Testing Results & Conclusions
Our comparison tests are derived from current and prior CPU-cooler testing using standardized methods for benchmarking and gathering data. We performed all the tests on our hexa-core Intel Core i7-5930K CPU, running at 4.2GHz. We will be comparing the results from the EK Fluid Gaming A120 against other liquid coolers similar in retail price: the Corsair H150i Pro, the NZXT Kraken X61, and the Swiftech H220-X.
Our thermal load test provides immediate insight into the single largest shortcoming of the Fluid Gaming A120 kit: It is the only cooler in our comparison group that uses a single-fan 120mm radiator. The large 280mm radiator on the NZXT cooler even manages to do better than the one on the Swiftech H220-X, one of the most cost-effective AIO expandable coolers. Another interesting detail: The EK A120 is the only cooler of this lot with an aluminum CPU block. All others use copper, which is far denser and more thermally conductive, to wick heat away from our processor.
EK has provided a single 1850 RPM Vardar fan for cooling the fins of the 120mm Alustream radiator, and we observed a maximum speed of 1740 RPM, which is very respectable when pushing air through restrictive cooling fins. Rotational speeds of all fans in the test group showed similar readings, which should produce some interesting noise-level readings.
One benefit to a single-fan design: Often, the measured relative noise levels are lower than those of other coolers with more fans. Here, the almost inaudible EK Fluid Gaming A120 easily bests the rest of the coolers in the group. Another benefit of the pump and cooling fan being at literal opposite locations in the case (top vs. bottom) is the offset of ambient noise from both components. The slight hum of the pump at full power is barely audible, even in the immediate vicinity.
Such low noise readings often mean good results on our Acoustic Efficiency measure, and the EK A120 shows that being almost completely silent does have value when compared to cooling ability. While it doesn’t match the raw cooling ability of the Kraken X61, the Fluid Gaming A120 does go about its work without much fuss.
Our overall Performance Value rating illustrates some strong showings across this comparison group. Average pricing across all of the coolers here is right at $150, which also happens to be the MSRP for the EK Fluid Gaming A120 kit itself. It also happens to be the only cooler of this test group to turn in a positive value rating at both full-speed and half-speed fan settings. The loud fans of the NZXT Kraken X61 prove to be a detriment, when it’s all said and charted.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
So, what have we learned about the EK Fluid Gaming A120 kit?
For one thing, we really would have liked this kit to have instead included a 240mm (2x120mm) radiator. Liquid cooling isn’t a pre-requisite for overclocking, but for big processors or highly clocked CPUs, a single 120mm radiator often will struggle with keeping CPU core temps down, even with excellent fans attached. The pump provided for the kit was a real highlight, however, and we were impressed with how quietly it ran while providing high coolant flow rates.
EK has taken a real chance by going against the "flow" of liquid-cooling doctrine and providing a solution here engineered in aluminum. As long as you follow all warnings and do not introduce mixed metals into your cooling loop, the EK Fluid Gaming A120 should serve you well. It's also a great base kit for the novice to liquid cooling.
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