Conclusion, Part 2: NZXT

While I'm actually fairly familiar with Asetek cooling systems, this is the first time I've seen anything branded by NZXT. Much as Corsair did when they ventured into cooling, NZXT appears to be making careful steps, and the Kraken X40 and X60 are both distinctive products that have a good fit and finish to them. The Kraken Control software leaves something to be desired, though, with its reliance on an open source program that runs separately in the system tray to handle hardware monitoring duties. It's a minor quibble, but Corsair Link has been around for longer, and the difference really shows.

NZXT Kraken X40

Of the two Kraken solutions, it should be fairly obvious that the X40 is the weaker of the species. Pushed to the hilt it offers competitive performance, but it's awfully loud in the process. The Corsair H80i more or less runs roughshod on it for about $10 more. I suspect users willing to add a second fan to it may get a little more mileage, but NZXT's single stock fan is also actually pretty solid on its own.

NZXT Kraken X60

If like John Hammond in Jurassic Park you are prepared to spare no expense, NZXT's Kraken X60 sits squarely at the top of the food chain. Much as larger, more expensive ATX cases are often able to produce both excellent thermals and acoustics, so this most expensive closed-loop cooler is able to do the same. At its "Silent" setting it still produces the best thermals of the systems tested here, and if that's not enough and you're willing to crank up the volume, the "Extreme" setting performs better still. The Kraken Control software may need work, but the X60 is a tough act to follow.

Recommendations

Of the six coolers tested here, I can comfortably recommend three, and happily enough they all fit into pretty simple categories.

Users on a budget who want to "get their feet wet" will undoubtedly be satisfied with the Corsair H55. While it's still pricey compared to fantastic budget air coolers like Cooler Master's Hyper 212 Evo, it's inexpensive for a closed-loop liquid cooler, easy enough to install, and offers fairly competitive performance. On top of that, the fixed-speed stock fan is surprisingly quiet. $59 or less is totally reasonable for this cooler.

Users looking for the best 120mm cooler they can find are going to be best served by Corsair's H80i. The H80i is feature rich while offering compelling performance. The flies in the ointment are the fairly high price tag ($109) and mediocre mounting solution, but you do get Corsair's solid Corsair Link software, a five year warranty, and solid performance all around.

Finally, if you want the best closed-loop liquid cooler you can find, it's going to be tough to beat the NZXT Kraken X60. The price tag and quirky compatibility due to being a 280mm radiator instead of a 240mm make it tough to immediately recommend, and they need to refine their software, but the X60 is capable of producing frankly amazing performance that handily beats the other radiators we tested. Even better, it offers that performance at much lower noise levels. If you can afford it and you can fit it, the NZXT Kraken X60 is the one to beat.

Conclusion, Part 1: Corsair
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  • CaptainDoug - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Very true. Unbiased with lots of data. Great stuff. Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Very technical? You mad? They did not go into ANYTHING technical on these coolers. All of this I can do in a 2 hours. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thank you.

    This review was actually my baby for a while, I'm glad it was helpful. :)
    Reply
  • mavere - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Great review. However, I do wish you included a low anchor (like maybe the stock Intel heatsink) to help visualize the performance numbers. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    Anyone beats the stock HSF. A much more useful baseline (from my point of view) would have been a high end air cooler. Reply
  • DesktopMan - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    Agreed. Throwing in a couple high end air coolers for comparison would be very useful. Reply
  • geniekid - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Agreed. Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    It was surely useful, thanks for that. The one thing I miss is a bit about the pumps. For example, the H60 is in some places said to have a better (more quiet) pump than the H50. If one wants to replace the fans anyway (for example because your case already has real quiet fans and you just want to mount the rad on there), this is a very important point of consideration.

    So, I'd love to hear exp between the X40, H55 and H60 - how do the radiators and pumps stack up against each other? You've played with them for a while, so I'm sure you have your thoughts on them...
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Honestly I continue to be on the fence about Corsair's pumps. The original H80 needed a refresh to get rid of pump rattle, and the H80i and H100i both needed firmware updates. Even then there's a hint of rattle in the H80i. The H55 and H60's pumps don't have any issues.

    The pumps in the X40 and X60 need to "air out" a little on their initial startup, but after that they're dead quiet.
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks, really appreciate the feedback! I'll buy either the X40 (if it fits) or the H55/H60 and if the pumps and radiators are all similar I'll just go for the cheapest (H55).

    Cheers,
    J
    Reply

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