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SilverStone Tundra TD02 & TD03 Review

AkG

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Remember back when pundits were saying that Intel’s new Tri-Gate transistor technology would result in cooler running processors? Well, that never happened and with the introduction of 22nm CPUs, suddenly enthusiasts found that instead of lower temperatures, heat is now concentrated into one small area. As a result, heatsinks that were once adequate were rendered ineffective overnight with overclocked Ivy Bridge, Haswell <i>and</i> Ivy Bridge-E processors routinely outstripping capabilities. This has led to a renaissance for All In One water cooling units and Silverstone’s Tundra TD02 and Tundra TD03 are the latest looking to capitalize.

The TD02 and TD03 represent Silverstone’s first foray into the water cooling market and they’ve been in development for over a year. More importantly, their designs were completely done in-house, unlike the countless CoolIT or Asetek-based models already on the market.

Even an untrained eye can spot the differences Silverston’s radical outside the box thinking makes. Instead of the typical 25mm radiator with black tubing attached to a typical plastic and copper water block, both the TD02 and TD03s use thicker 45mm radiators with brushed silver accents, shockingly white FEP tubing and an all-aluminum water block. Simply put, both models look like a million bucks and instead of having to work around them in a custom build’s overall color scheme, consumers can work <i>with</i> their aesthetics to create a unique system build.

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In the performance department the Tundra’s thicker radiators promise to be more efficient. Of course the thicker design means more water flowing through each channel, but even excluding this from the equation, both coolers utilize a more effective soldered fin approach which significantly increases the water’s surface contact and efficiency. To ensure as much air as possible comes into contact with these improved radiator fins, Silverstone has opted to include two 2500 RPM fans with each model. Unfortunately there isn’t any fan control abilities built into the Tundra design and you will have to resort to the motherboard’s built in fan abilities.

These are the areas where both the TD02 and TD03 obviously share points of commonality but they do differ somewhat. Firstly the slightly older TD02 uses a dual 120mm bay design and is meant for handling more serious workloads while the smaller TD03 makes use of a single height 120mm bay radiator and intended for scenarios where ease of installation is paramount. While both come with two fans, the larger TD02 can be upgraded to a four fan design.

From a pricing perspective, Silverstone has kept things quite competitive. The TD02 can be found online for $119 which is very reasonable and is comparable to Corsair’s H100i and H110 models. The TD03 is also slightly more budget friendly at about $99 and aligns with Corsair’s ultra-thick single 120mm bay H80i or Antec’s Kuhler 920.

Raw price is a rather poor way to choose a CPU cooling solution, but Silverstone hopes that their unique blend of performance, aesthetics <i>and</i> price will allow these two new devices to thrive in a marketplace dominated with Asetek and CoolIT based designs.
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AkG

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Closer Look at the Tundra TD02

Closer Look at the Tundra TD02



Much like any All In Once cooling device meant for the retail channel, Silverstone’s Tundra TD02 shipping container is eye catching while still being very informative.

The exterior may be large and distinctive, but the internal protection scheme is very similar to that of the competition. A sturdy cardboard tray with foam topper is the de-facto standard for AIOs and it is not surprising to see Silverstone opt for this.

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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 TD02 includes a well-documented installation pamphlet, a small box containing mounting equipment for all current Intel and AMD systems, a small tube of TIM and a two-in-one fan splitter cable.

The only minor disappointment was the lack of a second 2-in-1 fan splitter cable and no rubber anti-vibration gasket. Including a gasket is not all that common and can easily be overlooked, but with this being quad fan capable device, 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 internal case cable management harder and should have been included considering how inexpensive they are.

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Currently, the majority of AIO devices are either CoolIT, Swiftech or Asetek based designs and have very few points of divergence to help distinguish one from another. Thankfully, Silverstone has not gone down this well-worn route. Instead of simply reaching out to one of the firmly established OEMs they undertook a yearlong R&D process to create an entirely new design which has only the most basic points of commonality with other manufactures’ designs. Sure, there’s still a radiator, tubing, waterblock and fans but once you go beyond the most basic of overviews the Tundra series radically differs from any other sealed AIO available today.

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There is just no denying that the majority of the advancements Silverstone has achieved come from their radiator design. The TD02’s radiator is easily the most eye catching unit we have seen and the gunmetal gray aluminum chassis with white plastic fascia certainly helps it stand out from the crowd. However, when you get past the superficial appearances – no matter how impressive - and take a closer look, this radiator is easily in a different league than any sealed AIO radiator in use today.

