nautilus could easily cool an FX CPU, 2 hgh-end SLI cards and also your Northbridge if you choose to do so. If you are interested, you can read the reference PDF right here.

I am unsure if Corsair get’s the waterblock from another manufacturer or not, but it’s all copper as we would expect. The block uses a technology called “Micro Channel Technology” that’s designed to absorb and dissipate heat efficiently. I could not find anything more specific on the technology than that, however.

Because the Nautilus is an external kit, it only makes sense to keep it on the top of your computer for the best water flow. To sum it up in a sentence: The unit will pump the liquid through the tube into the back of your PC through a slot, hit the CPU and come straight back up to the unit again. The basic kit includes only a CPU block, but you have the option of also adding a GPU or Northbridge block later on if you want to. This will require you purchasing the extra tubing, blocks and probably coolant also. The important thing to note is that the Nautilus is able to handle far more than just the CPU.

One feature that’s incredibly helpful is the quick disconnect connectors. On the back of the Nautilus, you must first push down on a button in order to fit in the connector, which makes sense for security reasons. What’s nice about this though, is that even when the unit is full of liquid, you are able to disconnect on the fly without spilling any of the liquid inside. Of course you will get a few drops, but nothing major. You still would not want to do this over top of your computer where any spilled liquid could find it’s way into your PC.

Another notable would be the fact that the Nautilus is compatible with all current sockets including 478, 775, 754, 939 and 940. Let’s now take a look at what’s included with the kit.



What You Get

The box that showed up turned out to be far smaller than I expected it to be. This is a small all-in-one kit, but that’s a good thing as long as it still has the performance we need. The first thing you’ll come across after opening the box is the full detailed manual. This is a fantastic manual that’s clear and concise, and includes many detailed pictures to help you along during installation. You can see the manual in PDF form right here.

The unit is made of a hard plastic and has a very unique look to it. It’s very streamlined though and should look great with any case it’s on top of. On the front of the unit, you have the Nautilus badge in addition to a small strip of white plastic, which is actually the reservoir. Directly above this is the cap you need to remove to add the water and coolant. Then there is a huge mesh grill which lies directly atop a 120mm fan. This fan acts as an exhaust, blowing warm air to freedom.

On the back of the unit are the quick-disconnects, fan speed control and power connector. Looking closer at the two tube connections at the back, you can see that you need to push down on the button in order to get the tube into place. Once the tube is in place, you let go and it assures a very tight fit. The fan speed control on high will power the fan to push out air at 1800RPM. There is no mention or what the low speed setting does, but I assume it to be around 1200RPM.

Before we move on to some of the extras that are included, here are some specifics:

The water block is already connected to one end of the tube, so you are good to go that way. There is a small plastic layer you must tear off before installing the block though. This is a thick tube, so there’s very little chance you will ever pierce it. Good thing, since it’s in my hands. On the Nautilus box, you can see the all of the extras that are included. Depending on what CPU socket you have, you will only need one of the included brackets.

You’ll notice that the power cable is well sleeved, and feels like rubber. You’ll also notice that the bracket that you plug into a slot in the back has three separate wires, but neither of them are sleeved. Not that I am particularly fussy about such things, it would have been nice to see them in different, ‘cooler’ colors, not white/teal. There is also a foam piece that’s included that is important for the installation, but we’ll save that for the next section..



Installation

Now for the fun part.. installation! I consider myself to be a huge water cooling noob, so a kit like this is perfect. It also came at the right time, because I was still using the stock Intel cooler that was included with the 820 D. By far, this has been the loudest air cooler I have ever heard, so I was more than happy to remove it from the board and throw it in the trash.

The first thing I did was install the bracket to the back of the computer. It easily fit into a slot directly above my video card. This bracket has two functions. First, it’s what will bring power from the inside of your computer, up to the Nautilus. Second, there are two holes large enough for each tube to fit through.

I didn’t take a snapshot of every single step of the process, because a lot of it required two hands, so I couldn’t manage a camera in addition. Since I use an LGA775 socket, I had to fit use 4 small plastic clips in each of the holes surrounding it. Next, I took out the CPU and gave it a good cleaning, then applied the thermal paste that Corsair included in the kit. After that, I put the block on the CPU and used the included foam piece to put on top of it. The foam is what will separate the block from touching the metal bracket, and also keeps the tubes in their proper place.

Once that was all in place, I slid the 775 bracket down to sit atop the foam piece. I pushed down on each corner to have them click with each of the plastic clips I installed earlier. Once that was done, I was able to route the tubes through the holes in the PCI slot bracket.

The next step was to install the plastic ‘quick connect sealing connectors’ into the end of each tube. These are designed to fit snuggly and securely into the back of the unit, but also have the ability to be quickly disconnected for transport. The last step of the actual installation was running the small power cord from the back bracket up to the unit, and we were good to roll.

