PolarFLO Q&A

A couple of weeks ago, as I was planning on heading down to Montana to visit my in-laws, I saw a review over at of the PolarFlo universal waterblock. I was very interested in the block as my rig is currently water-cooled, and was more interested once I discovered that PolarFlo is located in Bozeman MT - about 25 miles from where I was planning on staying.
I called up PolarFlo and asked if they'd be interested in doing a little Q&A, and maybe give me a tour of the plant. As it turned out, I was able to meet with Stephen for lunch, but unfortunately was unable to take a tour due to their moving to a larger facility. Maybe next time.
I packed along my tape recorder and during lunch at "Main Street Over Easy" this little Q&A transpired. First, good stuff.
Q: What made you decide to delve into the competitive enthusiast market?

A: Because it's what I like. What I've found that one of the best business decisions you can make, whether investing in stock, or investing in yourself is to go after and pursue things you like and enjoy. I could sell cold cathode lights, they sell fantastic, they're wonderful sellers, but to me it's not what you buy, it's what you build. I kind of combine that mentality of purchasing and investing in the things that I like, and combine that with the fact that I would rather build something than buy it.

Q: Are you a gamer, and what games are you playing?
A: I am most definitely a dedicated gamer. I play UT, and UT2003, and that's pretty much it. Other than Poker, I really don't play many other games.
Q: How many computers do you personally own, and how many are water-cooled?
A: I own 5 computers, and currently 2 are water-cooled. One is the actual bench test system that we torture, and make it do stuff we shouldn't, and the other is my personal system. The other three are basically file servers, and research stations.
Q: What are the specs behind your gaming rig?
A: Enlight Case – completely hacked up and water-cooled with PolarFlo, 350watt Antec PSU, 2 – 120mm fans – top exhaust, side has an integrated reservoir and 500 gal/hour pump, Soyo Dragon mobo, XP1600+, 1 GB PC133, GeForce 4 Ti4600 128MB, onboard LAN and sound, 2 – 100GB Hard Drives – not RAIDed, 48x CD Burner, and a 19� CRT.
Q: Do you have any plans for GPU or chipset waterblocks in the future?
A: Yes. They're being developed right now. We're debuting two GPU blocks in the near future. One will be a GeForce 4/Radeon block, that will be a pretty aggressive design that will follow the PolarFlo CPU block. The chipset block will be tested, but to keep things economical will not be scrutinized as closely as the CPU or GPU block due to the lower heat load.
Q: Who designs your products, and what inspires those designs?
A: I have designed all of our products up to date. I have hired a new engineer, who is working on some of our newer designs with me. I provide direction, and he actually provides the engineering. Performance, style and economy inspires the design, and unfortunately economy always comes in last. Performance must comes first – if it doesn't work right, don't ever let it leave the shop. If it's not pretty . . . if it's not beautiful, if somebody can't pick it up and stare at it for hours, it's still not worth producing. Unfortunately, economy comes last because, well, something has to be last.
Q: How do you test performance, and how to determine quality?
A: There are two approaches to our testing. They are both independent. We don't try to combine or massage both the ultimate scores we pull out of both methods. The first method is what we call the “the Rubber Meets The Road Test�, where we put it into an actual computer. The second set of tests that we don't typically publish are the tests done on a die simulator. A CPU is more widely accepted, because that is were it is actually used. We don't publish the Die Simulator because the load we push through the die simulator is ludicrous – into the 100's of watts. The reason we push that much through the block it to get a curve for development purposes.
Q: Are you planning on putting together a complete PolarFlo kit? (Blocks, pump, fan, reservoir, radiator)
A: We've been thinking about it, but it is not on the drawing board right now. What we do have on the drawing board is an integrated reservoir and pump. That may be where we stop for a while. That's because radiators are so radically different. Radiators that we would recommend can start at $120 USD, because we're not going to sell somebody crap. If you've got the best block on the market, and a poor radiator, it's like having the best engine in a Volkswagen. You're not going to know how good the engine is unless you put in into another chassis. We're going to give recommendations for what we believe to be the best supported components out there as far as radiators and pumps, but won't likely produce an entire kit.
Q: What can we expect to see from PolarFlo coming to market in the next 12 months?
A: We're going to develop something you haven't seen on the market yet. We actually have it developed, we just need to build it and test it. It's going to be a super expensive, direct contact CNC machined case put together with some of the most state-of-the-art CNC welding equipment. It's going to be immersed in a dielectric phase-change substance. Also, coming down the production pipe is the GPU and chipset waterblocks.

Interesting tidbits from interview:

  • The PolarFlo Operates @ .14°C / watt.
  • The goal of the PolarFlo was to come out in first place. They spent a large budget on Thermal research to be able to accomplish this goal.
  • PolarFlo water blocks are made to order. This helps keep overhead down, as well as damage and loss, but as a manufacturer, they must remain extremely agile. This method is quite setup intensive.


Steve will be in the BCC Forum on Sunday, August 3, 2003. We will be hosting a "Live Q&A Session" starting at 7:30 MST. All are welcome, so mark it down on your calendar/palm/notebook, and ask the man behind PolarFlo your questions. You must register in order to post!

Stay tuned to BensCustomCases in the next few weeks, as I will be posting a review of the PolarFlo CPU block myself. I also have some other goodies.

Many thanks to Steve over at PolarFlo for taking the time to have a chat, buy me lunch, and set me up with some gear to review. He's got some killer specials on right now due to the launch of his new website, so head on over and shop!