Just thought I'd jump in here after reading this thread from the top.
I know it's long but for people hovering on what to do, this is my experience and my solution.
My perspective comes from a reasonably intelligent computer-savvy person with a few years experience on building my own kit and often on a very tight or non-existent budget. These are my experiences in how I made my decisions and why I made them and I don't think I'm a lot different to most consumers in the world when faced with similar circumstances.
At Xmas I built my own rig with an Abit TigerForce IX48-GT3 mobo (yeah, I know, but I didn't know Abit stopped doing mobos and it was cheap on eBay), QX8400 Core2 Quad CPU with stock cooler, 4x1GB Corsair DDR3 Ram (1333MHz), a nVidia 9600GT 1GB video card on the 16xPCIe and a 1000W PSU - all bundled into a 2nd-hand (got for free) stock ATX 4-bay case. The case has 2x8cm front fans blowing inwards over the HD's, 1x8cm side fan and 2x8cm rear fans exhausting. I have 2 LG DVD burners, 2x500GB IDE HD's and 3x1TB SATA 3 HD's. Compared to many rigs owned by people on here it's not much but it's all the budget would allow for.
I'm not a gamer but I do a lot of video conversion/re-rendering/tweaking and burn DVD's or make ISO's.
It was very apparent that crunching videos (sometimes several at a time in parallel) was really screwing my CPU and it was frequently hovering around the 93-94Â°C mark for hours on end and it frequently shut down with an over-temp. Even with the side open and a pedestal fan blowing into it full-blast, it would still crap out with over-heat unless I ran less apps. So you can appreciate that I was having some serious heat problems that were radically hampering my video work.
All my other PC's and those used by family members are still P3's (yes, there are people in this world that still use them) so this was an important step upwards to getting something like a semi-decent rig for doing my video stuff with and to get a chance at playing some of the more demanding games on the market.
I spent probably 4-5 months struggling with the heat problems and another 2 months searching the web for some affordable solutions. I live in the UK so for those US gamers out there that are bound to comment, A/C is almost non-existent here rather than the norm and we had the hottest April & May since records began over 100 years ago! So buying and fitting A/C units at over Â£1000-a-pop was not an option.
I followed many many forum threads and read loads of reviews about the bigger air coolers like the Coolermaster V6, V8 and V10 and various other threads about DIY water cooling solutions. In the death, after a couple of months of heavy reading, I decided to go the V8 route. The reason behind going the air-cooler route was the sheer number of W/C failures and leakages and the high maintenance of setting up such a system that I read about for water coolers. One other thing I noticed recently, there have been a number of comments about the reservoirs being warmed up inside the chassis and thus losing a LOT of the cooling efficiency that should come with Water Cooling applications and people choosing to use extended pipes with more water instead of a reservoir or fitting it externally. All that, plus the fact I didn't relish the idea of having to keep an eye on the reservoir and the maintenance involved and the risk of leakage/spillage that would ruin my rig (that I couldn't afford to replace) really put me off water-cooling as a solution. Apparently, the newer Sandy Bridge mobo's don't do better with cooler temps either - some tests I read showed they are actually slower! So if I ever managed to afford to upgrade or build a new rig I don't need to aim for the sub-zero end of the spectrum and also don't/won't have the need for something immeasurably expandable or modifiable to get that extra half or one degree cooling or have to buy semi-special cases to fit all this brown-poo into it!
As long as whatever I choose beats the crap out of the stock cooler and does a pretty good job, is fairly easy to fit, is relatively maintenance-free and don't cost the earth is a good solution for me and probably a good proportion of those in similar situations as myself.
What I had to bear in mind (and has been mentioned in here also), some big air-cooler solutions means I can't use all my Ram slots or have to buy special (and often more expensive) low-profile versions. I also have to consider that I'm not overly keen on having something as heavy as a V8 (865g) or a D14 (1070g/1240g) hanging from my CPU mounting area - that's one helluva lot of weight and strain to put onto a motherboard! As it happens, I've been advised by several retailers that neither the V8 nor the D14 are suitable for my mobo - but that advice came much later in the day!
Remember, I'm only a small step up from your Joe-Average PC user with some ambitions and not a lot of money to throw around.