Before adding any water or coolant, I recommend not placing the Nautilus on top of your computer, but rather a flat table or something directly next to your PC. This is just so in case you do happen to spill anything, it will land on the table and not inside your PC. It’s really a matter of first adding the coolant, then filling up the rest with water. After you turn on the unit or your computer, it will start to pump through. As it does, it will open more space inside the unit for more water. As it’s going through it’s loop, you just keep adding water until it’s completely full.

All in all, the installation was rather simple, just as the packaging says. I didn’t run into a single problem, which is not something I can usually say after an installation like this. I didn’t actually time myself, but the entire process took about 60 minutes. That included removing the stock cooler and the thermal paste from the CPU, installing the unit and tube, and actually having the entire thing run. Some of that time was also spent taking photos though.



Temperature Tests

Of course the most important thing of any water cooling setup is how well it keeps your components cool. Because the base Nautilus kit only includes a CPU block, I am only worrying about grabbing temperatures from it. I gather temperatures using EVEREST Ultimate Edition 2.8, which does a great job of logging everything to an easy to read file. In order to stress the CPU to 100%, I ran two instances of Prime95, one on each core. At the same time, a Super Pi 32M run was also run on each core. This effectively kept the CPU active to 100% for the entire duration for maximum heat. Each one of these tests lasted for 15 minutes before I continued onto the next.

For Idle scores, the system was booted up and left at the desktop for five minutes. For an Average result, I played through one of my favorite levels in Half-Life 2. The load result is grabbed after the stress test mentioned above, including two instances of each Prime95 and SuperPi. The test system we are using is as follows:

The 820 CPU is a good test, because everybody knows that Intel chips can run hot. Their Dual Cores are only that much better though, especially at full load. There is a LOT of heat beneath that IHS under max load, so the results will be interesting.

More times than not, using Arctic Silver instead of the stock thermal paste usually makes a 1°C or 2°C difference, and it’s no different here. At absolute stock, the Nautilus cut 11°C off the idle temp to sit at a respectable 30°C. At the same speed, the max load was 40°C, which I was very pleased to see. For an Intel Dual Core, it’s usually rare to see such a low figure ;)

Of course, what’s the fun of stock. None! My 820 D seems to top out at 4.2GHz; I’ve been unable to get it anywhere past that. On the stock air cooler, it topped out at a staggering 76°C. This is unsafe for the most part, but Intel’s are designed to handle a fair amount of heat. I am not sure if 76°C can be considered only a ‘fair amount’ though. At max load, the Nautilus cut off a full 19°C off the temp to sit at 57°C. This is a much better figure that I feel more comfortable with. For a 33% overclock, 57°C is not bad at all.



Conclusions

First off, I must say kudos to Corsair for taking a leap forward and developing an external kit. There are others on the market, but many of them are much more expensive then the Nautilus, and also usually involve a lot more effort to get installed. The Nautilus proves not only to be noob friendly, but also will cater nicely to water cooling enthusiasts who wants a quick setup for one of their boxes.

Regardless of whether you are new to overclocking or not, this proved to be a fantastic kit. I didn’t have any aftermarket coolers to compare it to, because the Intel system is not very old and I haven’t used any. Without a doubt though, this will cool better than any after market air cooler. Skipping right past the stock speeds, at my max overclock it managed to take a full 19°C off of the max temp. This is not a small difference, so I was very pleased to see it perform well. With that same overclock, the temp was still less than 50°C on average. That’s far better than the 64°C previously on air.

There are a few things about the kit that I also really liked. The quick disconnects are a welcomed feature, as you can unhook the unit from your PC very quickly. I gave that a quick test, and surprisingly not much liquid dripped out.. two drops max. I also liked the rather quiet noise from the fan. Granted, it’s still quite audible, but comparing it to the stock Intel cooler before it, there’s no question that this is far quieter, especially at the low fan setting.

I don’t really have any huge beefs with the Nautilus, but one problem does stand out. The problem has to do with the four plastic tabs you need to use when you install on top of a LGA775 socket. Basically, they are the same on each end, and once they poke through the hole on your motherboard, they are staying there. You will need to remove your motherboard in order to squeeze them to get them out of there. This will not be a problem if you plan on keeping the Nautilus installed for quite a while, but it will be a pain to uninstall when the time comes.

That is my main complaint really, and there’s nothing else that really stands out to me. Corsair is pricing the Nautilus at $160 which make is affordable for most anyone who wants to get into the hobby. The system is also easily expandable so that you could add GPU blocks and even a north bridge block. This is a perfect kit for anyone who wants to either have a quieter computer, or push their overclock further. I am awarding the Nautilus500 a well deserved 9/10 and Editors Choice award.

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