Water Cooling Kit Group-Test

Awards and Conclusion

Water Cooling Kit Mega-test

 

Conclusion

  

EKWB L 240 - £174.95 @ SpecialTech

Priced at £174 the EKWB L 240 is the most expensive kit in the test.  You do however get a real feeling of quality, the unboxing process alone leaving you as giddy as a school girl.  With it's cylinder res/pump assembly, chrome compression fittings and matte Black tubing we also think it's the best looking kit in the group test.  As potential buyers of kits include those who have never installed a loop before EK have included a comprehensive set of spiral bound A4 sized instructions to help guide them through the installation process.  This we feel is an important point and one not necessarily appreciated by all the manufacturers in this test.  As a result of the instructions and the simplicity of the compression fittings (we appreciate they're not to everyone's taste) the fitting process was a breeze.  The inclusion of a bracket that enables the res/pump combo to attached to a fan mount enabled us to build a clean and tidy loop with all of the goodies in a position where they would be clearly visible through a case window.  In use the 1600rpm fans were reasonably quiet at 12v and essentially inaudible at 7v.  Pump noise was also un-intrusive.  The performance of the EKWB system was on a par with the others for the majority of the testing.  At 4.6GHz and with the fans at 12v it was beaten by only 1 degree by the Alphacool kit and with the fans stepped down to 7v beaten only by the Phobya with it's much thicker Radiator. 

The EKWB system may not have had the highest outright performance but all things considered we think it very worthy of a gold award

     

 

 

XSPC Raystorm 750 RS240 V4 - £142.95 @ SpecialTech

The XSPC kit will set you back a mere £142, making it the least expensive of the kits on test here.  The low price however does not belie the inherent feel of quality and attention to detail.  XSPC have bundled the excellent Raystorm Cold plate with V4 of X20 750 pump res combo and the slim RS240 Radiator.  Opening up the XSPC kit won't give you the wonderful wow feeling that you get with the EK kit as XSPC have chosen predominantly plain brown boxes.  But on the other hand you're not left wondering just how much of the cost of the kit went on glitzy packaging.  XSPC also include an A4 instruction booklet again recognising that kits such as these are likely to be bought by those making their first tentative steps into water cooling.  Assembly was a smooth affair using the old trick of warming the 7/16" tubing before slipping it over the wide bore  1/2" black chrome barbs.  XSPC recommend that you use the included black nylon double grip hose clamps which is a shame really as they are fuggly as hell and do nothing for the aesthetics which are otherwise enhanced by the LED back lit RASA cold plate.  From a sonic perspective the X20 750 is the quietest on test here, and in fact one of the quietest we've ever heard.  Not something you could have said a few years back when they were more than a bit prone to resonance issues.  The pump was so quiet in fact that during leak testing we had a moment of panic when we thought it had failed only to find out it was actually going quietly about it's business.  On the down side the silence of the pump does make the noise from the 1650 RPM fans a bit more noticeable but we can hardly hold that against them.  When it came to testing the XSPC managed to keep pace with it's more expensive brethren.  When it came to the extremely demanding 4.6GHz test at 12v It slipped into equal last place with the Phobya by only a few fractions of a degree .  Not bad when you consider that I has the thinnest rad on test with the RS 240 measuring a mere 35mm thick as compared to the Phobyas monster of a Rad at 60.5mm thick.  At 7v the XSPC came dead last, but if you take the time to look at the graphs you'll see that Phobya aside there's not a lot to choose between all the others at 7v  Swapping the fans out for the Noctuas saw the XSPC kit take second place behind the EKWB rig at 12v and second to last just above the Phobya at 7v.  This perhaps indicates that it's the fans that are letting the side down somewhat.

XSPC also get a well earned Gold.  They might not have come at the top of the performance charts but the system still coped with the tortuous 4.6GHz test at both 12v and 7v.  A knock down price of £142 makes this the kit to go for if you're on a limited budget.

