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Silverstone TD02-E & TD03-E Coolers Review

AkG

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In 2013 Silverstone released their first ever All In One CPU Cooling solutions - the Tundra TD02 and TD03 - and helped redefine how closed loop water coolers should be designed. Before these two products major AIO manufactures all used folded fin based radiators and never really put a high priority on the overall aesthetics of their wares. Then Silverstone released their high-performance, awesome looking Tundra series and pretty much changed everything.

Now Silverstone is hoping to change things yet again with the TD02-E and TD03-E CPU, successors to those highly popular original coolers. With these two revisions, they hope to remove the one area in which the Tundra AIO's were arguably inferior to the competition: size. Put concisely, both the TD02 and TD03 may have been excellent looking and outperformed their competition but their rather thick dimensions caused some installation challenges. Much like Corsair's H80 series, using a thick radiator meant their AIOs simply would not fit into some cases but the so-called “E-series” is about to change all of that.


Make no mistake, even though Silverstone has made ease of installation a high priority with the new E models, neither the single bay, single thickness TD03-E nor the dual bay, single thickness TD02-E has made comprises in the performance department. Rather than simply making the E models less capable than their predecessors Silverstone has taken the intervening time between launches to also improve upon the overall efficiency of their waterblock and pump design.

This is not to say that both models are designed or marketed towards the same consumer. The 120mm TD03-E focuses on mainstream users who prize ease of installation over raw performance and do so at a reasonable price point. Meanwhile the TD02-E is geared towards performance orientated consumers.

Oddly enough, neither of these new models replaces the originals. Rather, they will co-exist and be marketed to slightly different corners of the market. The one negative to this refocusing is that with online average asking prices of $115 (TD03-E) and $99 (TD02-E) these new Tundra models need not only equal their predecessors’ performance but also out-perform a wide variety of less expensive AIOs that have been released since the original Tundra series landed. Such competition includes everything from the Corsair Hydro H60 to the H80i GT for the TD03-E. The TD02-E meanwhile has to contend against the likes of Corsair’s Hydro H100i GTX & H110i GT, Cooler Master's Nepton and Seidon series and even Antec's Kuhler series.



 
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AkG

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Closer look at the TD03-E

Closer look at the TD03-E




Silverstone have a well-deserved reputation for including high quality accessories with their products and the few which are included here are of excellent construction and design. The TD03-E includes a well-documented installation pamphlet, a small box containing mounting equipment for all current Intel and AMD systems, a small tube of thermal compound and a two-to-one fan splitter cable.


While the TD03 and TD03-E may share a name, they are obviously two very different AiO’s. The original TD03 uses an extra thick (45mm) single bay 120mm radiator with a white fascia, an all metal water block, and utilized the older style white FEP tubing to connect these two key components together. The new TD03-E makes use of rather standard 27mm thick single bay radiator, a black-topped metallic waterblock, and uses black PA 'rubber' tubing.

These changes make the TD03-E much easier to work with but at the cost of some of its uniqueness. This tends to eliminate many of the reasons to choose this particular cooler over the competition’s offerings. However, since both products will reside in Silverstone’s lineup alongside one another, you can still choose whichever suits your needs.


While the TD03’s thick radiator imparted a significant amount of additional thermal overhead into its design, the E-series’ 27mm radiators are a dime a dozen these days and everyone offering an AiO with similar-to-better dimensions.

Thankfully, this radiator still makes use of the more advanced soldered fin technology which greatly increases contact area with the water channels in comparison to the folded-fin designs most of those other companies use. How much of an impact this thinner radiator has on overall performance remains to be seen, but Silverstone states that they have made numerous enhancements in the waterblock and pump that should make up for any reduction in potential cooling.


The black Polyamide (PA) tubing is an interesting addition to say the least. PA tubing is just as effective as FEP but for whatever reason, Silverstone hasn’t covered this tubing in braided sheathing, or any covering at all. Unfortunately where the previous TD03 made use of great looking white tubing, changing to black not only seems like step backwards in overall aesthetics but it also removes the continual white color scheme that made Silverstone's Tundra series so unique.

