Introducing the 2013 Closed-Loop Cooler Line-Up

While closed-loop liquid coolers seem to perform at best comparably to the highest end air coolers, there's a certain appeal in their flexibility, stress on the motherboard, and sometimes even in cost. Prolimatech's industry standard Megahalems starts at $70, and that's before you even put halfway decent fans on it. Meanwhile, closed-loop coolers are getting to the point where you can find them for under $60. One of those is Corsair's H55, just one of the coolers we have in for review today.

Of course, in addition to the H55, Corsair has refreshed their H60, H80, and H100s with the H60 2013 Edition, the H80i, and the H100i. The "i" designates Corsair's Corsair Link technology, software that allows you to control fan speeds from within Windows as well as potentially integrate and monitor other Corsair peripherals. Not to be outdone, NZXT hit us with two coolers based on 140mm fans instead of 120mm: the Kraken X40 and X60. With a 280mm radiator, the Kraken X60 could very well be the best closed-loop cooler available.

This is all just surface, though. The reality is that these new coolers are almost uniformly indicative of an evolution of this product type as a whole. Corsair's H80i and H100i integrate with their existing Corsair Link software (also supported by their "i" series power supplies), while NZXT's Kraken coolers also include USB headers and their own fan speed control software. This kind of integration alone is a smart differentiation point from air coolers.

They need it, too. What's important to keep in mind is that while there's some special sauce for the waterblocks, software, and fans from the vendors of these units, we're still ultimately looking at systems that are built by either CoolIT Systems or Asetek. You can tell who's responsible for which unit, too, just by the way the waterblock mounts to the motherboard. We may have six coolers in for review (as well as last year's incumbent, the Corsair H80), but there are only two different mounting systems. Everything else is just mounting the radiator and connecting the fans/USB headers.

  Corsair H80 (2012) Corsair H55 Corsair H60 (2013) Corsair H80i
Type 120mm 120mm 120mm 120mm
Dimensions (in mm) 120x152x38 120x152x27 120x152x27 120x152x38
Fans (Supported) 2 (2) 1 (2) 1 (2) 2 (2)
OEM CoolIT Asetek CoolIT CoolIT
MSRP (NewEgg) - ($89) $69 ($59) $79 ($76) $109 ($109)

  Corsair H100i NZXT Kraken X40 NZXT Kraken X60
Type 240mm 140mm 280mm
Dimensions (in mm) 120x275x27 138.4x172.5x27 138.4x312.5x27
Fans (Supported) 2 (4) 1 (2) 2 (4)
OEM CoolIT Asetek Asetek
MSRP (NewEgg) $119 ($104) $99 $139

NZXT's coolers aren't available to mass market just yet, and we just got these review units in not too long ago. 140mm fan support in enclosures is fairly uncommon and dual 140mm even less so, but many of you seem convinced and I do agree that 140mm is really the direction things should be and are going.

At first it seems like there's a pretty brutal premium on NZXT's coolers, but it's not as bad when you look at what they're competing against. The X40 is really facing off with the H80i, which is selling for a pretty hefty $109, while the X60 is doing battle with the H100i. Since the X60 is basically the largest closed-loop cooler you can buy (or at least will be), it makes sense that it would also be the most expensive. Let's hope for NZXT's sake it's also the best performing.

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  • schulmaster - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    The most aberrant result of this review, at least in my opinion, is how the H80 and H100 compare. Presumably similar 120mm Fans, but differing by a significant factor in cooling area, the H100 should not be performing at H80 levels under load, let alone below.
    Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8HsjgtMzEg

