Closed-Loop Cooling: Value Versus Versatility
Unlike our previous round-up, two of today’s closed-loop coolers are actually able to top the huge NH-D14 heat sink and fan in thermal performance. Those two coolers are the low-cost NZXT Kraken X40 and the extra-cold Thermaltake Water2.0 Extreme. Of these, the Kraken X40 is even able to beat the NH-D14 in cooling value (that is, when temperature and price are our only concerns; it doesn't fare as well acoustically).
Of course, anyone can bolster their cooling performance by using a noisy fan, which is effectively what NZXT does. Adding noise to the equation, we find that air cooling still provides the best value to stationary systems.
Even though big air delivers the best performance value, companies that ship complete system may find even utility in the lower support cost of compact liquid coolers. Our recent experiences show that heavy coolers damaging motherboards during shipping is now a rule, rather than the exception. We hate to think about what could happen if a system were to fall on its side while supporting two pounds of metal from its PCB.
Naturally, then, closed-loop coolers are the top option for damage reduction, and the NZXT Kraken X40’s combination of low price and high performance makes it the best value among these. It fits most systems that have a 140mm exhaust fan mount and a vacant top expansion slot, which means that it fits most of today's enthusiast-oriented hardware.
We still need to warn readers about the potential of voltage regulator overheating, and caution that an extra fan should be placed over the voltage regulator whenever its temperature reaches 100° Celsius. Thermaltake’s Water2.0 Extreme is the one closed-loop cooler that moves enough air past our voltage regulator to moderate its temperature. It's also the best cooler overall, and only falls behind in the value charts because of its relatively high price.
Knowing that you’re the best might be an award unto itself, but being the best-in-class makes a product eligible for our Tom's Hardware Elite award, which is affected less by pricing and more by performance. If you’re building a system with top-end hardware and don’t want the maintenance hassle of an open-loop cooler, the Water2.0 Extreme could very well be your best choice.