This feels like Silverstone once again giving a nod to ease of installation since PA tubing is much, much easier to work with than the older style FEP tubing of anything that’s been sheathed. This in conjunction with smaller radiator dimensions should make installation a veritable breeze compared the older TD03 model.


The TD03-E’s waterblock is better looking than its predecessor as well. Its black top and silver metal design is extremely eye catching and as robust feeling as the original TD03's while cutting down on the bulkiness of its predecessor. More importantly, it does’t not just look better than the original waterblock but it is also uses a much more effective internal design


Also noteworthy is while the base is not as smoothly finished as CoolIT-sourced bases, Silverstone has made improvements in this department. For example, the copper contact plate is completely screw-less which enhanced reliability and reduces the bowing found in other screwed-in designs.


The two included stock fans are barely noteworthy since they haven’t been upgraded from the past generation. This in and of itself could have been easily overlooked except for the fact that the TD03's largest weakness was its fans. Simply put these sleeve bearing fans have a higher noise profile than many competing models. They do however feature a reasonably wide static pressure envelope.



The fact that the fans are less than quiet models could also have been easily overlooked except that once again Silverstone has not included any fan controller or any fan control software with this rather expensive closed loop liquid cooler. Instead they feel that your average motherboard can do a good enough job at keeping their noise levels in check.

We have to remember that most of the competition includes fan control abilities and what could be overlooked as merely a first generation oversight, is getting harder to justify. Silverstone needs to take this issue seriously if they want to be able to sell premium AiOs at a premium price tag.
 
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AkG

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Closer look at the TD02-E

Closer look at the TD02-E




The accessories which accompany the TD02-E are identical to the TD03-E. This includes all of the components required for quick and relatively easy mounting on both AMD and Intel motherboards. Like the Tundra TD02 series, every one of these components is built to exceedingly high quality standards so longevity shouldn’t be a concern.

The only minor disappointment was the lack of a second 2-in-1 fan splitter. This large unit is a quad fan capable device, and as such the lack of an additional fan adapter cable is quite a large miss given Silverstone typically covers all their bases. This missing cable will make cable management harder and should have been included considering how inexpensive they are.


Like the TD03-E, the TD02-E seems to offer up performance at the altar in order to achieve a seamlessly straightforward installation process. That means it does away with its predecessor’s extra thick radiator and ultra high performance pump, making way for smaller, less intrusive components.

The largest and most obvious change is once again the radiator. The previous generation came TD02 came with a very unusual 45mm thick, dual 120mm unit whereas the the TD02-E has a more pedestrian 27mm thick design which is the same thickens that many competitors use.


On the positive side, this 27mm x 240mm radiator is much more efficient that the more common radiators found on the marketplace. As with the TD03-E, the TD02-E uses sophisticated soldered fin technology, causing each water channel to make full contact with its respective cooling fins. This increase in surface contact area should still allow this 27mm radiator to outperform older AIOs that use the same thickness but as noted previously, the radiator is only one portion of any AiO that determines overall cooling performance.



Thankfully, SilverStone's waterblock has been upgraded with a newer pump and internal structure that promises to be more efficient. It also incorporates a very unique nickel-coated aluminum unibody for increased strength. SilverStone states that these improvements should make up for the loss of the thicker radiator, but that remains to be seen.



What is definitive is that this waterblock is just as good looking at its predecessor and has a base finish that shows that SilverStone is taking quality assurance seriously. While we would classify this more as a satin rather than a mirror finish it is actually much better than its predecessor and the screw-less construction should keep bowing to a minimum.



Unfortunately this waterblock is also missing any semblance of fan control abilities and SilverStone still feels justified in asking their customers to spend full price for an AiO cooling solution that has to rely upon their motherboard for all fan control abilities. This in and of itself is not necessarily a deal breaker, but considering the stock fans of the new TD02-E are for all intents and purposes the same as those that accompany the TD02 we think this is a rather large issue.


