Swiftech Apogee SKF Heirloom Series CPU Water block Review
Introduction and Waterblock Overview
Swiftech took a major leap forward with the introduction of their Apogee SKF Heirloom Series bock which is the flagship of the Apogee SKF series. They worked to refine their existing designs with smaller micro-channels in the base plate, an RGB illuminated view port in the center of the block, and an all-metal construction.
Courtesy of Swiftech
The metal construction was one of the nicer refinements, adding additional surface area for heat dissipation as well as reducing the likelihood of stripping the G1/4" fitting ports from over-tightening or switching out the block's barbs. With an MSRP of $94.95, the Apogee SKF Heirloom Series block comes at a premium price – well worth it given the block's performance and premium features.
Note that Swiftech used the same design refinements with all their Apogee SKF series water blocks. The Heirloom series block just offers an unprecedented level of customization that is only partially available with the other Apogee SKF series blocks.
Courtesy of Swiftech
One of the nicest refinements Swiftech introduced with the Heirloom Series block was its vast amount of configurability. When ordered, Swiftech allowed for customization of the top block, the cover plate, the logo, and the mounting brackets, giving the user the ability to design a very unique and build-specific block. The block top was offered in a total of five different finishes, the cover plate in six different colors, the logo in eight different colors, and the mounting brackets in two different colors. While this level of customization was limited to the Heirloom Series block, Swiftech does allow some customization on its other Apogee SKF series blocks, like the Apogee SKF and Apogee SKF Prestige blocks.
The Apogee SKF Heirloom Series water block came in a very unassuming black box stamped with the Swiftech logo. Opening the box reveals the magic held within. Not only did Swiftech package the cooler and all accessories into a brown colored wooden box (reminiscent of a high-end cigar box), but the wooden box itself was inside a cloth bag to protect it's finish in shipping. Both were also stamped with a large Swiftech logo.
Opening the box reveals the genius in Swiftech's packaging to ensure that the block and all its components come to you in pristine condition. The block itself is cradled in a form-fitted foam insert that sits on top of the lower pocket containing all the included components. The inside top of the box is foam covered as well, to further cushion the water block. The lower compartment is lined with foam as well to protect the components from damage as well as from damaging the water block or its finish.
The Swiftech Apogee SKF Heirloom Series water block is of a square-shaped design with a copper base plate and steel mounting brackets embedded into the block's upper cover. The view plate in the middle of the cover gives a look into the liquid flow through the base plate's micro channels, illuminated via embedded RGB LEDS along both sides of the view port, and powered by the 3-pin power connector. The blocks ports are located to the top left and bottom right of the view port. Either port can be used as the inlet or outlet because of the lack of jet impingement chamber in the cooler's design.
As is common with the design of most CPU water blocks, the block is of a low-profile design. From the side, you can see the layered construction of the top plate with a middle clear panel in between the decorative top piece and the steel mounting bracket. This clear piece sits on top of the RGB LEDS, acting as a transmission medium for the light from the LEDs. Swiftech also engraved the block part name and number along the top side of the block.
The block's base plate is a pure copper construction, machined smooth and polished to a mirror sheen. There are six total Phillips headed screws holding the block together. The larger screws in each of the corners help to seal the base plate to the upper plate. The two smaller screws in the middle outer edge of the plate help to fix the mounting brackets in place. All screws are flat-headed and flush mounted into the base plate, ensuring that they in no way effect or impeded cooler to CPU mounting.
Cooler with Intel LGA115X Mounting Kit
The cooler mounts to the CPU socket backplate using double-headed and threaded mount posts that screw into the motherboard back plate. The water block is held in place using thumbscrews with integrated springs that attach to the mount posts through the block's mount brackets, providing even downward force between the bottom of the water block and processor surface.
The threaded mount posts screw directly into the motherboard mount bracket for a secure fit, making mounting the block to the CPU a breeze once the mount posts are fixed in place. Swiftech provided plastic washers sitting in between the bottom of the mount and the motherboard's surface to protect the surface from damage. Holes in the block's mounting bracket fit into the unthreaded portions of the mount post with the thumbscrews screwing into the threaded top portion to fix the block in place.
The block's motherboard mounting bracket is a simple design, mirroring the shape of the block's mounting brackets with a center cutout to compensate for the CPU socket circuitry located on the back of the motherboard.
Note that an example of the block mounted to an AMD board was not shown because of its similarity to that of the Intel LGA-115X style mounting system. The biggest difference with the AMD AM4 mount is that for AM4 mounting, the thumbscrews thread through the mount brackets directly into the motherboard back plate, making the need for board mount posts unnecessary.
Intel LGA115X Board Mounting Assembly
The mounting assembly for the LGA115X socket consists of the LGA115X back plate, four threaded mount posts, and four plastic washers. The mount posts thread into the back plate through the mounting holes in the surface of the board with a plastic washer in between the mount post and the surface of the board.
