Date: September 5, 2014
Author(s): Ryan Perry
AIO liquid CPU coolers seem to be as common as high-end air coolers nowadays. However, despite this, many of them look nearly the same. SilverStone, with its Tundra TD02, has decided to go against that grain, giving us a more distinctive, perhaps even classier offering. Let’s see how far those improved aesthetics get it.
The all-in-one (AIO) liquid cooler market has exploded with products from most of the major players in the air cooling game. Even companies that had nothing to do with cooling are testing the waters (ba-dum-ching!), but for the most part, the products seem fairly similar to each other, at least from the outside.
Sure, there are aesthetic differences such as LED lights, and some manufacturers have decided to bump up the overall size of the radiators and fans, or even include custom software to control performance. When we look at it from a core cooling technology perspective however, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of visible changes, and many of us aren’t adventurous enough to void the warranty to see what’s going on under the hood.
For those who feel that seeing is believing, let’s have a peek at the latest 240mm AIO cooler from SilverStone, the Tundra TD02. SilverStone took the standard, pre-filled, factory sealed cooler, dressed it up, and sprinkled on a healthy dose of innovation, resulting in what we have on the test bench today.
Starting off at the block and integrated pump, we have a solid aluminum top cover whereas most coolers use black plastic. The top cover is finished off with the snowflake design, which is synonymous with SilverStone, and is flanked by countersunk screws to hold the unit together. Even the retention arms are solid aluminum and are much thicker than anything we have looked at in the past, which gives the cooler a well-built, quality feel.
Running from the side of the block and pump unit is the 4-pin power connection, while the business side has a flawless, solid copper block, devoid of any screws or bolts since these thread down through the top as mentioned a moment ago. The surface of the block is nice and flat on both axis when checked with a straight edge. SilverStone chose to go with ribbed, white FEP tubing for the hoses, which is more rigid than the smooth rubber hoses that we’ve seen lately. They measure 310mm long and have an outer diameter of 9.5mm.
The radiator is where things really get interesting. Forget about the contrast between the gunmetal finish and white accents for a moment, and look at how beefy this things is. A standard radiator is 25mm thick, and the thickest radiator that we’ve looked at so far has been 38mm. The radiator on the Tundra series of coolers measures an impressive 45mm thick due to the unique wrap around fin design.
Instead of using the typical folded fins found on most radiators, which only contact the sides of the fluid channels, SilverStone looked at what has been used on air coolers for years and put that technology to work. The result is a tightly packed, brazed fin array that contacts the channels on all sides to pull more heat away. Each fin has also been given a sawtooth edge to help get around the fact that this extra thickness requires more static pressure from the fans in order to cool properly.
Two 120mm high performance AS1225H12 fans have been included, and feature a 4-pin PWM connector. These fans have a top speed of 2500 RPM while pushing 92.5 CFM, and 3.5mm/H2O. They also feature two small teeth that extend into each blade to create three channels. Silverstone claims that this creates a more aerodynamic shape, in turn reducing the amount of noise to 33.5 dBA.
Included with the TD02 are the combination Intel/AMD back plate, the AMD retention arms (the Intel arms are pre-installed), various screws, nuts, and risers, a tube of thermal compound, and a Y-splitter cable to run both fans from a single motherboard header.
It’s time to see how the TD02 stacks up to the competition and also whether the design changes mentioned above will result in lower temperatures, but first we need to get the cooler installed into our test system.
The installation is similar for Intel and AMD-based systems, except the retention arms will need to be swapped and the stock cooler mounts on AMD motherboards will need to be removed. After that it’s pretty much the standard mounting procedure of threading the long bolts through the back plate and up through the motherboard, and putting a plastic riser on each one. The block then threads over the bolts to sit on the risers and is secured in place using the included nuts.
Once the orientation of the radiator was corrected, the TD02 installed without any further problems. Normally we install our coolers with the hoses closest to the front of the chassis, but we had to reverse that when the mounting points on the fans wouldn’t line up with the holes on the top of the chassis due to clearance problems. This wasn’t a big deal, but then the hoses began to make contact with the rear exhaust fan. Oh sure, we could have put a grill over the rear fan, but we opted for the fast a dirty zip tie instead. Classy!
Have a look at our “hard work” below, but potential buyers should keep in mind that the radiator hangs down further due to the extra thickness. This could cause problems with power connections, tall MOSFET coolers, or even memory modules that are located towards the extreme top of the motherboard. Thankfully our test chassis has the mounting points against the far left side closest to the opening, so even though the cooler hangs down lower, it’s pulled away from the motherboard as far as possible.
