Introducing the 2013 Closed-Loop Cooler Line-Up

While closed-loop liquid coolers seem to perform at best comparably to the highest end air coolers, there's a certain appeal in their flexibility, stress on the motherboard, and sometimes even in cost. Prolimatech's industry standard Megahalems starts at $70, and that's before you even put halfway decent fans on it. Meanwhile, closed-loop coolers are getting to the point where you can find them for under $60. One of those is Corsair's H55, just one of the coolers we have in for review today.

Of course, in addition to the H55, Corsair has refreshed their H60, H80, and H100s with the H60 2013 Edition, the H80i, and the H100i. The "i" designates Corsair's Corsair Link technology, software that allows you to control fan speeds from within Windows as well as potentially integrate and monitor other Corsair peripherals. Not to be outdone, NZXT hit us with two coolers based on 140mm fans instead of 120mm: the Kraken X40 and X60. With a 280mm radiator, the Kraken X60 could very well be the best closed-loop cooler available.

This is all just surface, though. The reality is that these new coolers are almost uniformly indicative of an evolution of this product type as a whole. Corsair's H80i and H100i integrate with their existing Corsair Link software (also supported by their "i" series power supplies), while NZXT's Kraken coolers also include USB headers and their own fan speed control software. This kind of integration alone is a smart differentiation point from air coolers.

They need it, too. What's important to keep in mind is that while there's some special sauce for the waterblocks, software, and fans from the vendors of these units, we're still ultimately looking at systems that are built by either CoolIT Systems or Asetek. You can tell who's responsible for which unit, too, just by the way the waterblock mounts to the motherboard. We may have six coolers in for review (as well as last year's incumbent, the Corsair H80), but there are only two different mounting systems. Everything else is just mounting the radiator and connecting the fans/USB headers.

  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) - ($89) $69 ($59) $79 ($76) $109 ($109)

  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 ($104) $99 $139

NZXT's coolers aren't available to mass market just yet, and we just got these review units in not too long ago. 140mm fan support in enclosures is fairly uncommon and dual 140mm even less so, but many of you seem convinced and I do agree that 140mm is really the direction things should be and are going.

At first it seems like there's a pretty brutal premium on NZXT's coolers, but it's not as bad when you look at what they're competing against. The X40 is really facing off with the H80i, which is selling for a pretty hefty $109, while the X60 is doing battle with the H100i. Since the X60 is basically the largest closed-loop cooler you can buy (or at least will be), it makes sense that it would also be the most expensive. Let's hope for NZXT's sake it's also the best performing.

Ease of Installation
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  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    If you care about that stuff, you aren't going to buy a closed loop system. Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    That is why I would like REAL data to compare with other cooling solutions... Otherwise whats the point of a comparison if I do not know how CLCs compare to a custom loop. Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    ....I installed it as Corsair directed as an intake and it's still installed that way. However, I was concerned that as the PSU (Corsair HX750) was sat above it and blowing out warm air that we would end up with a cycling of warm air back into the case which wouldn't help.

    I noticed that as my PC desk had a closed back that the air space behind the PC got warm. Warm air from the PSU was being drawn down so cool air wouldnt be going into the H50.

    So I devised a simple solution of sticking a simple air dam about 3 inches deep along the full width and back of the case just below the PSU. The dam was angled at 45 degrees therefore, 'pushing' the warm air up and over and closing the space between the back of the desk and the PC.

    This kept the air space below the PSU and right where the H50 intake was nice and cool.
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would be nice if you at least mentioned the Antec pieces which were even a little ahead of the Corsair pieces (Until the recent "i" series) .

    Kulher 920?
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Not a 2013 model. The H80 is only here to provide reference to the most popular 2012 model, the rest is new for 2013. Reply
  • monsooni - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    I have been thinking about my case layout and air flow. I am using a Corsair 650D with the original H50 cooler. Since most "gamer" class video cards come close to closing off the air flow between the bottom of the case and the upper areas, it is possible that rotating the rear exhaust fan to become an intake, and using the top fan as the exhaust for the upper area, makes sense if you have a setup that closes off the bottom.
    That type of setup would give the case "zones" that could be managed for noise and temp separately of each other, similar to rack mount servers.
    Reply
  • Shiitaki - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    In reading some of the comments, I had some thoughts on water cooling. This review is a comparative review, useful if you are deciding between the reviewed units. It also indicates trends, and gives an idea of the benefit to the big radiators. With enough are flow, you won't need a big radiator, using a big radiator really lowers the required fan noise, not just cooling. Indeed, a modern processor doesn't NEED a big radiator. Water is good for cooling, you may have noticed that even Porsche uses water now. Water carries ten times the heat. I switched from air to water and lowered the temp by 8c not because the water cooler was getting rid of more heat, but because the heat was being carried away faster with water running through the water block than being carried up copper pipes. When it comes to cases, who cares? Unless the testing happens to be done in the case you have or will have, does it really matter? I agree with the critique that some details about the pumps would have been good. Water cooling can make for a very quite computer, unless there is pump noise and gurgling going on. The inability of the sound pressure meter to go below 30 db is also not great. I can assure you that Apple's sound meter goes lower, having spent some considerable time trying to match the silence of an iMac. A great review to see, I went with Zalman just prior to the review though. It has what I think is a goofy Asetek mounting and has some pump rattle. The rattle is quietter after a couple of days. When it comes to cases, their is little novelty or innovation. The Raven series is the rare diversion in the industry.

    When I did a full fledged water cooling setup, cooling the video card was a huge difference, much more so than the cpu. Water cooling is what Nvidia should be using for their high end cards. There's an idea for Zalman, a closed loop system with a universal mounting for video cards.
    Reply
  • dusk007 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Why a water cooling solution just for the CPU. They are big and expensive and CPUs are in almost any case (that you can fit one of these) easy to cool. The only point I see for water cooling is when one has a workstation with two sockets or some GPUs to cool but such a single CPU closed All-In-One solution is useless there.
    Is there really a market for nerds who only want an overclocked CPU and don't care about nothing else. A Gamer would want to cool the GPUs more as they matter and somebody that needs number crunching power will get more out of a two socket workstation than overclocking.

    Why aren't there any decent tests of Sets for actual water cooling that can incorporate 1-2 GPUs and not only the CPU which has more than enough space for a huge tower cooler anyway (and those work fine)?
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    The Antec closed loop systems had the integrated USB interface far before Corsair, Im not sure why they arn't mentioned here. Also, I believe they are made by Asetek and judging by the look of the software in the NZXT, it looks like a bad reskin
    Not very thourough if you ask me
    Reply
  • darkfalz - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would have been a good inclusion for comparison... Reply

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