Liquid Cooling Final Thoughts
The TD02 is a refreshing addition to the growing and popular AIO liquid cooling market. As with the TD03, the extra touches and attention SilverStone spent on the water block and radiator really set it apart from the competition, and the performance wins out over every cooler I’ve tested so far.
SilverStone SST-TD02 Conclusion
My conclusion for SilverStone’s TD02 240mm water cooler will be very similar to the smaller TD03 – it’s almost the exact same product, just a little bigger, so I suppose that makes sense! Reading through my previous observations of the TD03 it’s no secret that many of them apply directly to the larger TD02.
I’ll reiterate that appearance is the advantage the TD02 has over the competition. 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 still think they missed an opportunity by not 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 TD02 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. I encountered an issue mounting the fans to the radiator though, I ended up taking the fans off using one screw to clear out all of the threads on the radiator as the screws would just not want to bite otherwise. I’ve encountered this on other radiators, and it’s usually due to the paint covering the threads (and looked to be the case here as well). It’s an easy fix, but it could cause some cross-threading and stripped threads if you aren’t careful – none of which you want on a premium CPU cooler.
I might argue here that the TD02 is a little less functional than smaller water coolers, namely due to the larger form factor. With a 240mm double-thick radiator, you begin to run into some compatibility issues even on cases designed to accommodate them. If anything, space is at a premium so make sure the rest of your build is tidied up before installing the TD02! Once it’s in, it has no problem dealing with the heat from an overclocked FX-8320. I suppose you can’t ask for much more functionality than that – that’s the whole point right?
I felt that the TD03 was a good value, and the TD02 is necessarily more expensive. As of October 2013, the SilverStone SST-TD02 was selling for $118.99 online $118.99 (NewEgg / Amazon), which again is right in the ballpark of what you would pay for a 240mm AIO liquid cooler. Of course, with the TD02 you get a 240mm cooler that outperforms kits that cost $20-$30 more! That value changes a little if you want quieter fans, but once you throw the metal construction of the custom water block and unique radiator (resulting in some impressive performance) in the picture, I still say that’s a fair price. If you have the room, 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 TD02.
I gave the smaller TD03 a Silver Tachometer award because I felt like there were still some improvements to be made. I think the mounting system could be rethought to make installation a little easier. I also get the feeling that while the choice of hoses makes sense and doesn’t affect performance, it still seems to be the “weak point” to the Tundra series. Thankfully, that weak point is pretty weak, as that’s purely cosmetic – and maybe I’m way off base here! I’d be interested to hear your comments on this – are you okay with the hoses? Would you prefer a different material? Am I alone in wanting stainless steel braided lines or some similar version?
If anything, spending this much time discussing hose material just shows how much SilverStone got the AIO cooler formula right with the TD02. It’s the best performing water cooler I’ve tested so far, it looks great, and installation isn’t any trickier than most other aftermarket cooling solutions. I don’t see how the TD02 can be the top performer in this category at an equal or lesser price than other cooling solutions and not earn a Gold Tachometer award. Even with some of the little quirks that could be addressed, the point remains – SilverStone raised the bar in the AIO liquid cooling segment with the Tundra series, and the TD02 is the best performing CPU cooler I’ve reviewed.
+ Premium, unique look
+ Impressive performance
+ Silent pump
+ Stays quiet with less aggressive fan profiles
+ No software to install/configure, runs off of motherboard PWM
+ + + Best performing AIO cooler to date
– The stiff hoses will make installation more difficult than other options
– Hoses may be too short for full tower cases and may limit your mounting options
– Plastic spacers for holding back-plate screws could grip tighter
– Fans get loud at full RPM
Final Score: 9.00 out of 10.
Excellence Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Gold Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Do you prefer liquid or air cooling on your CPU?