When It Comes To Cooling, Size Matters
We know from experience that cooling performance is mostly tied to the size of your sink and the air moving over it. The folks selling heat sinks know this too, which helps explain how our most recent round-up of air coolers grew to 14 samples (Big Air: 14 LGA 2011-Compatible Coolers For Core i7-3000, Reviewed).
Anyone who's ever studied physics tends to get a little nervous when they see us supporting a couple pounds of copper and aluminum with a few inches of leverage over a delicate circuit board. Configurations that work marvelously on a system you build and leave at home are prone to failure when you move that machine around. Just think about the nightmare boutique builders face when it comes to mailing off an expensive system with an aggressively overclocked processor and multiple graphics cards inside.
Even we're affected by the problem of heavy heat sinks! We used to ship the winners of our System Builder Marathon giveaways fully-built PCs. Enough coolers broke loose (or broke motherboards) that we had to start taking them apart and boxing up the individual pieces first. Sometimes I'd experiment with water-cooling in my high-end SBM submission, and that was equally problematic when it came to shipping.
Fortunately, a more user-friendly form of cooling is available. Closed-loop liquid coolers rarely leak, they have no fill ports from which to spill, there is no separate pump or reservoir to break loose, and the small water blocks place little stress on the motherboard. Although they aren't as configurable as conventional water-cooling kits, sealed coolers boast superior portability, transportability, and maintainability.
The newest generation of closed-loop systems is even said to offer better performance than those that matched the air-cooling market a year ago. But heat sinks and fans continue evolving too, and there's a new sheriff in town. Are sealed liquid coolers really ready to stand up to a truly monstrous air cooler?
|Closed-Loop Liquid Coolers|
|Cooler Master Seidon 240M||Corsair H100i||Enermax ELC240||Zalman LQ320|
|Cooling Fans||2 x 120 x 25 mm||2 x 120 x 25 mm||2 x 120 x 25 mm||1 x 120 x 25 mm|
|Control Type||Motherboard Fan Headers||Integrated/Auto, Programmable||Motherboard Fan Header||Motherboard Fan Headers|
|Weight||34 Ounces||36 Ounces||34 Ounces||36 Ounces|
|AMD Processor Interfaces||All AM2 to AM3+||Clip-On||All AM2 to AM3+||All AM2 to AM3+|
|Intel Processor Interfaces||775, 1156/1155, 1366, 2011||775, 1156/1155, 1366, 2011||775, 1156/1155, 1366, 2011||1156/1155, 1366, 2011|
With four vendors ready to prove their worth, we needed only to find a suitable platform and high-capacity air cooler of similar cost.