Enermax's Liqtech TR4 liquid cooler took us by surprise in our 240mm unit review, and again in our Liqtech 360 TR4 review. The cooler is the first noteworthy closed-loop liquid cooler to accommodate Threadripper, and testing proved that it's not just smoke and mirrors: The extra coldplate size enables the Liqtech to overwhelm any of the current-market Asetek CLCs, which use smaller coldplates that are more suitable to Ryzen or Intel CPUs. 

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:

There aren’t many ways for cooling manufacturers to differentiate atop of a supplier’s product, like the Asetek Gen5 pumps, but you’d be surprised at how much goes into them behind the scenes. NZXT was the first manufacturer permitted to build a fully custom and complex PCB for its RGB-illuminated Kraken coolers, followed-up in short order by EVGA, who dropped the price significantly for the same-size radiators. We’re reviewing the new EVGA CLC 240 today, following-up our previous (positive) CLC 280 and (negative) CLC 120 reviews.

Although they’re all ultimately Asetek products, the EVGA CLC series has thus far competed well with the NZXT Kraken and Corsair H-series coolers. EVGA aimed to strike a balance between the higher-cost features of the Kraken coolers (like manufacturer-customized lighting) and the more function-focused Corsair H-series coolers. The effort yielded ~$130 280mm closed-loop liquid coolers, coming in below the $150-$160 Kraken X52/X62 units and around the H115i (presently $140).

We generally liked the price:performance positioning of the CLC 280 unit, but found the CLC 120 nearly impossible to justify. The 120 wasn’t a far step from good 240mm coolers, like the H100i V2, but EVGA only recently began shipping CLC 240 units.

Radiator placement testing should be done on a per-case basis, not applied globally as a universal “X position is always better.” There are general trends that emerge, like front-mounted radiators generally resulting in lower CPU thermals for mesh-covered cases, but those do not persist to every case (see: In Win 303). The H500P is the first case for which we’ve gone out of the way to specifically explore radiator placement “optimization,” and we’ve also added in some best fan placement positions for the case. Radiator placement benchmarks the top versus front orientations, with push vs. pull setups tested in conjunction with Cooler Master’s 200mm fans.

Being that the selling point of the case is its 200mm fans – or one of the major ones, anyway – most of our configurations for both air and liquid attempt to utilize the fans. Some remove them, for academic reasons, but most keep the units mounted.

Our standard test bench will be listed below, but note that we are using the EVGA CLC 240 liquid cooler for radiator placement tests, rather than the MSI air cooler. The tests maximize the pump and fan RPMs, as we care only about the peak-to-peak delta in performance, not the noise levels. Noise levels are about 50-55dBA, roughly speaking, with this setup – not really tenable.

For a recap of our previous Cooler Master H500P results, check our review article and thermal testing section.

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:

Under guidelines by AMD that we could show Threadripper CPU installation and cooler installation, we figured it’d also be pertinent to show cooler coverage on TR and RAM clearance. These all fall under the “installation” bucket and normally wouldn’t get attention from us, but Threadripper’s uniquely sized socket with uniquely positioned dies demands more instruction.

Threadripper thermal compound & coldplate coverage has been a primary topic of discussion since we first showed motherboards at Computex. We’ve generally offered that, theoretically, coldplate coverage should be “fine” as long as the two Threadripper CPU dies are adequately covered by the coldplate. In order to determine once and for all whether Asetek coolers will cover the IHS appropriately, seeing as that’s what TR ships with, we mapped out the dies on one of our samples, then compared that to CLC thermal paste silk screens, coldplates, and applied thermal compound.

 

We can’t get all the way down to the inner workings of the pump on this one, unfortunately, as all of our source images for the Vega: Frontier Edition – Watercooled card are from a reader. The reader was kind enough to remove the shroud from their new WC version of Vega: FE so that we could get an understanding of the basics, leading us to the conclusion that AMD has built one of the most expensive pre-built liquid cooling solutions for a graphics card.

The video tear-down goes into detail on the images we received, but we’ll revisit most of it here. The card uses the same base PCB, same VRM, same GPU/HBM layout and positioning, and same everything as the air-cooled card. The difference is entirely in the cooling solution, where the Delta VRM fan goes away and is replaced with an additional reservoir (more on that in a moment), while the GPU/VRM cooling is handled by liquid plates and a pump. The die-case finstack atop the I/O is also now gone, and the baseplate is simplified to an aluminum plate with no protrusions.

Liquid-cooling the AMD Vega: Frontier Edition card has proven an educational experience for us, yielding new information about power leakage and solidifying beliefs of a power wall. We also learned that overclocking without thermal barriers (or thermal-induced power barriers) grants significant performance uplift in some scenarios, including gaming and production, though is done at the cost of ~33A from the PSU over 12V PSU power.

Our results for the AMD Vega: Frontier Edition liquid-cooling hybrid mod are in, and this review covers the overclocking scalability, power limits, thermal change, and more.

The Hybrid mod was detailed in build log form over in part 1 of the endeavor. This mod wasn’t as straight-forward as most, seeing as we didn’t have any 64x64mm brackets for securing the liquid cooler to the card. Drilling through an Intel mounting plate for an Asetek cooler, we were ultimately able to get an Asetek 570LC onto the card, which we later equipped with a Gentle Typhoon 120mm fan. VRM FET cooling was handled by aluminum finstacks secured by thermal adhesive, cooled with 1-2x Corsair ML120 fans. That said, this VRM cooling solution also wasn’t necessary – we could have operated with just the fans, and did at one point operate with just the heatsinks (and indirect airflow).

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.

When we made our “how air coolers work” video, a lot of viewers were interested in the inner workings of copper heatpipes and their various means of facilitating capillary action. Today, we’re revisiting our TLDR series with a video on how closed-loop liquid coolers work. We’ll be talking about permeation, air pockets, stators, impellers, coldplates, and chemical composition of the coolant.

This content has custom-made animations that we rendered specifically for explanation of how CLCs work. GN’s Andrew Coleman modeled and animated a closed-loop cooler for the piece, referencing NZXT’s Kraken X52. Because of the level of detail and custom animations of this content, NZXT sponsored GN to put this piece together. The content applies to all liquid coolers, but particularly focuses on closed-loop products; all concepts herein can be applied to CLCs across the industry from various suppliers and manufacturers. Our technical deep-dive for today serves as a means to fully detail liquid cooling and how it works, drilling down to piano-wire granularity (literally).

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