        

 

 

AlphaCool NexXxoS Cool Answer 240 DDC/XT45 - £169.99 @ SpecialTech

At £169 the AlphaCool NexXxoS Cool Answer 240 DDC/XT45 is only a fiver or so shy off the price of the EKWB offering.  coincidentally It also comes packed in a very similar briefcase style box with each of the components individually packed inside.  AlphaCool are also the only suppliers to include a bottle of coolant in their kit so should you buy it, you will truly have everything you need to get up and running.  Rudimentary instructions are provided to guide you through waterblock assembly but you're going to have to work the rest out for yourselves, as this kit appears to be aimed more at those who have a decent grasp of how to assemble a loop.  That said a quick look at the Alphacool website and you'll find a few videos to help you out, and should you happen to speak German they'll help even more.  Instructions aside It's fair to say the Alphacool kit was a bit of a pig to put together.  The DDC style pump has to be crammed and clipped into the rear of the single bay res while trying to hold the very thin anti vibration mat in place.  We also had to bend the 5.25" bay guides on our Cooler Master "Test Trooper" case in order to actually get the bay res in.  Alphacool supply 6 "Deep Black" 1/2" ID compression fittings along with a good 3 metres of 3/8" ID - 1/2" OD (10-13mm) tubing.  The tubing is highly flexible but we found to be quite prone to kinking in tight radius bends.  All in all the assembly was not a good experience and one that would have sent a novice running for the hills scarred for life by their first foray into water cooling.  In use we found the pump to be noisier than expected, with a degree of resonance through the case.  The 1300rpm fans however were the quietest on test and from the results obtained appear to do a good job for such a low rpm unit.  At 4.6GHz and 12v the Cool Answer took the Performance crown beating even the thick rad'd Phobya.  At 7v things weren't quite so good with the Cool Answer dropping to second last just above the XSPC rig.  Popping the Noctuas in at 12v and 4.6GHz saw the AlphaCool rig slip to second last but with exactly the same temps as with it's kit fans.  This would indicate to us that the fans it comes with are pretty damn decent as unlike the other units the temps are not really improved by the substitution of the Noctuas. 

AlphaCool take the performance crown however  a difficult assembly and installation process, tubing that is a bit too prone to kinking and lack-lustre instructions keep it from netting a Gold over all. 

    

 

 

Phobya UC LT 240 - £147.05 @ SpecialTech

Finally we come to the "Fear It" Phobya.  At £147 it's the second cheapest on test here, being only five quid more than the XSPC set up.  Unlike all the others the Phobya does not come with an integrated pump/res, making assembly that bit more tricky, and potentially considerably more ugly.  Phobya look to have brought this kit together not so much for the novice but more for the experienced water cooling enthusiast.  We say this as I is not so much a kit so much as a collection of parts brought together by the manufacturers and retails to enable you to buy everything in one place at the best possible part.  This we thing goes some way to explain why an installation guide is not included with the phobya kit.  Still, it would have been nice to have some guidance in other areas, the Water block assembly for example.  On a more positive note at 60.5mm thick the G-Changer 240 v2 radiator is the thickest on test here.  It just fitted into the roof of our case with the 25mm thick fans attached but you wouldn't have gotten a Gnats toe nail between it and the RAM.  Under testing at the highest overclock and with the fans at 12v the Phobya kit came equal third with the XSPC set up.  However it's at the lower fan speeds brought about at 7v that the Phobya's big thick rad came into it's own, beating all around by a clear 4 degrees and being only 1.5 degrees warmer at 7v than the XSPC kit at 12v.  Lob in the Noctuas and like the AlphaCool the temps at 12v remain unchanged with the temps at 7v actually increasing by a few degrees. 

The Phobya kit was a bit let down by it's complete lack of instructions awkward installation process and potentially less aesthetic results, but recognising it's performance results especially at 7v the Phobya gets a Silver

       

 

 

It's clear from the results that up to 4.6GHz there's not really a lot to separate these kits.  At 4.6GHz things do seem to become a little clearer with a different performance winner at 12v and 7v.  This as you've probably guessed it is down to the fans and the thickness of the radiators.  This is best shown by the results achieved when the fans were swapped out and standardised with the Noctua NF-F12s.  Under these conditions the EK saw an increase in it's performance enabling it to take the performance crown from the Alphacools set up at 12v and pretty much share it at 7v.  Don't go thinking that this was a poor performance on behalf of AlphaCool though, part of the reason the EK took the win was because the AlphaCool fans were so good in the first place and swapping them out made little difference to it's standing when the Noctua's were attached.

If you're wondering how these kits measure up against the AIOs then you might like to cas your eyes back over the graphs, and in particular the performance of the NZXT X60.  At it's extreme setting the Humble X60 pretty much trounces anything in this group and doesn't do too bad at 7v.  This is pretty much down to the 2000rpm fans used by NZXT in the X60 so there is a sonic penalty to pay for that level of performance.  The H100i also makes a good fist of keeping things cool at 4.6GHz achieving a temp just a fraction lower than all but the AlphaCool system.

