Cooler Master

It would seem that Cooler Master simply wanted to create the best performing AIO coolers available. In that respect, they certainly managed to do so, as their Nepton series coolers are constantly at the top of our high load thermal performance charts. On the other hand, one would have to be at least partially deaf in order to use these coolers with the fans anywhere near their maximum speed. Even with their voltage reduced down to 7V, both kits are rather noisy. It is not possible to run these kits quiet even if you reduce the voltage even further, as the fans are clearly audible from 1 meter away even at just 4.7V, the minimum voltage required to start them. Therefore, we simply cannot recommend them to anyone seeking a quiet cooling solution.

The Seidon 120V however is an entirely different product. Priced at just $49.99, it is more of an alternative to an average air cooler than competition for liquid cooling solutions. It fares relatively well at lower loads but its performance diminishes with thermal loads greater than 150W. With an average thermal resistance slightly above 0.014 °C/W, it will most likely be unable to compete with most extreme performance air coolers, and it has a particularly noisy pump, making it noisier than other 120mm AIO coolers. However, it has other merits, as it does not stress the motherboard with its weight and it requires very little space around the CPU area, making it ideal for special builds and/or systems that are moved around a lot.

Corsair

Corsair has such a vast selection of AIO cooling products that we could make a roundup just for them. Each of the five coolers that they shipped us for this roundup displays entirely different behavior; thus, each of them is suitable for a different type of user.

With the H75 Corsair is offering a compact 120mm AIO cooler but with two 120mm fans for extra performance. The H75 performs relatively well, although it generally does better at thermal loads lower than 150W due to the low capacity of its small radiator. The use of two fans however increases the noise of the system, giving the advantage to Enermax's Liqmax 120S if low-noise operation is the top priority.

The 140mm H90 on the other hand displays great all-around performance and very low noise levels. Even with its fan constantly running at maximum speed, the H90 can be considered fairly discreet and is comfortable for everyday use. If quiet computing is what drives you, the H90 deserves a very strong consideration.

Corsair informed us that the H100i is their most popular AIO cooler and we can see why. Despite its size, the H100i easily competes with coolers using significantly larger radiators. The stock fans have a wide operating range and the USB interface allows the user to adjust the performance/noise ratio to meet his or her exact needs. Furthermore, the size of the radiator makes the H100i compatible with a relatively wide array of cases.

After looking at the performance figures of the H100i, we felt disappointed by the performance of the newly released H105. The H105 hardly performs much better and it only does so when the thermal load is very high. Unfortunately, the thicker radiator can create compatibility issues and it also is more expensive than the H100i, all while lacking the USB interface that the H100i has. It is hard to recommend the H105 over the H100i for the slightly better thermal performance alone, unless of course maximum thermal performance is virtually the only concern of the user and a larger radiator cannot fit into the system.

Finally, the last AIO cooler from Corsair that we have tested, the Hydro H110, possibly stands as the performance winner of this roundup. Although it does not have the best thermal performance, it is very close to the top of the charts and manages to do so while maintaining very low noise levels. However, the size of the radiator limits the compatibility of the cooler with only a handful of cases currently available and, considering that the retail price of the H110 is over $125 at the time of this review, it is a costly thermal solution.

Testing Results, Low Fan Speed (7V) Conclusion (Enermax, NZXT, Silverstone)
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  • AshyPistachios - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    This ended up comparing fans more than it did rads/pumps. I would like to see a test scenario where identical fans are used on each rad. The current testing methodology does test the complete package, but people seeking silent setups tend to swap all of the fans anyway Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Agreed - comparing performance doesn't mean much with such different fan noise levels. You could use some high pressure fans for all systems, for example.

