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
Enermax Liqtech 120X 120mm × 120mm 43mm 2 / 2 600-1300
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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  • BlakKW - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    Nice round-up E.Fyll...congrats on your new spot. Its a fine line between answering questions in the Comments section, and getting sucked into cautious :)
  • MushroomBomb - Friday, February 14, 2014 - link

    Disappointed not seeing any Thermaltake Water, especially with their 3.0 offering, pretty sure they would be able to compete here.
  • Bap2703 - Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - link

    One should take care that the testing setup is in no way providing a "core" temperature despite being written on every graph :/
  • aggiechase37 - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    I've had the stock Intel fan on a 4770, and was getting temperatures in the 90's while rendering video. Thanks to this article, I've got the Corsair h90 on the way. Thanks guys!
  • Valentini - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Finally a truly meaningful test (the best test I have ever seen). In particular, indication of the thermal resistance is really great. The whole thing would be a little bit more accurate, if the indication of differences in temperature would be written in Kelvin instead of Celsius.
  • pikunsia - Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - link

    The difference in Kelvin (absolute) and Celsius (relative), as well as in Rankine (absolute) and Fahrenheit (relative) are the same! my friend. Please, let me show you, taking for example Celsius-Kelvin. Let T_C, T_K be temperatures in Celsius and Kelvin respectively. Thus,
    T_K1 = T_C1 + 273.15,
    T_K2 = T_C2 + 273.15.
    DT_K = (T_C2 + 273.15) - (T_C1 + 273.15) = DT_C.
    Now, if you're using thermodynamics Relations, for instance (in differential form),
    Tds = dh - vdP,
    where s, h, v, are the specific entropy, the specific enthalpy and the specific volume resp., the temperature T and the pressure P must be necessarily absolute, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
  • ppsu - Friday, August 28, 2015 - link

    It seems there is a new king in town and one of the only 360mm AIO liquid coolers on the market. Fractal Design's Kelvin S36 is an absolute stomper of a unit.

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