Back when Ryzen 3000 launched, there was reasonable speculation founded in basic physics that the asymmetrical die arrangement of the CPUs with fewer chiplets could have implications for cooler performance. The idea was that, at the root of it, a cooler whose heatpipes aligned to fully contact above the die would perform better, as opposed to one with two coolers sharing vertical contact with the die. We still see a lot of online commentary about this and some threads about which orientation of a cooler is “best,” so we thought we’d bust a few of the myths that popped-up, but also do some testing on the base idea.
This is pretty old news by now, with much of the original discussion starting about two months ago. Noctua revived the issue at the end of October by stating that it believed there to be no meaningful impact between the two possible orientations of heatpipes on AM4 motherboards, but not everyone has seen that, because we’re still getting weekly emails asking us to test this hypothesis.
Asetek has a stranglehold on most of the closed-loop liquid cooler market for PC hardware, easily holding majority placement in all CLCs sold in the US. CoolIT has long been a contender of Asetek’s, with the two having battled legally over Asetek’s patents on pump-in-block design, and has also been one of Corsair’s two liquid cooling partners. Both Asetek and CoolIT make the Corsair liquid coolers, though the latter fell out of popularity for a number of years. Finally, with the Platinum line, Corsair is working with CoolIT in a mainstream product. The H115i Platinum uses a new pump and block design, and that’s something we’ll show off thoroughly in our upcoming liquid cooler internals comparison video. For today, we’re focusing on reviewing the $160 H115i Platinum for thermals, acoustics, and overall value at the price point.
Asetek has previously received settlements in legal disputes against CoolIT, the other supplier of Corsair’s closed-loop liquid coolers, and has also won legal battles against Cooler Master for its Seidon series. Asetek, it seems, has a patent on the pump-in-block design approach, and has had judges rule in its favor. This has led to an exodus of non-Asetek coolers in the US market, with companies like Swiftech and Be Quiet! pulling their similarly-made (but non-Asetek) coolers out of the US market. We’re left with a few braver souls, like those using Apaltek-made designs, and some companies that have worked around the patents. DeepCool would be an example, which uses a three-chamber, very complicated approach to its pump manufacturing.
Alongside the question of how frequently liquid metal should be replaced, one of the most common liquid metal-related questions pertains to how safe it is to use with different metals. This includes whether liquid metal is safe to use with bare copper, like you’d find in a laptop, or aluminum, and also includes the staining effect of liquid metal on nickel-plated copper (like on an IHS). This content explores the electromechanical interactions of liquid metal with the three most common heatsink materials, and does so using Thermal Grizzly’s Conductonaut liquid metal. Conductonaut is among the most prevalent on the market, but other options are made of similar compound, like Coollaboratory’s Liquid Ultra.
Conductonaut is a eutectic alloy – it is a mix of gallium, indium, and tin. This is Galinstan, but the individual mixtures of liquid metal have different percentages for each element. We don’t know the exact mixture of Conductonaut, but we do know that it uses gallium, indium, and tin. Most liquid metals use this mixture, just with varying percentages of each element. Gallium typically comprises the majority of the mixture.
Corsair’s H100i Pro is the third Corsair product to use Asetek’s 6th Generation pump solution. Asetek didn’t push performance in significant ways with 6th Gen, but instead focused on endurance improvement and reducing hotspots that encourage permeation of the tubes. This time, just to keep things sort of interesting, we’ll talk about how pump speed impacts the performance of this particular cooler – a topic we’ve explored with Gen5 coolers in the past.
We originally detailed Gen6 in this H150i Pro review, if you’re a bit behind. On the whole, Asetek’s sixth generation pump isn’t all that different from its Gen5 pumps. Performance is marginally worse, if anything, as almost all changes were focused on slimming down the CPU block and improving endurance. Asetek looked at key hotspots in its Gen5 pumps and rerouted flow to reduce strain and failure potential. Liquid should still remain below 60C at all times, but Gen6 will now better enable this than Gen5. Don’t expect better performance, though. Despite improving the impeller quality significantly, overall performance remains unchanged at best, if not slightly worse.
Getting this cooler working was a bit of a struggle. It was some parts human error, on our end, and some parts mechanical error. This thing is a $100 cooler from Aliexpress, and it uses both open loop liquid cooling for a few of its pipes while also using traditional air cooling and heatpipes. We had some small (read: significant) leaks during our livestream, and after the stream, we discovered that the screws securing the inlet manifold to the tower were loose, causing significant leakage as the water filled the pipes. After fixing this, we were finally able to fully test this truly unique hybrid water-air cooler.
The cooler is an interesting one. We’re planning a separate tear-down of the cooler to see what’s going on under the coldplate – likely not much – but for now, we’ve done exhaustive thermal testing under various conditions. Some tests were just straight pump/reservoir hookups to the cooler, while others included a 360mm radiator and 3 high-end fans. The W120 has been sitting on shelves for a while, clearly, as it was first shown at Computex 2011, and the box we received had dried thermal paste and yellowing on the product box. We still wanted to test it, as the unique combination of G-1/4” fittings, open loop support through 4 water pipes, and traditional air cooling meant the cooler could perform peculiarly. You’d assume that there’s a reason this isn’t really done, but we still wanted to find out why.
