Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Tom’s Hardware’s Liquid-Cooled Case

Our System Builder Marathons have always focused on getting the best configurations within three pre-set price limits while using components that can be assembled by nearly anyone with a screwdriver and minimal experience. In other words, we assume the role of “average builders” with different budgets. We were especially proud of the case and cooling combo of our March and June high-performance builds:

Tom’s Hardware SBM Case/Cooling Cost
Component Part Number Price
Case Silverstone TJ09B $240
CPU Cooling Kit Swiftech H20-120 120
Additional Radiator Swiftech MCR220 36
Radiator Brackets SST-RADSUPPORT09 15
Nozzles 2x BSPP-250-375-CP 5
Neoprene Tubing 2x Swiftech 3/8 26
Hose Clamps 2x ex-tub-135 2
Radiator Fans 2x S-FLEX SFF21E 30
Component Fans Antec Spotcool 15
Total Price $489

Cooling components were carefully chosen to resemble a custom-manufactured assembly, but without the need to cut, drill, or otherwise custom-manufacture anything. A lower price compared to pre-assembled kits reflects how we didn’t have to pay anyone to modify a case for us, but assembling the components required much more effort than any pre-assembled kit.

We started with the Silverstone TJ09B case, which has a centrally located 120 mm intake fan and supports two 120 mm lid-mounted exhaust fans perfectly suited for holding radiators out of the way from other components.

The liquid cooling kit also began simply as the single-radiator Swiftech H20-120. Swiftech provided a second radiator, the dual-fan MCR220, and a few accessories.

Silverstone supplied its SST-RADSUPPORT09 brackets, which allow mounting a 2x 120 mm radiator in the top of its TJ09 and TJ10 cases without drilling holes. We attached them to the radiator, added two Scythe S-Flex low-noise fans, and raised the assembly into place.

The TJ09 case has a unique intake fan location, which was perfect for adding the smaller radiator. Radiator installation required removal and dis-assembly of the intake fan baffle, which is detailed on pages eight and nine of this configuration’s March debut.

We installed the motherboard for a test fit, trimmed the hoses to length, and removed the motherboard again. Purging air from the system required dropping the upper radiator below the reservoir of the lower radiator.

Estimated noise for our custom-picked assembly, based on the number and type of fans, is 28 db. The Temjin TJ09 provided mediocre noise isolation for internal components such as air-cooled graphics card fans.

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  • mitchelln
    I don't really see the point of reviewing these serious water cooling solutions if you don't test the additional coolers the companies offer. For example, why not test the Koolance rig with the chipset and graphics card coolers attached? This would have substantially lowered the chipset temperatures. The Koolance case was not designed to air cool internal components like an air cooled case. Koolance systems are for people who want to easily water cool as many components of their system as possible.

    Also, you kept mentioning the Koolance's noise at maximum fan levels. In the 7 years I have owned a Koolance system (with CPU, Chipset, SLI Video card and RAM water blocks fitted), I have never seen my Koolance ramp up the fans beyond the low levels.
  • EasterEEL1
    I purchased the Zalman LQ1000 in early September after reading the positive by review. Like Tomshardware I also had problems with the motherboard mounting holes and had to bend, twist and force the PCI Express cards into place as well as my PCI Audigy Sound Card. Really poor for a premium priced £400 case. Given that this looks like a general problem it is disappointing did not mention this and neither does the more recent review.

    Also I contacted Zalman through their web form with the following questions:

    1) Looking into the case from the side, the hose coming out of the left side of the pump (factory preassembled), does not have a tube clamp on it. Is this a problem i.e. should this have a tube clamp fitted?
    2) The other end of the same hose connected to the nipple near the radiator (factory default) does not have a clamp attached. Should there be one and therefore is it missing?
    3) The CPU waterblock comes with Tube Clamp Size A (13.8mmx9.5mm) and Tube Clamp Size B (11.5mm 8mm). Which size tube clamps should I use?
    4) The LQ1000-Z Machine manual advises not to use thermal paste with the CPU block. The CPU block comes with thermal paste sachet. Why would I not use thermal paste?

    I posed these questions twice during September and have not received a response from Zalman either time. Again not good for a premium priced bit of kit. This lack of customer service would stop me purchasing Zalman again.

    Apart from the mounting hole problems the case is superb and quite easy to set-up. It is very quiet and keeps my Q6600 CPU (o/c to 3.2Ghz) at 22C idle or 40C load (hottest core). Although my graphics card is air cooled it gains from the overall low ambient temp in the case. The left panel with the radiator and large fan does let a fair amount of dust in. The case is very heavy, even though it is aluminium.
  • EasterEEL1
    Update, Zalman support in the UK is via So even though I didn't purchase through them they have arranged with Zalman for a new motherboard tray to be sent to me with correctly positioned mounting holes.

    So my faith in Zalman customer service has been restored. Zalman never responded to my web form questions which is disappointing though.