Should you Custom Loop?
Custom Water Cooling loops are the best. They come at a price though, literally. The parts not only cost more, but the loop takes a bit more effort to assemble. Swiftech is trying to help in a huge way here. The Boreas Water Cooling kit comes with all the parts needed to start your first loop. This at least takes the guess work on knowing what you’ll need, and Swiftech has updated the kit with some of their latest designs. Let’s see how this works for us, right after a statement from the company.
Pioneering work, innovation, and an uncompromising dedication to high performance and quality have resulted in award winning products setting standards for others to follow. Swiftech has consistently demonstrated leadership by thinking outside the box, and remains to this day driven by an intense competitive spirit. As a result, Swiftech is considered by many as one of the founding fathers of the liquid cooling industry for personal computers. This has been accomplished despite intense pressure from heavyweight industry players with powerful sales and marketing acumen. Swiftech’s name is recognized worldwide, and synonymous with Performance, Innovation, Quality and Value.
Swiftech sends the Boreas kit as one set, packed neatly into one box. The box itself was just a plain brown box, but it had plenty of packing peanuts to keep everything safe. Even though Swiftech sells everything as a kit, you can also buy the parts on an individual basis. Each product is packaged individually as a result. The best part is that you don’t have to know what you need for your first loop.
Each product has solid individual packaging. The important parts like the block, reservoir, and radiator have additional foam to protect them. The fittings and accessories were bundled together in a separate bag. Even though they were thrown together, the fittings were in solid plastic cases to protect from scratches. While the packaging is clearly budget conscious, Swiftech made sure not to cut corners that would risk unnecessary damage to the products.
Normally, I like to include accessories with packaging. However, the Boreas kit is a bit more intensive than the usual product. For starters, each product has the usual amount of screws and brackets for mounting. I say usual, but water cooling has a lot more to it than CLCs or air coolers. We’ll cover those in more detail with the install. The block had a dye kit with it, but Swiftech had a second dye kit with the accessories.
The block, reservoir, and all three fans have RGB lighting. In order to handle the connections, the Boreas Water Cooling kit includes the Iris ECO V2 Controller. This unit has four 4-pin fan connections, and three addressable RGB connections. This will be enough for our kit, which we’ll explore during the install section. Swiftech also included a new accessory. The Iris MB link allows you to use a single aRGB header on your motherboard, and split it to 3 other devices. This ended up working great, which we’ll get to later on as well.
Swiftech Boreas Water Cooling Kit: Closer Look
There’s a lot to look at here. Naturally, we have a CPU block, a radiator, and a reservoir pump combo. The block is the Apogee SKF-LT, which is based on the their latest micro-fin technology. We’re talking 125 micron thick fins! The radiator is the Hydrae GT 360. This has a copper fins and brass tubing for great heat transfer, as well as a textured paint finish to add to the style. For the reservoir/pump combo, Swiftech includes the Maelstrom D5 V2. We have the 200mm version, and the flow rate comes to a massive 330 Gph (1250 Lph).
We still have a few more parts to look at. Swiftech updates the Boreas kit in a big way with the new Helix 120 Iris fans. Basically, the entire frame around the fan blades lights up, with a nice patterned design at the middle to help accent the color on both sides. I already like the looks of this design. The airflow is rated at 64.24 CFM and the static pressure is at 2.42 mmH20. Another interesting update is the HydrX NF coolant. The Mayhems company specifically makes this for Swiftech, and deems it a “NanoFluid” for superior heat transfer. We also have super clear soft tubing from Mayhems to complete the loop.
Water Cooling Installation: Planning and Fittings
The first critical step is simple: Plan your loop! Picture where your components will be installed, or even place them temporarily in position to where you’ll locate them. Look at each input and output port. The term loop implies a circle, so picture the circle going through the necessary components, and getting back to the reservoir. This will really help in ensuring you don’t have mistakes while cutting tubing, or run into clearance issues if spacing is limited.
Now that you have a plan, we are going to install zero parts into the case. What? That’s exactly right. Before you actually install the first piece, unscrew the sleeves on all the fittings. After that, tighten each piece securely into the ports on the block, radiator, and reservoir. You’ll need some form of crescent wrench, adjustable being the easiest, to tighten the parts. You don’t need to put a ton of force behind this, but you want the rubber gasket to completely seal into the hole. If you use a top port on the Maelstrom for any fittings, only lightly tighten it there. The top cap is made of a softer material than the acrylic in the block and bottom of the reservoir, so it easily strips. If you accidentally do though, I’m sure you can easily order a replacement from Swiftech if you contact support.
Water Cooling Installation: Block and Radiator
Now we’re ready to install the main components. I like to start with the CPU block. There are multiple bracket kits, but I think the AMD one is probably the easiest. There are two brackets that screw to the back of the block. Once you flip it over, all you have to do is screw the four mounting screws directly into the included AM4 bracket of your motherboard. Sometimes I use some pieces of tape to hold the bracket in place so it’s easier to start the screws. Don’t forget to put some thermal paste on the CPU first, and you’ll be all set.
Next, I like to install the radiator. First, I installed the three fans while it was outside of my case. Make sure you have the fan wires pointing in the direction you want so you can easily cable manage them later. Once the fans are screwed in, I then mount the entire radiator in the case. One thing Swiftech did that I thought was interesting is they only included 4 screws for the case mounting. The statement was obvious in that you don’t need any more than that. Unlike aluminum radiators at the same length, the copper/brass material is very sturdy and shows no signs of even the slightest sag. When I installed a different aluminum rad later on, I notices flexibility without screws in both the ends and the middle of the rad.
