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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  • 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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