Arctic Liquid Freezer III AIO Review: To put it bluntly, the Liquid Freezer III is unimpressive

This isn’t the successor we were hoping for.

Arctic Liquid Freezer III 240 & 280 & 360
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

To put it bluntly, the Liquid Freezer III is unimpressive.

Pros

  • +

    Low introductory price

  • +

    Low noise levels for an AIO

Cons

  • -

    Better options exist for the same price, even with launch discounts

  • -

    Mediocre noise normalized performance

  • -

    Fails stress testing

  • -

    Forced use of a warranty-voiding contact frame

  • -

    Only supports LGA 1700 and AM4/AM5, older sockets are unsupported

  • -

    Performance comparable to good air coolers

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German company Arctic has been a mainstay in the PC cooling space ever since its founding in 2001. Today the company is known for its Freezer Air & Liquid CPU Coolers, MX thermal pastes, fans, as well as custom Accelero GPU coolers.

The company’s Liquid Freezer II AIOs have long been the favorite of many enthusiasts, and today we’ll be looking at their successor, Arctic’s new Liquid Freezer III 280mm and 360mm AIOs. Can they handle the heat of Intel’s Core i7-13700K and earn a spot on our best AIO Coolers list? We’ll put them through testing to find out. But first, here are the coolers’ specifications, direct from Arctic.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Liquid Freezer III 360mmLiquid Freezer III 280mmLiquid Freezer III 240mm
Launch MSRP$90.08$86.23$76.99
Heatsink MaterialAluminumAluminumAluminum
Rated Lifespan6-year warranty6-year warranty6-year warranty
Socket CompatibilityIntel LGA 1700 AMD: AM5/AM4Intel LGA 1700 AMD: AM5/AM4Intel LGA 1700 AMD: AM5/AM4
BaseCopper BaseCopper BaseCopper Base
Max TDP with Intel’s i7-13700K (Our Testing)234W233W219W
Dimensions (fans installed)398mm (L) x 120 mm (W) x 63mm (D)317mm (L) x 138 mm (W) x 65mm (D)277 (L) x 120 (W) x 63mm (D)

Features of Arctic’s Liquid Freezer III AIOs

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

➡️ Available in black or white, with or without RGB

Arctic recognizes that PC users have a diverse set of aesthetic tastes. As such, the Liquid Freezer is available in black or white, and with or without ARGB.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

➡️ Available in 240, 280, 360, and 420mm sizes

The Arctic Liquid Freezer is available in a variety of sizes to best fit various cases and cooling needs. The picture below shows the 240, 280, and 360mm next to each other to give you an idea of how much additional radiator area is gained with the larger units.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

➡️ Full RAM Compatibility

As with most AIOs on the market, the Liquid Freezer III does not impede or overhang DIMM slots in any manner – allowing installation of all sizes of DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, no matter how tall.

➡️ Upgraded VRM fan, with (optional) separate PWM control

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

One of the unique features of Arctic’s Liquid Freezer lineup has been its VRM fan. This model’s PWM fan has been upgraded and, unlike previous revisions, it’s easily removable, thanks to a magnetic connection. Another improvement over previous models is the optional ability to control the VRM fan, pump, and radiator fans separately. However, you’re not forced to run them separately. Arctic includes two cords that connect to the CPU base: one that separates the PWM controls for the 3 parts, and one that runs all three at the same speeds.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

 ➡️ Arctic P12 and P14 fans

One of the most important aspects of a cooler are the included fans, which directly impact both thermal performance and noise levels. These are unchanged compared to the Liquid Freezer II, utilizing Arctic’s P12 fans for the 240 & 360mm version of the Liquid Freezer III, and Arctic P14 fans for the 280mm and 420mm versions of the cooler.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Arctic P12 PWMArctic P14 PWM
Dimensions120 x 120 x 25mm140 x 140 x 27
Fan SpeedUp to 1800 RPMUp to 1700 RPM
Air FlowUp to 56.3 CFMUp to 72.8 CFM
Air PressureUp to 2.2 mmH2OUp to 2.4 mmH20
Bearing TypeFDB BearingFDB Bearing
LightingOptionalOptional
MFFT6-year warranty6-year warranty

Packing and included contents 

The packaging of the Liquid Freezer III is a bit different than most, but utilizes cardboard and plastic coverings. At the top, you’ll find the VRM fan and CPU block next to a box containing the accessories and mounting equipment. The fans and radiator are underneath these, separated by cardboard.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Included with the cooler are the following:

  • Radiator with pre-installed fans
  • VRM fan
  • Mounting for modern AMD and Intel Platforms
  • LGA 1700 contact frame
  • Thermal Paste
  • PWM splitter cord and all-in-one cord (see installation section)
  • Mounting accessories

LGA 1700 installation

The installation of the Liquid Freezer III is like none other on the market, as it requires the use of a custom LGA 1700 contact frame. This is both a pro and a con, depending on how you look at it. As a cooling reviewer, I use an LGA 1700 contact frame on my benchmarking system to ensure consistency in testing results. 

