Watercooling Radiator Shoot-Out

Written by Brett Thomas

May 23, 2008 | 08:55

Tags: #blackice #radiator #thermochill

Today's Contestants

Today, we're going to first look at one of the most popular radiator brands of all time - the Black Ice GTX series from HW Labs. Black Ice radiators have been a staple of water cooling loops ever since we stopped using old Chevelle heater-cores.

In the other corner, we're going to have the relative newcomer to the market - Feser One's XChanger radiators. The Feser company is pitching its new radiator as a performance king, meaning that price is in line with the relative bleeding edge of technology.

Before the TFC XChanger can be dubbed a performance champion, though, it's going to have to show that it can beat the overall good-performing Black Ice series. We've got a 120mm, 240mm, and 360mm version of each - so let's take a look at what they offer.

HW Labs Black Ice GTX Series

Price as reviewed (UK including VAT, US excluding Sales Taxes):
Single (120mm): £39.99 UK, $73.99 US
Double (240mm): £49.98 UK, $99.99 US
Triple (360mm): £56.16 UK, $124.99 US

Watercooling Radiator Shoot-Out Today's ContestantsThe Black Ice GTX series of radiators is actually the third line released by HW Labs. Though the Black Ice series in general has been well known since the inception of more commercialized watercooling, the GTX series in particular has a great price/performance ratio.

The GTX owes its fairly excellent performance to an incredibly thin copper fin technology, which is only 25 microns thick. Because of this, the Black Ice GTX series can cram roughly twice as many fins in the same area as many competing brands, which increases surface area by very considerable amounts.

Of course, nothing is for free - the increased fin density means that there is a decrease in the airflow pushed or pulled through the radiator. Less air through means theoretically less cooling, though the increase in surface area should more than make up for the loss.

Internally, the Black Ice GTX is a double-pass radiator, which means it's got U-shaped tubes that force the coolant to go down the whole length and then back up before exiting. Complete with fins, it's a whopping 54mm deep - fairly thick by industry standards. This (again) allows for its better cooling capacity.

Like most radiators (the Thermochill line being the only exception that jumps to mind), the Black Ice GTX series uses standard G 1/4" fittings, which makes it relatively easy to plumb into any standard loop with fittings you'll already have on hand.

TFC XChanger Series

Price as reviewed (UK, US):
Single (120mm): £55.99 Preorder UK (exc. VAT), $114.99 US
Double (240mm): £67.99 Preorder UK (exc. VAT), $136.99 US
Triple (360mm): £88.99 Preorder UK (exc. VAT), $172.99 US

Watercooling Radiator Shoot-Out Today's ContestantsThe new Feser TFC X-Changer hopes to upset the major performers of the radiator market. The X-Changer line is aimed at the extreme edge of performance, hoping to squeeze every last degree out of each system.

To that effect, it's been designed with a little different layout than the Black Ice GTX radiators. For starters, you can immediately see that the fin density is considerably smaller. The TFC X-Changer focuses more on the quantity of airflow for its cooling level, which means that the quality of your fan can have a fairly large impact.

When side by side with the Black Ice GTX, it seems as if the TFC X-Changer is actually a bit larger - in fact, the two have approximately the same thickness of water channels and fins. Instead, the TFC has a bit larger surround which creates a gap between the fan and the fins without the need of a shroud, which can help further with the cooling process.

A shroud can still be used with the TFC X-Changer, and in fact Feser is coming out with some more "stylish" ones in short order - but it's nice to know that it's not required. Airflow will be quite sufficient without one, though there could still be benefits from using one.

Like most of the other high-quality radiators we see, the TFC X-Changer is also making use of the standard G-1/4" fittings and brass water chambers, with pure copper fins.
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