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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  • 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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