Not only is this radiator thicker - 45mm instead of 27mm- but the way it dissipates heat from the water channels to the air more elegant than competitors’ solutions. Instead of relying upon narrow folded metal fins in between each channel and the small amount of surface area such a typical design brings to the table, Silverstone has taken a page from the air cooling market and used an actual fin array. Each fin not only envelops all the water channels but the amount of surface area is massive in comparison to the older folded fin designs.

The fins are not just pressure fitted in place but brazed so that the contact area is as large and consistent as possible which significantly increases efficiency. This combination creates what is best described as a water-based, 120mm X 240mm X 45mm cooling tower. As the air based CPU marketplace has proven, the greater the surface area the greater the cooling potential. Judging by the size of Silverstone’s design, the Tundra TD02 may in fact be able to outperform even larger but less refined 140mm based designs.

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The only possible negative to this approach is the potentially larger static pressure roadblock for the fans. This is because the cooling fins are deeper than a typical radiator’s folded metal ‘fins’ and also stacked rather tightly together. To help lower the static pressure Silverstone has given each side of the radiator a saw-tooth pattern similar to that found on some large air-based coolers.
 
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AkG

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Closer look at the Tundra TD02 Cont'd

Closer look at the Tundra TD02 Cont'd


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The Tundra TD02 uses the newer 15mm spacing standard for the distance between its two fans instead of the older 20mm offset. In practical terms a smaller offset leads to less ‘gap’ between the fans but it also becomes extremely important when case compatibility is factored into the equation. Not all cases which can technically accommodate dual 120mm radiators use the same offset. While 15mm spacing is the new standard, if your case uses 20mm, installing a Tundra TD02 will be problematic.

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The fans also help distinguish and define the Tundra series but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. The two high performance 2500 RPM / 92.5CFM fans have enough static pressure to easily overcome the radiator’s higher than usual static pressure requirements. However, they use a standard sleeve bearing design which means their life expectancy is about 40,000 hours which isn’t quite up to the standards of the competition.

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Since the Tundra TD02 was in development for a year it is not all that surprising that Silverstone opted for the older 3/8th FEP style tubing instead of the latest gen ‘rubber’ compound. This leads to the tubing being stiffer and harder to work with than either Asetek’s or CoolIT’s latest generation of AIOs.

The ultra-low evaporative white tubing does look quite stunning though when placed alongside the radiator’s snow white fascia. It is also worth pointing out that Silverstone has gone with ~12.2 inches of tubing making installation a bit easier than it would be with shorter tubed models. By the same token 12.2 inches is shorter than what NZXT offers on their dual 140mm Kraken X60 which is about 16 inches.

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Much like the tubing, the waterblock is also a mixed bag of positive and negative attributes. The quality of the base’s finishing is first rate and its brushed aluminum housing is also above reproach. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include a fan control module like some of its compatriots. Silverstone believes that such features are simply not needed and motherboard fan controller will suffice. We don’t agree since the fan control abilities of motherboards vary wildly from one manufacturer to another and the end result isn’t always optimal.
 
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AkG

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Closer look at the Tundra TD03

Closer look at the Tundra TD03


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Just like the TD02, the TD03’s box is both attention-getting and packed with information that will help educate first time consumers. It also resides inside a sturdy cardboard protector with a foam topper layer. This protection scheme is effective at reducing the chances of it being damaged in transit.

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The accessories which accompany the TD03 are identical to the TD02s. 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.

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With its plastic white fascia, gunmetal gray 45mm thick radiator and brushed aluminum waterblock the Tundra TD03 is every bit as aesthetically pleasing as the larger TD02 model.

The TD03 does help distinguish itself from the likes of Corsair’s H80i series since Silverstone has once again taken a page from the air cooling market and used an actual brazed fin array instead of the standard folded fin radiator design. This creates what is best described as a water based, 120mm X 120mm X 45mm cooling tower.

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The only possible negative to this design is the static pressure requirements which are going to be rather severe. The cooling fins are not only deeper than a typical radiator’s folded metal ‘fins’ but they are also stacked rather tightly together which forces a fan to work quite hard to ensure adequate airflow.

To help lower the static pressure of this fin array Silverstone has given each side of the radiator a saw-tooth pattern similar to that found on some large air based coolers. It mirrors the TD02’s design in this regard.

