Apogee Drive CPU Water block & Pump Combo Review
Welcome to my review of the
Swiftech Apogee Drive CPU water block/pump combination designed for a
wide range of
This is an actual production run copy that comes standard
LGA775 mount and other mounts as well.
The above photo is
the block and pump combination
This was sample provided by none other than Linus from NCIX.com.
NCIX carries a large range of water cooling gear as well as
all computer hardware, they are very dedicated to supporting the
water cooling community and have several stores in Canada as well as the
USA. Furthermore, they carry all the greatest products at
excellent prices, I highly recommend giving NCIX a visit on your next
water cooling upgrade.
If you haven't already checked it out, here is a new site for your watercooling needs. Watercooling.com!
The block and pump combo is rather unique in that it's basically two
common and well regarded products integrated into one. First
the water block is very similar and incorporates the same basic copper
base as the Apogee GT and Apogee GTX water blocks. These
water blocks have been high performing blocks and have provided many
users years of great service. Second is the pump motor, it is
a standard Laing DDC 3.1 10 watt pump motor which is the same thing as
the Swiftech MCP 350, just rebranded. The fantastic part that
excites me about this combo is the upgrade possibilities.
Many people may stray from this product thinking they would
have to throw away the entire product in the event they wanted a
different water block in the future, but fortunately that is not the
case here, and I'll explain more later
My first order of review is looking at the packaging and accessories.
This is the bundled box, it's about 4.5" cardboard cube that
contains the block, accessories, and installation guides.
While there wasn't any foam padding in the box, it appears
the back plate mounted to the pump/block does a good job at protecting
the base, although I still wouldn't mind seeing a bit more protection.
While I'm not a big
fan of colorful packaging, it comes with the business in selling
products retail, which Swiftech does regularly.
And here are the specifcations off the package, similar to the MCP-350
specs but slightly different because it has the block integrated.
Swiftech really goes
out of their
way to give you everything you can possibly need to install the block
Many blocks require you to make additional purchases like the
back plate (which I think is absolutely necessary for every water block
installation), not to mention the barbs, clamps, and thermal paste.
Everything included here is good quality parts and should
suffice to supply a wide range of users the necessary parts to install
the system right.
to Swiftech for giving you an exemplary complete package with
everything you need, including an AMD kit!!
The base is not quite a mirror finish, but it is good and very
slightly bowed around the center
of the base.
Here is a look at the bowing of the base; there is a very slight bow to
Here is a photo of the base removed; it is attached with four coarse
threaded screws into the pump top. One interesting
observation is how the flow is spread over two large slots.
This is even a greater effort to spread the flow evenly over
the entire base. This was easy enough to do, although the
coarse screws don't provide the same machined quality as a fine screw
with a tapped hole. Also note that the base has one corner of
the pins removed, this ensures that the base can only be installed one
way, so it's not possible to get it installed incorrectly.
Above that is the pump top flow spreading chambers which are
held to the pump motor via four large screws and two interior smaller
screws. The actual pump motor can removed by four larger
allen bolts on the other side of the pump.
Removing the motor you are left with these components, Pump Volute and
Flow Chamber still connected here.
I did run into one QC issue, the pump volute exit has a bigger than
expected casting flaw. This is just where part of the injection mold
fits together and there was apparently a larger than normal gap present
when this top was fabrication. So I took out my hand dremel
and shaved off this lip approximately as outlined in yellow above.
Having only one of these, I'm not sure if this is typical, but one
forum member noted he didn't see anything this bad on his sample so
this might just be the exception. The pump would still work
fine without doing anything, but I have full blown tinkeritus and can't
This is the top side of the pump volute or bottom of the flow chamber.
Water comes in at the barb on the left, gets spread out and
then enters the block base. It then travels across the block
base through the diamond pins and then exit at the right and channels
this sheet flow back to a conduit before entering the pump volute inlet
at the center.
