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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  • buhusky - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    i'm interested to see the comparison of these vs. the stock air cooler included with the processor. sure, i could go find it somewhere else, but it'd help make this a more complete review if it was all just here, imo Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Unless you have some space limitation preventing you from using a quality HSF, a Closed Loop Cooler is a poor choice and has the very real liability of a water leak damaging your hardware, data loss, RMAs, etc.

    When you can buy a highend HSF for ~$60. that cools better, is quieter and never leaks water to damage your PC hardware, you'd be ignorant to buy a CLC which is inferior in every way as independent testing has confirmed.

    The Xigmatek Aegir SD128264 double heat-pipe HSF is a perfect example of a very quiet, cost effective, HSF fully capable of cooling an AMD FX CPU OC'd to 4.8 GHz. without issue. There are other HSFs with dual fans that cost more but few perform better than the Aegir. Note that the Xigmatek Aegie and other HSFs cool better than the Corsair H100 and AMD CLC cooler both of which are inferior and can leak water.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    http://www.frostytech.com/articleview.cfm?articlei...
    Reply
  • FriendlyUser - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review. It would be great to include the stock cooler and a good air cooler (Noctua, Thermalright or even the cheap CoolerMaster 212 EVO).

    I'm tempted by closed-loop coolers, but I'm not sure the technology is yet mature. I think it's the future...
    Reply
  • etamin - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see a CM Hyper 212 thrown into the charts for some kind of air cooler reference. That would be a big help to determining value. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    As was said it would be nice to have a really high end air cooler from Noctua like the NH-D14 in the charts for reference. I mean, the noctua can be found for around $80 and the mounting is solid (no plastic to strip although it is heavier so...). Is a $140 closed water system worth an extra $60? Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    The NH-D14 is on sale for $69.99 AR today at Newegg. Reply
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Are these kits strictly designed to be CPU coolers, or are they expandable to include GPU and maybe even MB chipset cooling, too?

    Sorry if I missed the answer to this in quickly reading through the article. It seems like if you are going to switch over to a liquid cooling system, you'd also want it to include the GPU (at least this would be true for enthusiasts who also enjoy computer gaming).

    If these are CPU only kits, I suppose they might find a place in a media player computer.
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    These kits are CPU only. You could probably hack a GPU block into one of the dual-length systems, but at that point you should just go full custom and get better performance. Reply
  • Foeketijn - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    There are simple mounting frames to screw the 2012 Antec and corsair blocks on any recent GPU. But from what I see in reality, most people use tie wraps ; ). IMHO these closed loop cooler are more suitable for GPU's since the radiator conducting properties (relatively thin and aluminum) are often the limiting factor (considering the results according to the tweakers who changed the radiator of these things). The efficiency goes up when you
    1. Get more air in contact with the radiator (bigger radiator, better fan, a bit of spacing between the fan and the radiator to avoid airflowing "dead spots")
    2. Get more heat from the water to the actual air (copper radiator, more fins etc.)
    3. Get the temp delta bigger. (colder air or warmer water)

    Cooling the GPU does number 3. Since modern GPU's can draw a lot more power than a CPU especially @stock and they function without a problem at much higher temps.
    Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    No Static Pressure readings? Nothing about the pumps on these thinks? Thermal paste that come with them? Really... What is going on with Anandtech? MORE DATA! More effort into this PLEASE... Reply

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