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.
This testing kicked-off because we questioned the validity of some cooler testing results that we saw online. We previously tested two mostly identical Noctua air coolers against one another on Threadripper – one cooler had a TR4-sized plate, the other had an AM-sized plate – and saw differences upwards of 10 degrees Celsius. That said, until now, we hadn’t tested those Threadripper-specific CPU coolers versus liquid coolers, specifically including CLCs/AIOs with large coldplates.
The Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 closed-loop liquid cooler arrived recently, marking the arrival of our first large coldplate liquid cooler for Threadripper. The Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 unit will make for a more suitable air vs. liquid comparison versus the Noctua NH-U14S TR4 unit and, although liquid is objectively better at moving heat around, there’s still a major argument on the front of fans and noise. Our testing includes the usual flat-out performance test and 40dBA noise-normalized benchmarking, which matches the NH-U14S, NH-U12S, NZXT Kraken X62 (small coldplate), and Enermax Liqtech 240 at 40dBA for each.
This test will benchmark the Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 and NH-U12S TR4-SP3 air coolers versus the Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 & NZXT Kraken X62.
The units tested for today include:
EK’s Fluid Gaming liquid cooling kits target an entry-level, first-time loop-builder, strictly using aluminum across all Fluid Gaming components for reduced cost. This decision positions EK nearly against itself: The company has boasted copper loop materials as superior to CLCs for so long now that shipping an aluminum-built product has inspired official blog posts in defense of the choice. This is primarily one of cost, as opting for aluminum – much like the CLC makers – allows EK to sell entry-level, CPU-only kits in the sub-$200 market. The EK Fluid Gaming 240mm solution ships at $160 and includes a 240mm radiator, a standalone pump, soft tubing, coolant (but buy your own distilled water), two fans, fittings, and a CPU block. The result is a low-end open-loop starter pack that includes all necessary parts, but ultimately costs more than nearby CPU-only CLCs (like the H100iV2 at $110, the EVGA CLC 280 at $130, and the Kraken X62 at $156).
Of course, the idea is to go beyond CPU-only cooling: This starter kit is accompanied by a full Fluid Gaming version from EK, priced at $240 and equipped with a Pascal GPU block. In total, EK’s available Fluid Gaming kit options include:
Before Vega buried Threadripper, we noted interest in conducting a simple A/B comparison between Noctua’s new TR4-sized coldplate (the full-coverage plate) and their older LGA115X-sized coldplate. Clearly, the LGA115X cooler isn’t meant to be used with Threadripper – but it offered a unique opportunity, as the two units are largely the same aside from coldplate coverage. This grants an easy means to run an A/B comparison; although we can’t draw conclusions to all coldplates and coolers, we can at least see what Noctua’s efforts did for them on the Threadripper front.
Noctua’s NH-U14S cooler possesses the same heatpipe count and arrangement, the same (or remarkably similar) fin stack, and the same fan – though we controlled for that by using the same fan for each unit. The only difference is the coldplate, as far as we can tell, and so we’re able to more easily measure performance deltas resultant primarily from the coldplate coverage change. Noctua’s LGA115X version, clearly not for TR4, wouldn’t cover the entire die area of even one module under the HIS. The smaller plate maximally covers about 30% of the die area, just eyeballing it, and doesn’t make direct contact to the rest. This is less coverage than the Asetek CLCs, which at least make contact with the entire TR4 die area, if not the entire IHS. Noctua modified their unit to equip a full-coverage plate as a response, including the unique mounting hardware that TR4 needs.
The LGA115X NH-U14S doesn’t natively mount to Threadripper motherboards. We modded the NH-U14S TR4 cooler’s mounting hardware with a couple of holes, aligning those with the LGA115X holes, then routed screws and nuts through those. A rubber bumper was placed between the mounting hardware and the base of the cooler, used to help ensure even and adequate mounting pressure. We show a short clip of the modding process in our above video.
Deepcool was at Computex this year with what seemed like an emphasis on cases and RGB lighting, although they did have a new CPU cooler to show off. Many of these cases seem to be updated models of previously announced cases at CES 2017, which are still pending release in the North America market.
Continuing our Coverage of Computex 2017, we met with the Be Quiet! team at their booth to discuss some of their new and upcoming products. We took a look at their Silent Loop CLC CPU cooler, the new SFX-L PSU, the Shadow Rock TF2 air cooler, and the limited edition Dark Base Pro 900 - White Edition case.
The Dark Base Pro 900 was a case we covered last year at Computex, if it feels familiar. This year, Be Quiet! displayed their new iteration of the Dark Base Pro 900 - now in white. The White Edition uses the exact same tooling as the Dark Base Pro 900, with changes entirely cosmetic. Be Quiet! reps noted that the color-matching process was the most time consuming, and that the run will be limited at first to gauge market reception. The first all white case from Be Quiet! will be limited to 2000 units worldwide, with a specific number being given to each enclosure (a nameplate in the top-right corner, near the drive cages). The White Edition will ship with an included three 140mm Silent wings 3 fans in black, contrasting the white (we’re not sure if we like that just yet), and hosts all the usual features of the DBP900. The chassis is capable of hosting three 140mm fans at the front, another three 140mm fans on top, a single 140mm at the rear for exhaust, and another single 140mm fan at the bottom, near the PSU; that brings it up to eight possible fans in total.
Corsair, NZXT, Thermaltake, and EVGA closed-loop liquid coolers presently have no official AM4 retention kit support, leaving the companies exposed to questions from customers waiting to build Ryzen systems. This delay has affected the most popular coolers presently on the market, to include the Corsair H100iV2, H115i, NZXT X62/52/42, and new EVGA CLCs, but hasn’t affected all CLCs available. Some SIs, for instance, have blown throw stock of CoolIT-supplied CLCs from Corsair (like the H110i and H60), but haven’t been able to fill orders of units that use a four-screw mounting mechanism.
We have details for you on when your brackets will be available and on what caused the delays to begin with. This content contains several official comments and statements from the affected cooling manufacturers.
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).
EVGA’s closed-loop liquid cooler, named “Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler,” will begin shipping this month in 280mm and 120mm variants. We’ve fully benchmarked the new EVGA CLC 280mm versus NZXT’s Kraken X62 & Corsair’s H115iV2 280mm coolers, including temperature and noise testing. The EVGA CLC 280, like both of these primary competitors, is built atop Asetek’s Gen5 pump technology and primarily differentiates itself in the usual ways: Fan design and pump plate/LED design. We first discussed the new EVGA CLCs at CES last month (where we also detailed the new ICX coolers), including some early criticism of the software’s functionality, but EVGA made several improvements prior to our receipt of the review product.
The EVGA CLC 280 enters the market at $130 MSRP, partnered with the EVGA CLC 120 at $90 MSRP. For frame of reference, the competing-sized NZXT Kraken X62 is priced at ~$160, with the Corsair H115i priced at ~$120. Note that we also have A/B cowling tests toward the bottom for performance analysis of the unique fan design.
Relatedly, we would strongly recommend reading our Kraken X42, X52, & X62 review for further background on the competition.
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.