But I seriously disapprove of this behavior. I don’t feel that the average builder or upgrader should be required to bother with the hassle of using a contact frame. Not only can this potentially void your motherboard’s warranty, but forum users have reported that minor mistakes with the installation of these frames can introduce instability that most commonly manifests as memory errors. Of course, that’s not going to happen with everyone. But forcing users to remove the stock socket mount in favor of a frame just adds unnecessary complexity that could also lead to performance issues.

On top of that, it would have been an easy thing for Arctic to make the cooler work on these systems without the use of their contact frame, by simply drilling two holes into the existing mounting bars included with AMD systems and to include a backplate. This would provide the additional benefit of supporting not just LGA 1700, but also older LGA 1200-based systems. 

1. The first thing you’ll need to do for installation is to remove the default CPU socket. You’ll need something to keep everything secure while doing this. I used another CPU cooler’s motherboard backplate, as the standoffs included helped grip the socket and keep everything in place. 

2. Place the contact frame on top of the CPU, and secure it with the included screws.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Place the mounting bars on top of the standoffs and secure them with the included screws.

4. Next, I’d advise securing the radiator to the computer case.

5. You’ll need to apply thermal paste to the CPU before proceeding further – and if you're unsure how to do that, see our How to Apply Thermal Paste primer.

6. Secure the contact plate against the CPU using a screwdriver, and then insert the PWM cord into the side of the pump.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Place the VRM fan on top of the pump, and then connect the PWM and aRGB headers to your motherboard.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. Turn on your computer, and you’re good to go.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

LGA1700 Socket Bending

There are many factors other than the CPU cooler that can influence your cooling performance, including the case you use and the fans installed in it. A system's motherboard can also influence this, especially if it suffers from bending, which results in poor cooler contact with the CPU. 

Included with the Liquid Freezer III AIOs is an LGA 1700 contact frame which is mandatory for installation of these coolers. With other coolers tested in this review, we’ve installed Thermalright’s LGA 1700 contact frame into our testing rig, in order to prevent bending from impacting our cooling results. But again, socket bending is more likely to happen if you’re installing several coolers on a motherboard for things like testing than it is if you just install a cooler two or three times over the lifetime of your board.

If your motherboard is affected by bending, your thermal results will be worse than those shown below. Not all motherboards are affected equally by this issue. I tested Raptor Lake CPUs in two motherboards. While one of them showed significant thermal improvements after installing Thermalright’s LGA1700 contact frame, the other motherboard showed no difference in temperatures whatsoever! Check out our review of the contact frame for more information 

Testing methodology

Today's highest-end CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past. reaching 95 degrees Celsius or more on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern. But with today’s top-end CPUs, this is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.

All testing is performed with a 23 degrees Celsius ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler in a variety of conditions, and acoustic measurements are taken with each result. These tests include:

1. Noise-normalized testing at low noise levels

2. “Out-of-the-box”/default configuration thermal & acoustics testing

     a. No power limits enforced

     b. Because CPUs hit TJMax in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption.

3. Thermal & acoustic testing in power-limited scenarios

     a. Power limited to 175W to emulate a medium-intensity workload

     b. Power limited to 125W to emulate a low-intensity workload

The thermal results included are for 10-minute testing runs. To be sure that was sufficiently long to tax the cooler, we tested both Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE and DeepCool’s LT720 with a 30-minute Cinebench test with Intel’s i9-13900K for both 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The results didn’t change much at all with the longer test: The average clock speeds maintained dropped by 29 MHz on DeepCool’s LT720 and 31 MHz on Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE. That’s an incredibly small 0.6% difference in clock speeds maintained, a margin of error difference that tells us that the 10-minute tests are indeed long enough to properly test the coolers. 

Testing configuration – Intel LGA1700 platform

Albert Thomas
Freelancer, CPU Cooling Reviewer

Albert Thomas is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering CPU cooling reviews.