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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  • glenster - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    The Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme is 27dB--how does it compare?
  • Beenthere - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Before long they will be using auto sized radiators to try and surpass the excellent and reliable cooling provided by a highend HSF costing 1/2 the price of an inferior closed loop coolers that can and have leaked in the past causing hundreds of dollars in PC hardware damage, lost data, lack of use of the PC for weeks, RMAs, etc. Why people are so gullible as to buy an inferior CPU cooling system is beyond me. I guess when you're technically challenged, you equate water to better cooling even when it's not.
  • Stuka87 - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    "Meanwhile, the radiator itself has a larger reservoir than the competition, is user accessible and serviceable, and is produced from higher quality materials. Instead of just using aluminum, the H220 has copper fins and brass tubing, which theoretically will allow it to both dissipate heat more effectively and last longer. "

    In the quote above, it is stated that the H220 uses copper and brass instead of aluminum. While copper is great as its the best conductor of heat, brass is significantly worse than copper or aluminum. Kind of seams like a price cutting tactic over the use of aluminum and copper. Unless I am missing something?
  • Death666Angel - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    My guess would be corrosion.
  • Galcobar - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Galvanic corrosion -- two dissimilar metals in contact are a problem, particularly with something reactive such as copper. It's why you can't use steel brackets to hold copper piping.

    Copper and brass (a copper-zinc alloy) are electrochemically similar so galvanic corrosion isn't an issue. Aluminum, however, is much more anodic than copper or brass.
  • Nickel020 - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Brass is what's used in almost all high-end watercooling radiators, Swiftech isn't cutting any corners there. The fins themselves are actually copper, and that's what's most important. There's also different kinds of brass, and the one they're using for the tubing is almost certainly better than aluminum. Otherwise you'd find high-end watercooling radiators made with aluminum tubing, but they all use brass or (a few) copper.
  • Gc - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    The Cinica Eurora article says they claim increased power efficiency in part by running the processors at lower water-cooled temperatures. It could be interesting to see how much power each water-cooling system takes, both for comparing with air-cooled systems, and for comparing with potential processor power savings.
  • Gc - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    [Sorry, "air-cooled" is the wrong term for the contrast. These water-cooling systems carry the heat to an air cooled radiator also, just like the vapor cooled heat pipes in many CPU coolers carry heat to an air cooled radiator.]
  • RaistlinZ - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Can fans be mounted on the Swiftech for push/pull config? If so, they've got my money.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Why yes. YES THEY CAN! And in fact their fan control header supports up to seven fans!

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