Remember the time when liquid cooling a computer chip was considered to be an extreme approach, one performed by hardcore enthusiasts and overclockers alone? Everything had to be personally designed and or procured by the user, as there were no specialized commercial products available at the time. Radiators were modified heater cores extracted from cars, CPU blocks were rare and occasionally machined at local workshops using a copper block and a lathe, while high-performance tubing came from shops with medical supplies.

As demand grew, aided by the ever-increasing noise of small CPU heatsinks, companies specializing on liquid cooling solutions began turning up -- a little too fast perhaps, as tens of companies were founded within a few months' time and very few of them actually survived for more than a couple of years. Enthusiasts could then buy specialized liquid cooling equipment and even whole kits from just one seller and only had to assemble the setup into their system. That of course is no simple process for an amateur and a nightmare for a system builder, who cannot ship a system with a topped off water cooling tank or assume that the user has the skills required to maintain such a system, therefore the potential market remained limited to advanced users only.

This all changed in 2012, when Asetek came up with an inexpensive closed loop solution, a liquid cooling device that was leak-free and required no maintenance at all. The radiators of the first few solutions were small and their overall performance hardly better than that of air coolers; however, aided by the modernization of computer cases, the mounting of larger, thicker radiators inside a PC soon was not a problem. In many cases the kits were now no harder to install than any CPU cooler and required no maintenance at all, opening the market to virtually every computer user seeking a performance cooling solution. This spurred massive interest amongst OEMs and manufacturers, who all strive for a slice of the pie.

There have been tens of AIO (All-in-One) closed loop liquid coolers released just in 2013; today, we are having a roundup with 14 of them, coming from five different manufacturers, alphabetically listed in the table below.

Product Radiator Effective Surface Radiator Thickness # of Fans (Supplied / Maximum) Speed Range of Supplied Fans (RPM) Current Retail Pricing
Cooler Master Seidon 120V 120mm × 120mm 27mm 1 / 2 600-2400 $49.99
Cooler Master Nepton 140XL 140mm × 140mm 38mm 2 / 2 800-2000 $99.99
Cooler Master Nepton 280L 140mm × 280mm 30mm 2 / 4 800-2000 $119.99
Corsair H75 120mm × 120mm 25mm 2 / 2 800-2000 $69.99
Corsair H90 140mm × 140mm 27mm 1 / 2 600-1500 $84.99
Corsair H100i 120mm × 240mm 27mm 2 / 4 800-2700 $109.99
Corsair H105 120mm × 240mm 38mm 2 / 4 800- 2700 $119.99
Corsair H110 140mm × 280mm 29mm 2 / 4 600-1500 $126.99
Enermax Liqmax 120S 120mm × 120mm 32mm 1 / 2 600-1300
600-2000
600-2500
(Multi-range)
$163.00*
Enermax Liqtech 120X 120mm × 120mm 43mm 2 / 2 600-1300
600-2000
600-2500
(Multi-range)
$171.10*
NZXT Kraken X40 140mm × 140mm 27mm 1 / 2 800-2000 $89.99
NZXT Kraken X60 140mm × 280mm 27mm 2 / 4 800-2000 $119.99
Silverstone Tundra TD02 120mm × 240mm 45mm 2 / 4 1500-2500 $118.99
Silverstone Tundra TD03 120mm × 120mm 45mm 2 / 2 1500-2500 $97.99

*The coolers from Enermax are not widely available in the USA at the time of this review, with the only viable option appearing to be that of import from Asia or Europe.

Although Asetek was the first to come up with the design and they hold patents for it, they are not the only OEM of AIO cooling solutions today. At least three different OEMs are behind the kits listed in the table above. We will have a closer look at each one of them in the following pages.

Cooler Master
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  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    It's reprehensible that you guys are not reviewing the Swiftech option that allows you to use the closed AIO part or switch to a more open config if you like, too.

    If you say, "That's because it's not on the market now!" I'll say it's because of Asetek trying to basically own the market and are using litigation to destroy competition. Was it any wonder that when the Swiftech was on the market, we had Corsair and NZXT AIO's all dropping down to sub-$100 for even their highest of the high end? The value you got for that $130-140 was so outstanding, no one would touch a single one of these coolers.

    So to my eye, I don't see why you'd bother reviewing such subpar products that are at ludicrous pricing and reward Asetek and their twin from another mother for not bothering to compete.

    Not going to reward patent trolls.
    Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Copy-paste from above:

    "I know. I actually tried to acquire all AIO coolers in existence, including Intel's, Thermaltake's and others. Not everyone is happy to cooperate and/or willing/able to supply samples at a give time, for whatever reason."

    I cannot test what I cannot have access to. I would love to test Swiftech's products but the company needs to be willing to ship me samples first.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    "Reprehensible" is an awfully strong word, isn't it? There's a lot of logistics that go into just trying to put together a roundup like this, and respectfully, you don't have the full picture of Asetek's patent or what's going on in the AIO market. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    noctua d14 runs cooler and quieter. These all in 1 coolers all suffer from the same problem. The pumps used are cheap loud and not very powerful. You need to build you own water cooling loop using high quality waterblocks radiators pumps and tubing then and only then can u take the noctua d14 down, And I'd still use high static pressure noctua fans on the custom water cooling loop because noctua fans are awesome Reply
  • theNiZer - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    E. Fylladitakis : I like the theme of the article and the approach, BUT did you use the same fan-type for all coolers? If not, that explains the lov efficiency of Coirsair H105 - it has more low noise tuned fans.
    You should test the units with the same fan as well to really tell the effect of the individual watercoolers.
    Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    No and I will never use any other fan than the ones supplied with the kit. I explained why thoroughly in the comments above. I cannot perform tests with a fan of my choice, as the characteristic performance of the said fan will favor some designs over others, creating misleading results. And I cannot possibly perform testing using dozens of fans either.

    It also increases the cost. Most people simply want to buy a cooler, not half the store. If someone wants to use different fans for whatever reason, I cannot possibly foretell how each kit will react. RPM, CFM, sound pressure levels are all next to irrelevant when a fan is going to be mounted on a heat exchanger, therefore any comparisons between fans that "look similar" are a massive mistake.

    I performed noise testing, you know. If you would look at it, it is one of the noisiest kits in the roundup. So that could not have been further from the truth.
    Reply
  • Hxx - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Why no thermaltake? I managed to snag a thermaltake performer 2.0 from Microcenter for $5 after a rebate lol last BF. It was too good to be true. They also had the extreme 2.0 for $35. Great cooler too (both of them although i kept the little one). Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Copy-paste from above:

    "I know. I actually tried to acquire all AIO coolers in existence, including Intel's, Thermaltake's and others. Not everyone is happy to cooperate and/or willing/able to supply samples at a give time, for whatever reason."

    I cannot test what I cannot have access to.
    Reply
  • Dizey - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    I normally don't comment, but I just have to say that I'm also really disappointed that the Swiftech H220 isn't in this review. In all fairness, one could argue that the H220 isn't a close loop cooler, but the lack of its presence in this article does give it a fowl stench. Reply
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - link

    Copy-paste from above:

    "I know. I actually tried to acquire all AIO coolers in existence, including Intel's, Thermaltake's and others. Not everyone is happy to cooperate and/or willing/able to supply samples at a give time, for whatever reason."

    I cannot test what I cannot have access to.
    Reply

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