HWLabs Black Ice Pro II Review


Introduction

Today we’ll be looking at the HWLabs Black Ice Pro II, 2 x 120mm radiator. Hardware Labs Performance Systems, Inc. says they are “a pioneer in the computer water cooling industry. HWLabs was the first company to develop and manufacture the first radiators specifically designed for PC water cooling and is still the de facto benchmark in the business.” Not only do they produce heat exchangers for water cooling gurus, they also have industrial, medical & military customers.



Pricing

So, first, how much does one pay for a Black Ice Pro II? In the US, Sidewinder Computers has them for $32.95 on what appears to be a permanent sale. Regularly they go for $35.95.

For our UK readers (among others), it appears the closest approximation is the Black Ice GTS-Lite 240, based on pricing and specs. The GTS-Lite 240 is available at Special Tech for £ 24.44, inc VAT 15%. As the GTS-Lite 240 does not appear on their web site, an inquiry was sent to HWLabs. Unfortunately, no response was received by publication time, so it is unknown just how similar the models are.

The Package

Packaging was simple and straightforward. A cardboard box with no padding and a radiator tightly enclosed inside. All padding will have to come from the supplier. Sidewinder Computers did an excellent job of packaging, with a much larger box and styrofoam peanuts surrounding the radiator.

As radiators go, all you get is the radiator and nothing else. On the plus side, Sidewinder is kind enough to include eight shiny screws for fan installation. However, they are only suitable for 120x25mm fans and are not adequate for 120x38mm fans. You’ll need some shorter (1/2″) #6 (US) screws to mount a 38mm thick fan. Of course, eight screws will get your fans installed, but it’s up to you to get it mounted, so you’ll need some #6 screws regardless.

Specifications

Straight from HWLabs, here are the specs “The ultimate radiator for the hardcore case hacker, now with twice the cooling capacity and performance. Based on the same high-performance Black Ice® Platform, the Black Ice® Pro II has all the features of the compact Black Ice® Prime but now sports twice the core area for twice the thermal capacity and is readily configured for dual 120mm fans.”

Features:

  • 2-pass Radiator specifically developed for PC water cooling.
  • Now with improved internal pressure drop for increased cooling efficiency.
  • Now with 12.5mm (1/2″ inch) pre-angled inlet/outlet barbed hose connectors.
  • New high-durability custom formulation acrylic paint finish.
  • 120 mm (4.72 inch) Copper core consisting of flat tubes for maximum heat conductivity.
  • High-density louvered copper fin configuration for enhanced heat dissipation.
  • Built-in plenum chamber for increased performance and noise reduction.
  • Self-tapping 120mm fan and case mounting holes for ease of installation.
  • Now with 12.5 mm (1/2 inch) pre-angled inlet/outlet barbed hose connectors. *Available in 9.5 mm (3/8 inch) custom female 1/4″ NPT/BSPT/BSPP compatible fittings. (dealer option).
  • Compact 157 x 133 x 25 mm (5.9 x 5 x 0.98 inch) dimensions allows it to fit inside most mid-tower cases.

Bear in mind when ordering that no radiator can properly fit both NPT and BSPP barbs; as stated, the dealer chooses which option will come to them. If ordering the radiator from Sidewinder, go with 1/4″BSPP fittings. Do not get NPT fittings, as they will not fit without damaging the threads. Check on your reseller’s page to make sure you get the right barbs to go with it.


Photos

(Click to enlarge.)

Front

Back

Fittings


So, for just under $33US, you do get what you pay for. It may be a well performing radiator, but it isn’t 100% aesthetically perfect; they don’t try to make it beautiful. Here’s a closer look:


From one angle we see nice shiny paint, but on the other there is some copper with a little oxidation. If looks are equally as or even more important to you than performance, this one might not be the radiator for you. Or, if you’re on a budget, perhaps you will be fine with it as the fans may be what are visible anyway. Either way, air blowing directly across metal is better for cooling, so it very well may be a good thing; the truly hardcore might just prefer no paint to begin with!

Installation

Like the Black Ice’s packaging, installation was straightforward and simple. On a Coolermaster RC690 case without modification, it is easiest to mount the radiator outside of the case. Since the water pump is contained in an existing Koolance EXOS-Al system, the radiator was installed in-line between the EXOS and the CPU block.