    And I couldn't care less if a stock fan runs at 7 V or what ever. What I do care about is the noise. In practice I set my rigs up for the best cooling I can get at subjectively low noise level (they're running 24/7 under load). So pick any reasonably quiet noise level, set the fans to whatever speed is required to get there and then compare performance (note: this is even more meaningful if you use similar fans). With PWM you're not limited to 12V and 7V, it's not 2005 any more.
    Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    7 Volts is about the same voltage level as most modern motherboard apply in their "quiet" mode. High enough to start nearly all fans ever made, low enough to keep things quiet. Unfortunately, I cannot perform testing the way you propose. As you mentioned yourself, it would have to be a "subjectively low" noise level. The very word "subjectively" puts me off. Even if I do set such a noise limit, which would be terribly wrong as it would just be based on my subjective opinion, not all coolers would be able to operate as such a noise level at all.

    It is even less meaningful to use the same fans; when you are buying a kit, you are buying the kit with its fans. Purchasing additional fans not only raises its cost but, depending on the characteristic behavior of the fan, the fan itself can affect performance and favor some kits over others. The actual performance of a fan is not based on its RPM or CFM ratings, it is a very complicated matter. That would render any comparisons between different kits virtually useless. Furthermore, the choice of fans would be based on my subjective opinion as well, nobody warranties that the end user will be purchasing the same fans out of the hundreds of possible choices. Someone would want me to use a quieter fan, others might want something more powerful, others something cheaper, others something fancier and so on. And of course, most would just want to buy a kit and be done with it. The only objective comparison is to compare the performance of a kit with its stock fans, as it comes supplied from the factory. Everything else is based on assumptions and subjective opinions that, including mine, have no place in an objective review.
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    While I appreciate the amount of work and effort you have put in Fyll, I must disagree with you on several points. As many people have already pointed out, using the same fan for each different cooler will allow us to access the merits of each radiator, independent of the stock fan. A good radiator with a bad fan might perform similarly to a bad radiator with a good fan, yet clearly this is not the information we’re after. If we ignore every stock fan and use the best fans on the market (Noctua NF-F12, Corsair SP120, etc.), not only will it help guide purchasing decisions, it will also help satisfy our curiosity as Computer Enthusiasts.

    You raised the objection that purchasing additional fans will increase the total cost. This is as obvious as it is pointless. Coolers of this class are targeted towards quasi-enthusiasts, not cheapskates, in the first place. You should know that a lot of people out there still use stock coolers. If one really wants high value, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO will suffice. And as mentioned, a high-end air cooler such as the Noctua NH-D14 will not only offer comparable performance, but also increased reliability as it does not have a pump that can potentially fail. All-in-One coolers like these appeal to people who want moderately high performance without the complexity of a true custom-loop water cooling system (quasi-enthusiasts). $40 additional cost should be factored into the cost-benefit analysis and buying-decision process, not immediately rejected. Your reluctance due to increased price is misplaced.

    Also, you said “And of course, most would just want to buy a kit and be done with it.” Can you please provide evidence for this blatantly dismissive and careless attitude? This may very well apply to the layman, but again, here at AnandTech we are enthusiasts, catering to enthusiasts. Would you really want to appeal to the common folk, who don’t know or care about CPU heat dissipation much less water cooling, with AIO coolers?

    Third, you said “The actual performance of a fan is not based on its RPM or CFM ratings, it is a very complicated matter. That would render any comparisons between different kits virtually useless.” You’re right, it’s not just rpm and cfm, Static Pressure must also be taken into account. Static Pressure is understood among computer enthusiasts as the capacity to move air through dense pathways (heatsinks and radiators) and the capacity to move water, underwater. Manufacturers usually have a static pressure rating for their fans, but because it’s largely not-understood by the public, that’s why we have reviewers and testers like you. You mentioned that there are a lot of fan choices out there, and I would agree. But because they’re so closely related, cooler reviewers tend to also cover and are knowledgeable about a wide variety of fans on the market.