This is the other side of the flow chamber on top of the block base to
give you a better understanding of how the water flows here. In the
bottom, pushed down into the diamond pins, across the pins, and back
out and recollected at the top. This is actually a really
neat design and splits the water out into a nice sheet flow to utilized
the pins in the entire base. The only thing I don't like is
the rather cheap plastic feel to the injection casting, particularly
the coarse screws, although I didn't have any problems with the sample.
And the exciting part, the Apogee Drive 350 is the same pump motor as
the Swiftech MCP350 which is also the same thing as the Laing DDC3.1.
It's the 10watt motor, but in reality it's also the same
thing as the 18watt MCP355 or Laing DDC3.2 except it's missing one
soldered connection. The great thing about this is you can
easily take the motor out of this unit and install and aftermarket pump
top of your liking. The only thing different about it is
you will have a pump casing that doesn't have mounting feet and the bottom
will have the Apogee Drive emblem. In addition it's very easy
to convert this to the 18 watt pump motor by simply soldering across
the above contact point. Note this will void your warranty so
do so at your own risk, but it works fine and they are truly the same
motor with the current Laing pumps today that have the blue impeller.
This is what you get when you pull the motor and add an XSPC top to it,
a very high quality, upgradeable (18watt), and powerful separated pump.
This is what I like so much about this. Many folks come to
the forums with very low budgets and want to get into water cooling.
This is a great way to start and have the ability to upgrade
to more later. Then you've basically combined the pump and
water block into one item and saved a great deal of startup cost.
More importantly this is an awesome and powerful pump motor
and can be modified into an 18 watt motor very easily.
Low Cost and
Upgradable Water cooling Startup Scenario
Perusing the NCIX water cooling section I find the following:
Apogee Drive Unit =
Swiftech MCR320 = $51
Tubing and fittings = $20
Want to start off even cheaper? Buy a heater core at your
local automotive store for $20 and solder on some barbs.
So the total would come to around $150, and you have a nice large
triple radiator and quality pump/block combo with plenty of potential
for future expansion. Heck for even $120 you could build a
nice system with a heater core if you have soldering skills.
Later you might decide on a different water block for a few
more degrees performance, no problem, buy a good pump top and turn your
drive into a stand alone pump. Need more pumping power?...no
problem...solder the two contacts above and turn the motor into an
18watt pump. So in the end this pump/block gives you a great
foundation to build from, that's very different from any other
pump/block combo I've seen out there. Typically other options
have weak pumps and poor blocks that are usually discarded when users
want to upgrade.
Pump Performance Testing
This is kind of an odd block considering it's a pump too, so with that
I figured I'd do my normal pump testing. This utilizes my
King Instruments Flow rate meter to monitor flow rate, then I used my
Dwyer Digital manometer to measure the pressure difference between
outlet and inlet side of the pump. In addition, to control
flow rate and change restriction, I have a 3/4" brass globe valve at
the outlet and use this to control the flow rate to set increments that
I record in my template sheet.
Overall the curves follow pretty closely to a stock DDC 3.1 curve, but
with the added block restriction. In the end the as tested
flow rate returned approximately 1.4GPM, which is good for a 10watt
motor. No complaints here, this is plenty of pumping power
for a radiator, and could easily handle a few more blocks in there.
Specifications (for us testing geeks)
These are my standard quad core processor testing specs, everything
here was much the same except I pulled out the DDC3.2 pump, I added an
XSPC bay reservoir, and used the pumping power provided by the Apogee
Drive 350. For thermal testing I decided to try and follow a 5 mount method of
logging temperatures. Here are some of the
specifics in my testing method:
World Full System Testing - Over time I developed a radiator testing
bench that I've decided to incorporate into my CPU block testing setup.
This gives me a full 8 air inlet sensors, 4 air outlet
and two water sensors to much more precisely monitor everything.
My testing occurs as close to the real world as possible, I
have a crap load of sensors on everything. I am testing on a
processor, with a loading program, in a real world computer case, with
a fixed pump, and a regular radiator setup. All of this helps
include the little odd things that actually occur in a regular system.
- Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield
Processor - Over clocked
to 3600 MHz, 65nm, Vcore = 1.472 under load. Motherboard is
DFI Lanparty X48 LT with 4GB of Corsair Dominator memory with fan
module. The north bridge and south bridge chips are both
water cooled. Video card is an EVGA 8800GTX, also
Video card and chipset on a separate loop running a D5 pump
EK pump top and HWlabs 480GTX radiator. Case is a Thermaltake
Armor, position is horizontal for easy
block mounting case cover left off.
- 5 separate TIM applications and mounts averaged -
not common, but extremely important. It's not uncommon at all
see mounting variations as high as 2 degrees or more, so with only one
mount, that error can be as much as 2 degrees. When you mount
5 times and
average those results, your standard deviation is significantly lowered
and the overall testing confidence improved. In addition
mounts serve as a means to validate data, because each test is carried
out again and again, chances are if some variable is wrong affecting
it will show.
temperatures - After several iterations of a new testing methods I
finally landed on logging of temperatures for 1 hour. I then
simply start up the loading routine, trigger on my two logging
programs and A/C unit and walk away for an hour. I then come
the first 10 minutes for warm-up time. The remaining
then left to average out temperatures which are recorded every second
over 18 active sensors plus 4 core temperatures. Logging is
essential for higher resolution measurements. Our DTS core
sensors are only resolved to 1C, however after logging that resolution
out for 50 minutes of testing, that can be reduced significantly.
In addition my ambient temperatures are held constant by an
system thermostat that actually makes the temperature swig up and down
in a saw-tooth like fashion over a 2C difference. Logging
occurrence over a long period of time also levels out the ambient to a
nicely resolved level of accuracy. While it's still not by
means an environmental chamber, I have been able to keep ambients
fairly consistently around 21.7C
- Temperature Probes Deployed - I kept my sensors
basic, but I did run a few extra's just for interesting information.
This includes a sensor for:
- The Dallas DS18B20 Digital one-wire sensors
that were used as noted above have a specified absolute accuracy of .5C
with a .2C accuracy between 20 -30C temperature range. They
have resolution down to .0625C which is very good, and because they are
digital they are not affected by the wiring or length of wire like
- The CrystalFontz CFA-633
is an LCD with up to 32 channels of monitoring and logging capability.
It logs temperatures of each channel on a one second
over a 30 minute test, I'll have about 1,800 entries noting time and
temperature of each channel. These are then averaged for a
- Pump - Laing DDC3.2 with XSPC Reservoir top. I think
this pump represents the pumping power available to many
users and gives a fair amount of strong pumping power. This
top rated near the top in my
pump top testing and is very powerful.
Feser Company (TFC) 480 ER radiator with Yate loon D12SL12
medium speed fans at 12V with TFC shrouds in pull condition.
is an extremely powerful radiator and was purposely chosen because the
smaller water/ambient deltas reach equilibrium fast and pressure drop
for this radiator is minimal. This provided me very short
periods and ensured maximum pumping power for the CPU blocks being
tested. Yeah I know it's overkill for a CPU only loop, but I
like it that way..:)
Material - While I really like the TIM consultants TC Grease 0098, I
found the thicker consistency wasn't helping with mounting consistency
and required user effort to seat the block down. For that
I chose Artic Cooling MX-2,
it's been very popular in the forums and preliminary testing showed it
perform well, it's noted as non-curing, and more importantly is a
thickness/consistency that more accurately represents most thermal
compounds and easily applied and removed. I felt this was
important to maintaining a higher level of repeatability.
was no cure time allowed for the compound ( it's noted as a
non curing compound). Testing was started immediately following block
installation. TIM installation method is a heavy thin line
method. I shoot to achieve nearly full IHS coverage in my application.
- Hardware - I've change my review process to include
of two options. First an "As shipped" option that includes
you get in the box with the block, nothing more. This forces
to make due and use the hardware included and provides users some
evaluation and performance of what you get straight from the box.
In addition I plan to use a fixed hardware scenario to more
closely look at the block only.
- Prime 95 Load - I used Prime 97,
torture test, Custom, Min
FTT 8K, Max FTT 8K, Run FFTs in place checked ON. This is an
to use and consistently loading program. It provided the most
consistent loading I could find for quad cores. I also experimented
with OCCT 2.0.0a which worked fairly well, but the plotting routing
caused some processor paging spikes that prime 95 did not show.
