Ease of Installation

As I mentioned in the introduction, despite having six new closed-loop liquid coolers to test, there are only two actual procedures as far as installing the waterblocks; the rest comes from the variations in mounting the fans to the radiators and in turn to the case itself.

NZXT and Corsair both provide detailed, fairly easy to follow instructions for assembly, and they both make the same suggestion that's great for them but potentially impractical for end users: they suggest mounting the fan as an intake in the back of your case, bringing cool outside air directly into the radiator. This is a wonderful idea in theory, but in practice something I've rarely seen implemented. With rare exception, cases are designed to bring cool air in through the bottom and front and exhaust it out of the top and back (where the radiator will go). Assuming you don't have a dedicated video card in your system, this is a great idea, but the instant you start putting components into your case you run the risk of severely mucking up the intended airflow design of the case. For what it's worth, I don't think I've seen any boutique systems in for review that have actually oriented their closed-loop coolers (or even any of their radiators) in this fashion.

As for the installation order, it's going to depend on how roomy your case is: if you're working in cramped quarters, you may want to install the waterblock first and then mount the radiator. If you have room, doing it the other way couldn't hurt. I typically mount the fan to the radiator before installing the radiator itself whenever possible.

Seen above is the Intel mounting system for the Asetek coolers. They employ a backplate that fits smartly around the socket's backplate, and from there installation is handled in one of two ways: the NZXT way, and the right way. NZXT includes a retention ring that plugs into the bottom of the waterblock to keep the piece on the left in place, but this isn't actually how the Asetek waterblocks are designed to be installed. The piece on the left screws into the mounting backplate, but you keep it loose. From there, you insert the waterblock between the notches, then twist it so the block is held in place by the notches. Then you tighten the screws, and it's held securely and evenly into place. Do not use an electric screwdriver; the plastic holding the mounting posts inside the backplate isn't the most durable, and it's very easy to strip it.

You can see how the block mounts into place in this installation of the NZXT Kraken X60.

Seen above two parts of the mounting system for the CoolIT/Corsair blocks. The piece on the left is a backplate that mounts behind the motherboard, but you have to slide the posts into position and unfortunately you can get an uneven installation due to the backplate potentially pressing against the socket's backplate (and the screws therein). From there, you install retention screws from above the motherboard into the posts. The bracket on the right then goes over the waterblock, and four screw caps then twist onto the retention screws.

You can get an idea of how it comes together from the image above.

Neither one of these mounting systems are perfect, but I can tell you personally that I do prefer Asetek's solution. The CoolIT one is a bit more prone to an uneven fit, which resulted in my actually doing some retests while testing these systems. Asetek's mount is ultimately simpler, easier to work with, and more likely to evenly press the waterblock against the heatspreader. At least as long as you follow the instructions Corsair/Asetek provide, and not the ones NZXT provides, which include a superfluous retention ring that has the open round piece attach to the waterblock instead of the backplate.

Introducing the 2013 Closed-Loop Cooler Line-Up Software: Corsair Link and NZXT Kraken Control
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  • futrtrubl - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Just a correction. The idle/load graph bars are swapped. According to the graphs they run hotter and louder at idle.
    Otherwise an awesome review.
    Thanks muchly.
    Reply
  • dishayu - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I don't get the rationale of using no GPU and an ITX motherboard for this review. IMO, you should have used a big motherboard like a MSI Z77 Big Bang. The possibility of fitting these coolers in the desired configuration remains to be the biggest key concern for any buyer out there. I bought a H100 last year, couldn't fit it in push-pull configuration in my case, had to "downgrade" back to H60. A quick google search will tell you that there are very few cases that can actually accomodate H100 in push-pull configuration. And i suspect the X60 might run into the same problem. So, i believe the space saving by having no GPU and an ITX motherboard was the wrong way to do this review. And why not use an ivy bridge CPU? They run hotter than sandy and i'm sure we'd all like to see these coolers getting pushed as far as possible.

    Besides, there aren't many people who'd buy a ~100$ CPU cooler but no dedicated GPU. So, the added heat from the GPU would have been a welcome addition to these test results.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    The form factor of the motherboard is irrelevant to the results.