When mounted to an LGA115X-style motherboard, the Apogee SKF Heirloom Series water block fits the socket area perfectly with no tight areas along any sides of the block. You should not encounter any problems using this block in conjunction with an Intel LGA115X or AMD AM4-style board. Notice that the block provides plenty of clearance for memory used in the upper memory slots as well. The block is shown in its default mounting orientation.
Intel LGA2011 Board Mounting Assembly
The mount assembly for the LGA2011 socket is much simpler, consisting of four threaded mount posts only. The posts screw directly into the threaded mount points located in each corner of the CPU socket assembly.
The LGA2011 motherboard's socket posed no fit issues for the Apogee SKF Heirloom Series water block with it sitting perfecting in between the upper and lower memory sets. Given its fit and design, this block should pose no mounting issues for any LGA2011-style motherboard, allowing the use of any of the board's DIMM slots. Note that the block is mounted to the board in its default orientation.
Water Block Disassembly and Breakdown
Removing the four corner screws from the base plate separates the block into its two main parts, the metal top which forms the liquid flow channel and the bottom copper base plate. Disassembling the block in this manner illustrates why either port can be used as the inlet or outlet port. Notice that there is a channel cut into the top plate extending from each of the ports which acts as a collection channel so that the coolant flows evenly across the base plate's micro-channels to the outlet port's collection channel. This design also has the effect of sustaining the coolant flow rate entering and leaving the block. The top contains a channel along its outer edge housing the rubber o-ring, which seals the top to the base plate once the block's screws have been tightened. The screws in the middle of the block top fix the mounting brackets, the plastic part covering the RGB LEDs, and colored metal insert (on the top side of the top) to the block top.
In the center of the inside of the top plate sits the view port, a glass insert that seals to the top plate with the rubber o-ring sitting in a channel above the view port. If you decide to take apart the block to clean the base plate channels, do not attempt to remove the view port panel. I did this for the review, but it resulted in the plate not sealing correctly to the block top. From that point forward, the block leaked coolant through the view port.
Removing the two middle screws in the bottom of the block top allows for full disassembly of the top into its component parts. The mounting brackets fit into channels in the side of the block top with a plastic part fitting in the middle channel and the colored metal overlay sealing it all together. The metal overlay contains threaded holes on both sides into which the middle screws fit. Notice how there are two sets of three RGB LEDs on both side of the top's view port. The clear part and metal overlay acts as a transmission channel for these LEDs.
The copper base plate design consists of 12 horizontal groups of micro-channels through which the system coolant flows to capture heat from the base plate (and CPU upon which is rests). The channels in between each of the horizontal groups of micro-channels acts as a collection point to reduce the flow restriction of the coolant as it passes through the micro-channels. The coolant is more restricted as it passes through the micro-channels and then becomes less restricted in the collection channel. It then repeats this process until leaving the block through the outlet port.
The bottom of the copper base plate has counter-sunk mounting holes in each corner for the screws that hold the base plate to the block top. The circular channels cut into the middle sides of the base plate compensate for the middle screws in the block top. This allows for replacement of the mounting brackets without having to take the entire block apart.
In addition to the snazzy packaging and custom designed water block, Swiftech packages in all mounting and lighting accessories necessary to get the block up and running on any of its supported platforms.
Swiftech includes a foldout instruction sheet detailing block installation on all supported platforms, including Intel LGA115X and LGA2011 boards, as well as AMD AM4 boards. The instruction sheet contains detailed illustrations and pictures outlining the steps described and making board installation quick and easy.
Included with the block are mount posts for LGA115X and LGA2011 boards, each in a labelled baggie, the LGA115X back plate, and the thumbscrews used to mount the block to an LGA115X or LGA2011 board. For AMD boards, Swiftech has a kit to replace the Intel mounting brackets with AM4 style mounting brackets. The mounting posts and springs are fixed to the brackets using locknuts. Also included is a tube of their TM1 thermal compound, an extension cable for powering the block's LEDs from a board fan header, and their IRIS ECO lighting and fan controller. The included IRIS ECO controller has a total of four 4-pin fan headers, three 3-pin LED headers with a color control button for the LED headers, a 4-pin fan controller cable that attaches to a 4-pin fan header on the board, and a SATA power cable to power the controller. The fan header with the red cover designates the port used for fan speed monitoring and signal control via the motherboard header. The color for LEDs attached to the headers is controlled by the control button. Pressing the button cycles through the eight preset colors and the three color intensity presets for each color.
The included LGA115X back plate features pads around the mount points that go through the motherboard holes as well as pads in front of each of the mount points to provide protection for the motherboard surface at the mount points. There is also a plastic cover over in entire upper surface of the back plate to electrically isolate it from the board.