    Linus runs a test series, with the variable of 120mm Fan quality removed, using top-of-the -line cooling on all contenders; and the h100 unsurprisingly performs 15+ degrees better than the H80 under OC load. I don't know wherein the testing parameters, on either side, emerged the resulting discrepancy of this magnitude. However, I would diversify the bonds of my research before discounting the H100 as a pragmatic enthusiast cooling solution. Perhaps Linus' using of a real- world-esque environment, ie only average cable management in a closed chassis contributed?
    Reply
  • Foeketijn - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    For all the people who may be too enthusiastic about high end air coolers.
    These things are harder to compare than you might think, in all the reviews I've seen it's all about the temp delta /Noise ratio. Funny thing is, a watercooler throws it's heat right out your case while a lot of warmth of your air cooler is circulated back to cool your heat-generator with preheated air. That's probably why almost every watercooler review has some comment about "why you should go for an similarly priced air cooler" and that being followed up by an actual owner of an watercooler (probably "closed loop" since the few DIY watercooler owners really understand the amount variables in hand) countering with his or her trial and having much better real life results.

    A disadvantage is that the radiator blocks the airflow. So without the different fan in the equation there is less air going through your case. How much this shall impact the performance is strongly dependent on how much heat is being blocked (or how much heat is being produced not including the CPU and how much airflow is left)

    Bottom line, comparing an watercooler (an air cooler with water as an heat transporting medium ; ) ) with an air cooler is almost impossible without testing several case builds and probably a really vague conclusion.

    That being said, this is the right website for such an endeavor! An while I'm at it, I support the comments about missing some feedback about rotor noise and the 30 db floorlevel of the sound-o-meter. Great review tho, when you want to decide which CLWC to buy.
    Reply
  • Khenglish - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    What were the fan speeds with the thicker radiators? The 38mm rads will need either push-pull or have high rpm fans to push the air through.

    I would have liked to have seen performance with the IHS removed. Someone who decides to go with a water cooling setup is more likely to remove the IHS. It's well known that IVB has CPU die - IHS connection issues, and the variance between IHS quality among IVB's makes it difficult for people to compare their results to yours. Even with a good IHS, removing it still makes a big difference. The thermal resistance drop makes a big difference, especially when pushing the voltage and clocks. I lost ~5C when I removed the IHS from my 580 (1.25V). An IVB's gains should be even larger.

    Your results are pretty terrible for liquid cooling setups, and it would be nice to know how much of that was due to the IHS, or if these liquid cooling setups just aren't very good.
    Reply
  • riottime - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    i had placed 2 orders for the corsair h55 on newegg when this article appeared. :)

    they just arrived yesterday. i put one on my tuban 1090t amd system (stock speed) and i5 3550 intel system (also stock speed). i got them mainly to reduce the system noise not to overclock my processors with. so far they're doing just that i'm happy to report. :P

    the manual/instruction that comes with it is atrocious. i recommend going on youtube and search for 'corsair h55 install' before you start installing it on your system.
    Reply
  • TekDemon - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    I think you guys might have to check the mounting and test again because the H80i definitely shouldn't be outperforming the H100i assuming the H100i isn't defective. I mean, your own H100 vs H80 review has the H100 clearly winning and they're the same coolers minus the link.

    I honestly would suggest double checking your mounting and testing with a higher heat load since a i7 @ 4.4Ghz and 1.4V hardly really shows the benefits of an H100. I would point out that in your previous review the CPU was clocked at 4.8Ghz. If the H80i still manages to beat the H100i then either Corsair has upgraded the fan setup on the H80i such that the push-pull is managing to beat out the H100's stock 2 fan configuration or there's just something wrong with your H100i.

    I would also point out that the H100i can be upgraded to a 4-fan configuration while the H80i is maxed out in it's stock configuration, I have an internally mounted H100 (non-i) with 4 fans on it and it's probably about as high performing as you can get with an all internal compact setup.
    Reply
  • Reservoir_Dog - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Cannot understand the temp results, i mean, whats, 4.5 under load?
    4.5 deg celcius??
    With the H80i and a 2600K @ 4.2 ghz i get 60 deg celcius with the same test
    So is it too hot then?
    Reply
  • chesbrougha - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    I have an X40 and it is not cutting it with a 3930k. I am thinking that it might be because I can't figure out how to change the profile as there is no mac software (install windows then change back to mac??). Anyone have any ideas?

    I am thinking about changing to the H100i but think I will run into the same issues
    Reply

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