Enough about the details; let’s get the TD03 Slim installed in the AMD-based testbed.
As with most aftermarket coolers, you’ll need to remove the AM3+ standard backplate and replace it with the cooler’s backplate. The four mounting posts are notched to prevent rotation, and slip through the backplate and motherboard where they are held in place on the other side by plastic spacers.
The four plastic collars slip over the posts and keep the backplate assembly from moving around. They could stand to be a little tighter, as you’ll still need both hands when installing the CPU cooler pump housing (to prevent the posts from slipping out of the back) – at least they keep the backplate in place while you’re getting ready for the next step.
With the right brackets installed (you’ll need to unscrew the Intel brackets and replace with the AMD versions) the whole pump assembly secures easily to the mounting posts. The spring-loaded fastening nuts can be a bit tough to start – you’ll need to apply a little bit of pressure to get that first thread to bite. Still, compared to many installations the TD03 Slim is relatively simple to install.
It looks like many other AIO liquid coolers; with a generally tidy appearance, rubber hoses and a simple, compact pump housing design. The 310mm hoses allow for good flexibility in mounting locations – most ATX cases won’t have an issue with clearance in either the rear or top positions (the hoses are a bit too short for mounting in the front or bottom in larger cases which is typical of most AIO kits).
The pump’s LED adds a bit of subtle decoration to the assembly, with a hexagonal design highlighting the SilverStone snowflake.
Now, normally this is the part where we fire up some stress tests and get some data to plug into some neat graphs. While I don’t intend to take that away from anyone, I had my suspicions that this particular cooler wouldn’t do so well on the overclocked AM3+ testbed I normally use for testing coolers. Think about it – “water cooled” sounds – well, cool and all, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. The water doesn’t do much cooling on its own – it merely provides a medium for the cooler to conduct heat (and transfer that heat away from the CPU). The actual cooling is performed by air moving past the radiator fins. While not completely correct, it isn’t too far off to say that AIO liquid coolers are merely air coolers with flexible heat pipes…
Point being, the radiator is the portion that actually sheds (err…radiates?) heat from the system. You can estimate the cooling capacity merely by the size of the radiator – just like with air coolers, more volume = greater heat “capacity” (and the larger the surface area, the faster you can transfer that heat into the ambient air). If you look at the slim radiator included with the TD03 Slim, you can probably begin to see why I’m a little concerned about where the approximately 150-200W from an overclocked FX CPU is going to go. Still, as that is where the majority of my cooler data was gathered from, I had to at least give it a shot…
…where the TD03 Slim promptly failed the thermal load output by an overclocked FX-8350. In fact, it was the first time (other than the stock cooler) that I’ve seen the thermal throttle kick in. It simply couldn’t shed the heat fast enough, with such a small radiator surface area. It should be clear to most users this isn’t the cooler to pick for a CPU that can consume 200W when overclocked and has a max temp limit of around 55C, so let’s move on to something a little more relevant.