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Four Closed-Loop CPU Coolers Take On Noctua's NH-D14

Can Air Cooling Win A Round-Up Of Liquid Coolers?

Yielding CPU temperatures just a few degrees warmer than Corsair's top-performing H100i, generating less noise than the extra-quiet Enermax ELC240, and selling for less than any of the closer-loop liquid coolers in today's story, Noctua’s NH-D14 looks like the surprise winner in our analysis of value.

Unfortunately, if we accidentally knock our PC over, the NH-D14 might very well break our motherboard. Never mind trying to figure out the best way to ship it, installed, across the country. Even if we could guarantee that the folks at UPS and FedEx would handle our machine gently, the idea of having all of that weight rocking back and forth sounds like horrible torture for the delicate contacts of Intel’s LGA interface. From a portability perspective, big air is a bad idea.

Zalman's LQ320 takes second place in overall performance value. A look back at our performance data (before we factored in price) shows that Corsair's H100i is the best outright performer. We’re fairly certain that once we cross into $100+ territory, the $15 difference doesn't matter nearly as much.

Because many of the buyers shopping in this segment opt for closed-loop liquid cooling out of necessity and with less emphasis on price differences, we really have to consider awards for the top performing and best value liquid coolers, Corsair's H100i and Zalman's LQ320.

Our Tom's Hardware Approved recognition allows us to put the best performance and the best value on equal footing. If you're using the motherboard and the case in this story, specifically, the H100i becomes even more attractive. The LQ320 simply requires different hardware considerations to do its job well.

  • austing
    I'm suprized to see a single 120mm rad can keep up with the h100i, bravo Zalman.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    Love the title!

    Nice review as well. Too bad you didn't test NZXT kraken cpu coolers.

    If you ask me, I'd rather stick with the D14
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Keeping up and beating with all the Water coolers should earn the NH-D14 a "best of the best" award of its own. And its a ~2-3 year old product!
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Small nit : i would have liked to see similar test done with a 3770K and a high OC.
    Reply
  • sluggercz
    A possibly overlooked benefit of closed loop AIO systems are their ability to fit in SFF cases. While this certainly applies more to the single 120mm radiator designs, some cases (such as the Fractal Design Node 304) can accommodate 240mm radiators)

    (Source: Using a Corsair H60 w/ 2 Noctua NF-F12's in push-pull config in my Lian-Li PC-Q08; such large air-coolers as the Noctua could not fit due to the limited vertical clearance above the CPU)
    Reply
  • hero1
    Awesome review. Keep it up. I remember commenting about how much better the closed loop CPU coolers have gotten and I got down voted but this just proved my point. I have very sensitive hearing and I can never hear my CoolIt R120(?) spin apart from the initial startup. And this is inside a CM Haf XM. I play games with CPU+GPU OCd to 4.5GHzby 1.2GHz and you can barely hear any noise. First I thought something was wrong then I got my friends and wife to listen whil I played with muted sound and they were impressed. Up next is water cooling my GPU when I add another one in a month in SLI mode. Gaming PCs FTW!
    Reply
  • tanjo
    No NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?
    Reply
  • hero1
    BTW DH-14 still deserves an award alongside the H100i and Zalman. Not many, if any air coolers out there can keep up with top notch closed loop CPU coolers.
    Reply
  • hero1
    tanjoNo NZXT Kraken and Thermaltake Water 2.0 (which is 3rd gen Asetek iirc)?
    Bit-tech.net has a review of Thermaltake water coolers and their top end 240mm took the crown. Better than H100i and the rest shown here.
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    With MB control the NH D14 can be very quiet :)

    It is HUGE, but I got it for 50$ and to me that was a great value. It was also on for 50$ again at NCIX's boxing day sale.

    Sure fills up an SSF system.
    Not embedding the image because it may mess up the page.
    http://imageshack.us/a/img39/1358/dsc0458s.jpg

    Reply