Evaluating Performance Results
So far we’ve seen Thermaltake’s Water2.0 Extreme enjoy a big performance advantage from its huge radiator, while the NZXT Kraken X40 uses higher fan speed to beat an identically-configured Corsair H90. In return, Corsair recommends that users reverse the fan. Yet, doing so creates an imbalance in air pressure and circumvents our case’s dust filtration. While all of these solutions cool our overclocked Sandy Bridge-E-based processor sufficiently, how do they compare in terms of overall performance?
Performance comparisons always start out with a baseline of 1x, yet efficiency can never exceed 100%. We adjusted the efficiency chart accordingly, and found that the Water2.0 Extreme in “Auto” mode beats the average of all test configurations by 20% (originally, 1.2x the average). That makes it the only closed-loop liquid cooler in today’s test to have an overall performance advantage over the venerable NH-D14 air cooler.
The Water2.0 Extreme’s cooling-to-noise ratio drops below the big air cooler at full fan speed. Fortunately, though, most enthusiasts won't need to use it at its maximum setting. Since the default configuration already beats Noctua's NH-D14 in CPU temperature, the biggest reason we might be tempted to push the fan further would be reducing voltage regulator temperature. As it turns out, the Water2.0 Extreme is the only liquid cooler to provide sufficient airflow around the CPU voltage regulator on its own, but only when its fans are adjusted faster-than the default speed profile.
Starting at $85, the NZXT Kraken X40 is inexpensive enough to dominate our cooling-to-price chart. Keep in mind, though, that this chart is really only useful to folks who put performance above variables like noise.
The only closed-loop cooler that doesn’t require us to recommend an auxiliary voltage regulator fan is the Water2.0 Extreme, but again, only when operating above its baseline fan speed.