View Full Version : Asus Rampage III Extreme - Board water block test/review
01-22-2011, 10:23 PM
Hi everyone, wanted to bring the content of the review published on our website over to the ROG home. It is a lengthy article, so take your time and feel free to reference as you get ready to get your board wet (in the good way :))
As a proud owner of the Rampage II Extreme (in my daily driver) I was looking forward to trying out the Rampage III Extreme, especially after a poor cold bug EVGA Classified E760. Anyhow, as some of you are well aware the R3E board temperatures get a little warm when you start to push clocks and voltages--oh come on I know you have put your hand on the stock cooling heatsink. I have been wanting to take a closer look at full board blocks for some time now and the Rampage III Extreme looked to be a good candidate, knowing several water block companies would be producing blocks. Asus was open to the idea and graciously provided us with a test board to beat on. But keep in mind, this is not a motherboard review--the merits of the excellent board are covered at length by nearly every hardware enthusiast site--but a look at water cooling the board and VRM's and what is available on the market. However, I might throw in some comments about the board throughout the article here. Before moving to the blocks in our testing of the Rampage III Extreme, we just have to have a few shots of the main product here.
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_boardbox.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_boardbox.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_board3.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_board3.jpg)
Asus must agree that the board temps do favor the warm side, they include a fan module that replaces the heatsink over the NorthBridge to provide a little extra cooling. For us water heads, that little fan module is the anti-christ, but alas, we're on a mission to find the better alternative to that noisy fan module. Time to end the intro and distractions and get to the line-up.
Quite the motley crew and several different design approaches into cooling the board, with heat pipe hybrid to one piece and even two piece with a custom bridge. These design differences mostly impact installation and how many different spots you need to slap a thermal pad more than they do temperature wise.
Before we roll into the first looks I need to pull out the soap box a moment and address the opinions of cooling the board is useless or just for aesthetics… I have a completely different view. To be clear, the stock Asus heat sink showed no problem maintaining stability with the overclock settings we will use in testing, but that heat sink relies on air flow through the case in order to shed the heat. Sure, the heat sink will continue to capture the heat until saturation, but air flow is what moves the heat away from the heat sink and board. Removing the stock heat sink and replacing with a water block is about managing the heat. We spend a tremendous amount of time planning and figuring out how to cool our components with a dedicated cooling system, thermal management if you will which is focused at capturing and removing the heat where we want it. I do not want the heat just radiating in my cases, let my cooling system(s) deal with it. Board blocks are the next logical step after CPU and GPU cooling. Additionally, you also gain the advantage of lowering the operating temperatures of the chips, which will potentially lead to a longer life for your components. Okay, I have spent enough time on the soap box.
01-22-2011, 10:24 PM
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-BP_box1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-BP_box1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-BP_contents1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-BP_contents1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-BP_block2.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-BP_block2.jpg)
When you open the Bitspower box you are just overloaded with baggies full of bits, it is a little overwhelming. Wrapped up in those bags is the mounting hardware, mosfet backplate, replacement o-rings, thermal pads, and 1g of AS Matrix. But wait there is more, two matte black rotary elbows (green oring and all), tube bridge with connectors, instructions and a Bitspower case badge, yeah and the block too. See, overwhelming. Once you finally overcome the accessory overload the two-piece block catches your eye, and how that tube bridge comes into play. Listed dimensions for the Mosfet block are 155x38x15.7mm with the NB/SB (actually, IOH/ICH) block measuring in at 151x147.5x15.5 (LxWxH). Yes, the IOH/ICH piece is pretty massive and contacts ten different chips besides the IOH/ICH chips. The mosfet block is more the norm, covering just the two VRM locations.
No picture of the Bitspower block all tubed with the trick connector just yet, you will get your view of that later in the article. On that connector, the two closest barb locations will be used, this ensures clearance for your CPU block of choice.