First, the fans were installed. This was done with eight 1/2″ #6 metal screws; enough to bite into the radiator housing but miss the fins.


For case installation, it had to be spaced off the case a bit and out of an overabundance of caution, a fan grill was placed in between the case & fan. 1″ bolts were placed through the fan (a washer wouldn’t fit), then the grille, two washers, a nut and another washer. Inside the case panel, another washer & then the final nut were applied.


Test System

Motherboard: Biostar TPower I45
CPU: Intel E8600
RAM: 2x2G G.Skill DDR2-1066
GPU: EVGA 8800GTX
PSU: Corsair VX450
Case: Coolermaster RC690

Water Loop

The Koolance EXOS Al, a self-contained unit consisting of:
- a dual (push/pull), one liter per minute,
submersible pump/reservior combo
-
an 11.7″x6.1″x.98″, single pass radiator
-
three 80mm fans in a pull configuration
with a shroud around the radiator
CPU Block:
Koolance CPU-300-H06
GPU Block:
Koolance VID-282

For the ‘after’ results, the HWLabs Black Ice Pro II reviewed here plus two Scythe Ultra Kaze 120x38mm fans were added to the loop, as outlined previously.

Methodology

  • There were two tests run on the system, both before and after the addition of the Black Ice Pro II.
  • The first test was [email protected] with only the CPU and with the GPU idling.
  • The second test was [email protected] with both the CPU and GPU.
  • The CPU was marginally overclocked to 4.0GHz at 1.296v and the GPU was at stock clocks of 576/1350/900 (GPU, shader & memory, respectively).
  • All temperatures reported were measured in degrees celcius.
  • Being unable to measure ambient temperatures, the motherboard’s SYS temperature was used. While they can be inaccurate for precise temperature measurements, as a comparison to show that ambient temperatures were the same for all testing, it is acceptable. Both before and after tests were run with the same 23c SYS temperature. Case fan speeds were kept as close as possible for both before and after tests with a Sunbeam Rheobus Extreme fan controller, so the ambient room temperature was within a very slim margin of error, both subjectively and objectively.
  • Temperatures were measured with Speedfan and are presented in graph form. Average temps were not obtained by averaging every data point on the graph, it was done by eye due to time constraints.
  • Temps at the time of the SS’s were verified by both CoreTemp & EVGA Precision for the CPU & GPU (when folding with the GPU), respectively.
  • The final test was just a little experiment. Since the temperature outside was cool, the office door was opened to the shop and ambient temps were lowered to see how the overall system would perform. SYS temp dropped to 18c for that test.
Note On Fan Speeds: The initial tests were run with the EXOS fans turned up a bit. It was not to the point of ‘loud’ but could be considered by some to be too loud for every-day use. The tests after the Black Ice Pro II was installed were virtually silent. For all that fan power, you could hardly tell they were on. Indeed, we used the controller to turn the Ultra Kazes all the way off and then tried to just go to the speed setting it was on before…it was below the startup voltage. We had to crank it up to get them just to start spinning and then turn them back down. The EXOS fans were similarly quieted. Suffice to say, the overall volume of the system in the ‘after’ tests was significantly lower than that of the ‘before’ tests.

Results

CPU Folding SS CPU & GPU Folding SS

CPU Folding SS CPU & GPU Folding SS Dropped ambient
CPU & GPU Folding SS

Conclusion

As you can see, this radiator does its job and does it very well. Temperatures were relatively low to begin with and there was little room for improvement. However, the Black Ice Pro II ate up all that room and then some. While adding a radiator will obviously lower temperatures, the amount they were lowered was nothing less than astounding; and it was quieter to boot.

Pros:

  • All copper core.
  • Dense fin structure.
  • Simple installation.
  • Excellent performance.
  • Low price.

Cons:

  • Sub-par paint job.
  • Packaging of the radiator itself could be better.


For those interested in performance and not pristine appearance, this is a great value at less than $33US. They obviously put every bit of that low price into performance and that’s fine by us. This one definitely gets a budget overclocker seal of approval!

SCORE: 8.5/10