Introducing the Second Wave of Closed Loop Coolers

When we visited CES 2013, it became increasingly clear that not only were closed loop liquid coolers here to stay, but that they are in fact "the next big thing" in desktop system cooling. There are good reasons to go for them, too. While you may have to deal with some mild pump noise depending on which model you go with, closed loop coolers are capable of providing excellent performance without creating a racket or placing too much stress on the motherboard (the way a heavy air cooler might).

That we have three new closed loop coolers available for review not long after the last roundup should tell you that the closed loop cooler market is, if you'll forgive the expression, heating up. On the heels of NZXT's Kraken X40 and X60, Corsair has their own H90 and H110 coolers based on the same Asetek 140mm and 280mm radiators. Our newer, potentially even more exciting competitor comes from Swiftech in the form of the 240mm H220. Unlike conventional closed loop coolers, Swiftech's entry uses high quality brass tubing and copper fins in the radiator along with their own specially designed pump and extra thick (yet still flexible hoses). Is it enough to shore up the difference between traditional 240mm radiators and monstrous 280mm ones?

We had seven coolers in our last roundup, and today we're expanding that to ten. The introduction to the previous roundup is worth reading, but in a nutshell, the appeal of a closed loop cooler is the potential for quieter operation and less stress on the motherboard. There's also the fact that an air cooler has a harder (if not downright impossible) time matching the potential surface area (and thus cooling area) of larger radiators.

The majority of closed loop coolers start their lives as CoolIT or Asetek products, but Swiftech has thrown a wrench into that system in producing their own radiator, their own pump...pretty much everything but the backplate. The two new additions from Corsair, the H90 and H110, are both essentially the same Asetek radiators that NZXT is using for the Kraken line, but theoretically benefit from Corsair's fans. For a refresher, these are the specs of the previous seven coolers tested.

  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) - ($109) $69 ($69) $79 ($74) $109 ($94)

  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 ($109) $99 ($99) $139 ($136)

And included below are the new three.

  Swiftech H220 Corsair H90 Corsair H110
Type 240mm 140mm 280mm
Dimensions (in mm) 127x269x29 140x170x27 140x312x29
Fans (Supported) 2 (4) 1 (2) 2 (4)
OEM N/A Asetek Asetek
MSRP (NewEgg) $139 (-) $99 (-) $129 (-)

The dimensions offered by NZXT and Corsair for the H90/X40 and H110/X60 are slightly different, but basically within the fudge factor margin of error. Given that these are extremely similar products, Corsair's relying primarily on their fans to differentiate from NZXT, although the H110 does come in for a healthy $10 cheaper than the X60.

What you may also be noticing is the lack of an "i" suffix on the new Corsair units, and unfortunately as you'll see later on, that's not a typographical or branding error so much as evidence of a very disappointing omission.

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  • chaos215bar2 - Monday, February 04, 2013 - link

    I'm not sure why you got the impression that the H220 couldn't compete. Overall, I got the impression that the H220 was one of the best coolers reviewed. It just sacrificed a little performance for a significant reduction in noise. Reply
  • ypsylon - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    I would jump into H220 immediately. Drooling on it since first news appeared. Unfortunately there is small issue - nobody selling this thing in Europe. I inquired in few places across EU and so far nobody is eager to jump on it. Importing it from US is out of the question as I could build full custom loop for money spend on H220+S&H+VAT+2.5% duty fee. Still I have ~40 days ahead before planned WS switchover. If I can get H220 in that time I would, otherwise going with H100i + 4 AeroCool BlackSharks. Not interested in AIO 140/280. Reply
  • Nickel020 - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Actually, highflow.nl already has it on pre-order and usually offers quite reasonable shipping rates across Europe:
    http://highflow.nl/watercooling-sets/cpu-sets/swif...

    More shops should be listing it once it actually becomes available.
    Reply
  • BrightCandle - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Its not uncommon for a custom loop to get down to +25C at load, so these bigger radiator designs are starting to get really close to the performance of going fully custom at a lot less cost and hassle. Reply
  • ShieTar - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Sure. Now if those would just be provided for the 225W GPU instead of the 77W CPU, they might get actually relevant for a gaming computer. Reply
  • pcfxer - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    BINGO!

    This man ^^^^^ has got it. Why the hell aren't they hooking these up to GPUs? Does a closed loop kit for GPUs even exists? I've had one video card die from a heavy HSF combo and I still hate seeing that much flex in card.

    A closed loop setup is literally perfect for this. Any pump noise and fan noise from that would be worth it (if still reasonable, I normally hunt for options on SPCR).
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    There is the "Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid" and you can buy mounting kits for these CLCs to install on your GPU of choice. No full body CLCs I am aware of other than that. And since there are so many different layouts and removing the heatsink of most graphics cards voids the warranty, the market seems very small compared to these CPU CLCs. Reply
  • Runamok81 - Sunday, February 03, 2013 - link

    With the help of custom brackets from triptcc.com modders have been installing closed loop GPU coolers for years. Reply
  • Jeaux Bleaux - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    From the article you didn't read; "At CES, the H220's pump was demonstrated keeping a pair of GTX 680s and an i7 cool." Reply
  • MadAd - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    1- Corsair dropped the ball with me with my H60 recently. The pump was shrieking until i installed a fanmate to limit it to about 2k rpm (my friends coolit works at about 4k normally). The through board fittings were so sloppy I had to find 4 small washers to brace the board against the clamp or suffer less pressure on the cpu mount and to cap it all the fan they supplied committed both sins of a bad silent fan, high turbine noise AND a ticky motor noise. Probably one of the worst fans ive ever owned (and ive spend hundreds on specialist panaflos, scythes etc through the years).

    2- I would like to see reviews of these done in a fully loaded system too. That puny board with no GPU does not represent a normal PC at all. Yes punypc is good for isolating just the cooling hardware, so why should this matter? Theres a part of these ongoing reviews that seems to have been overlooked, someone using consumer friendly closed loops are likely using this for case cooling in some way too, thus a fully loaded system running a gaming bench say, would add heat to the system and show thes coolers in a different light, eg where they start to break down.

    Thats the enthusiast end, on the other end with the growth of ITX and shelf size PCs my mind is not whether I can cool something in isolation, its whether I can use a single 120mm closed loop to do the whole system. 1 fan for the whole box, and that cant really be replicated in that test pc there either.

    Just a few thoughts, no complaints, im more than happy with the reviews here. Thanks again for all the hard work.
    Reply

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