Danger Den CHP-100
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-DD_contents1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-DD_contents1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-DD_block1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-DD_block1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-DD_block2.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-DD_block2.jpg)
Danger Den comes into the group here as probably the most unique approach, the block and heat-pipe hybrid. We have seen motherboard manufacturers release a similar approach, but Danger Den goes much further. With the DD block, only the SB (ICH) relies on a heat pipe for capturing the heat and moving it back to the water portion covering the NB (IOH) and VRM's. Additionally, the Danger Den block is primarily Delrin with working copper only on the contact points of the board, which greatly reduces the weight of the block. The question looming in your mind as to how this impacts cooling ability will be answered later, but in testing the reduced weight was nice when going through the mount process four times.
Sticking with the uniqueness, Danger Den is the only one of the group here to scrap the stock ROG badge location and integrate and LED into the block, which illuminates the ROG text over the mosfets. In testing and photos, I did not bother moving the ROG badge so you will have to use your imagination. Plus, I am not sure how many folks actually reuse the badge anyhow.
EK FB-RE3 Nickel
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_box1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_box1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_contents1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_contents1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_block1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_block1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_block2.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_block2.jpg)
With the introduction of X58 brought the Full Board block approach versus the former where individual blocks were required for the mosfets, NB and SB. EK was one of the companies to make all the individual blocks, this meant a lot of confusion for us in trying to outfit our boards, and do not forget about those tricky tube runs. This is where the full board blocks have really simplified getting your board wet.
With my little full board/individual block editorial out of the way, the EK Rampage III Extreme block is not one continuous piece of copper, but two with a water channel integrated in between the VRM's and IOH/ICH sections. The red piece of acrylic makes up the bridge portion, while EK leaves some room for the ROG badge as well. Your barb ports on the EK block are above the mosfets near the EPS 8-pin and over the IOH, water does flow over the ICH as well. In fact, the water channel is quite lengthy overall providing quite a bit of surface area for heat transfer. We will see later on how well all this surface does for cooling performance.
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_box1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_box1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_box2.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_box2.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_block1.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_block1.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_block2.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_block2.jpg)
Since you have already read the little full board editorial, I will spare you covering that again. However, Koolance is another company that produced individual blocks and tried to balance the universal and board specific blocks in their product line-up. Thanks once again to X58 and the full board blocks, Koolance has simplified their line-up and produces board blocks for specific motherboards while still keeping some universal blocks available for those boards where full board is not possible or the board is not popular enough for a FB to be produced.
The Koolance design for the Rampage III Extreme contains three separate copper blocks linked together with a Delrin water channel. Speaking of the Delrin water channel, the Koolance design is a multi-layered approach, with the copper being the first layer, a polished stainless steel cover and the Delrin water channel sandwiched in the middle. The spot for the ROG badge is present on the block as well, but I am still puzzled as to how the LED wires from the badge would snake through the block and connect up to the board or maybe it does not snake through the block at all. Barb port wise, you have a port up at the EPS 8-pin, but your other port is down below the ICH. With the second barb port being that low on the board, this may simplify the tube routing in your case, something to ponder before forming your opinion on the location of that barb port.
You have probably noticed there are no internal shots thus far. The reasoning here is that I was not about to take apart the blocks before completing testing, the reassembly process is a laborious one and I did not want to cause any extra headaches for myself through testing. With that said, testing is complete, so let's take a closer look at just the internals. However, Danger Den's block is permanently sealed and my only means of getting a look at the internals is a Dremel or a Solidworks drawing… so please accept the Solidworks image from Danger Den since I just could not bring myself to sacrifice a block for one photo.
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-BP_naked.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-BP_naked.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-DD_naked.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-DD_naked.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_naked.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_naked.jpg) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_naked.jpg (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_naked.jpg)
For the most part, the blocks all take a similar approach putting a flat surface over the VRM and then active cooling over the IOH. The group is then split when it comes to the ICH with Bitspower and Koolance putting active cooling over the chip. While EK goes similar to the mosfets with a flat surface and Danger Den breaking the norm and running a heat pipe from the IOH down to ICH. I give credit to Danger Den for stepping outside of the typical box, but we will have to wait until the thermal results to see if the praise is short lived. You may notice the water still on the blocks, they did not have much time to sit and dry after pressure drop testing and once I saw the photos I thought it added a little something to the photos. In addition, the Koolance and Bitspower blocks show some crazy colors in the water path, the photo editing made that much more visible than it actually was, even still it is nothing to be concerned with.