There is also heavier loading programs such as Linpak, but
95 is a strong enough load to meet or exceed most real world
applications, so I feel it is a good fit.
- Lapped IHS - My Q6600 has been lapped flat down to
grit to ensure a true and flat surface. The stock Intel IHS
be very irregular, some are convex, some are concave, some are wavy,
and some are fairly flat. Lapping a processor voids it's
warranty, but it ensures a nice flat surface for optimal heat transfer.
My particular processor has been lapped. A complete
IHS may benefit more from a bowed block than my samples because it is
- Fixed Ambient Temperature - My recent roundup of
testing brought forth that regardless of measuring water temperature
you will in fact still incur testing error of the processor core
temperatures if you allow ambient temperatures to fluctuate.
found on the order of .2 t .3C error for every degree in ambient
difference, although it was too variable to pin down and appropriately
correct for. In the end I decided on buying a window A/C unit
that holds all testing to the same temperature. Ambient do go up and
down as the thermostat kicks on and off, but the overall average
temperature over a long logged test has been holding to less than .5C
which is very good. I am running a Hair 8,000 BTU
thermostatically controlled A/C unit in "Cool fan on at all times" to
keep temperatures right at 22C.
Thermal Testing As-Shipped
First up is my review of the block tested as shipped straight out of
the box with nothing more than installation of the block as most users
would make use of it. The only thing modified is cleaning up of that casting flaw in the pump volute. First I'm
including the summary table of the raw
Overall testing conditions were held fairly constant thanks to my
window A/C unit and logging the results. Ambient were held on
average to 21.8C, water to core deltas were held to 2.3C thanks to the
, and the average high to low core delta was about
degree C. One interesting note is that using this 10watt
motor as opposed to my DDC3.2 produced water temperatures about .2C
lower from the lower pump heat dump
Now to have a look at those results graphically over the range of
mounts that I ran, you can see those results here:
results that were within about a .2C standard deviation, and the
hottest core ran about 50.6C on average.
Round 1 Compared to the Apogee GT and GTZ
It's always interesting to me to see various blocks of the same
manufacturer compared, especially considering the Apogee Drive 350 is
derived from the Apogee GT, I wanted to see how those two compared.
First the average of 4 cores, if anything the Drive 350 has a slight
edge on the regular GT block, but considering testing errors present
they are the same.
The highest core looks very similar, there is really no measureable
difference between the Drive unit vs. a DDC3.2 with top and Apogee GT.
Note that the other tests were done with a DDC3.2 and XSPC Reservoir top.
- Excellent lost cost way to start water cooling.
exemplary accessory package, this ensures that a wide range of users
have everything they need to install the block into their systems.
High Quality Pump Motor, the pump can be modified to
18watts, and can be later removed and used as a stand alone pump with
- Back-plate is and all accessories needed are
INCLUDED!!! VERY NICE!!
- Diamond pin matrix is capable of being cleaned by
razor blade if needed
- Bowing O-ring provides good core contact.
- Does a find job cooling a Q6600 @ 3.6Ghz
- Back plate system requires motherboard removal for
- Plastic cast top and barbs could be broken if abused,
no padding in packaging.
- Thermal performance while plenty adequate is not up
to high end block performances such as the Apogee GTZ
- Casting doesn't have tapped screw holes, small flaw found in volute.
I can't help but praise this product, while it's not an Apogee GTZ
performance level, it does amazingly well for the cost and performed
equally to that an Apogee GT setup with a strong pump. And
what's even more important to me is the fact that it's built from
quality parts (Apogee GT base and MCP350 pump) and upgradable with some
modifications. This is an ideal product to start water
cooling with, This allows users to start off with a high quality pump
that can later be used as an independent pump, all it takes is the
purchase of your favorite pump top. Combine this with a low cost
triple radiator and decent fans and you'll be within a few degrees of
about the best temps you can practically get with water cooling.
Where to buy