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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  • Beenthere - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    How many times can reviewers be duped by CLC hype and PR? Either the reviewers are technically challenged or ethically challenged... Being here to stay does not equate to be a rational choice.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    It's not hype. It's the fact that these products are growing both in number and popularity. More and more vendors are entering the race, so saying they're here to stay is technically correct, at least for the next couple of years. They're popular.

    I'm not sure what your beef with them is, either. Boutiques tend to prefer them over heavy air coolers and if the reliability was a serious issue, those boutiques would be less likely to run them.
  • iamezza - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Beenthere is just a forum troll with no life.
    Every single comment he makes is deliberately inflammatory.
  • Treckin - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Why aren't the Antec closed loop coolers ever mentioned/tested on Anandtech?
  • HisDivineOrder - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    The check didn't clear?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Cute! Honestly, they haven't been volunteered and Antec is in a weird transitional period. If you guys want to see the Antec stuff tested I'd be happy to, but it does look like more of the same Asetek kit.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Well, check that. The H2O 920 has a fatter radiator than any of the other units I've tested. I may just have to get a couple of these monsters in for review after all.
  • Treckin - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    It is, however they ship different fans, and use a different waterblock. Additionally, they featured the software controlled fans and pump monitoring as well as an onboard decibel meter (who knows how accurate...).

    Also, the tubing is different between the other asetec units.

    I would certainly like to see those numbers if you could :)
  • resiroth - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    I have a mini itx computer so the thermals should if anything be worse, and I idle at 25C and load at 55C. Room temp is somewhere around 22C I guess. So basically the deltas are 3C idle 33C load. It's an i5 750 overclocked to 3.8ghz.

    No risk of a pump leaking (however small that might be)
    ~ Equal performance
    Much quieter in db
    Much nicer noise signature (a fan has a hum, more pleasant then a pump)
    Top down cpu coolers may have auxillary cooling effect on motherboard components

    Harder to install?

    Still interested in seeing these get better and better, but for now it seems like a worse air cooler which has no real benefits. I guess if you're upping the voltage loads just to get an extra 10% (and risk an early death of your chip at such extreme voltage increases) it could be useful, but why not take a 10% performance hit for fairly significant improvements in noise, stability, durability, price?
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    Maybe I missed it (I have been known to be blind at times), but you didn't mention what you are cooling with, did you?
    Also, you cannot compared your temps to any mentioned in this article, as you seem to do. :)

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