01-22-2011, 10:25 PM
The installation or mounting videos we included in the GTX480 round-up was met with incredibly positive feedback, and we had initially planned on videos for all the Rampage III Extreme blocks too. Unfortunately, the first videos just did not turn out like I had hoped, the videos looked more like someone flopping a board around and just did not capture the detail and process of mounting the blocks properly. However, we are not scrapping coverage of the installations entirely. In lieu of the videos, I kept notes through mounting and remounting each of the blocks and will share my overall approach and tips with a shot of the block all mounted up and ready for testing.
Unlike mounting a GPU block where you can easily flip the PCB over during the mount process, I found using the edge of a table to hang the board partially off the table and secure the screws from underneath. Others may find this weird, but I was able to achieve consistent mounts and shorten the time needed between tests.
For the most part, stock heat sink removal is straightforward and is secured to the board quite well. Be prepared to fire up the heat gun or hair dryer (be stealthy so the wife will not know you used her hair dryer). With all the screws removed and the mosfet backplate off, lift slightly on the mosfet portion and start with a slight wiggle motion. If the wiggle does not produce much movement, then you need the heat to loosen up the stock TIM. Continue with the wiggle and heat until you separate the heat sink from the board. One item to note here, do not be surprised if one of the screws under the IOH is missing, I did and have confirmation of the same from others.
Now that the board is naked, you will encounter the TIM and thermal pad Asus used on the IOH and ICH. The grease on the IOH is easy to remove with some citrus cleaner and/or Arctic Clean 1. I had to let some Arctic Clean sit on the pad over the ICH for a while before I was just able to wipe it clean. Do not under any circumstances scrape and gouge at the TIM/pad on the chips… you are just tempting fate with your board. I clean the mosfets too, just a touch of Arctic Clean on a coffee filter is plenty, you just need to clean any remnants from the stock thermal pads. Don't forget the VRM's on the back side of the board as well.
Be sure to collect all the screws, back plate, heat sink and store them away safely. You may need to remount the heat sink, but you will need the thermal pad from the mosfet back plate if you have the EK block.
Koolance supplies a white/pink thermal pad for you to cut to proper size over the two VRM locations and a 0.5mm gray pad to cover the included back plate. You can use the block/backplate as the guide for cutting the pads, which is easier than trying to size up the pads on the board. Be sure to cover both mosfets on the top side, the main row and the set of six. Thermal grease (Koolance includes their normal TIM) goes on the IOH and ICH, just a grain of rice size blob is needed, remember these chips are smaller than your CPU, so be sure not to go overboard with TIM. One last step I take is to get the barbs secured with tubing and the female VL3N's attached prior to mounting. I do not want to be fumbling with all of that after the block is already on.
With the pads cut, placed, peeled and TIM applied, hold the block over the board and continue to align as you slowly bring the block down to the board. If you really mess up on this part, just clean the TIM off the chips and block and retry… you are only sacrificing some TIM, so repeat until you are happy. A test mount for reassurance is not a bad idea either.
With the block in place on the board, place the board partially off the table and start with the back plate, screws and washer, then proceed to the IOH and finish up with the ICH. Go slow, just get the screws threaded and in place before finishing the tightening. Do not over tighten, you can crush the IOH. Through the four mounts used in testing I found that just past the initial resistance is tight enough, do not, I repeat, do not over tighten. I want to make this clear because I was surprised at how easily I had good contact without going tight with the screws. I went finger tight using a jeweler's screwdriver and that was perfect.
With that said, you are done… mount the board to your motherboard tray and proceed with leak testing.
