Software

Impressively, this new set of contenders boast both fan control software and even, in the case of Corsair's H80i and H100i, upgradable firmware. The Prolimatech Megahalems and Noctua NH-D14 may be big, beefy air coolers, but they don't include those kinds of goodies (though there's something to be said for not having to futz with hardware). The H80i and H100i along with NZXT's Kraken coolers all plug into one of the spare USB 2.0 headers on your motherboard to interface with the rest of your system, and require drivers and software to be installed for you to take full advantage of them. This may seem like a nuisance at first, but it does allow for pretty detailed and specific control.

Corsair Link

Of the two software solutions on hand, Corsair's Corsair Link software is definitely more mature. I've actually been familiarizing myself with it over the past year, both in my home desktop and in my case testbed, and while it's far from perfect (fan control of third party fans has proven to be a substantial hurdle), there's a lot to recommend it.

The screenshot above is from my home system, but it's a good indicator of how well Corsair Link can work. Corsair's software can provide basic HWMonitor-level monitoring for system components, while an "i" series PSU like the AX1200i can have its individual rails monitored as well as its fan controlled. Individual fan control options for the H80i and H100i include the three presets I tested with (Quiet, Balanced, and Performance) along with fixed percentage and RPM, or you can even manually set your own cooling curve. You can also use the Corsair Link to configure the LED lighting of the waterblock.

Where you benefit from Corsair Link is really in buying into the whole ecosystem that Corsair is assembling. While the individual Corsair Link box concept never seemed to quite get off the ground, a unified Corsair Link ecosystem that runs at the component level looks to be a more promising route. The H80i and H100i waterblocks both include an additional connector input for other Corsair Link-enabled accessories, making them ideal companions for Corsair's fan controller, LED lighting kit, or especially an "i" series power supply.

Kraken Control

While Corsair Link is pretty robust, Kraken Control still feels very fresh and obviously has some kinks that need to be worked out.

The software is certainly stable and features a programmable fan curve just like Corsair Link, but the fan control is handled entirely by percentage as opposed to also being RPM-configurable. It's also more confusing to work with in some ways, and when the fan is running silently the software actually reports it as being at 0 RPM. Like Corsair Link, NZXT's software lets you control the lighting of the waterblock.

Kraken Control definitely still needs work, but where it scores big is its simplicity. Corsair Link may be robust, but it's also a big program and sometimes it feels a little sluggish. Kraken isn't too much snappier, but it's much simpler to use once you get the hang of it. NZXT doesn't have a whole ecosystem of components to incorporate like Corsair does, and the software is serviceable. The main drawbacks are its relative youth and the open source hardware monitor that has to run separately alongside it, software which really should just be integrated in the first place.

Ease of Installation Testing Methodology
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  • buhusky - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    i'm interested to see the comparison of these vs. the stock air cooler included with the processor. sure, i could go find it somewhere else, but it'd help make this a more complete review if it was all just here, imo Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Unless you have some space limitation preventing you from using a quality HSF, a Closed Loop Cooler is a poor choice and has the very real liability of a water leak damaging your hardware, data loss, RMAs, etc.

    When you can buy a highend HSF for ~$60. that cools better, is quieter and never leaks water to damage your PC hardware, you'd be ignorant to buy a CLC which is inferior in every way as independent testing has confirmed.

    The Xigmatek Aegir SD128264 double heat-pipe HSF is a perfect example of a very quiet, cost effective, HSF fully capable of cooling an AMD FX CPU OC'd to 4.8 GHz. without issue. There are other HSFs with dual fans that cost more but few perform better than the Aegir. Note that the Xigmatek Aegie and other HSFs cool better than the Corsair H100 and AMD CLC cooler both of which are inferior and can leak water.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    http://www.frostytech.com/articleview.cfm?articlei...
    Reply
  • FriendlyUser - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review. It would be great to include the stock cooler and a good air cooler (Noctua, Thermalright or even the cheap CoolerMaster 212 EVO).

    I'm tempted by closed-loop coolers, but I'm not sure the technology is yet mature. I think it's the future...
    Reply
  • etamin - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see a CM Hyper 212 thrown into the charts for some kind of air cooler reference. That would be a big help to determining value. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    As was said it would be nice to have a really high end air cooler from Noctua like the NH-D14 in the charts for reference. I mean, the noctua can be found for around $80 and the mounting is solid (no plastic to strip although it is heavier so...). Is a $140 closed water system worth an extra $60? Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    The NH-D14 is on sale for $69.99 AR today at Newegg. Reply
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Are these kits strictly designed to be CPU coolers, or are they expandable to include GPU and maybe even MB chipset cooling, too?

    Sorry if I missed the answer to this in quickly reading through the article. It seems like if you are going to switch over to a liquid cooling system, you'd also want it to include the GPU (at least this would be true for enthusiasts who also enjoy computer gaming).

    If these are CPU only kits, I suppose they might find a place in a media player computer.
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    These kits are CPU only. You could probably hack a GPU block into one of the dual-length systems, but at that point you should just go full custom and get better performance. Reply
  • Foeketijn - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    There are simple mounting frames to screw the 2012 Antec and corsair blocks on any recent GPU. But from what I see in reality, most people use tie wraps ; ). IMHO these closed loop cooler are more suitable for GPU's since the radiator conducting properties (relatively thin and aluminum) are often the limiting factor (considering the results according to the tweakers who changed the radiator of these things). The efficiency goes up when you
    1. Get more air in contact with the radiator (bigger radiator, better fan, a bit of spacing between the fan and the radiator to avoid airflowing "dead spots")
    2. Get more heat from the water to the actual air (copper radiator, more fins etc.)
    3. Get the temp delta bigger. (colder air or warmer water)

    Cooling the GPU does number 3. Since modern GPU's can draw a lot more power than a CPU especially @stock and they function without a problem at much higher temps.
    Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    No Static Pressure readings? Nothing about the pumps on these thinks? Thermal paste that come with them? Really... What is going on with Anandtech? MORE DATA! More effort into this PLEASE... Reply

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