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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  • The PC Apologist - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    I sense a little unease in your tone.

    I have stated my point and defended it.

    Because it takes time to prepare a thoughtful response, I will reply some other time.

    For now, I'll leave it to the readers to sort through your logically incoherent reasoning.

    - The PC Apologist
    Reply
  • E.Fyll - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    That would be new to me; I am practically unmoved by anything, let alone someone who is trying to debate with me online.

    Unfortunately, you did state your point but you cannot possibly "defend it". Your point is based on your personal preferences and assumptions. I explained to you thoroughly why your assumptions are wrong and how they would lead to erroneous results. Anything based on assumptions has no basis, there is no argument that can defend it and is practically wrong. Still, you chose to cling upon your opinion. That is your choice; it does not mean that I have to endorse it.

    As for the "what differentiates an AnandTech reviewer and the typical Newegg/Amazon user reviewer" comment, I...rest my case. If that is all you can see in such an article, there is absolutely nothing that I would like to say to you.
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    Fyll: "I am practically unmoved by anything, let alone someone who is trying to debate with me online."

    PCA: Being unmoved is not necessarily a good thing, it merely means you're not open-minded enough to allow for room for improvement. Also, is debating online somehow a lower standard or an inferior forum for argument? This is 2014 for Christ's sake, what would you have preferred, debating over the phone or in person? Coming from an online writer no less...

    Fyll: "Unfortunately, you did state your point but you cannot possibly "defend it". Your point is based on your personal preferences and assumptions. I explained to you thoroughly why your assumptions are wrong and how they would lead to erroneous results. Anything based on assumptions has no basis, there is no argument that can defend it and is practically wrong."

    PCA: What, what, and what? So one cannot possibly defend a stance that is based on personal preferences and assumptions huh? Interesting. I wonder what Michael Sandel of Harvard would say to that. And trust me, throughout this dialogue I've been way more objective and scientific than you. All you're clinging onto is a failed and lobotomized version of Logical Positivism. As for assumptions, ever heard of thought experiments and hypothetical scenarios? Jesus Christ... And don't blame me for your lack of imagination and creativity. The answers to all of your previous questions, concerning what fans to use and how to discern a good cooler from a bad one, are obvious to any true computer enthusiasts with even a minimal scientific background. Needless to say, you are not one of them.

    And for the AnandTech vs. Newegg user reviewer point (in the correct context please), how can you rest your case when you've never presented it? What is your case? You can't just end it without having started it because then, we won't know where exactly you are wrong.

    Listen man, I've tried to be nice and courteous, but you are really pushing it. And I hate to throw the book at you, but it's obvious you haven't read it (or any other for that matter). The following is posted under "Review Philosophies" of the AnandTech About page:

    " We employ the scientific method in all of our endeavors. Ensuring reliability by repeating tests multiple times, checking results against control groups and implementing sound testing methodologies. We create the vast majority of our own test suites using both in-house and industry standard benchmarks. We also put a lot of effort into ensuring that the results published in our reviews track with the real world user experience of the products we review. In many cases the majority of the test results we generate never make their way onto the site, they're simply used by our reviewers to better understand the product being evaluated to provide you with better overall content.

    Our reviews incorporate a mixture of objective and subjective based analysis, the balance varying where appropriate. We are not a site that exclusively relies on data based comparisons but also deliver honest user experience evaluations as well. Some reviews lend themselves to data driven analysis more than others (e.g. CPU review vs. smartphone review), but we always attempt to provide both in our coverage. I fundamentally believe that you need both to accurately portray any product. Numbers are great for comparative analysis, but without context they can be meaningless. Similarly, personal opinions are great to help explain what owning a product may be like, but without data to back up some claims the review lacks authority (e.g. average vs. good battery life begs to be quantified).

    We are a very small team for a publication of our size. We are human. We make mistakes. We gladly welcome criticism from our readers and vendors alike. Seeking perfection doesn't mean being perfect from the start, it means being able and willing to improve when faced with evidence that you're not perfect. I feel strongly about this - negative feedback is tough to hear, but as far as I'm concerned it's free education. If there's validity in a complaint about something we've done, we will take it to heart and act upon it. We rarely ban commenters in our articles (99.9999% of banned commenters are spammers). While I would appreciate it if you are respectful to our writers when commenting, you won't be banned for expressing your feelings about something we've written - as nice or as harsh as you may be. Naturally, given the name of the site, I reserve the right to change this policy and totally ban you if you look at me funny in public."