EK FB-RE3 Nickel
The EK block install differs from Koolance a bit, EK includes nylon standoffs that you have to install yourself. Setting the standoffs is quite simple, even though a bit messy. In order to get the standoffs to stick, apply some thermal grease to one side, then stick it over one of the threaded holes, finish with a little push with your finger to help the standoff stick. Repeat until you have the nine standoffs in place. Now we move to thermal pads and TIM, which as I mentioned earlier, you will need the thermal pad from the Asus back plate, which does go on the EK back plate.
EK supplies two different thickness pads, a 0.5mm and a 1.5mm. The 1.5mm pad goes over the set of six mosfets close the molex plug and the 0.5mm pad over the rest of VRM's on the top side and the Asus pad for the back plate. You will have to supply your own thermal grease for the IOH and ICH, and again, only a grain of rice size blob is needed.
I use the same hover and lowering method maintaining alignment as I go to place the block on the board. Again, feel free to do a test run; you are only wasting a little TIM to be comfortable with the process, well worth the slight loss. You should have at least two more standoffs, which you will place on the pad side of the back plate, only this time with no grease. From here, I used the same process as with the Koolance block, but the big difference is how tight you can go with the screws. The standoffs EK supplies are thicker than the machined standoffs from Koolance, this provides a little extra thickness to overcome and get good contact. A twist or two past initial finger tight with a screwdriver is plenty. There you have it, proceed with getting your board mounted and leak testing.
Danger Den CHP-100
The install for the Danger Den block was the easiest of the group, probably because you just slap on the pre-cut thermal pads, and drop a grain of rice blob of grease (Danger Den includes some "Hot Sauce"), and start the lowering of the block on to the board. No crazy standoffs or extra hoops to jump through. Start securing the block to the board at the mosfet backplate, remember those red washers between the screws and board and continue until you have the four under the ICH threaded. Now go back through and tighten the screws down a little past finger tight using the included allen wrench. After tightening from underneath, I flipped the board on its side and just made sure the screws were snug. A gentle reminder that the IOH is exposed and you can crush it with too much mount force, so resist really cranking on the screws, it is just not needed.
With the block secure, go ahead and proceed with leak testing. Like I said, easiest mount process of them all.
I saved the Bitspower for last in this section, because the installation/mount process is by far the most involved, and I will try to stay brief and to the point here. But before we roll in here, I was not able to mount the Bitspower block with the white PCIe (slot 1) slot lock in place; the slot lock had to be removed. Once removed, the block had proper clearance to be placed and mounted. I communicated with Bitspower through the trouble and I am the first to report any sort of clearance issue when attempting to mount the IOH/ICH block. So a heads up, you may have to do a little modification in order to mount the BP block.
I started out by getting my barbs and included rotary elbows secure in the block, barbs/fittings go on the top of the mosfet block and the right barb port over the IOH with the rotaries at the bottom of the mosfet block and the left port over the IOH. My next step was to get the fittings for the tube bridge into the rotaries (just hand tight) and roughly aligned the two rotaries for slipping in the tube a bit later. Moving to the thermal pads, be prepared for a lot of cutting and filling gaps with small pieces of thermal pad. Begin with the mosfet block and back plate, as that is going to be the big pieces of pad and make sure that you cover all of the fets on both sides of the board. Covering all the fets required me to use two pieces on the top side as well as one large piece and small piece to assure coverage, but don't forget about the six fets below the primary set. With the easy part complete, time to move to the IOH/ICH block.
For the IOH/ICH I used the block as the guide, any raised spot means you will need to place a pad there, a total of eight spots on the block (actually covers ten chips). Just take it slow and make sure you cover all the raised spots, double check the instruction page. Some extra time spent here making sure you have all the locations covered will save you headaches later on. With all your thermal pads placed and peeled, place a grain of rice-sized blob on the IOH and ICH and proceed with lowering the blocks onto the board.