All of our testing is performed under controlled conditions to ensure accurate and repeatable results. The test system is kept in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after testing with a standard room thermometer. AIDA64 Extreme Engineer is used for monitoring and recording temperatures throughout the test process.
Windows is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services are loaded before recording idle CPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of OCCT LINPACK using 90% of the available memory to generate as much heat as possible. All coolers are set to the maximum performance level allowable to ensure a level playing field and all case fans are run at 100%.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by using the “Load Optimized Defaults” option in the motherboard BIOS. The maximum overclocked frequency of 4.5GHz was reached by setting the clock ratio to x22.5 and increasing the voltage by 0.15v to bring it up to 1.4125v. Cool ‘n Quiet, C1, C6 and AMP have been disabled as well to ensure frequencies remain consistent.
|CPU Cooler Test System|
|Processors||AMD FX-8150 – 8-Core @ 3.6GHz (4.5GHz OC)|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE 990A-FX (AM3)|
|Memory||Kingston HyperX 2x2GB DDR3-2100 9-11-9-27-2T|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 5450|
|Storage||Kingston SSDNow M 80GB SATA 2 SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX650 650W|
|Chassis||Fractal Design Arc Midi Full-Tower|
|Cooling||Cooling Corsair H100i Liquid Cooler|
Corsair H80i Liquid Cooler
|Et cetera||Windows 7 Professional 64-bit|
Things don’t look good as the TD02 consistently falls behind not only the H100i, but also the 120mm H80i. The temperatures were high enough to warrant a quick check that the block was making proper contact with the CPU. Since everything looked fine there, we figured it could possibly be the type of fans, so they were swapped out in favour of a pair of Corsair’s SP120Ls, which are used on the aforementioned Corsair coolers. This made absolutely no difference to the temperatures as the exact same numbers were recorded.
We had a look at the results on some of the other tech sites around the Web to see if they were reporting similar numbers, but none that were checked used an AMD CPU. We specifically chose this super-hot running processor over Intel’s frosty chips in order to separate the OK coolers from the fantastic ones, and we feel that it has done its job today.
Moving onto noise levels, the TD02 is quieter than the Corsair coolers with the fans running at full speed, which is how we perform all of our testing. Out of the box this seems to be a noise versus performance trade off, so those looking for lower temperatures will likely want to swap out the fans for something with a higher static pressure rating, but don’t expect the cooler to stay quiet.
It’s nice to finally see a company try to change things up, not only in aesthetics, but in the actual design of the AIO cooler itself. Even though there’s no mention of this on the company’s site, I’ve read that the Tundra series was designed in house by SilverStone rather than simply using what parts an OEM has on hand.
If that’s true, the Tundra series is a great first attempt to break into the AIO cooler market, but innovation usually goes one of two ways. Either a product or design concept is revolutionary and results in immediate improvements, or it requires some additional tweaking in order to be a viable design, even if the theory behind the innovation is sound.
After our testing we feel that the TD02 falls into the latter category. We feel confident that the problem isn’t with the fans, seeing how swapping them out for Corsair units made no difference. So, is the problem with the pump? The block design? The smaller diameter hoses? The unique fin array on the radiator? A combination of all of these? It’s hard to say, but one thing’s for certain: if a 240mm AIO cooler gets beat up by a 120mm unit, it’s time to head back to the drawing board. That might sound harsh, but a 15 degree difference between a similar cooler that is in direct competition with the TD02 is just too large to disregard.
We had intended to test the 120mm Tundra TD03 as well, but ran into issues with our test system. For the sake of time we decided to get this review out the door, however testing the TD03 would have given us addition comparison data. If it beat the larger TD02, we’d know for certain that there was something wrong with our review sample because the numbers are so far out of line with what SilverStone claims. Once our test system is sorted out, we may revisit the TD03 and if we do, will update our readers accordingly.
Performance aside, the quality of the TD02 is fantastic. The finish on the copper block is impeccable, the solid aluminum cover and retention brackets are the strongest that we’ve ever seen, and the radiator has a quality feel to it due to the extra heft and support that the brazed fins provide. Just keep in mind that not every system will be able to handle the increased thickness of the radiator
If you’re into looks, which most enthusiasts are, try slapping one of these coolers in a chassis with a black interior and white accents, or one that’s all white. Yeah, that’s money! Subjective money, but money nonetheless.
The TD02 is currently selling for about $120 US, which is $20 more than competing AIO coolers giving it less bang for your buck. On the other hand it’s a solid, well-built cooler that looks good doing what it does, even if it’s not quite as effective as some other coolers on the market.
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