External Photos and Information
Up first is a closer look at the mounting mechanism and materials used. A mounting system for a CPU block can accomplish several goals:
- Structural strength in the block hold down
- Structural strength in the backplate to protect your motherboard
- Ease of use
- Provide mounting pressure guidance and equal pressure on all four corners
The first two are the most critical, but as blocks advance and water cooling becomes more mainstream, I also find the latter two becoming equally as important.
Koolance does provide you with a very durable structure as you can see below. The top metal hold down is constructed of what appears to be .200″ (5mm) steel. That’s a bit overboard on top hold down strength really, but you can be rest assured there will be no flex or distortion in the block itself, it is beyond durable. The bottom motherboard backing plate is .100″ (2.6mm) steel which is also fairly heavy which I like to see. The thumb nuts and springs are also fairly over-sized, so it’ll make for a fairly comfortable grip. The thumb nuts and springs are also a snug fit, so the springs themselves sort of attach to the thumbnut to at least make those somewhat simplified.
The washers provided are your “Loose” style, so be prepared to take care in installing these so you don’t drop/loose one somewhere in your system. The backplate system also comes with studs that do not physically mount to the motherboard. They screw nicely into the backplate and lock in place, but the system is really designed such that it is meant to sandwich between the MB tray and your motherboard. Unfortunately I have a horizontal MB and open access hole, so there is no sandwiching effect and installing the block with this system would mean I would need a third hand to hold the backplate in place as well which is very inconvenient for my setup. This probably works ok for your typical computer case though. With that said, there is nothing to stop you from replacing the studs with standard screws/washers/nuts to make it fixed for users that prefer that method. I believe the thumbnuts are 6-32 threading, so some 2″ 6-32 bolts would probably do the trick.
I found the washers were also a bit tighter in ID than I would prefer. They wouldn’t drop down to the hold down, I had to physically tighten the thumbnut in reverse to push them down into place and pull pretty hard to make the washers come up.
Regarding mounting pressure, I’m not sure how much is too little or too much or just right. The user manual says “Gradually tighten each thumb nut by hand, DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN!”, that’s all. It does show a picture with the thumbnut screwed down to a point where the stud is nearly flush with the top of the nut, but I’m not sure if that’s the correct amount.
In my own experimenting, I did not really find much of any gains to be had by going to extreme amounts of pressure. I think there is a too much point where you start flattening the bowed base. The thumb nuts are rather over sized, so be careful with this and simply go for a snug fit.
Unfortunately this lack of guidance on mounting pressure will leave it open to interpretation. I generally prefer a system where there are clear stops on tightening amounts on the studs to get the right pressure, this ensures not only the right overall pressure, but also equal pressure on all four corners so the block is level. This system doesn’t provide that, so you’ll have to use judgement and watch the stud/nut distances so each corner is tightened the same the best you can.
In the end, I wasn’t happy with the loose backplate system because of my open access hole case. I would need to acquire my own screws and nuts to secure the backplate to the motherboard. Since I didn’t have any on hand, I decided to test with my own backplate/thumb nut system and forgo factory hardware mounting. This at least put both this and the EK Supreme V1 block tests on the exact same mounting hardware.
I do like the thickness of materials and larger than average thumbnuts along with the spring that attaches to the nuts, but would suggest future revisions improve upon the loose backplate and washers. In addition, I’d like to see a system that ensures proper and equal mounting pressure on all four corners.
Moving on to looking at the base, you can see the excellent lap job and finish with the above photo. In the event you have some beer nuts stuck in your teeth, the block base could be used dual purpose as a mirror..:)
Many of the newest blocks have gone to stepping or bowing of the base to improve TIM contact with the IHS of the processor. The TIM interface happens to be extremely important, so to get even more performance, the CPU-370 has incorporated a bowed base system. The solid metal construction of the top block portion purposely bows the base after installation.
Base and midblock are pretty much perfection in fit and finish and bow…I couldn’t ask for better really. Very nicely done where it really counts in performance.
Here is the surfacing of the steel hold down. Rather than a brushed or smooth chrome like finish that exists in the base, it’s more of a textured like nickel surface that doesn’t really show up until you get some dark reflections going on the material. In my sample, I also had what appears to be some ink in the logo printing that stained the hold down in a few unintended places as you can see above. I’m generally not a huge chrome/bling type anyhow, but I would have preferred a brushed like finish rather than the textured like chrome you see above. I suppose users could modify this easily enough, the plate does unbolt separately so you could paint it after sanding. I think I’d be looking to switch to a matte black or something similar to tone down that chrome and loose the texture chrome effect it came factory with.
While I’m not a big compression fitting user myself, there are many that do and consider large compression compatibility very important. Above you can see that 3/4″ OD compression fittings from Koolance work with a few millimeters worth of space between. There you have it, the mandatory large OD compression fitting photo…:)
Overall the exterior inspection/review was a bit hit and miss. The overall materials are very good, but I think there could be some improvements to the hold down plate finishing and improvements to ease of use on the hold down system.