So why go for a custom loop over an AIO?  Well a lot of it has to do with aesthetics and versatility.  A properly installed water cooling system should be a thing of beauty.  Now we're not saying AIOs are ugly, but in no way can you achieve the same sort of results as you can with a custom loop.  If you're guiding forces are those of price and simplicity then an AIO is perhaps the way to go.  If however you prize beauty, versatility, expandability and individuality, then you need to think more about the custom/kit option.  Each of the kits on test here today has something slightly different to offer, whichever you go for you won't be disappointed.

Thanks to the boys at SpecialTech for sorting us out with all of the kits on test today, you can discuss your thoughts and ask for advise about any aspect of your system in the OC3D Forums. 

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Most Recent Comments

08-07-2013, 06:17:35

tinytomlogan
XSPC, EK, AlphaCool and Phobya do battle. Who will be crowned king of the 240mm radiator Water Cooling kits


http://www.overclock3d.net/gfx/artic...053156396l.jpg


Continue Reading

08-07-2013, 06:38:38

bofeming
Nice review TTL, I really apreciate this beacause I was wondering to buy a kit, and I think the EK looks better for me.
Maybe in the near future I can buy some loop expansion, like other rad, better pump/res and a block for my GC.
Do you think it will be worth? Or should I buy a custom loop directly.
Must say that this gonna be my 1st custom WC project.

Thx again for the review

08-07-2013, 06:45:20

SieB
Interesting read, would be good to see more reviews like this

I'm surprised at the performance of the XSPC RS rad, given that it's the thinnest out of the lot. Not much in it at all though really, unless you are trying to get the lowest temps possible, it doesn't really matter which kit you go with.

08-07-2013, 06:56:13

tinytomlogan
Quote:
Originally Posted by bofeming View Post
Nice review TTL, I really apreciate this beacause I was wondering to buy a kit, and I think the EK looks better for me.
Maybe in the near future I can buy some loop expansion, like other rad, better pump/res and a block for my GC.
Do you think it will be worth? Or should I buy a custom loop directly.
Must say that this gonna be my 1st custom WC project.

Thx again for the review

G-Dubs did this review dude. I may own OC3D but theres VB and Gdubs doing reviews too dudio

08-07-2013, 08:48:35

Greenback
Thanks Gary for the time you put in to this I have been hoping for something like this.
As SieB said the xspc rs240 result was interesting and makes you wonder how the RX240 kit would of done. (I don't expect you to do it you have done a good job here)
I think it also shows that in all fairness if you are only looking at a cpu loop and never want to upgrade the AIO's are a viable option considering they are cheaper and you could put Gt ap15's or nf-f12's with the money you would save, And probably get near on the same results

08-07-2013, 09:35:58

tinytomlogan
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenback View Post
Thanks Gary for the time you put in to this I have been hoping for something like this.
As SieB said the xspc rs240 result was interesting and makes you wonder how the RX240 kit would of done. (I don't expect you to do it you have done a good job here)
I think it also shows that in all fairness if you are only looking at a cpu loop and never want to upgrade the AIO's are a viable option considering they are cheaper and you could put Gt ap15's or nf-f12's with the money you would save, And probably get near on the same results

The RX240 would have scored much the same as the phobya, the CPU isnt maxing the rads hence the temps. Having a bigger rad just means better low speed fan results if you look........

08-07-2013, 10:21:39

lwatcdr
I was surprised how well the H110 and H100i held up. Seems like AIOs are pretty good these days.

08-07-2013, 10:22:46

tinytomlogan
Quote:
Originally Posted by lwatcdr View Post
I was surprised how well the H110 and H100i held up. Seems like AIOs are pretty good these days.
Its not THAT surprising tbh. These style kits are as low as I would ever go tbh.

IMHO water is all about aesthetics and low fan speeds with better than air load temps.

08-07-2013, 10:41:34

Montysaurus
I just ordered my first XSPC WC kit from Specialtech and find your beginners Vids on their site extremely helpful. This set of reviews has been really informative regarding the instructions which come with the kits and I'm glad I went with XSPC.
Thanks again TTL and all the crew at OC3d for all the hard work and getting us the info.

08-07-2013, 10:47:24

airdeano
i love a good ole shootout.. great review gary!

watching the graphs shrink with voltage increase was interesting, as the 1.45v
"weed out" temperatures showed kit brawniness.
very good..