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Unfortunately, Silverstone has opted for the exact same fans as the TD02 model. Specifically they are sleeved bearing 2500 RPM / 92.5CFM units with 3.5mm of static pressure. They should easily be able overcome the static pressure requirements. Again, the sleeved bearing may affect longevity but 40,000 hours should be sufficient for most users.

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The Tundra TD03 uses the older 3/8th FEP style tubing which makes it stiffer and harder to work with than the rubberized compound found on many competing models. Silverstone has gone with over 12.2 inches which should make installation much easier and in-line with its larger sibling.

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The quality of the water block’s finishing is first rate but our critique of the TD02 remains in place here as well. It would have been nice to see a fan controller incorporated into this combination unit and the entire affair does look a bit industrial next to the sleek designs used on some competing solutions.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all water cooling review. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why things had to be changed or altered.


Thermal Paste and Application Methods:

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all water based CPU cooling solutions during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.


Fans Used:

120mm:

For all water based CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come standard with a fan, a pair of Noctua NF-P12-1300s and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual Fans:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:

- If a water cooling solution cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL water coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.

We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor thermal performance.


Environment:

Except where noted all comparison testing was done inside a closed case with a room ambient temperature of 24c. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:

The case chosen for this test bed is a Cooler Master HAF-X. We chose the HAF-X as it a highly adaptable case with not only multiple fan ports but is capable of handling even the largest of AIO coolers. To populate these fan ports we chose Scythe E 120mm units with Sony Fluid Dynamic Bearings. Unless otherwise noted, only one of the top two exhaust fan ports, the rear exhaust port and front fan intake port will be populated. The front fan port will use the stock CM 230mm fan. The rear exhaust port will be populated by the review item's fan and radiator where possible, for the air based cooling alternative used in the review as a counter example another Scythe E will be used.


Warm Up:

Before testing commenced 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” followed by 45 minutes of idling was done. This warm up period was done at stock CPU core frequencies. This additional pretest was done to ensure that the fluid in the liquid CPU cooling solutions were at ambient room temperature and thus the test results would be more indicative of real world scenarios. For all air based cooling solutions the same 15 minutes of heavy load followed by 45 minutes of idle was also done.


Temperature Recording:

Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 95°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled. All power connectors for the review item are connected directly to Molex connectors to ensure they were running at full speed.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.


Charts & Graphs:

Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.

All water cooling reviews will also include a air based CPU cooling which best approximates the price range of the water cooling solution being reviewed. This way you will not only know how it compares to other water cooling units but also an Air based CPU cooling solution which is in the same approximate price range.


Sound Pressure Testing:

To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.


Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:

Case: Cooler Master HAF-X
Processor: Intel i7 920(Intel)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R
Memory: 6GB Mushkin Silverline Stiletto DDR3-1600
Graphics card: EVGA GeForce GT 240
Hard Drive: 1x 240GB Intel 520 SSD
Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
Special thanks to NZXT for their support and supplying the NZXT 140mm fans.
 
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AkG

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Tundra TD02 & TD03 Installation (Intel & AMD)

Tundra TD02 & TD03 Installation (Intel)


Both Tundra models use the same installation parts and procedure. As such, both offer consumers an equally easy, quick and almost painless installation procedure. Furthermore, even with one or two minor quirks, the Tundra series has what is easily the best Intel installation of any sealed AIO CPU cooling solution on the market today. Even compared to CoolIT’s latest generation ‘magnet mounting’ system the Silverstone stands head and shoulders above the competition. Not only is this installation easy, but because Silverstone started with the proverbial blank slate they created components that rival even Noctua and Prolimatech both in their overbuilt robustness and their simplicity.

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For Intel users the amount of effort required to install these models on anything from a socket 775 all the way to LGA 2011 consists of a few easy steps. To begin you simply take the dual purpose Intel/AMD all in one backplate and prepare it by sliding the four mounting posts through it. This first step is not only crucial but can also be a touch tricky as the instructions can be confusing since the “This side for Intel” side needs to be pointed towards the motherboard.

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With the backplate and its associated posts installed plastic spacers have to be attached to each threaded screw. These spacers will hold the posts and backplate in position without the need for double sided tape.