    Understand that I have no quarrels with you as a person, just that many have come to understand that AnandTech is a producer of quality and responsible content and your latest post display certain fundamental flaws. I surely don’t want to come off as obnoxious or such, as I, myself, am going to apply for AnandTech’s Call for Writers in a few days. The reason I have taken so long is because I take the reputation of Anandtech’s professionalism very seriously and want to polish my writing samples. Again, I have no beef with you, but you do need to step your game up. I suspect that it is not a problem of your integrity as it is a problem of your critical thinking and reasoning skills. With just a little contemplation, you should begin to know what true enthusiasts would and ought to want.

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

    Except that this article was not about "the merits of different AOI radiators," it was a round up of available AOI's as they are sold.

    "Also, you said “And of course, most would just want to buy a kit and be done with it.” Can you please provide evidence for this blatantly dismissive and careless attitude? This may very well apply to the layman, but again, here at AnandTech we are enthusiasts, catering to enthusiasts."

    If you want to go that far, I'd say that a real water cooling enthusiast would say that these AOI's are a few steps up from junk that barely (or in most cases do not) outperform a cheaper air unit, and are exactly intended for laymans.... as a real water cooling enthusiast would be building a custom loop. The entire point of these prebuilt AOI's is for an easy entry into water cooling for the novice/semi enthusiast.

    Anandtech is one of the first sites I have come to seeking reviews of products for many years now. I can't think of any round up style article such as this where the writer started changing out parts as they saw fit before testing. I also would not expect a review of a retail product to be tested any other way than as it is shipped. If I wanted to know how my H100 would work with different fans, I would first look to forums and the mod community, not a retail round up article. If fact, just doing a search of past Anandtech roundups on coolers, I couldn't find one in which all the fans were changed to a standard before testing. Even the Anandtech Bench does not do this.

    "just that many have come to understand that AnandTech is a producer of quality and responsible content and your latest post display certain fundamental flaws."

    I completely disagree as I believe the professional and responsible way to create a roundup of this style is through objectivity and representing a product as it is sold to the customer.

    "I surely don’t want to come off as obnoxious or such, as I, myself, am going to apply for AnandTech’s Call for Writers in a few days."

    well, maybe in your second attempt you won't, although I'm already not looking forward to it.
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Although I admire your resolve, your convictions are ultimately misplaced.

    First, I believe the problem with you is that you’re confusing the “is-ought” distinction. That is to say, just because something is a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it ought to be that way. Journalists give false information all the time, but that doesn’t mean they ought to give false information all the time. Teenagers taking drugs is commonplace, but that doesn’t mean they ought to be taking drugs. In both cases, there is a defect, an imperfection. Do not think that just because something is a certain way, that it should be that way; consider improvements, the ideal.

    Secondly, you said that you’ve read AnandTech for years and haven’t come across the idea of swapping fans or such. But see, you’re further mistaken because even if you just want to stick with conventions, the idea of swapping fans under theoretical scenarios is not new even to AnandTech (let alone other sites enthusiasts should already know about i.e. Linus and TTL). In the Anandtech article titled “Noctua NH-U12P: Top Performance and Silence,” one of my favorite pieces because it truly caters to the enthusiast taste, the writer remarks in this conclusions:

    “For those who don't care about overclocking, the Noctua NH-U12P is still a great choice. It cools as well as the best so far with one fan - at idle and under load at stock speeds. Add a second fan and the stock temperatures are all new records. We haven't tested a cooler that does a better job of cooling at stock speeds. However, the Noctua cooler with two fans at $90 is not cheap, and the Alpine coolers we recently tested do almost as well at about 1/6 the price. For most who won't overclock the Alpines are fine, but if you want the best stock air-cooling you can buy the Noctua NH-U12P with an extra NF-P12 fan is the ultimate. These test results for the Noctua are truly impressive, but they do not dethrone the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme - at least not yet. The superb component here is the Noctua NF-P12 fan, which is a brilliant piece of engineering. We doubt our Thermalright or any air-cooler will top the 3.94GHz that seems to be the limit of our test bed Core 2 Duo. However, we suspect the Thermalright combined with the NF-P12 could match or even exceed the results with the Noctua heatsink. Having said that the practical reality is it is not easy to mount two NF-P12 fans on a Thermalright, whereas the Noctua heatsink is designed for push-pull and even comes with the extra wires to make it easy.”

