Danger Den TDX for Socket-775

Danger Den based in Oregon, has been producing quality waterblocks for several years now. The company is unique in that they've bridged the gap between independent waterblock designers, and larger entities such as PC-Koolance. With all due respect to the latter, more experienced watercooling enthusiasts felt such designs often fell short on performance compared to niche builders. Danger Den started as a small mid-to-high performance waterblock maker, growing one block at a time into one of the largest manufacturers in the business. Perhaps one of their more innovative contributions was offering kits specifically designed to introduce people to cooling with H20. Their Maze-4 Powerkit, costing approximately $199, contains everything required to begin cooling your CPU in style. My very first kit was the Maze-4 Powerkit, and it completely metamorphosed my enthusiast PC experience. Watercooling offers as many options as a processor has transistors, and now even watercooled PSU's are becoming commonplace. Let's take a look at the block were testing today, the TDX.

Danger Den's TDX is a waterblock with a past. It's considered the offspring, or the evolution  of another well designed Danger Den waterblock, the RBX. Both these copper blocks share a highly effective impingement design based on isolation cups or as Danger Den describes them "heat voids." The heat voids are staggered along channels machined into the block's impingement zone, which of course is centered above the CPU core (ideally). The cup's machined depth leaves just .5mm of copper between water flowing through the block and CPU surface. As water enters the block via the inlet centered over the impingement zone, it passes through another Danger Den innovation: their accelerator nozzle. This device determines the type of water flow down into the heat voids which help perpetuate turbulance. This is the designer's intent, as the turbulance within the copper "isolation cups" (heat voids) assures thorough heat absorption occurs. Below we can see the impingement zone, with its isolation cup aka heat voids staggared along their channels.

In waterblock design, flow characteristics are just as important to performance as the type of impingement zone. In the photo above we can visualize how water flowing down into the impingement zone would then be forced out (by continual water pressure) by the channels. This amount water pressure involved in this process is relative to the term head to feet, or a pump's height. This basically describes a pump's pressure, and there are many theroies as to the required pressure with respect to different impingement/flow designs. Suffice it to say a specific amount of pressure will be required to force the water down into those heat voids generating adequate turbulance. Once the water has absorbed the heat from the processor, the channels (as their name implies) guide the now heated water into the block's outer chamber. From the photo above it's easy to misinterpret what would contain and guide the water in this impingement area. The photo below, which shows the accelerator nozzle installed, clarifies how the design comes together.

Hopefully my explanation has clarified, not only the effort which went into designing the TDX, but the subtleties involved in hydro- and thermodynamics. Where pressure is concerned in your system the pump is not alone. Several factors dictate system presssure: the pump, design of the block (flow characteristics), number of blocks, tubing diameter, angles in, and length of, tubing. Danger Den has mated many of their pumps with 1/2" ID tubing. This is considered large by some standards, and in European waterblock design you'll often find 1/4" ID tubing. Recently, Danger Den has added a high-pressure DC compact pump to their catalog, the DDC-12V. I've just finished testing this pump and it's simply amazing. Originally, this review was to feature the Hydor L-40, which is a very high flow pump at 2800l/h; however, its height was just 7.5Ft. The DDC-12V offers a flow rate of just 400l/h; however, it's height is an amazing 14Ft. Since this will be the pump used today I've included a pump-curve chart as supplied by the pump's original manufacturer LAING which named the pump  Delphi.  

For the rest of our test setup:


While the TDX has been reviewed many times, there has not been very many instances featuring this block with its fairly recent Socket-775 hardware. I've been running several Socket-775 systems with the TDX, and it's done well with a  P4 530 (3.0GHz), and 540 (3.2GHz). I've been elated with the new (BGA) Prescott, and most of the issues plaguing the early Prescott for Socket-478 were prematurely attribued to the processor's design. Humorists (myself included) took advantage of the CPU's perceived weaknesses such as the pipeline depth which even I claimed, "...only a spelunker could appreciate," and, "...only a volcanologist could endure the heat." In many cases the heat signature was misdiagnosed as Socket-478 PWM (motherboard power circuitry). Temps were the result of motherboard power circuitry designed for a completely different processor, with different power requirements. While Prescott uses less voltage, its increased transistor count requires higher current (amperes). These scenarios were the inspiration for articles at [H]ardOCP such as Prescott Tweaks Dangerous. Nonetheless, these issues have been resolved with the introduction  of the Socket-775 platform, and Intel Fab yields seem to be outstanding. Every Prescott I've owned has been an excellent overclocker, and I'm sure the P4 550 we're running today will not disappoint. Let's take a look at our test setup.

While this may be an ergonomics nightmare, there's a method to the madness. Placing components externally from the case eliminates the temperature differential between internal case temp, and room ambient temp. Additionally the components being tested are easily accessible, and measuring decibel levels from the pump (for example) becomes less complicated. If this review pertained to a watercooling system,  then ergonomics would take precedence over convenience. Looking at its diminutive size in the photo above, it's hard to imagine the DDC-12V pump offers approximately twice the head to feet pressure of the Hydor L-40 with 7 x less the flow rate! Below the TDX installed on the Abit AA8.