The last step of this process is similarly straightforward: the water block should be put into position while making sure each of the four posts thread up through the open ended mounting bracket corners. After this, it’s just a matter to tightening down the four included spring loaded thumb screws to provide even mounting pressure. Plug in the 3pin cable and the water block half of the installation is complete. With this accomplished, the radiator and fans need to be installed and due to their different form-factors this is where the TD02 and TD03 installations slightly diverge.

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As with all single bay units, the TD03 requires a case be equipped with a 120mm rear exhaust port, though a top mount can be used in a pinch. Unfortunately, installing the TD03 onto the rear exhaust port location may not be possible since the 120mm radiator’s bottom edge protrudes downwards just enough that it may obstruct the top expansion slot. If your case can only accommodate 120mm fans this may be something to consider before purchasing the TD03 but enclosures with 140mm or dual 120mm fan support won’t have any issues.

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The final installation steps for the TD02 are also quite straightforward but its size may cause concern for some. As with all dual bay units the TD02 requires a case that has dual 120mm exhaust ports. Most modern enclosures come with dual 120mm top mounts but this cooler requires the newer 15mm spacing so make sure your case supports this before installation progresses too far. If it doesn’t, a few modifications will need to be made.

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AMD System Installation


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While not precisely as easy, the AMD installation is once again above average for the AIO marketplace; that is to say it is easy and very user-friendly. It follows the Intel process and even uses the same backplate, though this time the “This Side for AMD” should point towards the motherboard. The only difference is that to ensure adequate clearance is maintained, the included insulation pads need to be installed.

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With this accomplished thread the now ready backplate up through the motherboard mounting holes and place the included black plastic spacers over each bolt. As with the Intel side of things this freezes the backplate in place long enough to get the rest of the AIO installed without resorting to tape.

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Unlike the Intel installation the very next thing you need to do is prep the waterblock. This is as simple as removing two screws from each of the ‘Intel’ metal brackets and replacing them with the ‘AMD’ brackets. Unfortunately, the brackets are touch longer and narrower in shape than their Intel counterparts and this will limit the tubing’s rotational angles.

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With the brackets in place the installation for both the TD02 and TD03 follows exactly along the same line as their Intel counterparts with the exact same minor caveats. Overall, it may not be as good as the Intel installation, but the AMD installation is still very good.
 
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AkG

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Stock Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results


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Judging from these results, Silverstone's decision to design their own units instead of using a secondary OEM's approach has paid off in spades for the Tundra TD02. It easily dominates the dual 120mm alternatives and even comes close to the performance afforded by dual 140mm units. That's impressive to say the least.

The same holds true for the TD03 which is able to overcome other single 120mm coolers but can't quite overcome 140mm-based units. We really couldn't have asked for more, though anyone with a case that has 140mm fan compatibility may want to look at the alternatives.
 
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AkG

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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


Note: in this test we use only 120mm and 140mm coolers so the TD02 was not included.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra/26_high.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra/34_high.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra/38_high.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

While the TD03 comes with two fans out of the box, judging from these results it needs all that airflow to ensure temperatures remain in check. While it still maintains class-leading results, the amount of performance gained by using the two stock fans is beyond a doubt beneficial due to the amount of static pressure needed to keep the radiator adequately cooled.
 
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AkG

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Dual and Quad Fan Performance Results

Dual and Quad Fan Performance Results


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

As expected both coolers' rather dense fin array significantly hurts overall performance when the units are paired with two rather slow fans. Obviously these AIO models need higher performance fans to overcome their fin array’s static pressure requirements but as long as such requirements are met their increased efficiency will pay dividends. By the same token we would be hesitant to opt for either model if noise was the highest priority of a given build as that radiator will prove to be less effective than the competitions ‘folded fin’ designs.

Moving on to the quad fan results of the TD02, we were very impressed by what it could do, but in the end the waterblock design does keep it from competing against 140mm units which are also equipped with very high performance fans. However, the TD02 is easily the most impressive dual 120mm AIO we have seen – even if it is missing fan control abilities.
 
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AkG

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Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


<i>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 colouring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavour 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.</i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/Tundra/noise.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Much like the Cooler Master Seidon 240M, both the Tundra TD02 and TD03 come with rather high speed, sleeve bearing fans and this does negatively impact our opinion of them from an acoustical standpoint. While we can find very little to fault on the performance side of things, there is simply no reason for Silverstone to have gone for standard sleeve bearing designs other than to cut costs. They aren't exactly quiet and there are some questions about their longevity.
 
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