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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  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    If you care about that stuff, you aren't going to buy a closed loop system. Reply
  • Novuake - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    That is why I would like REAL data to compare with other cooling solutions... Otherwise whats the point of a comparison if I do not know how CLCs compare to a custom loop. Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    ....I installed it as Corsair directed as an intake and it's still installed that way. However, I was concerned that as the PSU (Corsair HX750) was sat above it and blowing out warm air that we would end up with a cycling of warm air back into the case which wouldn't help.

    I noticed that as my PC desk had a closed back that the air space behind the PC got warm. Warm air from the PSU was being drawn down so cool air wouldnt be going into the H50.

    So I devised a simple solution of sticking a simple air dam about 3 inches deep along the full width and back of the case just below the PSU. The dam was angled at 45 degrees therefore, 'pushing' the warm air up and over and closing the space between the back of the desk and the PC.

    This kept the air space below the PSU and right where the H50 intake was nice and cool.
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would be nice if you at least mentioned the Antec pieces which were even a little ahead of the Corsair pieces (Until the recent "i" series) .

    Kulher 920?
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Not a 2013 model. The H80 is only here to provide reference to the most popular 2012 model, the rest is new for 2013. Reply
  • monsooni - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    I have been thinking about my case layout and air flow. I am using a Corsair 650D with the original H50 cooler. Since most "gamer" class video cards come close to closing off the air flow between the bottom of the case and the upper areas, it is possible that rotating the rear exhaust fan to become an intake, and using the top fan as the exhaust for the upper area, makes sense if you have a setup that closes off the bottom.
    That type of setup would give the case "zones" that could be managed for noise and temp separately of each other, similar to rack mount servers.
    Reply
  • Shiitaki - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    In reading some of the comments, I had some thoughts on water cooling. This review is a comparative review, useful if you are deciding between the reviewed units. It also indicates trends, and gives an idea of the benefit to the big radiators. With enough are flow, you won't need a big radiator, using a big radiator really lowers the required fan noise, not just cooling. Indeed, a modern processor doesn't NEED a big radiator. Water is good for cooling, you may have noticed that even Porsche uses water now. Water carries ten times the heat. I switched from air to water and lowered the temp by 8c not because the water cooler was getting rid of more heat, but because the heat was being carried away faster with water running through the water block than being carried up copper pipes. When it comes to cases, who cares? Unless the testing happens to be done in the case you have or will have, does it really matter? I agree with the critique that some details about the pumps would have been good. Water cooling can make for a very quite computer, unless there is pump noise and gurgling going on. The inability of the sound pressure meter to go below 30 db is also not great. I can assure you that Apple's sound meter goes lower, having spent some considerable time trying to match the silence of an iMac. A great review to see, I went with Zalman just prior to the review though. It has what I think is a goofy Asetek mounting and has some pump rattle. The rattle is quietter after a couple of days. When it comes to cases, their is little novelty or innovation. The Raven series is the rare diversion in the industry.

    When I did a full fledged water cooling setup, cooling the video card was a huge difference, much more so than the cpu. Water cooling is what Nvidia should be using for their high end cards. There's an idea for Zalman, a closed loop system with a universal mounting for video cards.
    Reply
  • dusk007 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Why a water cooling solution just for the CPU. They are big and expensive and CPUs are in almost any case (that you can fit one of these) easy to cool. The only point I see for water cooling is when one has a workstation with two sockets or some GPUs to cool but such a single CPU closed All-In-One solution is useless there.
    Is there really a market for nerds who only want an overclocked CPU and don't care about nothing else. A Gamer would want to cool the GPUs more as they matter and somebody that needs number crunching power will get more out of a two socket workstation than overclocking.

    Why aren't there any decent tests of Sets for actual water cooling that can incorporate 1-2 GPUs and not only the CPU which has more than enough space for a huge tower cooler anyway (and those work fine)?
    Reply
  • Treckin - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    The Antec closed loop systems had the integrated USB interface far before Corsair, Im not sure why they arn't mentioned here. Also, I believe they are made by Asetek and judging by the look of the software in the NZXT, it looks like a bad reskin
    Not very thourough if you ask me
    Reply
  • darkfalz - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Would have been a good inclusion for comparison... Reply

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