In keeping with the 'E' motif, SilverStone has also replaced the long white FEP tubing with 12” of newer PA rubber tubing. As with the TD03-E SilverStone desperately needs to take a page from Corsair and Asetek and sleeve their AiO's tubing.
 
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AkG

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Setup and Installation Issues

Setup and Installation Issues



As stated throughout this review when Silverstone designed the 'E' series of All In One cooling solutions they made ease of installation a priority. When compared to their processors, both the Tundra TD03-E and Tundra TD02-E are indeed easier to work with. The more flexible tubing, combined with thinner radiators is certainly a winning combination from an installation point of view. For this Silverstone does deserve to be applauded. Not every manufacturer is so quick to listen to feedback and then do more than just pay lip service to said feedback.


With that being said, using PA rubber tubing and standard thickness radiators are for all intents and purposes de-facto standard features on modern AiO designs. As such these two new Tundra 'E' coolers are not any easier to install than many of their competitors. In fact, while we do have to acknowledge the improvements Silverstone has done the fact remains that the actual hardware used to install the new Tundra's is the exact same hardware as the previous models used.


If you have only installed air-based aftermarket CPU cooling solutions you will find the installation procedure rather comforting - as it could easily be the same equipment found with any tower cooler. However, one of the key selling features of AIO coolers is that they are easier to install than their air based counterparts. This is where the Tundra's installation procedure misses a step or two.

Put simply installing the backplate and waterblock is more finicky and time consuming a process than what most AIO's demand. This is not because the Silverstone installation hardware is bad per say; rather it simply is that the rest of the industry hasn’t stood still since the original Tundra series was launched. Despite the water block’s extremely high strength extruded aluminum mounting bracket, there are several small pieces that are a pair to leverage into position.

Asetek, CoolIT, and most other manufacturers have constantly improved their waterblock mounting hardware with many incorporating integrated hardware that doesn’t have to be messed with for consistent results. As such the Silverstone Tundra E series equipment does seem outdated and quirky in comparison.


On the positive side, the waterblock mounting hardware is extremely robust. You know that once that waterblock is secured in place that nothing less than total destruction of the motherboard is going to remove it - unless you want it removed. If you cart a system to LAN events, this might be the perfect solution.


Once you do have the waterblock in place things are smooth sailing and there are almost no issues worth mentioning. The TD03-E uses a single bay, single thickness radiator and since it is has a standard 120mm form-factor this combination should allow it to fit and work inside nearly any case on the market. At worst you may have to remove one of its fans.


The TD2-E -while not quite as issue free- is darn near perfect as well. As long as you have a case that has two top mounted 120mm exhaust ports, and said ports use the newer 15mm offset everything will go well. Mount it, set it and forget it.


Overall while not perfect, the Tundra E series is certainly a step in the right direction in the ease of installation department compared to the previous generation Tundra models. All that is left to ascertain is if this increase in the ease of use department makes up for the loss of potential cooling the thinner radiators demanded.
 
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AkG

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Stock Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results - TD03-E


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD03-E/oc.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD03-E/oc1.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD03-E/oc2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Stock Fan Performance Results - TD02-E


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD02-E/oc.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD02-E/oc1.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/TD02-E/oc2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

We are of two minds on these results. On the one hand most of these numbers are quite decent and certainly not terrible. In fact, at lower fan speeds both models showed glimmers of excellence, almost equaling the performance of certain 140mm-based models. In either case it could easily be argued that the majority of customers for each E model will never notice the loss of performance compared to the original models. However everyone, even first time users, will notice how much easier they are to install.

This however is not the ringing endorsement it seems to be since both models tend to lag behind their predecessors at higher heat loads. Even if you consider the differences to be minor, simply tying an older generation model is nothing to shout from the rooftops.
 