My next step was to start threading the screws (with washers), starting with the back plate and making sure the 1mm washers were between the board and the back plate. With all the screws threaded, I went back to the back plate and finished those off first. Again, tight but not super tight, I went a turn or two past finger tight using the included allen wrench. Once you have the blocks secure, now is the time to slide the acrylic tube into the two fittings between the blocks. My method was to get the tube all the way in on one side and then turn the rotaries in towards each other, letting the tube slip into the other fitting as I turned the rotaries in. The critical piece here is to ensure you have the tube past the first o-ring inside the fittings as the o-ring makes the seal. You may have to slide the tube a bit just to make sure you have a good fit… and this is where leak testing is extremely important. Mount your board and begin leak testing.
I am happy to report no problems with the tube bridge, after the initial mount, I never separated the two blocks. I actually used the tube bridge as a handle of sorts, you might actually find this method easier than getting the tube in place after mounting. Experiment a bit before prepping with TIM and thermal pads, one way may work better than the other for you.
Installation note for all blocks:The back plate for the VRM's will flex if you have over-tightened, and you do want to watch for this (EK back plate is rather thick though). The goal here is to have the back plate remain flat and make contact to all the fets on the backside of the board. Before you mount your board in the case, be sure to check for backplate flexing.
That concludes my notes for installations, thanks for enduring the text onslaught.
In order to save some space (and your scrolling finger), I will just link to the Testing Methodology and Specification (http://skinneelabs.com/asus-r3e_blocks/4).
01-22-2011, 10:26 PM
To quickly recap from the test method--yes, I do this in every review--, restriction is what determines your loop flow rate and typically, less restriction (higher flow) is better. The pressure drop table below only includes PSI as the other columns just made the table a chore to read. Do not fret, included are mH2O and kPa charts with Liters per minute and liters per hour for flow rates. We received feedback from our readers who rely on the metric system and we are sure to include them for easy reference. Additionally, we kept with the recent trend and you will see two pump curves on the charts with the EK V2 D5 Top (Speed 5) and the DDC3.2 with XSPC V3 Top.
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_pdrop-table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_pdrop-table.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_pdrop-chart-psi.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_pdrop-chart-psi.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_pdrop-chart-mh2o.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_pdrop-chart-mh2o.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_pdrop-chart-kpa.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_pdrop-chart-kpa.png)
No, there is nothing wrong with your eyes or the data, chipset or board blocks are quite restrictive. In fact, chipset/board blocks are the most restrictive component you will loop up in your system and this is the reason for limiting the axis ranges. If we had left the axis ranges where we do normally, you would have a difficult time discerning the data on the charts. Danger Den keeps with their high flow/low restriction tradition scoring the lowest pressure drop of the group, with Koolance and Bitspower holding the middle and EK turning in the highest restriction of the blocks tested. Interestingly enough, the EK block has more restriction than Bitspower but the two have the same average flow rate in our test loop. Yes, I probably should have given a spoiler alert, but the flow rates are not the main attraction of the thermal results. At first, I thought there might have been a glitch somewhere in my data, but I checked and rechecked the raw data, logged flow rate was very close and did come out with the same GPM average for those two blocks.
At long last, the thermal results! Along with the four blocks, we tested the Asus stock heat sink, first with the stock thermal pads and TIM followed by MX-2 on the IOH and ICH. Obviously flow rate and radiator fan do not apply for the Asus stock heat sink, thus the reason those columns are blank for the Asus data table. Without further delay, have at the data tables...
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-Stock_table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-Stock_table.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-BP_table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-BP_table.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-DD_table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-DD_table.png)
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-EK_table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-EK_table.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E-KL_table.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E-KL_table.png)
My first reaction to the data is a surprise at the flow rates, I knew the flow rates would be low-ish, and the DP-1200 is not a high pressure/flow pump, but I still expected to see all the blocks above 1GPM and maybe even 1.25GPM. Even with the sometimes challenging mount process of the blocks, consistency and variation amongst the tests is surprisingly tight. The EK block had the largest variation, even with changing from TIM on the stock Asus heat sink. I can attribute some of the inconsistency on the EK block to figuring out how tight to go with the screws on the IOH. The first mount for all of the blocks was a complete guess until un-mounting and checking the TIM print, and obviously I had more tightening to do since the remaining mounts of the EK dropped nearly 10C for the remaining three mounts.
