Overclock.net › Components › Fans & Heatsinks › Water Cooling › Larkooler SkyWater 330 Water Cooling Kit

Larkooler SkyWater 330 Water Cooling Kit

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Pros: Inexpensive for custom cooling, expandable, looks nice, easy set up, good accessories, good performance

Cons: Kink-prone tubing, awkward shape pump/res, cheap fans

GBU is a Taiwanese company who specialized in telecommunications. In 2009, they announced Larkooler, a sub-company of PC cooling components. They have not made a product that has had a buzz in America until this. They're offering a custom water cooling kit for just $130!
Specs


Parts Breakdown:
CPU Block:
The CPU block is smaller than a usual water block. The top surface is textured metal. Larkooler says that the construction is copper, though it has been plated with nickel or another silver-colored metal. The pre-installed bracket is for Intel, and the AMD bracket is included. Installation wasn't terribly difficult.






Pump and Reservoir:
This is a single unit. The pump is tiny, much smaller than a DDC, and a bit quieter. I expected a lower flow rate, but Larkooler rates the pump at 480 LPH, compared to a DDC by Laing's 420LPH and a Swiftech MCP655's 1200LPH. The pump is powered with a 3-pin fan header, and includes a dial to adjust the fan speed. The res was easy to fill and bleed. It is made of a smoked acrylic and includes a white LED, which is awkwardly placed in a corner and powered by a 3-pin fan or LED header (requires 2 pins).





Radiator:
The radiator is the nicest looking item in the kit. It has a nice black finish with a Larkooler logo. It has aluminum fins, at 13FPI. The tubing is copper, like the block, so the heat transfer into the fins will be pretty good. The ports are located on the end, pointing outward instead of down, so there needs to be plenty of room to bend tubing if it is installed in the top of the case. The tubing makes this difficult (more on this later). A pair of brackets to mount the radiator outside of the case are included, as well as all of the hardware needed.





Fans:
The fans are a big weakness of this kit. They are rated at 63CFM @31DB, at 2.18mm/H20. An NZXT FZ fan is rated at 59.1 CFM, 0.71 mm/H2O, at 26.5DB. Corsair SP120 Performance are rated at 63CFM, 3.1 mm/H2O at 35DB, and a Noiseblocker E-Loop is rated at 71 CFM, 1.997 mm/H2O. The performance doesn't seem bad, but the 3-pin fans cannot be controlled by PWM and no fan control is included. This makes them the loudest part of the kit. If mounted to blow air upward, the blades/hub are a few millimeters lower than usual, causing scraping against the radiator. This is a huge problem. The scraping is bad enough that it risks damaging the fan. Prepare to mount fans downward or sideways. They look decent, a smoked acrylic look, matching the pump. They have white LED's that glow rather dimly. The wires are silver and the connectors are 3-pin. Wire fan grills are included to protect the fans when outside of the case.




Coolant:
I'd consider the coolant a minor weakness of the kit. 500ml is included, and the coolant is blue. 500ml is barely enough to fill the loop when fully bled. If you have any leak, you're probably not going to be able to fill the reservoir, and since it has other chemicals in it, it would be hell to clean up! The color is silly, as a clear coolant would let this kit match virtually every computer. The entire kit is neutral colors (gray, silver, black) except for the coolant.



Tubing:
The tubing is a 3/8" ID, 1/2" OD clear tubing. The tubing doesn't look bad, but the thin walls makes kinking extremely common. If you are mounting the radiator in the top of the case or need to make a sharp bend, you must use extra length of the tubing to slowly bend it to prevent kinking. I am unsure how this will stand up to plasticizer.

Fittings/hose clamps:
As expected in a budget kit, the fittings are barbs, not compressions. They are a bit short but hold the tubing effectively. They are 3/8" and are knurled to allow for hand tightening. They are also notched in the base to allow for further tightening with an included wrench. The hose clamps are a bit annoying to put on, but not impossible. I've found them to be very effective at holding on the tubing on the barbs.





Other included accessories
Thermal Paste: It is grey in color, but feels unlike any TIM I've encountered. It resembles the consistency of ceramic more. I suspect it is not very effective. It includes a spreader, which I would discourage the use of. Use the dot method!

EDIT: Upon replacing this TIM, the temperatures of the system dropped about 12C under load. The TIM is poorly conducting and spreads horribly. Replace immediately!!!!


PSU Jumper: This allows you to easily jump your power supply, so you can bleed and leak test without having your motherboard plugged in. I think it was a good inclusion.


Funnel: A very small clear funnel is included. It works quite well for filling the reservoir. This was a great inclusion in the kit.


PCI Expansion Bracket: This bracket can be inserted into a PCI slot in your case to allow tubing and fan wires to go out of the case to an externally mounted radiator.



Installation:
Installation went relatively painlessly. Instructions were adequately clear, and mounting was not terribly difficult. I installed this in an NZXT Phantom 410 case. The radiator was mounted inside the case in the top, and the fans were mounted on top of the case inside of the top shroud. The big issue I came across was kinking in the tubing. This was not hard to get around with some large loops in the tubing, but I could not use the top two 5.25" bays, and the bottom was only usable with a small fan controller.







Performance:
I installed this in a rig using an FX-6300. Airflow in the rest of the case is very good. At 4.7GHz 1.55v, the CPU gives off an estimated 180W of heat. I used Junpus TIM for all the coolers.

Running the pump/fans at full speed I got the following temps after 10 minutes of Prime95:

4.4GHz @ 1.45v
Cooler Master V6: 62C
Zalman CNPS20LQ CLC: 52C
Larkooler SkyWater 330: 47C

4.7GHz @1.55v
Cooler Master V6: Reached 65 nearly instantly so I shut it down
Zalman CNPS20LQ CLC: 62C
Larkooler SkyWater 330: 53C

So, it seems that the SkyWater 330 handily beats a Zalman 120mm CLC, and does it much much quiter! Very good performance but only after replacing the TIM

Upgradeability:
One of the big selling points of this cooler over a CLC is that it is upgradeable. Since all the parts use G1/4 threading, you can expand and replace parts in your loop. This could be a good liaison into full blown custom water cooling.

To upgrade this kit, I would replace the fans, tubing, coolant, and hose clamps first. The pumps 480LPH flow rate would suggest that it could handle another radiator and maybe even a GPU block, though the head pressure would need to be pretty high as well.

Final thoughts:
The Larkooler SkyWater 330 is a shockingly good kit for the price. However, it does have some weaknesses. These include the almost too small amount of colored coolant, the kink-prone tubing, the under-performing fans that are prone to scraping when blowing air upwards. Even with these weaknesses, it is a good product, It fills the $130 price range very well. It includes a lot of useful accessories that the more expensive competitors lack, and its performance is right in line with its price. The shocking performance (with better TIM) makes this a great product for new water coolers!

This kit would get 5/5 stars if they made 2 or 3 of the following 4 changes:
Include 750ml+ of clear coolant
Fix the fans scraping
Replaced the tubing with 3/8" 5/8" to prevent kinking
Bottom ports on the radiator

Final Pics:




Thoughts Over Time
Future topics:
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Larkooler SkyWater 330 Water Cooling Kit
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Budget water cooling kit.

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