Liquid Cooling Final Thoughts
The TD03 is a refreshing addition to the growing and popular AIO liquid cooling market. The extra touches and attention SilverStone spent on the water block and radiator really set it apart from the competition, and the performance ranks right up there with the best as well.
SilverStone SST-TD03 Conclusion
Honestly, I was surprised to see the TD03 performing as well as it did. Normally with an overclocked FX platform, you want as much surface area as possible to dissipate the extra heat from the CPU – for higher overclocks, you’ll probably want a 240mm radiator at least, but at an average to high overclock of 4.6GHz the 45mm thick 120mm radiator of the TD03 seems to be able to keep up (perhaps due to that 40% greater cooling efficiency of the fin design?). It may take a bit more noise to do it, but at least you know the upper range of the TD03. Besides, a stress test is a “worst-case” type of scenario, you’ll probably be able to get by with a less aggressive fan profile to reduce noise if desired. If you need silence AND cooling for high overclocks, you’ll need to go a little bigger – but for everything else, the TD03 works quite well.
Appearance is the advantage the TD03 has over the competition, in my opinion. That all-aluminum (nickel plated) water block is beautiful, and would really fit well with some of SilverStone’s enclosures (or anyone that likes the look of brushed aluminum). I think they missed an opportunity by trying a completely different angle with the hoses (tell me braided stainless lines wouldn’t look amazing with that water block!), but that’s about the only misstep in an otherwise “premium” looking product. It certainly stands out among the other AIO coolers on the market.
Of course, the extensive use of aluminum means the TD03 is constructed well and feels solid when you’re installing it into your rig. The radiator fins, due to their unique design don’t seem to bend or dent as easily as other aluminum radiators, and feel stiffer overall. I think the appearance and construction of this product go hand in hand – the nickel-plated aluminum isn’t just for show, it definitely results in a more solid-feeling product.
The advantage of using 120mm fans/radiator is compatibility. Although 140mm rear exhaust fans are becoming more popular, you’re almost guaranteed a mounting place for the TD03 in most computer cases. Along with the ability to cool a hot FX CPU, I’d say the TD03 is a pretty functional product – while it may not do anything revolutionary, the cooling performance in such a small form factor is pretty compelling.
Possibly the most interesting quality of the TD03 is the value. As of August 2013, the SilverStone SST-TD03 was selling for $99.99 online (NewEgg / Amazon), which is right in the ballpark of what you would pay for a 45mm thick radiator and a push/pull configured AIO liquid cooler. Once you throw the metal construction of the custom water block and unique radiator (resulting in some impressive performance) in the picture, I’d say that’s a fair price. If you can deal with the hard plastic kink-free hoses and have an extra hand to help with installation, you’ll probably be pretty satisfied with the SilverStone TD03.
Even though the TD03 will probably end up scoring high enough for a Gold Tachometer award, I feel that a Silver is more appropriate as there is still some room for improvement. The performance is great and the product itself is a refreshing addition that brings premium materials and a touch of class to the popular AIO liquid cooler market. I’d love to see SilverStone take advantage of this and swap out those hoses for something even better, but overall I think I’ll be recommending the TD03 to anyone that’s looking for a nice-looking CPU water cooler that performs impressively well for the price. If I had to give a Gold Tachometer award to one AIO cooler right now, it’d still have to be the Swiftech H220 for it’s powerful pump, copper core radiator, expand-ability and quiet performance (even though they aren’t available in the US currently) – but the TD03 is a compelling option and a great choice. It definitely deserves a Silver Tachometer award – I can’t wait to see what SilverStone comes up with next.
+ Premium, unique look
+ Impressive performance
+ Silent pump
+ Stays quiet with less aggressive fan profiles
+ No software to install/configure, runs off of motherboard PWM
+ Compatible with most cases/builds
– The stiff hoses will make installation more difficult than other options
– Plastic spacers for holding back-plate screws could grip tighter
– Fans get loud at full RPM
Final Score: 8.95 out of 10.
Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Do you prefer liquid or air cooling on your CPU?