The cheapest kit in this roundup, the Cool River Deluxe, is targeted very much at the water-cooling beginner. Ironically, some of the steps that German manufacturer Eastar has taken in order to woo the less experienced user have also made the product less suitable for such a user, but weâ€™ll came back to that in a moment.
The Cool River Deluxe is a pre-assembled and pre-filled kit suitable for AMD Socket A and Intel Socket 478 based systems. It comes with three cooling blocks pre-attached, one for the CPU, one for the motherboardâ€™s North Bridge and one for your graphics card. The blocks are made from copper and connected into the cooling circuit using very flexible silicone tubing.
The pump and reservoir are combined into a single small box, which needs to be mounted so the two tubes are on top and the filler is on the vertical front face. This means the system will need to be laid on its back for filling purposes, which seems a strange way of going about things. Power is supplied using a 4-pin Molex connector directly from your power supply. No audible or visible flow indicator is employed. This is very much plug and pray in action.
A single radiator is supplied, and to this is attached a rather impressive looking Titan TFD-A12025M12C aluminium fan which has chrome-effect plastic fan blades and a solid aluminium frame, not to mention a beefy 79.14 CFM throughput.
The Cool River comes pre-filled with what Eastar calls a â€œpatented non-conductive liquidâ€ which is clearly a measure itâ€™s taken to ease the fears of those who still cringe at the idea of water inside their beloved computer. Most of the electrically non-conductive coolants on the market, such as Armariâ€™s InertX, are pretty pricey so at first we were very impressed, although after emailing Components UK LTD we were told that the coolant is actually based on some secret distilled water formulation thatâ€™s sourced from China.
Itâ€™s a shame that Easter isnâ€™t more forthcoming as to the exact nature of its coolant. We couldnâ€™t find any hints regarding its constituents nor details about how to go about ordering additional fluid on its rather basic website. Resorting to the manual we found a bullet point that stated, â€œFilling the liquid under the guidance of professional technicians. Donâ€™t fill the liquid without permissionâ€, followed by â€œRunning the system with low liquid may result in damage to the computerâ€. From this itâ€™s reasonable to assume youâ€™ll need to apply to your â€œfasciltatorâ€ to get the system topped up as thereâ€™s no mention how else to go about it, and for just about every other listed problem or service requirement on its site, your â€œfascilitatorâ€ is the suggested route to take. Components UK LTD tell me that the user can top up the unit themselves; though without the â€œsecret additivesâ€ this would limit you to using just distilled water. Weâ€™d also recommend a syringe or small funnel to get the coolant through that tiny filler hole.
Incidentally, distilled water is recommended for use in all water cooling systems by virtue of its extremely low electrical conductivity, though it should be noted that itâ€™s not completely non-conductive as is often claimed.
Installing the kit is a rather bittersweet experience. Having everything pre-assembled means no time is wasted cutting and connecting the tubing, but it also means all of the components have to be mounted inside your case. Not a problem in itself provided you have room inside your case, and provided youâ€™re happy to accept the reduced performance that such a setup will bring due to the higher air temperatures in there.
If you donâ€™t have room then youâ€™re pretty much scuppered because unless you can squeeze the radiator through an expansion slot, the only option available is to remove the feed and return tube from it and do it that way. This will almost certainly mean a loss of some fluid and a quick phone call to your â€œfascilitatorâ€ to arrange a top-up. Youâ€™ll also need a couple of clamps to attach the tubing again afterwards.
The radiator comes with no mounting screws and the only mounting holes in it are the ones through which the bolts that hold fan and radiator together pass. On the assumption that you need to use these same bolts to fasten through the case too, they really need to be at least half a centimetre longer. As it is you have around two or three millimetres of spare thread to play with, and as the fan mounting holes on our test case were recessed by about three millimetres it would have made it impossible to fit it without sourcing new, longer bolts.