Water Cooling Installation: Reservoir and Tubing
Now, I was ready to install the reservoir. I’m a reviewer so I needed to easily take the loop in and out of my build. I decided to mount the Maelstrom to an SSD tray in my H500P. First, there are two included brackets that need to be screwed into the sides. Pay close attention because there are actually two sizes of screws included with the reservoir. The shorter ones install into the unit itself, while the longer ones are for mounting the unit to the case. I ended up inverting the brackets, then mounting to the holes on my SSD tray. This allows for easy in and out, but I don’t recommend it for permanent installation.
Now it’s time to fit the tubing. This step, with soft tubing, is much easier than expected. All I did was take the tubing, line it up from an output port to an input one, eyeball it to an appropriate length, and cut it at about an inch longer than I needed. Then I could push the tube firmly on one fitting, and double check the length to the other. After that, I’d trim off the appropriate amount for a great fit. I found using a sharp razor blade made the process easy. Also, don’t forget to put your fitting rings on the tube before pushing it on the second fitting. Screw the ring on nice and snug, and you’ll have little to worry about in terms of leaking.
Water Cooling Installation: Filling and Connections
Once the tubing is finished, we can fill the loop. I recommend doing this now because if you end up have to fix something, you won’t have to disconnect a bunch of wiring. Ideally, use a spare power supply with a loopback plug to start this process. If you don’t have that though, disconnect the power to your PC parts. The key is to make sure there are no leaks before powering the whole system. I filled the reservoir first, then flipped on my PSU. As the loop filled, I had my fill bottle ready to add more coolant to ensure the pump didn’t run dry. I chose to run the pump for an hour and didn’t see any leaks. You could run it for 24 hours though if you really want to be safe.
Finally, the Boreas water cooling kit has a lot of wires to connect. The pump is powered by a molex connection, and controlled by a PWM one. You can use either a motherboard header, or the Iris controller. Speaking of which, the Iris controller has four fan headers, so all three fans and the pump can be controlled. The RGB connectors also connect to the controller. The fans daisy chain to each other, so you only need one header for them. The other two are for the pump and block lighting. The controller uses a single SATA power connector as well.
Swiftech Boreas Dye and RGB Lighting
I was uncertain how finicky dyeing coolant could be. Turns out, it’s pretty simple. It takes a decent number of drops to darken the white coolant. As a result, it was fairly easy to get to a color I was happy with. I thought I’d have to be real careful, but I could squeeze a lot in there with only a small color change. Also, I lucked out with my reservoir installation. I could lean the unit forward from inside my case. This made it real easy to reach the top ports as I was adding the dye. Keep that in mind because if space is limited, you might be uninstalling your res to change the coolant color.
We had two ways to control lighting. The first is through the Iris controller. I was a bit disappointed on the options that were built in. Even though Swiftech included a fair amount of colors, there wasn’t any multi-color patterns or spectrum waves. Solid colors and various dimming levels were what we ended up with. However, using the Iris MB Link gave us a whole new experience. Even though Gigabyte software has been rough, I was able to display a full spectrum wave of color. The lighting looked very nice across the block, reservoir and fans. I’d certainly recommend adding an MB Link to your kit if you grab one.
Swiftech Boreas Testing Results
Let’s begin with the system used for testing.
- AMD Ryzen 2700X CPU
- Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Motherboard
- 2x Gigabyte RX 570 Graphics Cards
- Crucial MX500 SSD
- Cooler Master H500P Case
- NZXT E850 PSU
As you can see, the Boreas Water Cooling Kit does an excellent job on the testing results. By using XFR2 on the 2700X I not only see core temps, but I was able to average out the frequency boost as well. Even though the Enermax cooler squeaked a degree of extra cooling, it sacrifices over 3 decibels of extra noise. In other words, 360mm rads are excellent for cooling, regardless of custom loops or CLCs. The real benefit for the Boreas Kit is the ability to add a GPU block to loop at any time. There is more than enough cooling to handle a high end CPU as well as a high end graphics card.
It wouldn’t be a cooler review without some overclocking. First let’s look at the tolerable dB results for Boreas Water Cooling. As you can see, this is the chart that is noise limited to what I consider tolerable operation. Here’s where you see the benefit of that extra radiator size. This noise thresh hold allows the Boreas kit to take a near lead in performance. It’s only a small bit behind the Kraken X62, not enough to matter. However, you can’t add a GPU block or second rad to the Kraken.
The obvious expectation about a custom loop is great, silent cooling. The Swiftech Boreas Water Cooling Kit shines in that regard. What is easy to overlook is the quality. The copper/brass radiator was rigid and sturdy. When I switched to installing an aluminum CLC, I was surprised at the slight flexibility I felt. It’s true that you get what you pay for, but we need to look at the practical reasons to consider custom water cooling.
The reality is that CLCs have done much better in recent years on performance. If all a builder wants is liquid cooling for a CPU, a closed loop will do a great job for the price. Still, it’s hard to argue with the aesthetic and quality of what Swiftech offers. The reservoir and fittings stand out in an awesome way. Eventually, I might be able to add GPU blocks and an additional radiator. That’s the beauty of custom. That said, the kit with the options I reviewed can cost a pretty penny. The price adds up to about $382 before shipping.
The reality is, custom water cooling in general is not what I’d call a great value. In comparison to other products though, Swiftech offers some very competitive prices. After that, the install process was simple, relatively speaking. I consider that a great function. The style and performance were great as well. As a result, we happily award the Swiftech Boreas Water Cooling Kit the Hardware Hounds Must Have Award!
A huge thanks to Swiftech for providing the sample for this review. It was the highlight of this reviewers life!