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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  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    If you care about that stuff, you aren't going to buy a closed loop system. Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    That is why I would like REAL data to compare with other cooling solutions... Otherwise whats the point of a comparison if I do not know how CLCs compare to a custom loop. Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    ....I installed it as Corsair directed as an intake and it's still installed that way. However, I was concerned that as the PSU (Corsair HX750) was sat above it and blowing out warm air that we would end up with a cycling of warm air back into the case which wouldn't help.

    I noticed that as my PC desk had a closed back that the air space behind the PC got warm. Warm air from the PSU was being drawn down so cool air wouldnt be going into the H50.

    So I devised a simple solution of sticking a simple air dam about 3 inches deep along the full width and back of the case just below the PSU. The dam was angled at 45 degrees therefore, 'pushing' the warm air up and over and closing the space between the back of the desk and the PC.

    This kept the air space below the PSU and right where the H50 intake was nice and cool.
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would be nice if you at least mentioned the Antec pieces which were even a little ahead of the Corsair pieces (Until the recent "i" series) .

    Kulher 920?
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Not a 2013 model. The H80 is only here to provide reference to the most popular 2012 model, the rest is new for 2013. Reply
  • monsooni - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    I have been thinking about my case layout and air flow. I am using a Corsair 650D with the original H50 cooler. Since most "gamer" class video cards come close to closing off the air flow between the bottom of the case and the upper areas, it is possible that rotating the rear exhaust fan to become an intake, and using the top fan as the exhaust for the upper area, makes sense if you have a setup that closes off the bottom.
    That type of setup would give the case "zones" that could be managed for noise and temp separately of each other, similar to rack mount servers.
    Reply
  • Shiitaki - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    In reading some of the comments, I had some thoughts on water cooling. This review is a comparative review, useful if you are deciding between the reviewed units. It also indicates trends, and gives an idea of the benefit to the big radiators. With enough are flow, you won't need a big radiator, using a big radiator really lowers the required fan noise, not just cooling. Indeed, a modern processor doesn't NEED a big radiator. Water is good for cooling, you may have noticed that even Porsche uses water now. Water carries ten times the heat. I switched from air to water and lowered the temp by 8c not because the water cooler was getting rid of more heat, but because the heat was being carried away faster with water running through the water block than being carried up copper pipes. When it comes to cases, who cares? Unless the testing happens to be done in the case you have or will have, does it really matter? I agree with the critique that some details about the pumps would have been good. Water cooling can make for a very quite computer, unless there is pump noise and gurgling going on. The inability of the sound pressure meter to go below 30 db is also not great. I can assure you that Apple's sound meter goes lower, having spent some considerable time trying to match the silence of an iMac. A great review to see, I went with Zalman just prior to the review though. It has what I think is a goofy Asetek mounting and has some pump rattle. The rattle is quietter after a couple of days. When it comes to cases, their is little novelty or innovation. The Raven series is the rare diversion in the industry.

    When I did a full fledged water cooling setup, cooling the video card was a huge difference, much more so than the cpu. Water cooling is what Nvidia should be using for their high end cards. There's an idea for Zalman, a closed loop system with a universal mounting for video cards.
    Reply
  • dusk007 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Why a water cooling solution just for the CPU. They are big and expensive and CPUs are in almost any case (that you can fit one of these) easy to cool. The only point I see for water cooling is when one has a workstation with two sockets or some GPUs to cool but such a single CPU closed All-In-One solution is useless there.
    Is there really a market for nerds who only want an overclocked CPU and don't care about nothing else. A Gamer would want to cool the GPUs more as they matter and somebody that needs number crunching power will get more out of a two socket workstation than overclocking.

    Why aren't there any decent tests of Sets for actual water cooling that can incorporate 1-2 GPUs and not only the CPU which has more than enough space for a huge tower cooler anyway (and those work fine)?
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    The Antec closed loop systems had the integrated USB interface far before Corsair, Im not sure why they arn't mentioned here. Also, I believe they are made by Asetek and judging by the look of the software in the NZXT, it looks like a bad reskin
    Not very thourough if you ask me
    Reply
  • darkfalz - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would have been a good inclusion for comparison... Reply

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