At the end of the day we have learned that AMD will be offering the FX-8150 ‘Bulldozer’ CPU with either an air cooler or a water cooler. AMD says the water cooler version will cost around $100 more than the air cooler version. The suggested retail price of the AMD FX-8150 processor is $245, but right now they are limited in availability and cost right around $279.99 if you can find them in stock. Our sources inside AMD said to expect this processor and water cooling sku to have a street price of $350 to $360 based on what they think is going to happen. This is a reasonable price considering the Antec Kuhler 920 water cooler is $107 shipped, and the AMD model customized this Asetek-made cooler to be branded for the Zambezi-FX CPU series. So, with regards to pricing the AMD FX liquid cooling kit is priced competitively with what is already on the market.
Water cooling has become generally accepted in desktops in recent years. These closed loop kits are maintenance free, easy to install, have lower temperatures and leave the door open to more performance if you want to overclock. If you haven’t tried water cooling or been scared to put water in your PC, you can rest assured that it is reasonably safe these days. If you have a window in your case, a water cooling kit is an instant conversation starter and anyone walking by will know at least you’re running an AMD chip at just a glance thanks to the branding on the cooler.
The AMD water cooling kit is very nicely made. AMD took an off the shelf cooler from Asetek that closely resembles the Antec Kuhler 920 water cooler. The changes AMD made do make it better than the Antec H2O 920. The new mounting system is WAY stiffer and utilizes the stock backing plate. The stiffer mounting allows for
more pressure to the CPU, more pressure = better contact and we all know that better contact usually equals better performance. Also, the way the upper mounting ring is held to
the pump housing prior to mating to the motherboard makes installing the
cooler 100 times easier. It leaves me wondering why Asetek hasn’t
rolled out this mounting system to the Intel side as well! The other changes made by AMD are mostly cosmetic branding changes and some software tweaks to the GUI and fan settings. Not huge changes by any means, but noticeable.
With the unit in “silent” mode the water cooler’s pump and fans are very quiet. It does the job of cooling the FX-8150 nicely and much better than the stock air cooler. If you are overclocking it handles the heat as well, but running in “high” can lead to hearing loss if your system is sitting on the desk due to loud fan noise. So, spending a little time tweaking the “Custom” setting and dialing in the fan speed to your liking is the ideal way to run this cooler. As long as you’re not doing insane overclocks then the water cooler would suit most users on low or the custom middle ground.
AMD said that on air you can get up to 4.6GHz on all 8-cores, with the stock AMD cooler. We got to 4.4GHz and it was a little too warm for our liking. With an aftermarket air cooler like the Corsair A70 we were able to run the FX-8150 CPU all the way up to 4.8GHz on all eight cores. With aftermarket air and the water kits we hit 4.8GHz on all cores where it was stable. We tried 4.9GHz and 5GHz, but none of the water kits could handle anything other than crunching SuperPi. As soon as I fired up Prime95, temps shot up and the system either threw errors or shutdown. We don’t think that we were hitting the limits of the coolers, but the components on the motherboard around the CPU socket were starting to get very hot. It appears that one of the limiting factors in overclocking AMD FX Bulldozer processors is going to be the motherboard as once you start running 1.5-1.6 Volts to the processor you’ll start to really heat up the board and run into issues there. We used the ASUS Crosshair V motherboard for testing and that board is said to have some of the better stability running high voltages. So, if you are looking at this review and wanting to overclock you’ll need a good board to go along with a water cooler.
When it comes to availability, the AMD FX-8150 processor in a box with the water cooler is currently being offered as a limited edition production trial run over in Japan. AMD insiders tell us that this cooler is to be expected in North America in early 2012, depending on how soon they can bring it to market. If that is the case, it might be with the next speed bump if AMD were to do such a thing. With this many physical cores and such a large cache being used, I can see why AMD has turned to water cooling and given enthusiasts the option to buy a CPU with it from the start.
There will always be the group of users that never use anything but the stock cooler, and those that will never use a stock cooler because it is “stock”. This CPU + water cooling kit combo helps those that want something more than stock air cooling. I have to applaud AMD for noticing this small group of enthusiasts and bringing out a customized cooling solution for them. AMD doesn’t have to make this CPU cooler, but they are bringing it to market to help people get into water cooling and so they can push the system if they wanted to. While the cooler is a variation of one already on the market we like that AMD did make some software changes and put their finishing touches on it.
What do you think of this water cooler from AMD? Would you want this in North America? Be sure to voice your opinion in our forums or on Facebook.
Legit Bottom Line: The AMD FX-8150 ‘Bulldozer’ processor with the custom water cooling kit is a one stop shop for someone to get into high-performance water cooling.