Now that we have had time to digest the raw data from the tables, we can bring it all together for direct comparison. After all, the competitor in all of us loves a good head-to-head showdown. We have the Asus stock heat sink in with blocks for all of the charts except flow rate, no way to measure a loop flow rate with the pump sitting idle.
http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_mthbd-chart.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_mthbd-chart.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_ioh-chart.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_ioh-chart.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_ich-chart.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_ich-chart.png) http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/thm_R3E_flowrates.png (http://skinneelabs.com/assets/images/BoardBlocks/R3E/R3E_flowrates.png)
Starting out is the MTHBD sensor is the standard motherboard temp sensor we have all come to know, and that stubborn little sensor just does not move much from idle to under heavy sustained load. What this means is the sensor is not on a chip that gets active cooling from the blocks, but does a general temperature for gauging your board temps. From the generic board sensor, we move to the IOH (formerly NB) sensor which we see a lot more temperature variation amongst the included blocks and heat sink. This is for a few reasons, bust mostly due to active cooling the chip (and sensor) reporting temperature. The last temperature chart of the group is from the ICH or former South Bridge and again we see a larger spread temperature wise. Ending the compiled results are the flow rates from the blocks in the test loop, to which I spoke of after looking over the data tables, so I will spare you from covering that all over again.
Well, we have reached the end of the photo and data show, time to close up this review with the conclusion and final thoughts.
01-22-2011, 10:27 PM
First I have to declare that I fell a little short (okay, a lot short) on adding comments in about the board. I did state up front this would not be a motherboard review and that I would try to feed usability comments in where I could. The upside is the lack of comments means the Rampage III Extreme did not have any quirks through testing, just solid Asus quality we have come to expect. BIOS was solid, Overclocking was very easy although I would like the LCD Poster or a something to show Post Codes instead of having to connect up another device. But that is pretty low on the list, stability and ease of overclocking are by far bigger feature than an LCD Poster or LED Diag (yes, I know full well there are POST LED's in front of the ATX 24pin). Bottom line, the board just does what you tell it to, within reason of course.
Ok now, back to cooling. This is not my first endeavor into board cooling; in fact, most of the boards in my farm are water cooled. Some with individual blocks on mosfets, North Bridge and South Bridge, one with a NB/SB combo block and separate mosfet block and yes I have gone the full board route before as well. One thing I can say for certain is the full board block is a god send. No longer do we have to struggle with tube routing between the blocks or lose the ability to quickly swap GPU's thanks to the NB to SB tube. Full board just makes everything work with a lot less hassle, and the look of a blocked up board got a little sleeker. With all of that said, there are still improvements that can be made as the full board block evolves and a lot of it comes down to the little things.
I was very happy to see all of the blocks include a back plate for the mosfets, but disappointed with that being the only back plate. Now back plates are a groaning point for many, myself included and yes I know they are not required but I always prefer a back plate for that solid feel. Back plates always assist the end user (us) with installation, and installation/mounting is the biggest factor besides performance and aesthetics. While we are on the topic of the back side of the board, part of the engineering/design process has to include verifying clearance from the screws to the motherboard tray. The EK block had a little problem in the clearance area under the VRM's, the thicker back plate and reuse of the thick stock thermal pad is more than likely the cause. Luckily for me, my motherboard tray is acrylic but those of you with metal trays will need a small patch of non-conductive material to prevent any sort of shorting. I may be sounding the alarm prematurely here, but better safe than sorry.
