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’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. 

At the tail-end of our CES 2017 coverage, our visit to the Thermaltake showroom provided a look at upcoming cooling products – as the name might suggest – alongside some spin-offs of existing product lines. The more playful side of the room was outfitted with an original Donkey Kong arcade cabinet look-alike, a case mod by “Thermal Mike” for which we’ll post a separate video, while the rest of the room featured liquid and air cooling products.

Today's focus is on the Thermaltake P1 TG mini-ITX wall-mount enclosure, the Rainbow AIO CLC, and the Engine 27 Sandia-style ($50) cooler.

Last week, Gigabyte announced the Gigabyte XTC700 tower CPU cooler to go along with their “Xtreme Gaming” peripherals, which include a slew of new products that mostly feature RGB LEDs. The XTC700 comes with an RGB top plate featuring the Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming logo, a pair of 120mm fans for push/pull, and Gigabyte branding for a unified aesthetic with Gigabyte motherboards and video cards. The RGB top plate, like all RGB Xtreme Gaming products, will be controllable through Gigabyte’s Spectrum software. The Gigabyte XTC700 will support Intel sockets 2011, 1366, 1156, 1155,1151,1150, 775, including the upcoming Kaby Lake. Additionally, the cooler will support AMD’s FM2+, FM2, FM1, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, 939, and 754 sockets -- basically everything from each vendor.

A new series of Kraken liquid coolers from NZXT marks the first time that Asetek has afforded a customer the responsibility of designing custom electronics, which NZXT deploys for RGB LED control and future firmware revisions. The coolers use Gen5 Asetek pumps with custom-built pump blocks, "infinity mirror" pump plates, and NZXT fans that differentiate the X42, X52, and X62 line-up from Corsair's nearby competition. Corsair most heavily competes in the 240mm market -- that'd go up against the X52 -- where the H100iV2 is priced at ~$105 right now, though the H90 also competes with the X42.

Our disassembly of the Kraken X42 liquid cooler showed the device's internals, explained that the high-quality of design and component selection made for a promising set of tests, but didn't dive into the details. This review looks at the temperature performance and noise performance, along with a noise-temperature curve, of the new NZXT Kraken X62, X52, and X42 liquid coolers, particularly matched against the H100iV2. We've got the EK WB Predator XLC 280 as a high-end alternative, alongside the Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 as a $50 air cooler, just to provide a baseline.

NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 liquid coolers were announced today, all using the new Asetek Gen5 pump with substantial custom modifications. The most direct Gen5 competition would be from Corsair, makers of the H115i and H100iV2, each priced to compete with the Kraken X42 ($130) and X52. The Corsair units, however, are using an unmodified Asetek platform from top-to-bottom, aside from a couple of Corsair fans. NZXT's newest endeavor had its components dictated by NZXT, including a custom (and fairly complex) PCB for fan speed, pump speed, and RGB control, planted under a custom pump plate with infinity mirror finish. The unit has gone so far as to demand a double-elbow barb for pose-able tubes, rather than the out-the-top setup of the Asetek stock platform – that's some fastidious design.

As for how we know all of this, it's because we've already disassembled a unit. We decided to dismantle one of our test-complete models to learn about its internals, since we're still waiting for the X52 and X62 models to be review-ready. We've got a few more tests to run.

Before getting to the tear-down, let's run through the specs, price, and availability of NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 closed-loop liquid coolers. 

We're starting a new series of educational videos -- they all are, but these are more targeted -- that will include custom animations to explain goings-on within components. The goal is to use animations to better visualize low-level component interactions that may not be visible to the human eye, or may be too abstract to demonstrate without an animation. We piloted this idea with our "What is NAND?" article and video, which included a custom animation and many in-house graphics to illustrate SSD design. Today, we're releasing our first official TLDR episode: "TLDR - How Heatpipes & Air Coolers Work."

In this video, we illustrate a guide that we originally wrote and published in 2012. The content explains the inner workings of CPU and GPU air coolers, including heatpipes, finned heatsinks, contact made between the IHS & coldplate, the TIM between that contact, and vapor chambers. The in-house animation was made by Andrew Coleman, who splits video production workload with Keegan Gallick. Take a look here:

We just received news that Enermax will launch a new flagship CPU cooler, the ETS-T50 AXE. This new cooler sports Enermax’s new VEGAS fan. The VEGAS fans do a reverse spin-up when they power on to force air out of the unit, expelling dust along with it. That means less cleaning maintenance for the heatsink and PC overall.

Thermal testing for cases, coolers, CPUs, and GPUs requires very careful attention to methodology and test execution. Without proper controls for ambient or other variables within a lab/room environment, it's exceedingly easy for tests to vary to a degree that effectively invalidates the results. Cases and coolers are often fighting over one degree (Celsius) or less of separation, so having strict tolerances for ambient and active measurements of diodes and air at intake/exhaust helps ensure accurate data.

We recently put our methodology to the test by borrowing time on a local thermal chamber – a controlled environment – and checking our delta measurements against it. GN's thermal testing is conducted in a lab on an open-loop HVAC system; we measure ambient constantly (second-to-second) with thermocouples, then subtract those readings from diode readings to create a delta value. For the thermal chamber, we performed identical methodology within a more tightly controlled environment. The goal was to determine if the delta value (within the chamber) paralleled the delta value achieved in our own (open air) labs, within reasonable margin of error; if so, we'd know our testing is fully accurate and properly accounts for ambient and other variables.

The chamber used has climate control functions that include temperature settings. We set the chamber to match our normal lab temps (20C), then checked carefully for where the intake and exhaust are setup within the chamber. This particular unit has slow, steady intake from the top that helps circulate air by pushing it down to an exhaust vent at the bottom. It'd just turn into an oven, otherwise, as the system's rising temps would increase ambient. This still happens to some degree, but a control module on the thermal chamber helps adjust and regulate the 20C target as the internal temperature demands. It's the control module which is the most expensive, too; our chaperone told us that the units cost upwards of $10,000 – and that's for a 'budget-friendly' approach.

 

We've got to give it to marketing – “Wraith” is a good name; certainly better than “Banshee,” which is what the previous AMD cooler should have been named for its shrill wailing. The Wraith cooler substantially improves the noise-to-thermals ratio for AMD's stock units, and is a cooler we hope to see shipping with future Zen products.

At its max 2900 RPM, the Wraith produces thermals that are effectively identical to what the old cooler accomplishes at ~5500 RPM (see below chart). Running the old cooler at a comparable 2900 RPM results in a delta of ~14.3% warmer than the Wraith. This is all noted in our thermal review of the Wraith. What we didn't note, however, was the dBA / noise output. In this video, we compare the noise levels of AMD's two stock coolers for the FX-8370 CPU -- the Wraith and the 'old' unit.

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