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AkG

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Dual & Quad Fan Performance Results

Dual Fan Performance Results - TD03-E


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/dual.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Quad Fan Performance Results - TD02-E


<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra_E/quad.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

This is one area that SilverStone absolutely and completely failed to make the TD02-E series just as good as its processors. The simple fact of the matter is the thin radiator of the new TD02-E is already efficiently cooled by just two fans and the increase in cooling performance is minor when opting for quad configurations. This is in stark contrast to its previous generation which really loved four fan configurations and rewarded consumers with even better performance.

Thankfully the TD03-E already comes with two fans and as such these results are not as disappointing as the TD02-E's. In fact, the results are fairly decent for a standard thickness single 120mm radiator based AIO, especially when compared to models that came out in 2013! However, when you consider many AIOs in this market niche cost significantly less than the TD03-E these results are certainly nothing to be overly proud of either.
 
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AkG

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Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us coloring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off. 25 decibels was the background noise level and as such anything below this level is considered inaudible. This is why the bottom of the chart stops at 25.


TD03-E Results



TD02-E Results




Given the fans on both of these AiO's are the same which are included with the non-E series, these are some interesting results to say the least. Let's start with the TD03-E. Even though this cooler has a pair of fans, at lower RPMs it is often quieter than coolers with a single fan. As RPMs increase, so too does the noise level but it remains quieter than its predecessor and other dual 120mm competitors.

The TD02-E behaves much the same way but instead of just being quieter at lower speeds, it is actually one of the lowest noise output dual bay AiO's we've come across.

So what happened here? It seems like due to the thinner radiators there's less back-pressure for the fans to work through, reducing turbulence and evening out blade noise. The fan motors also don't have to work as hard to achieve comparable speeds.

While performance may not be up to the levels of their predecessors, these two coolers may be a perfect choice for anyone that needs a lower-noise system.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


TD02-E


While many may expect the TD02-E to be a direct replacement for the well-received Tundra TD02, Siverstone’s intent for it is a bit less grand. The original cooler will remain in the lineup as a higher performance alternative while the newcomer will fill a void by offering a lower noise profile, an enhanced installation procedure and broader compatibility.

If we go by those goals alone, the TD02-E is a success. It offers very good cooling results relative to the noise output of its fans while also featuring a more svelte overall design and one of the most secure mounting systems we’ve come across in a while. The new dual-bay Tundra may not look as avant-garde as its sibling but there was a need to retain some points of differentiation so we can’t knock it for that.

There is certainly a long list of positives here but in some ways the TD02-E still feels like it was designed back in 2013. Many of their direct competitors have included software or hardware fan control with their AiO’s but Silverstone still does without this key feature. The fans themselves are also quite good but the technology behind their design is still a good three years out of date and there are better all-round options gracing competing solutions from Corsair, NZXT and even Cooler Master these days.

Make no mistake about it; the new TD02-E is a very good cooling solution. It has great looks, good performance metrics and a relatively low acoustical profile at nearly every RPMS level. However, in such a crowded market, Silverstone has failed to differentiate their newest addition from all the other alternatives out there.


TD03-E


The positives and negatives we listed above for the larger TD02-E largely trickle down into our opinion of the single bay TD03-E as well. This is an effective low noise 120mm AiO that boasts a straightforward installation process and pretty good looks. However, key features like a way to control fan speeds outside a motherboard’s sometimes-spotty software and sleeved tubing are MIA.

With that being said, the TD03-E has an extremely competitive price tag while matching the performance of the larger, more ungainly TD03. Cooling results weren’t impressive but they were still good enough to give this AiO a second look.

Taken as whole the TD03-E is a great all round choice for a wide variety of consumers. The only real issue will actually be its price relative to what’s being offered. There are less expensive alternatives that feature that aforementioned controller software, more refined installation hardware and sleeved tubing. However, it’s almost impossible to find a model that bests this cooler in all those areas while offering better performance as well. In the end, the choice will come down to what suits you best: overall performance and noise or robust feature sets.
 
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