Another area where things just are not quite right yet is standoffs on the block. Many of you have already heard my gripes about standoffs from the GTX480 block review, and board block (full board or chip specific) are no exception. Koolance has them machined right in, Bitspower has you screw them in and EK makes you dab them in some TIM and stick them on. Individually, none of them are quite right… EK's are the proper thickness allowing for some over tightening to occur and not damage the board, Koolance's are just a tad short and I do not understand why I had to screw them into Bitspower's block. Combine the good points of all three and I think we have a winner.
The last thing I feel still needs a little improvement is in the area of thermal pads. What happened to the pre-cut thermal pads we have come to look forward to? To answer my own question with a theory, the volume of board blocks is not high enough to warrant pre-cutting thermal pads for us, so enough to cover the areas needed is cut from the sheet and that's that. Additionally, pads are getting too thin, where the thinner the pad the less compression you can expect from the pad. This also means that the difference between too loose and too tight with the screws becomes smaller as well. Danger Den, although pre-cut pads were supplied needed a bit thicker pads, especially for the back plate on the fets. On the first mount I have contact on the two outside fets, but nothing in the middle, and even though that was my own fault a thicker pad would have meant better contact.
As I said, full board blocks are a big step forward from the individual blocks we had to muck with before X58 even though some of the little things need to be addressed yet. In the end, every one of the blocks we tested did exactly what was expected and cooled the board well. Some of you may look at the roughly 10C drop in temperature and claim it is just not worth it, but the thing you forget is how big 10C is for low wattage. If we could raise the heat output we would see a bigger gain and more separation amongst the blocks. We did not have VRM sensors to monitor, but I speculate we would have seen a much bigger drop on the fets going with water over the stock cooler. I did try to use the ROG sensors for the mosfets in pre-testing, but could not work out a method to keep the sensors in place and not interfere with the contact between the pad and the fets… I was not about to take that risk again after the result the last time I installed my own sensors.
An area of surprise for me is how active cooling is being deployed for chipset/full board blocks where prior it was simply a flat copper surface and flow across the surface was all the cooling we would get. Bitspower really stepped it up in this area compared to their previous offerings, even though we had to do some slight modification to the board in order to get the block mounted. Danger Den took a different approach from the norm with their water and heat pipe hybrid, and still performed with the rest of the pack while managing to pack in a good bit of extra flow rate compared to the rest of the contenders. Koolance confused me bit with their barb port location being below the ICH, but the placement became clear once I disassembled the block and view the water flow path, which was straight through versus snaking around to get back up to the IOH. EK continues to bring top tier products to market, even though they took a back seat this time around… and knowing EK there will be improvements to get them back to the top next time we test board blocks.
After all is said and done, there is not a bad block in the bunch and once again we the enthusiasts win all around. We are in a great spot with water cooling, we have a plethora of options and a variety of looks and design approaches to choose from. Furthermore, Bitspower's change to more active cooling certainly proves companies listen to the enthusiast community and make product changes based on our feedback, which means we will continue to see further advancement as long as we give solid feedback. Before we close this one out, a huge thank you to Asus for their gracious support by providing the Rampage III Extreme for testing and Koolance, EK, Danger Den and Bitspower for sending block samples over as well. We cannot thank these companies enough for helping us bring you the testing and reviews you feast on here. A final thanks to you the reader for soldiering through the lines and lines of text in this review… you keep reading and we promise to continue testing.
02-02-2011, 01:50 AM
awesome review! Sticky!
02-09-2011, 01:42 AM
Thanks Brian! :cool:
04-05-2011, 12:59 PM
is this a warranty breaker?
06-25-2011, 06:52 PM
The issue of tightness of screws, thermal grease and thermal pads are quite relevant. It would be useful to know the torque settings for the screws. That would take some of the guess work out of the issue of screw tightness. I note that Koolance uses a white/pink pad on the mosfets that is textured on one side. There is no suggestion about which surface area is suitable for the textured side of the pad. Is the texture better on the block side or on the mosfet side? Also, what are your thoughts about using Arctic silver rather than the thermal grease supplied by Koolance?
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