In a world of tempered glass, LEDs, and gimmicks, it’s pretty rare that we come across a fully spartan product that focuses on performance. EVGA has filled that market segment with its DARK series motherboards, named at least partially for their lack of LEDs, and its coolers have traditionally been more price/performance focused than looks-oriented. The CLC series does have a couple RGB LEDs, but only enough to tick the marketing boxes. For the rest, the coolers are aimed at hitting a price/performance mix for the best value. Today, we’re reviewing EVGA’s new CLC 360 liquid cooler to see if it hits the mark.
EVGA’s CLC 360 should be priced about $150 on average, which puts it close to competition like the NZXT Kraken X62, Corsair H150i Pro, and some Deepcool Castle models. EVGA’s CLC 360 uses an Asetek pump at its core and is Asetek-supplied, with the usual customizations on top. As typical, these coolers are primarily differentiated by price, fan choice, and maybe warranty, with some further deviation from the supply by way of LEDs. EVGA has gone relatively spartan with LEDs and looks, instead prioritizing the focus on price and performance balance. With an Asetek Gen5 pump, we’re staying on the plastic three-pronged impeller rather than the newer metal impellers, but performance is overall unchanged between Gen5 and Gen6 – the differences are mostly in focus on reduction of permeation in the tubes.
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.
We always like to modify the reference cards – or “Founders Edition,” by nVidia’s new naming – to determine to what extent a cooler might be holding it back. In this instance, we suspected that the power limitations may be a harder limit than cooling, which is rather sad, as the power delivery on nVidia’s RTX 2080 Ti reference board is world-class.
We recently published a video showing the process, step-by-step, for disassembling the Founders Edition cards (in preparation for water blocks). Following this, we posted another piece wherein we built-up a “Hybrid” cooling version of the card, using a mix of high-RPM fans and a be quiet! Silent Loop 280 CLC for cooling the GPU core on a 2080 Ti FE card. Today, we’re summarizing the results of the mod.
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.
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.
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