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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  • Death666Angel - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    Maybe different people need different things? The big heatsinks that can compete with these watercoolers usually weigh a lot, restrict access to other components and stress the mounting system. Some also don't fit in all cases because of the width of the case being too shallow (my Scythe Mugen 2 did not fit without the sides of the case bulging out) or they don't fit with certain RAM modules or motherboard coolers.
    Also, is your heatsink/fan really silent or just silent enough for you? How are the temperatures? Some people like having their CPU under 50°C, others are fine with 90°C. With a better heatsink, could you get higher clocks our of it? I know I could go from 3.3GHz (i7 860) to 3.8GHz stable with my watercooling setup (non-AIO).
    Also, no one if forcing you to buy these coolers to replace yours....
    And lastly, do you _know_ that these radiators are more surface than a high end aircooler? Because current day tower coolers that may use 2 140mm fans have a lot of surface and my guess is they are at least equal to these higher end watercoolers.
    Reply
  • HutchinsonJC - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Where is the original h100 on the graphs?

    Why are there so many colors on the graphs? The legend shows a dark blue and a light blue, yet there is red, orange, and green in the charts with no seeming rhyme or reason.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    It is the problem of all these AIO kits. Mixing aluminum radiator with copper block = degraded performance over time (it is just chemistry cold and unsympathetic). And it is impossible to replace radiator without voiding warranty. Also performance for the price is not exactly top notch. One of the reasons why custom (well big word as you can buy pre-prepared kits and mount everything in the box without any customization actually ;) ) loops more expensive. Copper is expensive and performance always cost. Of course there is 100% difference between H100i and cheapest 240 pre-prepared kit from example EK or XSPC. But over time performance and fully modular setup is well worth extra $$$. Simple as that.

    As I see it, AIO have only one advantage over air cooling, and that is you don't need behemoths like Phantex/Noctua/Thermalright dual-tower coolers. All of them are extremely heavy, able to deform the board/cpu socket/ memory banks circuitry (like on s1366 which was fairly common) or break it completely. One of the areas where big is not exactly best.
    Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see some of the better air coolers on the chart. In the few tests that had both, the top end air coolers generally were in the vicinity of the H100. Reply
  • Hood6558 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Very good article, and highly relevant to those of us awaiting availability of the Krakens. Nice to see that they're apparently worth upgrading to, if only for 3 or 4 degrees at load, every little bit helps. Disappointed in the H100i numbers (I'm currently running an H100), how did they lose performance by going with bigger hoses, improved waterblock & pump, and supposedly better fans? Because in all previous reviews, the H100 was champ or at least in top 3. One Point to Corsair for more mature software. Now the big question is, do the NZXT offerings have more clearance issues due to their wider rads - the answer being "of course they do". My H100 in my Carbide 400R just barely clears the VRM heatsink with just 2 fans (I mounted the "pull" fans outside the case) and you have to remove fans to access the CPU fan headers. Of course, that's using the stock centered mounting holes - it's possible to mount the rad offset by lining up some of the holes in the honeycomb with mounting holes - not possible with 140mm rads. I'm pretty sure that in my case, it will hit the heatsinks unless I drill holes and mount as far to the left of center as possible. Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Why not use a Ivy bridge CPU ? At 4.5 GHZ, and 1.3V, they get very hot very quickly. Reply
  • vanwazltoff - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    i would really like to see how these closed loops compare to the incoming cooler master eisberg Reply
  • jonyah - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I think money is well spent on a closed loop water cooler. The less stress on the MB, great cooling performance (on par with equally priced heatsink/fans) and low noise level is definitely worth it. If you're putting in a $300+ cpu, it makes sense to take care of it. I've had the H60 for 12 months now and it has performed flawlessly. If you compare it's cooling to the stock cooler it came with (complete crap), it's incredible.

    I think the article would be better served to include benchmarks of non-water coolers to show how great these really are. I was running in the 70+C range with the stock cooler while pushing it, and now can't push my chip above mid 40's. That alone will keep my chip lasting a lot longer (though I'm probably going to be upgrading it soon).
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Stock coolers are garbage, everyone knows that. But a $70 air cooler would outperform the H60. Reply
  • vectorm12 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for all your hard work Dustin.

    As some have already pointed out there's little difference in performance of these coolers and the traditional Aircoolers. However what I&ve been dying to find out all this time is how much internal temps is reduced by the direct exhaust of these kits?

    If they are efficient enough it should allow a case to support more TDP in the form of GPUs, Raid-controllers and HDDs. I've also always wondered what happens to the airflow around VRMs and DIMMs when the fan at the socket is transplated. Of course different cases will result in different results but it's still something I'd consider worth looking into.

    In a future review I'd very much like to see some values relating to the temps of motherboard,DIMMs, VRMs and so on as well as the effects of transplanting the CPU-fan
    Reply

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