Unboxing, Overview and Disassembly
Alphacool does operate a webshop, however this was sent by their global distributor Aquatuning. As such we begin directly with product packaging:
Packaging has improved tremendously compared to the XP3 series of CPU water blocks, with a sturdier 2-piece cardboard style similar to what we saw on the new Eisbrecher Pro radiators. The two pieces are held in place with 2 seals, and the packaging itself has the company and product name as well as an illustration of the product along with specs and features listed on the back. Open it and you are immediately greeted to a color printed instruction manual that supports multiple languages (online version here). This too is improved from last time but is yet lacking in detail- a multi step process shown in a single 3D diagram does not help new comes much.
All accessories come in separate plastic zip lock pouches which are all contained in a larger zip lock bag. There is a small packet of Gelid GC Extreme thermal paste which is great to see, and there is enough for 3-4 applications depending on how you use and apply TIM. The Intel marked pouch has the Intel socket backplate for sockets LGA 775 and 115x (no LGA 1366 support here) as well as the mounting screws for those sockets as well as for LGA 2011 (-3) and the two piece Intel mounting bracket. The backplate itself is thin metal and has stainless steel inserts- it does not feel very solid but does the job. The AMD marked pouch has the two piece AMD mounting bracket as well as the mounting screws for the AMD sockets accordingly. The last two pouches contain the common installation components- 4 metal springs, 5 metal washers (1 spare here), 4 metal nuts, 4 rubber caps and 4 screw covers. Everything is in black to match the black colored block. For those looking at other color options, I am told that the mounting bracket and the screw covers will match colors so when looking from the top everything matches color wise.
The block itself comes packaged very well with thick foam covering it on all sides and the accessories covering from the top. It comes with a plastic dust cover as well, so let’s take it out and look at the block itself now:
It is definitely taller than any other CPU block I have used so far, and part of the reason is the integrated LED lighting here. This is something that I am already seeing mixed reactions towards on the other Alphacool products with a cable on passive components such as waterblocks and radiators to power blue LEDs that light up the Alphacool logo. The cable itself is 6″ long, sleeved and has a 3-pin connector at the end- all black in color which does help somewhat to hide/meld this in a very prominent spot otherwise.
There is a protective, and warning, sticker on the base plate which is nickel plated copper and has a mirror finish. The block itself has two G1/4″ threaded ports in the acetal top and they are spaced further away enough to fit even the largest of 1/2″ x 3/4″ soft tube compression fittings. I have not yet figured out how to exchange the aluminum cover on top, but it is fairly thin and doesn’t do much- it might as well just be acetal.
Disassembly (done after all tests were complete, of course) is fairly easy- unscrew the 4 screws on the base plate and it comes apart:
The cold plate is 3 mm thick, slightly more than most and decreasing the rate of thermal transfer through it as a result of the added thickness. The jetplate is metal (stainless steel from what I can see) instead of the rubber jetplate used before, and is 0.3 mm thick- again fairly thick and will provide a noticeable bow all things remaining equal. The thicker cold plate will resist it, however. Gone are the flow patterns in the jet plate, and gone also is the cross-pin matrix. We get instead a machined set of ultra thin microfins and microchannels- ~0.2 mm thick. The microfins occupy an area of 32 x 34 mm which is higher than average, and there are a lot of them so liquid flow restriction would be higher all other things being equal, but the increased surface area will aid in thermal transfer from the cold plate to the coolant.
Alphacool does have something new here in the top:
Coolant enters the designated inlet port, which is actually not marked anywhere so please note that the port on the left with the Alphacool logo upright and at the bottom is the inlet port here, is moved towards the center and up a ramp. Then the coolant is accelerated through a Venturi chamber which also splits up the flow and then through the jetplate. Alphacool’s intention here is to split up flow across a larger contact area on the microfins and microchannels, however this is not convincing. For one, there is a mix of both coolant flow decrease and increase and secondly even if the coolant was split up, it is still meeting the cold plate in the middle as with any other modern design CPU block. That said, there is an increase in the uniform distribution of coolant in terms of flow rate:
Alphacool claims this will help have a more uniform and perhaps even better than average performance at lower coolant flow rates (0.3-0.6 GPM, say) but overall I will still wait and see how the thermal performance looks like.
A word of caution here: The internal O-ring (the one that helps keep the coolant in place as it passes through the jetplate) is notoriously hard to put back in place. I tried greases, oils, weights but nothing. As such, this sample is not going to be operational as intended.
Before we get to that stage, let’s see how the installation process is on the next page.