Once youâ€™ve sited your reservoir/pump assembly and radiator itâ€™s time to fit the cooling blocks - a task made much easier thanks to the flexible silicone based tubing that Eastar has used. The CPU block is fairly easy to install regardless of which platform youâ€™re running, though P4 users with side windows may not find the blue plastic mounting bracket entirely to their liking.
Both the AMD and Intel retainers rely on loosening a threaded collar, which in turn lowers a spring-loaded retaining pin onto the top of the block. This ensures the correct pressure is applied every time and is virtually foolproof, though turning a retaining collar anti-clockwise to fasten and clockwise to unfasten does go against your natural instincts. Both the AMD and P4 brackets could be seen to flex slightly under the pressure of the spring-loaded retaining pin as it was lowered - a touch disconcerting but they both held up okay. Just how durable they both are in the long term is something we canâ€™t comment on.
How you go about fitting the chipset (North Bridge) block will depend on your platform. On most P4 boards, the supplied retaining clip should secure it nicely. However on AMD motherboards youâ€™ll end up using the supplied double-sided thermal tape. This certainly wouldnâ€™t be our method of choice for securing what is a relatively heavy lump of copper, not because weâ€™d be concerned about the heat should it become detached, but rather because of what it might damage or for that matter short out.
We really donâ€™t like this method for mounting something as weighty as these blocks are, and the fact that no instructions are given about removing all traces of thermal paste/tape and thoroughly cleaning both the North Bridge and the back of the block before you do, strikes me as pretty risky. Exposed core North Bridges that donâ€™t use a traditional P4 chipset mount will pose a problem all of their own.
Last and in every way least comes the VGA block. While thereâ€™s nothing wrong with the block itself, the method adopted by Eastar for securing it is as about as â€œghettoâ€ as they come. What you get is essentially a large, tweezer-like spring clamp that, when viewed through a side panel window, is sure to shred any trace of street-cred you may have previously possessed. Thatâ€™s not to say it doesnâ€™t work, because in theory itâ€™s possibly the perfect example of function over form in that it should be compatible with any graphics card youâ€™d care to name. What lets it down is the rather odd way itâ€™s implemented.
The back of the retainer has the end ensconced in rubber to make sure it doesnâ€™t actually short anything, but itâ€™s also completely straight so in addition to the rubber coated area making contact with the rear of the PCB, its entire length is either touching or perilously close to touching it too. A small kink near the end would probably cure the problem, as would a small spacer, but then why bother insulating the end? Youâ€™d also perhaps need a longer tensioning bolt too if you add a spacer.
The other problem with the retainer is that itâ€™s spring-loaded in the closed position. This means you need to hold the ends open as you fit or remove it. Either that or risk it ripping off any small surface mounted components it may scrape across on its way on or off. We can see the sense in this approach as it would continue to hold the block with moderate pressure even if the tension screw works loose, but a pretty clear warning should be given in the instructions about the risks of incorrect fitting. Some of the very small components on modern graphics cards are all too easy to dislodge as it is.
The final part of the kit is the rotary fan speed controller, which is an off-the-shelf Titan TTC-SC01. This allows variable linear fan speed adjustments to suite the operating conditions but, because it mounts in a free expansion slot, it does mean you need to reach around the back of your case to operate it.
In use the Cool River is commendably quiet with virtually no detectable noise once the case is closed up again. With absolutely no indication as to coolant level, coolant temperatures or flow, and no automated emergency shutdown procedure should something go awry, the fact that the coolant is non-conductive is just about the only reassurance youâ€™ll get. The pump is so quiet and the tube walls so cloudy that some kind of flow indicator becomes almost a necessity. Thereâ€™s simply no other way of knowing whether the coolant is circulating or not.
As expected, the Cool River was the least able of the three in pure cooling terms, but itâ€™s also the cheapest, the quietest and the only one to claim non-conductive coolant as standard. The cooling blocks and mounting mechanisms are pretty utilitarian in nature but the bottom line is they do what they were designed to do.