Our Computex 2018 coverage continued as we visited the BeQuiet! booth. This year, Be Quiet! announced the new Dark Rock Pro for socket TR4 (Threadripper), timely for Threadripper 2, and also showed a trio of refreshed cases -- the Silent Base 801, 601, and Dark Base 900 Rev 2.0.
The Dark Rock Pro TR4 is specifically designed with AMD’s Threadripper socket TR4 in mind. The Dark Rock Pro’s only real difference from previous iterations is the new full coverage block for Threadripper. The new cold plate is designed to help ensure full die coverage on Threadripper, which we discussed back in August of last year. We’ve previously found there to be a measurable difference when using TR4 full coverage coolers vs. non-TR4 ones. Price and release date were not available at this time.
The NZXT M22 is one of the stranger liquid coolers made by a relatively large liquid cooling manufacturer. NZXT dumped Asetek for this 120mm closed-loop cooler, instead opting for a pump-in-radiator design that circumvents Asetek patents and permits sale in the US. The M22 is a complement to NZXT’s Asetek products at the high-end, but comes in at $100 and 120mm. That’s a bit high for a 120mm liquid cooler, particularly considering that competition from EVGA’s CLC 120 comes in at $70 and is made by the familiar Asetek, but its performance may make up for the price differential. Today, we’ll find out.
Primary competition in this price class includes NZXT’s own Kraken X42, a 140mm Asetek-made design, and 240mm units from the same price class. NZXT’s M22 ships for $100 MSRP, and at that price, it’s competing (strictly in price) with the likes of the EVGA CLC 240, the Corsair H100i V2, and NZXT’s units. If we look strictly at size class, the EVGA CLC 120 competes most directly at $70. Despite its low price, that’s still a modern Asetek unit; it uses the same pump as any higher-end cooler, just has fewer fans. It’s not cheap garbage – it’s not something we recommend, either, but it’s not going to fall apart.
It’s a fierce market at $100. Even air coolers would reach equivalence or superior performance than NZXT’s M22. They’re going for one demographic, and one only: Has RGB LEDs and is exactly 120mm. That’s it. That’s the demo. If you’re not that, it’s really not worth the time or money to grab the M22.
To NZXT’s credit, the LED integration is the best-in-class for a 120mm liquid cooler. It’s also expensive, so that makes for an odd combination of size and price.
NZXT’s Kraken X72 closed-loop liquid cooler is another in the XX2 series, following the 280mm X62 that we previously reviewed. The X72 is a 360mm cooler, putting it in more direct competition with the Corsair H150i Pro (the first to feature a 6th-gen pump) and Fractal S36, and indirect competition – in performance only – with the EVGA CLC 280.
NZXT’s X72 costs $200, making it one of the most expensive CLCs on the market. The Floe 360 lands at around $184, the EK Phoenix 360 – a semi-open solution – is the only one that lands significantly higher. The X72 still uses the same pump design as when we tore-down the X42, running Asetek’s 5th Gen pump and a custom, NZXT-designed PCB for RGB lighting effects. Functionally, 5th Gen has proven to be marginally superior – technically – to its 6th Gen for outright cooling performance. We’re talking nearly margins of error. The newest generation is presently only used on Corsair’s H150i and H115i Pro products, as Corsair largely dictated what went into the 6th generation. Major differences are made-up by the metal impeller, similar to the one used by Dynatron in old Antec Kuhler products, rather than a 3-prong plastic impeller. These don’t perform differently in terms of thermals, but there should be reduced susceptibility to heated liquid, and theoretically reduced hotspots as a result of the new 6th Generation design. That doesn’t manifest in outright performance, but might manifest in endurance. We won’t know for a few years, realistically.
Our primary tests for the NZXT Kraken X72 review and benchmark include the following:
- 100% fan / 100% pump
- 100% fan / silent pump
- 63% fan (40dBA)
EK Waterblocks makes some of our favorite quick release valves, but their previous attempt at a semi-open loop liquid cooler – the EK Predator – terminated after an overwhelming amount of issues with leakage. It was a shame, too, because the Predator was one of the best-performing coolers we’d tested for noise-normalized performance. Ultimately, if it can’t hold water, it’s all irrelevant.
EK is attempting to redeem themselves with the modular, semi-open approach set-forth with the new EK-MLC Phoenix series. A viewer recently loaned us the EK-MLC Phoenix 360mm cooler and Intel CPU block ($200 for the former, $80 for the latter), which we immediately put to work on the bench. This review looks at the EK-MLC Phoenix 360mm radiator and CPU cooling block, primarily contending against closed-loop liquid coolers (like the H150i Pro and X62) and EK's own Fluid Gaming line.
We’re reviewing the 360mm Enermax TR4 Liqtech cooler today, matched-up against the 240mm variant and with a special appearance from the Noctua NH-U14S TR4 unit. We previously benchmarked the Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 closed-loop liquid cooler versus the Noctua NH-U14S, resulting in somewhat interesting findings. The larger version of the Liqtech, the 360mm cooler, is now on the bench for comparison with an extra fan and a wider radiator. The NH-U14S returns, as does the X62 (mostly to demonstrate smaller coldplate performance).
We’re still using our 1950X CPU on the Zenith platform, overclocked to 4.0GHz at 1.35Vcore. The point of the OC isn’t to drive the highest possible clock, but to generate a larger power load out of the CPU (thus stressing to a point of better demonstrating performance deltas).
At time of publication, the Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 is priced at ~$130, with the 360 at ~$150, and with the NH-U14S at ~$80.
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