    - The PC Apologist
    Reply
  • Sushisamurai - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    Bingo. As a professional working away from home, with a limited, local selection of parts, I really have to thank Anandtech's thorough review of stock, out of box configurations. Really helped in terms of eliminating what I don't want - some people just don't have the time in their life browsing complicated reviews factoring modifications. I don't mind spending $150 for a AIO cooler that I can set up, and that it works better than some, as opposed to buying something for $100 and buying other fans etc to make it perform similarly to a $150 product out of box. That extra time and hassle isn't worth it to me (and some people).

    That being said, rock on for the review! I only wish there was a more clear answer for corsair vs NZXT for the bigger radiators (x60 vs 110/100i). I wonder how they would perform with max fans (4 fans push and pull from the manufacturer) for noise and thermal performance at certain loads; as their thermal resistance is different, I wonder if would more fans compensate for lower noise (over all lower RPM) at certain energy loads. But I suppose that's for a more detailed review another time :)
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    All I hear is compromise after compromise.

    After having cut so many corners, what differentiates an AnandTech reviewer and the typical Newegg/Amazon user reviewer?
    Reply
  • P.Ashton - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    I do not usually post comments but boy, what a load of rubbish!

    The PC Apologist, if I may ask, what are your qualifications? I mean, aside from typing long, beautiful and full of useless information texts. Are you an engineer or products specialist in any given way? It lacks any sense to tell you how misconceived you are, others did before me and you discarded them basing your "reason" on childish arguments. But alongside "obnoxious" and "elitist", I would definitely add "arrogant" to the list. Someone who is overqualified for this kind of job is wasting his time trying to educate you and you compare him to a "Newegg reviewer"? Good lord.

    I myself am an enthusiast, I spend several thousands of pounds every year on hardware and I would never buy a cooler with the purpose of replacing the fan. If a cooler cannot do the job out of the box, that tells me a lot about whoever designed and markets it.

    Regarding your future application as a reviewer, please, save us the trouble. I would very much rather read a short and cold technical text than a long essay full of bollocks. I can decide for myself if I like a cooler or not after it has been presented to me and I am here to read proper reviews, not sales ads.

    Keep up the good job E.Fyll. I will be buying none of these and I look forward to your air cooler reviews. One short recommendation, if I may. You should add the C/W bar graphs after every temperature graph, not just the average C/W graph. I can calculate the C/W for the wattage that interests me but I do not believe that is true for many people.
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - link

    It matters not what my qualifications are. It wouldn't matter if I'm a 12 year old school boy or a Ph.D. with published papers and years of experience working in the field; if you are basing my truth claims solely on my qualifications, you are committing the genetic fallacy.

    As for the Newegg reviewer comment, recall the context: "All I hear is compromise after compromise. After having cut so many corners, what differentiates an AnandTech reviewer and the typical Newegg/Amazon user reviewer?" So first, learn to read. Second, learn to read between the lines. It is a rhetorical question, intended to incite a point. If you disagree, argue your stance, don't nerd rage.

    E.Fyll is "overqualified" for this job? All I see is a grunt, willing to put in work without proper thought. We all know that he's done a lot of testing and data compiling, but without an adequate understanding of the scientific process and an acceptable command of language, all his hard labor is just that, hard labor.

    Spending a lot of money on hardware isn't want makes one an computer enthusiast. Sigh...

    The rest of your comment is just you telling us about yourself. Nice to meet you Bob. Was it Bob?
    Reply
  • apoe - Monday, February 17, 2014 - link

    Just keep writing essays and ignore how everyone disagrees with you. LOL. Reply
  • landerf - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    This is great, except that many people replace the fans on these coolers and would be most interested in a test using the same 120/140mm fans on all the coolers. To know which one truly is the most effective. Unfortunately this very consumer relevant test is not one I've ever seen done with CLCs. If were to do this, I'd suggest using a common radiator replacement fan like a GT and whatever the community at large considers the 140mm equivalent. Reply
  • Duncan Macdonald - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Non-AIO water coolers can give far better noise performance.
    (I use a pair of Zalman Reserator 1 V2 for silent cooling of a 4770K and a R9 290X. Not cheap or portable but VERY QUIET.)
    Reply

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