    Here the writer not only explains to the audience how the product is at stock, he also offers alternative scenarios, separating the heatsink and fan as separate variables, evaluates the pros and cons of each case, and presents the ultimate solution, adding parts (fans in this case) to the stock configuration. Such is the standard we enthusiasts crave and ought to strive for. Any less and you’re not really an enthusiast.

    Thirdly, your third paragraph ending with “novice/semi enthusiast.” Perhaps you’ve completely missed the point of my second paragraph concerning “quasi-enthusiasts?” You’re just repeating my stance unaware of the fact that it is in fact my stance. Read carefully next time.

    And finally, as for you not looking forward to any of my future content, know that first, I won’t be losing any sleep. And second, you should reevaluate your thought and decision-making process when boycotting me. What exactly are you rejecting? My calling a spade a spade? By rejecting my brutal honesty in favor of the fluffy norm, you are saying a lot about yourself.

    - The PC Apologist
    Reply
  • Rubix3 - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    PC Apologist - I would also add 'elitist' in with obnoxious. I actually find your comment rather offensive. If you truly believe that Anandtech exists to cater only to enthusiasts, then you are clueless. I am willing to bet any amount of money you choose that every employee at Anandtech as well as Anand himself would agree that the website is here for everyone of all backgrounds and knowledge levels. It is here to educate the "common folk" that need help and direction, while supplying tons of information and references to the most hardcore of enthusiast, and everything in between. I happen to fall into the lowly plebian category that you look down upon that does indeed want to buy one of these coolers and be done with it. If you are insisting to swap out fans, how do I know that the new fan does not perform worse than the stock fan on that particular radiator? In that case, I will spend extra money for less performance and not even know it. Is this what you would consider "professional and responsible"? For the sake of your writing aspirations I would certainly hope not.

    And as for those writing aspirations, perhaps the reason it is "taking so long" is because you have already submitted your subjective reviews and they were rejected as being worthless opinions? Or maybe, just maybe, because Anandtech is far more than "enthusiasts catering to enthusiasts" and you just simply do not fit. I for one am hoping that this sort of journalism never makes its way onto this website.

    BY THE WAY, Great write up E.Fyll! I appreciate your efforts! Your "game" is fine, no step up needed! My one and only request would also be to add in a high end air cooler simply as reference. Thanks!
    Reply
  • The PC Apologist - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Rubix3,

    Although you are antagonizing me, you do raise several important points/concerns and so I will address them.

    First, let’s address the elitist point. It is true that it is easy for Computer Enthusiasts who are only concerned with the high-end to have somewhat of a condescending or elitist attitude. The same holds true for audiophiles in high-end hi-fidelity audio and car enthusiasts dealing with sports cars. But it is merely easy; it is not inevitable. Where did you get the impression that I was somehow “looking down” upon you or any other newcomer? My parents are laymen when it comes to computers, do I look down at them? In fact my entire family is full of newbs when it comes to computers, must I immediately distance myself from them? I was merely pointing out the existence of a gap, a difference, between the layman and the enthusiast. And by painting the full spectrum (lowly plebian, everything in between, hardcore enthusiast), you’re essentially acknowledging my point. I never said that the laymen were somehow corrupt or morally depraved, just that they were not the target and appropriate consumer of these AIO coolers.

    Second, even if I was an elitist (which so far I haven’t announced), nowhere did I say that “AnandTech exists to cater only to enthusiasts.” You’re putting words in my mouth and turning my stance to an absolute. Consider the context and how I put it:

    “Also, you said “And of course, most would just want to buy a kit and be done with it.” Can you please provide evidence for this blatantly dismissive and careless attitude? This may very well apply to the layman, but again, here at AnandTech we are enthusiasts, catering to enthusiasts. Would you really want to appeal to the common folk, who don’t know or care about CPU heat dissipation much less water cooling, with AIO coolers?”

