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.

Ease of Installation
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  • landerf - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Does the H110 come with a Y connector for the fans? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Nnnnnnope. Reply
  • landerf - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    So for most the cost is actually +5 after a quick trip to ebay. Not that I mind. My last Corsair Y connector disintegrated. Reply
  • krutou - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    In a future review, I'd like to see entry level (similarly priced) custom loops included.

    Primarily, I'd like to see the XSPC Raystorm 750 RS240 (~$150) reviewed. XSPC is known for their excellent performance and I'd like to see it compared to an upgradable AIO like the Swiftech H220.
    Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    I have been looking intently at the Kraken 60 because of it's performance, and ability to hold 4 fans in push/pull as well as what appears to be longer tubing than a standard closed loop. I have a full tower Lian Li the P80 I believe and it has an old school design of the power supply above the motherboard tray. I am not sure I could work those really short tube lengths that are the norm for these systems, assuming everyone has clear space right above the motherboard.

    I wish reviewers would test these units in a case and not just the glossy brochure model. I have seen them even worse set up on a test bench where installation is not even considered just raw performance numbers with no real world basis for installation and use.
    Reply
  • Kepe - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Dustin tested these inside a case? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    Uh...I tested these inside a case, yes. All of this information is readily available on the conspicuously named page "Testing Methodology." Reply
  • yohanus - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Swiftech has been a great company. I have built multiple water cooling setups using their products and have been nothing but pleased when dealing with them on the internet or, more importantly, on the phone.

    I must admit that these closed loop systems look really nice compared to taking a Buick A/C condenser and heater core, a pump, some cpu coolers and building a single cooling system that runs two computers. The benefit of a closed loop system is that it just works while a homebrew system allows you the satisfaction of tinkering.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    Yah the Swiftech system here looks like it might be the choice for someone looking to get into watercooling of more than just the CPU at a relatively low cost. (that being said - GPU waterblocks are expensive, heh).

    I'm wondering though if starting off with a better pump, fans, and radiator might be worth the extra cost, especially if you plan on cooling 3 GTX 680s or the like.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    It comes down to whether or not it's more expensive to buy the H220 and modify the loop with additional water blocks and radiators, or to build from scratch.

    From what all I've read on this particular system, the pump is easily the match to Swiftech's premier pump, the MCP35X.
    That is the basis for their other waterblock/pump combo, the Apogee II.

    If you already know that you want to cool a triple GPU system, the H220's components aside from the waterblock/pump might be wasted if you have a full tower case that can accommodate larger radiators and fans.

    Further, starting from scratch gives you the flexibility to pick-and-choose each individual component.
    In that scenario, you might find that there are other brands that provide you with a better waterblock, fan or radiator than the ones offered by Swiftech.
    Reply

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