Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Dominating the performance PC market, liquid-component cooling lets enthusiasts put a large radiator in a better-optimized location compared to standard heat sinks, but without the complication, noise, or decreased reliability of “extreme cooling” alternatives.

On the other hand, bulky external components and severe case modifications have typically limited the best liquid-cooling configurations to the world of “case mod freaks,” rather than true performance fanatics. Though Koolance has produced a few well-finished liquid-cooling cases for as long as most of us can remember, the majority of alternative designs have either been bulky or under-powered.

Because it has stood the test of time, Koolance became an easy choice when we were searching for a suitable reference point to compare a fresh entry in the liquid-cooling market. That competing product is Zalman’s new LQ1000 integrated liquid-cooling chassis, which we first photographed for our CES 2008 coverage.

Both companies target high-end buyers with materials and workmanship unrivaled by mid-priced brands, but limiting today’s comparison to comparable-quality mid-towers almost made this a two-way endeavor after a third manufacturer missed our delivery deadline.

Fortunately we already had another “alternative solution” on-hand. Our March and June System Builder Marathon high-end configurations had carefully selected cooling components with a specially selected case. We were always curious about how our parts choices would compete against custom-designed units and this is our opportunity to find out.