(side note: in the graphs Raystorm is Raysorm)

08-07-2013, 14:05:02

Mysterae
Great review for wannabe and existing watercooling folk; to learn and compare respectively. Having done a lot of testing with my own rig, I can see the amount of work this group test would have taken.

Testing these kits in the fairest and honest way as has been done here, I think vindicates the AIO market somewhat. Performances almost on par, it's about the kind of experience one wants, and how risk averse they are too .

08-07-2013, 16:02:26

Mgutierrez33
Very informative review (typos aside x-P). May have to do some measurements in my chassis now (Graphite 600T with roof and front mesh removed) based on what I saw here in terms of rad thickness since I want to go for single low-speed fan configs when I DO get a loop going. Also has me considering some other brands as well for components.

08-07-2013, 17:04:19

FTLN
Nice reviews Gary,,

But i wish you guys would change the way you do your graphs..

There so uneasy on the eye....

08-07-2013, 20:53:41

lwatcdr
For me it is all about practicality. I like the reduction in the stress on the motherboard and reduction of RAM clearance issues compared to a large air cooler. I do like less noise as well. That isn't to say that I do not enjoy your builds. I hate windows in cases and just want a nice clean look myself. My wife wants a red case for her next build with a big window and lights. My next build will probably use a Fractal Design case while my wife will probably get a Phantom.

09-07-2013, 09:17:16

kittysniper
Thanks for the review and comparison, nice to know the best way to improve is to use noctua fans instead of stock 1s imo, which seems to be causing the biggest difference.

09-07-2013, 09:34:47

tinytomlogan
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittysniper View Post
Thanks for the review and comparison, nice to know the best way to improve is to use noctua fans instead of stock 1s imo, which seems to be causing the biggest difference.
Doesnt have to be noctua dude...... Just 'better' fans. Also if you READ the whole review youll see the closed loop fans in one of the kits performed the same as the Noctuas

09-07-2013, 10:23:52

d3rrial
That review was very helpful, I now decided I would buy an EK-Kit now, instead of the Alphacool one thank you a lot!

10-07-2013, 12:36:16

SimonB
love xspc raystorm look illuminated with leds of your build color would be just ,och my god geekporn for sure =DD other then that they all are good but i wouldint buy it ;/ since i prefer 360 or 240x6/8 fat rad just to be able having lover noise i become silence adict since i got my sp120QE =DD

24-07-2013, 21:19:38

loglog
honestly i'm kind of dissapointed in these kits. Seeing as how a NZXT-X60 and Corsair H100i can keep up or out preform them for a cheaper price an no maintenance required.
It is true that these have expandability options, but honestly if thats your plan you should save up and do it all at once.

25-07-2013, 01:39:10

NeverBackDown
Quote:
Originally Posted by loglog View Post
honestly i'm kind of dissapointed in these kits. Seeing as how a NZXT-X60 and Corsair H100i can keep up or out preform them for a cheaper price an no maintenance required.
It is true that these have expandability options, but honestly if thats your plan you should save up and do it all at once.
Well the kits don't exactly have much more surface area than the AIOs so for them being as far ahead as they were is pretty impressive.

26-07-2013, 17:36:54

loglog
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverBackDown View Post
Well the kits don't exactly have much more surface area than the AIOs so for them being as far ahead as they were is pretty impressive.
I certainly dont disagree with you. However I would have imagined being a true WC kit, that having a separate res and rad would have lowered temps a little bit and by holding more coolant, but maybe thats just thining wrong.

26-07-2013, 19:53:47

NeverBackDown
Quote:
Originally Posted by loglog View Post
I certainly dont disagree with you. However I would have imagined being a true WC kit, that having a separate res and rad would have lowered temps a little bit and by holding more coolant, but maybe thats just thining wrong.
You're correct. But think about it.. How much more fluid is actually making contact and how much faster is the fluid going? Not much(mostly) so therefore it as almost always comes down to the fans. So considering how much farther they are it's pretty impressive.

26-07-2013, 21:47:40

loglog
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverBackDown View Post
You're correct. But think about it.. How much more fluid is actually making contact and how much faster is the fluid going? Not much(mostly) so therefore it as almost always comes down to the fans. So considering how much farther they are it's pretty impressive.
Very true, very true. I guess I was simply over estimating their stock potential. Better fans would definintly have helped; I'm qurious to see how each would have preformed with some GT AP-15's or NF-F12's.
Also having the ability to expand to a second rad or being able to add the GPU into the loop i guess is where the main value comes into play.
Reply
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