EVGA CLC 120 Review: A Much Harder Sell than the CLC 280

By Published February 07, 2017 at 1:52 pm

EVGA’s CLC 120 cooler fell on our bench shortly after the EVGA CLC 280 ($130), which we reviewed last week against the NZXT X62 & Corsair H115i. The EVGA CLC 120 prices itself at $90, making it competitive with other RGB-illuminated coolers, but perhaps a bit steep in comparison to the cheaper 120mm AIOs on the market. Regardless, 120mm territory is where air coolers start to claw back their value in performance-to-dollar; EVGA’s chosen a tough market to debut a low-end cooler, despite the exceptionally strong positioning of their CLC 280 (as stated in our review).

Before diving in to this review, you may want to read the EVGA CLC 280 review, NZXT Kraken X42/X52/X62 review, or its subsequent tear-down.


EVGA CLC 120 Specs

The EVGA CLC 120 is simple in all aspects: It’s an Asetek Gen5 pump, features the same copper coldplate with the same microfin density as we’ve seen in the past, and uses the usual propylene glycol mixture of coolant. The fan is different, axing the cowling in favor of… something – we suspect noise, though it seems more like a mistake. Testing did validate that performance is the same with and without that casing, granted, but it’s just an odd move. The point is, though, that the fans are really the only differentiating factor – and even those perform equivalently to less flamboyant options – aside from the RGB-illuminated pump plate. If that’s what you’re into, NZXT still does it best, though EVGA is now stepping between NZXT and Corsair to offer a mix of what each company sells in their product lineups.

This version of the cooler ships in a 120mm size, using a fan that reaches 2500RPM at the top-end of the range. The 280mm variant uses 140mm fans that max out around 2200RPM.


The CLC 120 is also priced lower, at $90 versus the $130 EVGA CLC 280. NZXT doesn’t make an official 120mm cooler, leaving their X42 140mm unit the closest competition at $130 – a staggering $40 increase over EVGA’s 120 CLC. We need to get a few more 120 and 140mm coolers to really expand testing, but for today, we can look at how the EVGA CLC 120 compares to larger radiator coolers. Air coolers are on the ever-growing to-do list for future testing.





The above photos were published in our EVGA CLC 280 review, but technically come from the EVGA CLC 120 – they’re the same in the pump, though. The cooler uses an Asetek Gen5 pump, copper coldplate with microfins to increase surface area, and a propylene-glycol coolant for dissipation. Pump speed is not controllable by the user, unlike the Kraken coolers, and the impeller is the usual three-finned electromagnet that we’ve seen countless times before.

Within the pump housing rests a foam damper for handling noise, along with a diffuser plate for evening the distribution of the RGB LED backlighting. EVGA’s PCB is more similar to Corsair’s than to NZXT’s, meaning it’s almost certainly an Asetek design start-to-finish. That said, EVGA does permit firmware updates by the end user, and also permits user profile storage on the device. This means that you could configure the RGB LEDs as desired, then disconnect the cable; the lights would remain on the pump plate.

CPU Cooler Testing Methodology

CPU cooler testing is conducted using the bench defined below. We use a bench that is more carefully crafted for noise performance, opting for a passively cooled PSU and 23% RPM 980 Ti blower fan for very low system noise.

We strongly believe that our thermal testing methodology is among the best on this side of the tech-media industry. We've validated our testing methodology with thermal chambers and have proven near-perfect accuracy of results.

Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with K-Type thermocouples and infrared readers. Two K-Type thermocouples are deployed around the test bench: One (T1) above the bench, out of airflow channels, and one (T2) approximately 2-3" in front of the cooler's intake fan. These two data points are averaged in a spreadsheet, creating a T3 value that is subtracted second-to-second from our AIDA64 logging of the CPU cores.

All six CPU cores are totaled and averaged second-to-second. The delta value is created by subtracting corresponding ambient readings (T3) from the average CPU core temperature. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value. AIDA64 is used for logging thermals of silicon components, including the CPU and GPU diodes. We additionally log core utilization and frequencies to ensure all components are firing as expected. Voltage levels are measured in addition to fan speeds, frequencies, and thermals.

The cores are kept locked to 3.8GHz (x38 multiplier). VCore voltage is locked to 1.141v for the CPU. C-States are disabled, as is all other power saving. The frequency is locked without any interference from boost or throttle functions. This is to ensure that the CPU does not undergo any unexpected/uncontrollable power saving or boost states during testing, and ensures that the test platform remains identical from one device to the next.

Fan speeds are manually controlled unless otherwise defined. For liquid coolers, pumps are set to 100% speed unless otherwise defined.

No open bench fans are used for these CPU cooler tests. Only fans which are provided with the cooler are used.

GN Test Bench 2015 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card GTX 980 Ti Reference 23% RPM NVIDIA EOL
CPU Intel i7-5930K CPU @ 3.8GHz iBUYPOWER   
Memory Corsair Vengeance 32GB 2666MHz Corsair $175
Motherboard EVGA X99 Classified GamersNexus $365
Power Supply Enermax DigiFANLESS Enermax $250
SSD HyperX Savage SSD Kingston Tech. $130
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler This is what we're testing! - -

We use an AMPROBE multi-diode thermocouple reader to log ambient actively. This ambient measurement is used to monitor fluctuations and is subtracted from absolute GPU diode readings to produce a delta value. For these tests, we configured the thermocouple reader's logging interval to 1s, matching the logging interval of GPU-Z and AIDA64. Data is calculated using a custom, in-house spreadsheet and software solution.

Our test starts with a 180s idle period to gauge non-gaming performance. A script automatically triggers the beginning of a CPU-intensive benchmark running Prime95 LFFTs. Because we use an in-house script, we are able to perfectly execute and align our tests between passes.

Continue to Page 2 for Temperatures, Noise, & Conclusion.

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Last modified on February 07, 2017 at 1:52 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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