    Because it is easy to interpret “enthusiasts catering to enthusiasts” as “enthusiasts catering ONLY to other enthusiasts” by the unread, I will clarify. When one wants to communicate an idea effectively, one must first identity one’s own target audience. Once aware of this target audience, one must tailor one’s message and communication method in a way that would suit said target audience. Such is the maxim of relation/relevance and part of the art of rhetoric. When applied to AnandTech, the target audience is those who are interested in and want to know more about PCs, smartphones, enterprise computing, datacenter technologies, etc. It is largely technically stuff. And a choice has to be made: either cater to the beginner or cater to the veterans. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to write an article such that it satisfies everybody; someone is bound to feel uncomfortable somewhere. But if one were to err on the enthusiast side, at least enthusiasts would feel at home and the rest could potentially learn and grow. I trust that you would agree that all else being equal, it is better to leave room for improvement than to dumb things down? That’s what I mean when I say AnandTech caters to enthusiasts; surely everyone, including newbies, is welcomed (I visited AT when I was a newbie too), but the tone is generally on the more pro side.

    Similarly, the AIO coolers also have a target audience. I maintain that they are for “quasi-enthusiasts,” people who want more than what air coolers can offer but don’t have the resources (time, money, but mostly expertise) to build a full custom loop, and not laymen. Laymen would not understand the benefits and risks of an AIO, much less be able to justify spending $100 when stock and budget coolers exist. By your own admission you are a layman and so subsequently these AIO are not for you. Of course you could make the decision to “buy one of these coolers and be done with it,” but it would be an ill-informed decision (because better options exists) and isn’t it our very job to inform?

    Third, concerning your “technical” concern, you said: “If you are insisting to swap out fans, how do I know that the new fan does not perform worse than the stock fan on that particular radiator? In that case, I will spend extra money for less performance and not even know it.” This concern is, at best, confused. How did you get the idea that I was somehow suggesting you swap stock fans for random fans for no other reason than to do it? Isn’t it obvious that the reason why one might want to replace stock fans with aftermarket fans is because said aftermarket fans perform better? It is the job of the reviewer to test and inform. My suggestion was to, in addition to the stock fans, include and test with the best fans on the market, namely the Noctua NF-F12 and Corsair SP120. If for a certain given radiator, the test results of the Noctua and Corsair are inferior to that of the stock fans’, the decision is obvious. Good grief…

    And finally, as for your speculations of my being rejected, I can assure you that I have not yet submitted anything to AnandTech and so I cannot possibly be rejected. But I get what you’re saying: you hate me. I hope at least by now you’ve come to realize that you’ve misunderstood me and that all that misdirected hatred is not only unproductive, but also embarrassing. As an aspiring writer in 2014, I’m well aware of the need for thick skin and a tough resolve. Having been an avid online gamer for several years now, I’ve encountered people of all walks of life, with varying degrees of education, debating/arguing skills, and indeed moral character. But whereas in-game I might hold a “Come at me bro!” attitude, I do have and will maintain a professional (albeit blunt) demeanor here at AnandTech. Although I must admit, it is sometimes difficult.

    - The PC Apologist
    Reply
  • LoccOtHaN - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - link

    Respect Bro :-) And by the way in near future i will have Nepton 280L ;-) Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Of course you can disagree, it is your right.

    I don't have to agree with you though. :)

    About the fans however, you are wrong. Static pressure is just another figure. At 0 CFM, you get maximum static pressure. At 0 static pressure, you have maximum CFM. In between those two however, that's a whole different story. You cannot possibly assess the performance at any given P/Q level by any of a fan's specifications. So let me include that in my sentence. If you compare fans based on their static pressure, CFM, RPM or SPL ratings alone, you are making a massive mistake. If you do not have the whole P/Q curve and do not know at least an estimate of the pressure that will develop, you know nothing at all.
    Reply

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