Considering the plethora of features on offer the HydroCool is fairly low on external ports and plugs with nothing more than a couple of quick-release pipe couplings and a 15-pin data connector on the rear panel and a metal filler cap on top. This, plus the carry handle, a quartet of buttons, a red LED display and light on the front panel and the four rubber feet used to isolate the unit from whatever it may be stood on pretty much wraps up the external paraphernalia.
Next in the plan of action was to get the HydroCool installed. A quick rummage for the printed manual turned up nothing more than a slightly vague quick-start pamphlet that covered the basics but in no great detail. Moments later my heart sank as I realised the detailed info was to be found only on the supplied CD. I find it slightly bizarre that detailed instructions for a routine that must be carried out with my PC powered down can only be accessed with my PC powered up.
For me, the first step was to install the controller card into an available expansion slot. This is a self-contained PCB that doesn’t require a PCI slot in order to function. While this means you can use any free expansion slot, the feed and return pipes also pass through a pair of grommet-equipped holes in the bracket so you won’t want to site it too far away from your CPU for ease of routing the pipes.
Four connections are required to the controller card. A power feed from a standard four-pin Molex plug, the wire from the water block’s thermistor which provides temperature data, a feed to the motherboard’s power switch pins to facilitate emergency shutdowns and finally the 15-pin data cable which shuttles data between the card and the main unit. The emergency shutdown operates by sending a command to the motherboard equivalent to having pressed the power button on your case, so in order for this to actually perform a full shutdown you may have to enable this option in your BIOS.
Installing the water block was by far the most difficult part of the operation. I mean difficult as in fiddly rather than mentally challenging though. This is more of a problem with Athlon 64 boards where you need to attach the retainer and the standard heat sink retaining frame on longer screws but with small plastic spacers between them while trying to keep a couple of springs in place. The challenge is to complete the operation alone without swearing. I failed!
The water block is made entirely from copper, which is then silver-plated to increase heat transmission and to deter oxidisation. It also features Delphi’s proprietary Microchannel technology designed to increase the internal contact surface and thus speed heat transfer from the block to the coolant.
Don’t try to fit the Athlon 64/FX retainer without the existing HSF retainer in place or you’ll likely break something or strip threads, and make sure the retaining frame is located properly over the motherboard lugs, if there are any, as you tighten. I also used a small mirror to confirm that the pressure springs were positioned correctly when I’d finished. The instructions with this bracket aren’t sufficiently detailed and ideally need to be redone with a bit more clarity. Better yet the bracket should be redesigned. AMD has introduced an improved retention mechanism so why not use it?
With the electrical connections complete and the water block securely positioned over the CPU, it’s time to connect the PC to the HydroCool. This means plugging in the data cable and then the feed and return pipes which, for the record, are 1/4in ID. A really clever touch is that, even when filled, you can unplug these two pipes from the back of the HydroCool without draining your coolant as both ends seal themselves when separated. There is a tiny bit of leakage as you separate them but nothing significant. The feed and return pipes can be connected any way around unless you’ve decided to add chipset or GPU cooling blocks in which case you’ll need to pay attention to flow direction. The higher of the two connectors is the feed to the water block while the lower is the return to the reservoir.
Speaking of filling, this is the next operation to be carried out. Corsair supplies a 150ml bottle of additive, which I believe is just anti-algae mixed with Propylene Glycol. Run without this at your peril as it prevents the Copper water block core reacting with the Aluminium radiator and causing widespread corrosion. A 1/3 additive to 2/3 distilled water mix is recommended.