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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  • AngelOfTheAbyss - Monday, February 4, 2013 - link

    Either you like closed loops or you don't.

    Personally, I like them because you can move the heat from the cpu to the outside of the chassi without having to disperse the heat inside the chassi before wenting it.

    One of my machines is a 3930K@4.3 in a Antec P190 chassi with a H100 using 2x120 (push) + 2x140mm (pull) fans on the rad which make it really quiet.

    Unless you suffer from pump grinding (see WLW WL on overclock), the pump should barely be audible (i have had to patch my two H100's but not the H80).

    Note also that most comparable air-coolers weigh alot and don't employ top-down fans.

    In my htpc (Antec ISK 310-150 EC + A10 5800K), I put a big shuriken due to space constraints, couldn't figure out how to mount a closed loop (bummer).
  • rms8 - Monday, February 4, 2013 - link

    I love the articles here!

    Regarding the reviews of the current market of self contained H2O coolers....I have a custom H20 setup with an XSPC CPU block & RX360 rad, Swiftech pump and Intel i7-2600K.

    I have BIOS setup to run the CPU at 1.6Ghz when idle, but will ramp up to 5.2Ghz depending on needs. At idle the temps are in the 26-28 degree range with no fans running. When running Prime95, it will run at upper 60-'s/lower 70's with fans maxed out.

    I really don't know how good this is compared to some off the shelf self contained setup.
  • jasonelmore - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    It's a shame the Swiftech H220 got taken off the market due to patent infringements. It was the only Closed Loop cooler that i'm interested in.

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