I contacted a company over here with the express view to buying a Coolermaster V8 as that seemed my best option given the price. After a long 40+ minutes chatting with the guy he concluded that the V8 (and certainly not the V10) would not fit onto my motherboard without seriously compromising the northbridge cooler already installed on the board - if it fitted at all. I also measured the height of it and it means I could never close the side panel if I fitted a V8 as there's not enough room for it. So that idea went in the bin.... I had no real choice. We also spent quite a bit of time talking over the water-cooler option and his suggestion was that some of the newer ones are doing very well against the enthusiast-elite custom-built ones and are certainly getting to the point of bettering quite a lot of the mid-range and top-end air coolers. Water-cooling with these options means a LOT less stress on the motherboard compared to those whopping great air coolers (which I can't fit!) and they are also generally a whole lot smaller. I know the enthusiasts will say (and have already said earlier) that the maintenance and reservoirs etc is all part of the fun of maintaining a good rig. Maybe so. But for the Joe-Average semi-intelligent plebs like us, we really don't enjoy that side of things at all. That doesn't mean or imply that we are any less enthusiastic than you lot.... we are just lazy and want to get on with it instead of worrying about leaks and water levels etc... just shut the case and forget about it for the most part.
What eventually made up my mind on buying a Corsair H80 closed system wasn't just a single review, or even several reviews. It was based on a company's advice that specialized in water-cooling and components to build my own and what they actually advised meant they didn't have a sale as they hadn't got them in stock yet! Couple that with many reviews that gave it good ratings and quite a few rated the H80 over the D14's and it certainly floored the C14's! Several reviews of the H80 put it better than the Antec KÃ¼hler H2O 920 across the board. One major advantage of the H80 is that it will fit almost every stock ATX case on the market - that can't be said for some of the others.
Now I'm not saying it's as good as probably most of the custom water-cooling systems out there but it does the job admirably for what I need and it ticked all my boxes - and that was important! What's more, I like the 5-year guarantee and as someone else mentioned earlier in this thread, Corsair stand by their products and their guarantee - and that makes me feel safe should the unlikely event that anything goes wrong.
I would possibly consider the Link Commander when its available if I was the sort of person that liked a configurable multi-coloured show with LED strip lights etc inside the case but I'm more reserved and don't go for that scenario. And besides, the forecasted price of $120+ to control a mini-disco is a tad OTT for my liking.... but some people might like it??
So... for you ardent/avid water-cooling hard-core-gamer guys that poo-poo closed systems and dismiss them out of hand without a thought - newer rigs won't need your bespoke cooling systems and will eventually hinder rather than help your rigs go faster.
I applaud you for your talent and guts for trusting in your own abilities and perfecting the technique. But it's not for me nor many others wanting to go water over air cooling.
For those D14 die-hards, it has now been beaten by the H80 (and probably the H100) for most conditions/scenarios and you don't need some sort of special case to fit it or be aware of clearances for Ram modules or other stuff on your motherboard. Admittedly, the D14 is quieter but all things considered, unless you are working in a library or need your rig to be almost silent, the D14 is out-classed in most respects by the H80. Fact: I also read somewhere that circulating water is about 12-15 times more effective (thermally) at carrying away direct heat than air!
Stock cooler Idle 55-65Â°C, normal use 70-82Â°C, 90%+ load barely possible, Prime95 Fail.
Corsair H80 #1 Idle 48-53Â°C, normal use 58-62Â°C, 90%+ load 65-68Â°C, Prime95(1hr) 76Â°C.
Corsair H80 #2 Idle 39-42Â°C, normal use 49-53Â°C, 90%+ load 55-58Â°C, Prime95(1hr) 62Â°C.
H80#1 is with the Corsair's recommended setup of pulling air INTO the chassis.
H80#2 is with the push-pull fans exhausting air OUT of the chassis.
I can now run my rig at 100% on all cores and unless I also run Prime95 alongside my video crunching for more than 5 or 6 hours at a stretch I don't see the temperature rise above 66Â°C.
I know the gamers want to bash CorsairGeorge because he works for a company that makes these closed-system solutions. But in all honesty, FWIW, I like it and it works!
So that's my recent experience, what I did and why my decisions ended up with my choice of water cooler. I spent literally hours every day for days and nights on end trawling through reviews and forums to try and make a decision. I also spoke at length to more than a dozen retailers and most suggested either a H60 or a H80 for better performance/options. And to be fair, a lot of those retailers I spoke to provided DIY water-cooling options and didn't even stock the Corsair at all. Kudos to all of them for their time & patience and for suggesting a solution where they know for sure they won't make a sale!!
I hope it helps some people out there even if it's not what most of the OCN gamers would like to hear.
The lovely pictorial instructions for the H80 need a little text in them to clarify some grey areas. It doesn't say where the Molex plug goes or that it needs to be plugged in - same with the 3-pin CPU fan plug and the 3-pin fan plugs.... it's not obvious and for someone that's never installed anything like this before it needs saying in some text where they need to go and why.
Also, just about every review site I read and every retailer I spoke to said your instructions to have the push-pull setup blowing into the chassis was the wrong way round!! My stats show the difference and it's very noticeable!
Perhaps you could take these comments back to Corsair for review/update.