Danger Den has paid close attention to their waterblocks baseplate finish. Not to imply there was ever a problem in this area; however, I've seen a marked improvement since I originally tested their Maze-4 Powerkit just over a year ago.

In the photo above the A64 socket is installed. To digress briefly, baseplate finish can be a deception. Of course you want to see a quality finish, free of micro-pores, and striations which will inhibit thermal transfer. A mirror image is not necessarily evidence the base is flat. Just about any surface can be "polished," but we require a surface which is as flat as possible. Its critical the CPU and waterblock make full contact, thus assuring maximum heat transfer takes place. I'm happy to report Danger Den shares this view. To measure processor temps, I place a thermistor from a TTGI-USA Fan Master SF-609 as close to the center of the P4's IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader) without adversely affecting contact between the block and the CPU.  I repeat this process several times until I find the best placement (highest consistent temp readout).

In order to coax the processor to generate a maximum amount of heat I ran Prime95 under Toture-Test mode choosing Small-FTT's option. I've noticed the processsor rapidly achieved (3-5 minutes) a maximum temp running Prime95 and looping the program for extended periods of time failed to raise CPU temps any further.  I measured water temperature using a crude but effective method, which involves inserting the probe from a Cooper Instruments 1246-01 calibrateable thermometer through the 1/2" tubing and centering  the probe so it's not making contact with the tubing sides. Finally, the Abit AA8 features uGuru utility, based on a  Winbond microchip and providing a wealth of data through Abit EQ software. Specifically designed for Abit, the controller microchip provides features which were once accessible only in the BIOS, or with specialized programs such as ClockGen. The screenshot below exemplifies temps running under Idle, at default speeds (3.4GHz), and at default Vcore (1.385V) for the P4 550.

Included in the screenshot above is the Panopsys freeware utility Throttle Watch, which monitors thermal throttling (TM1/TM2) in real-time on Pentium-4, Xeon, and Pentium-M processors. The utility provided empirical evidence that Disabling Thermal Throttling in the BIOS cannot deactivate what is an integral piece of Intel Penitum-4 processor architecture. Our next screenshot below shows the extreme opposite of the Idle/default  environment above, running the P4 under Prime95 LOAD, overclocked to 4.0GHz (240FSB), and at 1.435Vcore. 

From the temps above it's apparent Danger Den's TDX, when mated with the right ancillary components, is a high performance waterblock. If we insert the values for the Pentium-4 550 (given the conditions above), at Benchtest.com's Overclocked Wattage calculator, the approximate value is 155W. Unfortunately, the utility only covers the P4 3.06 manufactured on .13-micron. A CPU manufactured on .09-micron would most likely generate higher wattage (not to be confused with SSOI which is supposed to reduce leakage, hence lower temps). On to our charts:

 My highest 3D stable overclock brought me to 4.2GHz (250FSB). Unfortunately, the Abit AA8 doesn't allow (nor does any i915X/i925X mobo to my knowledge) the ability to lock the PCIe bus. While these unlocked bus speeds (120MHz at 250FSB) may damage a graphics card after prolonged use, it's not necessarily excessive. Nonetheless I was unable to run the system Prime95 stable no matter the Vcore while at 250FSB. Of course given the P4's design, excessive Vcore may conflict with an innate P4 architectural feature known as D-VID. There's an excellent article titled Intel Prescott Info at IAmNotAGeek.com and I've provided the link (title) to the page discussing D-VID.  Regardless, at lower Vcore settings I was able to run my P4 550 to 4.2GHz, fully 3D-stable as seen below.

Conclusion: Danger Den has remained consistent in their timely expansion of mounting hardware for the TDX waterblock. My only word of caution/complaint is the area on the barbs where a wrench would be used to tighten the fittings (inlet/outlet) sits recessed, obscured by the lucite mount itself. Be sure to check the barbs  to ensure their tight prior to installation. If the leak is slow enough (as mine was), 24hrs of testing outside of the case may not catch this. Luckily, distilled water saved me. Beyond this oversight on my part, Danger Den has provided Socket-775 owners with an excellent cooling solution for the higher wattage of recent .09-micron Pentium-4's. It's rumored the P4 570J may be the last in the Pentium-4 line of processors, and for those wanting to tame the beast, they need look no further then the TDX tested today. I've no doubt given the performance seen in the tests above, the TDX could have taken us much further if more BIOS adjustments were available. I'd also recommend Danger Den's new DDC-12V Delphi pump ($74.95). Not only is the decibel level practically non-existent, its pressure is more then adequate for the TDX.  MSRP for the TDX is $52.95 at the Danger Den Store. Highly recommended! I would like to thank Dano at Danger Den.