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We tested the Cougar Aqua 240 on our standard cooling rig consisting of an Intel i7-5390k on an MSI X99S XPower AC motherboard clocked to 4.20 Ghz @ 1.20v, 16GB of Crucial Ballistix DDR4-2400 and standard application of Arctic MX-4 thermal compound.
Using data collected from previous cooling tests, we can compare the Aqua 240 against a few other recently-covered 240mm AIOs: the Corsair H100i Pro, Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 CPU Digital RGB and the DeepCool Castle 240 EX.
Right away we see an impressive comparison as the Cougar Aqua 240 manages to just barely squeak past the revered Corsair H100i Pro in our thermal load testing. The Corsair is a cooler we’ve used as a baseline benchmark for many of our cooling comparisons.
Even though fan speeds of the Aqua 240 are bit slower than on the Corsair H100i Pro, Cougar seems to have paired the right fans for their cooler to optimize its performance.
Higher fan RPM often indicates an expected increase of noise level, which tells a bit of a story on the fans used for each cooler. The fast-spinning blades on the Corsair H100i Pro peak the normalized decibel levels above all others in the testing group, although the Cougar Aqua 240 fans are not far behind at 100% RPM.
Our performance value chart depicts a reference of overall thermal performance when evaluated with noise levels. While the Cougar Aqua 240 and Corsair H100i Pro sit well in front in terms of load temperatures above ambient, they each do so at significant decibel deficit when compared to the Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora 240 and DeepCool Castle 240 EX.
Taking our acoustic efficiency chart one step further allows us to consider thermal and noise effectiveness as a product of unit pricing. The Cougar Aqua 240 is currently poised as the cheapest cooler of our evaluation group with a web price of $85.
Thermal imaging from our FLIR ONE Pro camera shows minimal difference in heat soak under load on the Cougar Aqua 240 at both 100% and 50% fan speeds. Differences can be spotted along the lateral edges of the radiator, the end tanks and the coolant lines where some additional thermal soak is shown. At 100% fan speed, the center hubs of the radiator cooling fans have a bit of noticeable heat bloom over the 50% image, which is expected due to added power being required by the fan motors.
Retailing at $85, the Cougar Aqua 240 presents itself as a real cooling bargain for a 240mm AIO, priced 40% less and performing just as well as the Corsair H100i Pro. By comparison, the H100i Pro does make use of Corsair’s iCUE software. ANd software control is an obvious component missing from the Cougar Aqua 240 toolkit.
While price and performance are very much on point, the lack of software UI for pump and overall cooler management are missing, making fan curves entirely dependent on motherboard PWM or a standalone controller. But for value-seeking power users comfortable with setting fan curves themselves, this Cougar is a cool steal.
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Garrett Carver is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering thermal compound comparisons and CPU cooling reviews; both air and liquid, including multiple variations of each.
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