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The whole concept of using water to cool the innards of the PC is still considered by many to be slightly extreme with no place in mainstream computing. Part of this no doubt stems from the ingrained knowledge that when water comes anywhere near electricity it’s certain to end in tragedy, a perfectly understandable fear though not necessarily an accurate one.
Believe it or not there was actually a time when the idea of fitting a fan to a CPU was seen as extreme but the evolving PC began to make new demands and as a result previously extreme measures became an essential part of day-to-day computing.
Although it’s by no means new, water cooling has remained a fringe activity for longer than most, but with CPUs getting ever hotter and the requirements to air cool them efficiently are getting ever noisier. Manufacturers are now looking for ways to make water cooling cheaper, easier and safer to use while at the same time making it more accessible to the less adventurous PC user. The Silent Stream is just one of many self-contained water cooling products that have appeared on the market all clearly targeted at the less experienced user, but what makes the Silent Stream so unusual is its remarkably compact design.
All water cooling systems share three basic ingredients. First there’s the water block which sits on top of the CPU and transfers heat away from the die and into the water flowing through it. At the opposite end of the circuit is the radiator where the reverse happens as heat from the water is drawn into the radiator’s fins, which are then cooled using airflow from a fan attached to it. The final ingredient is the pump, which is required to keep the water circulating between the water block and the radiator.
Although all water cooling kits offer a variation on this theme the Silent Stream differs radically from the norm in that the pump has actually been incorporated into the casing of the water block itself. This is achieved by mounting a small motor on its back which then drives an impellor inside the casting of the block by means of a magnetic coupling. The use of a magnetic coupling rather than a mechanical drive shaft means that there are no O-rings and of course less risk of leaks. It has always been advisable to use distilled water in any water cooling setup but the small size of the impellor and motor assembly could well make this one particularly vulnerable to the build-up of mineral deposits and for this reason I’d strongly suggest that you only ever use distilled water with the SilentStream.
One sacrifice made in order to keep the Silent Stream as simple and compact as possible is the reservoir. The total absence of a separate external reservoir means the Silent Stream holds a mere 50cc (50Ml) of water even when filled to capacity. This means that the water gets little time to rest and cool as it’s either at one end soaking up heat, at the other end giving up heat or somewhere en-route between the two. This not only demands that all the components be efficient and well balanced, but it also means that with so little spare water capacity even the slightest leak or source of evaporation could prove catastrophic very quickly indeed.
The tube standing proud from the water block is a bit of an enigma. Other than serving as a kind of small-scale integrated reservoir of sorts it seems to have very little real purpose in life. It does feature two white markings which I can only assume denote the minimum and maximum water levels. This would all make perfect sense but for the fact that when used in a tower case the tube would actually sit horizontally, thus rendering any quick visual water level checks impossible. This is a major weakness as it means all but desktop case users will need to lie their case over on its side in order to accurately check the water level, hardly a user-friendly feature. At the top of this tube is a screw-on filler cap inside which sits a green LED. As a power indicator this LED’s usefulness is limited to those with a side window in their case in order to see it, and as a form of illumination to facilitate checking the water level it’s pointless to all but users of desktop cases as I just mentioned, so once again it seems to be a feature with no obvious purpose. It looks pretty in the dark though.