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)
Corsair’s H115i Pro launched alongside the H150i Pro, the first two closed-loop liquid coolers to use the Asetek 6th-Gen pump. As we said in the H150i Pro review, Asetek didn’t do Corsair any favors, here – the new pump isn’t much different from the old one, and primarily focuses on RGB implementations akin to NZXT’s custom work on the XX2 series. Regardless, Corsair has taken this and used it as an opportunity to bundle their new CLCs with silence-focused fans, the ML120 Pro fans.
As shown in our tear-down of the 6th Gen Asetek pump, where we took apart the H150i Pro, the primary changes of the pump are endurance-focused, not performance-focused. Asetek is ultimately the supplier, here, and that means Corsair’s main contributions are restricted to fan choice; that said, Corsair did dictate large parts of the 6th Generation design. Asetek now includes an RGB LED kit for manufacturers, and also includes the PCB for programmable LEDs (something that NZXT previously went through great effort to customize on the 5th generation). The 6th Gen Corsair coldplate is also marginally smaller than the fifth generation, but other than that, it’s all endurance-driven. Asetek has changed its impeller to a metal option, similar to the old Dynatron impellers in the Antec 1250 Kuhler series. Asetek has also reportedly “optimized” their liquid paths to reduce hotspots that caused higher permeation than desired in older generations.
In terms of performance, though, our extensive testing results (and our contacts) all indicate that the 6th Generation is not an improvement in cooling. At best, they’re the same. And that’s at best.
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.
The past week has been abnormally packed with hardware news, with several heavy-hitter items from Intel and AMD partners alike. The headlining story highlights Intel's prototype dGPU unveil -- something that we won't see more of for years, if at all -- and talks Intel's initial plans for its dGPU component. This comes shortly after Intel's very public hiring of former RTG Chief Raja Koduri, who recently set to work on Intel's new dGPU division. It is likely that the prototype discussed has been in the works for a while, but Koduri's work will no doubt be visible in the coming years.
Other news items include the accidental publication of Intel Celeron CPUs by Newegg, including a new G49X0 series (G4920, G4900), and the non-K alternatives of the 8500 and 8600 i5 CPUs. For AMD, we saw news reports about an upcoming EKWB Threadripper Monoblock for MSI motherboards, which should be useful in full loop scenarios where the VRM thermals must be controlled. Several other news items are also present in this round-up. Find the show notes below.
From the show floor of CES, we’re posting our review of Corsair’s new 6th Generation Asetek coolers, including the H150i Pro, a 360mm closed-loop liquid cooling solution. The H150i Pro launched at $170, accompanied by the H115i Pro, a $140 280mm liquid cooler. Both use the new 6th generation of Asetek cooling, which Corsair debuted at Computex 2017. No other company has yet shown or hinted at Gen6 products, marking this the first for Asetek’s new coolers.
In large part, as you’ll see in testing, the coolers aren’t heavily modified in the cooling department – most the changes are to better accommodate RGB LEDs and Gen4-style side-mount tubing. Corsair also specified a smaller coldplate for the Gen6 H150i and H115i Pro CLCs, marking the first coldplate change by Asetek in years. In terms of the pump assembly, that functions mostly the same as it always has – though we’ll do a tear-down after CES.
As for Corsair’s part, that’s largely comprised of changes requested of Asetek (coldplate size, PCB changes), with the rest of the changes being the inclusion of ML-series fans. The magnetic levitation fans used come in 2x 140 (H115i) and 3x 120 (H150i) variants, and are silence-focused, not outright performance-focused. This shifts review discussion to focus more on acoustic performance and noise-normalized performance. Speaking of, Corsair has included a 0RPM mode for its new CLCs, meaning that sub-45C liquid temperatures can be accompanied by 0RPM fan speeds – silence, in other words. At least, silence aside from the pump, which makes an audible pump whine and chirping noise during high-speed operation. The pump can me slowed down (1100RPM), at which point it does genuinely become inaudible – but not under its higher speed (~2800RPM) conditions. Granted, the use cases for each are clear: Silence or performance – pick one, not both.
This content piece is video-centric, but we have a full-length feature article coming tomorrow -- and it's focused on shunt shorting, something we have spent the past few days playing around with. For today's, however, we point you toward our render rig's GPU diagnostics, where we pull a Maxwell Titan from the machine, try to determine why it's overheating, and show some CLC / AIO permeation testing in the process. Rather than weigh the loops, which makes no sense (given the different manufacturing tolerances for the radiators and pumps), we emptied two loops -- one new and one old -- to see if the older unit's liquid had permeated the tubes. If it had, then we'd measure less liquid in the older loop, showing that a year of heavy wear had caused the permeation. You can find out what happened in the video below.
The short of it is that, between the two loops, we saw no meaningful permeation -- we also noted that the pump impellers were still spinning, and that the thermal paste seemed fine. Our next steps will be to remount the CLC and test again.
We previously went through the process of dismantling, draining, and refilling an Enermax Liqtech TR4 closed-loop liquid cooler (some call these "AIOs") in an attempt to determine how serviceable the CLCs are. This particular cooler wasn't too difficult to refill, as we showed in our accompanying video, but we still wanted to check thermal results to see if the cooler had worsened in performance. The goal wasn't to make it better, just to see if it could be serviced, and without negative impact to cooling ability.
Keep in mind that fluid selection will matter: If the CLC mixes metals, as many do, you'll want to include a biocide of some sort in your refill. There are plenty of mixtures that would achieve this. We used an EK Cryofuel with biocide additive, with distilled water as the primary component (>90%) for the liquid composition. Our thermal test methodology is the same as in all our Threadripper cooler reviews, including the Enermax 360 vs 240 review. If curious how we tested, head over there.
Liquid is only half of the argument, but it’s an important half. We’ll soon be rounding-up several of the high-end air coolers available on the market, and before jumping into that, we’re going to lay the groundwork with a round-up of our liquid cooler reviews for the year. This guide looks at the best closed-loop liquid coolers (“AIOs”) for 2017, but also includes a few of the worst – the leak-prone and the weak-fanned.
As usual with these round-ups, we’ll be including links to the individual reviews for the applicable coolers, with purchasing links also included for each line item. This is part of our end-of-year round-ups, which can all be found here. For specific items, we rounded-up our top Black Friday sales choices here, our top gaming monitor picks, and the best CPU sales. Plenty more on the Buyer’s Guide page.
Note: You’ll want to pull our most recent cooler review to get an updated table with all performance metrics, though individual reviews are good for non-performance discussion.
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.
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