Remember the time when liquid cooling a computer chip was considered to be an extreme approach, one performed by hardcore enthusiasts and overclockers alone? Everything had to be personally designed and or procured by the user, as there were no specialized commercial products available at the time. Radiators were modified heater cores extracted from cars, CPU blocks were rare and occasionally machined at local workshops using a copper block and a lathe, while high-performance tubing came from shops with medical supplies.

As demand grew, aided by the ever-increasing noise of small CPU heatsinks, companies specializing on liquid cooling solutions began turning up -- a little too fast perhaps, as tens of companies were founded within a few months' time and very few of them actually survived for more than a couple of years. Enthusiasts could then buy specialized liquid cooling equipment and even whole kits from just one seller and only had to assemble the setup into their system. That of course is no simple process for an amateur and a nightmare for a system builder, who cannot ship a system with a topped off water cooling tank or assume that the user has the skills required to maintain such a system, therefore the potential market remained limited to advanced users only.

This all changed in 2012, when Asetek came up with an inexpensive closed loop solution, a liquid cooling device that was leak-free and required no maintenance at all. The radiators of the first few solutions were small and their overall performance hardly better than that of air coolers; however, aided by the modernization of computer cases, the mounting of larger, thicker radiators inside a PC soon was not a problem. In many cases the kits were now no harder to install than any CPU cooler and required no maintenance at all, opening the market to virtually every computer user seeking a performance cooling solution. This spurred massive interest amongst OEMs and manufacturers, who all strive for a slice of the pie.

There have been tens of AIO (All-in-One) closed loop liquid coolers released just in 2013; today, we are having a roundup with 14 of them, coming from five different manufacturers, alphabetically listed in the table below.

Product Radiator Effective Surface Radiator Thickness # of Fans (Supplied / Maximum) Speed Range of Supplied Fans (RPM) Current Retail Pricing
Cooler Master Seidon 120V 120mm × 120mm 27mm 1 / 2 600-2400 $49.99
Cooler Master Nepton 140XL 140mm × 140mm 38mm 2 / 2 800-2000 $99.99
Cooler Master Nepton 280L 140mm × 280mm 30mm 2 / 4 800-2000 $119.99
Corsair H75 120mm × 120mm 25mm 2 / 2 800-2000 $69.99
Corsair H90 140mm × 140mm 27mm 1 / 2 600-1500 $84.99
Corsair H100i 120mm × 240mm 27mm 2 / 4 800-2700 $109.99
Corsair H105 120mm × 240mm 38mm 2 / 4 800- 2700 $119.99
Corsair H110 140mm × 280mm 29mm 2 / 4 600-1500 $126.99
Enermax Liqmax 120S 120mm × 120mm 32mm 1 / 2 600-1300
600-2000
600-2500
(Multi-range)
$163.00*
Enermax Liqtech 120X 120mm × 120mm 43mm 2 / 2 600-1300
600-2000
600-2500
(Multi-range)
$171.10*
NZXT Kraken X40 140mm × 140mm 27mm 1 / 2 800-2000 $89.99
NZXT Kraken X60 140mm × 280mm 27mm 2 / 4 800-2000 $119.99
Silverstone Tundra TD02 120mm × 240mm 45mm 2 / 4 1500-2500 $118.99
Silverstone Tundra TD03 120mm × 120mm 45mm 2 / 2 1500-2500 $97.99

*The coolers from Enermax are not widely available in the USA at the time of this review, with the only viable option appearing to be that of import from Asia or Europe.

Although Asetek was the first to come up with the design and they hold patents for it, they are not the only OEM of AIO cooling solutions today. At least three different OEMs are behind the kits listed in the table above. We will have a closer look at each one of them in the following pages.

Cooler Master
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  • Connoisseur - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    It would be great to see a quiet system builder's guide with different components and form factors. My holy grail has always been a mid-upper range miniITX gaming system that's virtually silent 90% of the time. Something with a core i5 or i7 CPU and R9 270x or GTX 760 stuffed into a small case with quiet operation. Probably doesn't exist yet but one can always hope :) Reply
  • w1z4rd - Monday, February 17, 2014 - link

    I'm running a 4770k on an Asus Maximus VI Impact with a Corsair h100i and an EVGA GTX770 in a Corsair 250D that's sitting on my desktop. Unless I'm gaming I can't hear the thing. I don't hear it when gaming either, actually, as I have a headset on. Reply
  • Navvie - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Ever think about asking Mike Chin at SPCR to do some noise testing for you? Reply
  • jmke - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    as with everything, the noise scale and extreme focus of SPCR does give a slightly twisted view.
    none of these AIO would qualify as silent, anything above 30dBA would be loud for him; his kitchen is <30dBA... ;-)
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    >30DB is loud lol. At least audible to anyone I would say, so can't we at least say it's not silent? Furthermore he'd provide at least a vast array of reference points, where Anandtech is severely lacking when it comes to cooling/cases/etc. Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Definitely not loud and not even audible to most. 30 dB(A) is the lowermost threshold that the vast majority of sound level meters can take a reading from. I have provided a thorough explanation about this down below in the comments. I personally consider any test that I have seen stating that they got a valid reading below 30 dB(A) with sub - $30k equipment to be rubbish. Reply
  • Jon-R - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    So you're saying that the tests over at SilentPCReview are rubbish? What sound measurement equipment did you use? I couldn't find a mention of it. Reply
  • JlHADJOE - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    30 dB is very quiet far as background noise goes.

    Whisper Quiet Library at 6' 30dB
    Sauce: http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.h...
    Reply
  • JlHADJOE - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    It's not so much that their tests are rubbish, just unrealistic.

    SilentPC tests in an anechoic chamber, so the noise floor when they test is near zero. Compared to that, an increase to 30dBA is very loud. But in a real-world environment, 30dBA is whisper quiet.

    I do agree though that use of the anechoic chamber keeps their tests consistent and repeatable. Just not necessarily representative of what a case will actually sound like in a real room.
    Reply
  • YazX_ - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Thx for this thorough review, i have corsair H100i, its awesome AIO cooler, but the fans are piece of shit and very noisy, i replaced them with Bitfenix LED ones, although they operate at 1800 RPM, but i never had to see them operate on that speed, my CPU is OCed to 4.5Ghz and max temp is 65, so they work 50% most of the time and pretty silent. Reply

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