    Removing the GPU allows me to isolate the radiator performance in a more absolute way.

    It's true clearance is a serious issue for the double-length radiators in push-pull, but they don't seem to *need* to be run in push-pull either.

    As for Ivy Bridge, I didn't have one on hand to test with. I did have an i7-2700K, and that's what I tested with.
    Reply
  • dishayu - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I agree that the form factor doesn't affect the result significatly, but as i pointed out, getting these coolers to fit in the case is the single biggest concern and it should have been a part of the study as well.

    More absolute, yes, but testing with a GPU will fetch closer to real world performance. Besides, same GPU in the same case won't really skew the result at all, would it?

    They kinda do "need" push-pull config. The effect is drastic. That's the sole reason that the H100i performs lower than H80i in this test. The thicker radiator obstructs airflow and has a negative impact on cooling. Not using the H100i in push-pull sort of beats the purpose of buying one in the first place. Your review supports it as well, H80i is a better buy than H100i if it's gonna be used in pull only config.

    Fair enough, although i imagined anandtech benching facility would have hundreds of CPUs just lying around :P
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    It would be difficult to have the GPU hit the same thermal profile every test. Removing it much easier to isolate the effects of the different systems without worrying about what the GPU did that run. Reply
  • mmonnin03 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    The whole cooling part of the review should have been done bare bones with no case. As is, the results are specific to this situation only with this case and not only based on the actual cooling performance of the cooler alone. A second section of the review could then cover how these fit into cases. This case may have minimized the affect of a case but its in not a true measurement of just the cooling capability. In fact, it's just more work for the reviewer installing all of these blocks to a case/motherboard. Reply
  • dishayu - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    Agreed. What we have here is half way between real-world and raw performance numbers. Reply
  • lwatcdr - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    Frankly no one needs push pull. It is all about looks with just about no gain. Frankly I do not like the looks but too each his own. As too motherboards size that just doesn't matter. Ivy bridge vs sandy bridge also just do not matter. Heat is heat. The best cooler will still be the best cooler.
    To do the test in as pure of a way possible they should have just mounted the cooler not to a CPU but to a hot plate putting out a known amount of heat. The issue with that is both of these systems have a software controller so you do need to run them on a live system.
    As to motherboards and clearances well there a lot of motherboards and cases, They can not check all of them. I would have liked to see them use a Corsair case for the Corsair coolers and an NZXT case for NZXT coolers.
    Overall the way they did the tests were very good for the time and resources they have available. As to adding a GPU that would only be useful if they used the exact same case, card, and power supply you were going to use.
    Reply
  • jonjonjonj - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    It's a CPU cooler why do people have to have a gpu to overclock to CPU. You do realize not everyone plays games and spends $200+ on a gpu. Also who cares what CPU he uses its an apples to apples comparison not a how to cool an sandy bridge article. Its not an installation article so who cares if he uses a smaller board which always it too fit. Do you really expect him to go through all thr case/motherboard comboss telling you what will and wont work? Again its an apples to apples review as long as they were all run in the same setup thats all that matters. somehow you dint understand this. You don't make 1 single good point. Reply
  • cactusdog - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I've never been a fan of closed loop systems, mainly because the performance isnt any better than a highend air cooler, but it seems a little ridiculous to have such a big radiator and 2x 140mm fans to cool a modern CPU.

    I could see a need for them in 2006 but not 2012. I have an air cooler with 1x120mm fan and I have silent performance at idle and at load, that with a 3770k @4.4ghz. I dont have to install software or set fan speeds. Once installed it takes care of itself. This cooler has been on 3 system upgrades, I just dont see the attraction, especially when it limits your choice of case. What reason is there for me to dump my aircooler for this huge radiator setup? Even with 2x120mm fans?

    Its a lot of hardware just to cool a CPU, it seems less efficient and the performance isnt any better than a highend air cooler. With double the cooling area, these radiators should be performing at least 50% better than an air cooler, but we find they perform about the same as a aircooler with half the cooling area. it would have been nice to see a aircooler in the comparison btw.

    It seems like efficiency is going backwards with these closed loop systems.

    Reply

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