Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review
Published: 18th December 2014 | Source: Fractal Design | Price: |
"The King is Dead", "Long Live the King". Yes Ladies we have a new performance cooler at the top of the charts. It comes in the shape of the brand new S36, which, as the name alludes to is a 360mm radiator based AIO cooler from Fractal Designs new Kelvin series. The S36 sits at the top of the range, but rest assured it won't be long before we put the S24 and S12 through their paces.
But we are perhaps getting a bit ahead of ourselves. First let's take a look at what the S36 is made of. In designing the Kelvin series Fractal have enlisted the water cooling experience of Alphacool and have created an all Copper modular system. We say modular as although the S36 is purchased ostensibly as an AIO it is eminently possible to take it apart and add in additional components such as a GPU block or perhaps an additional radiator. This modularity is made possible by the use of standard, 1/4" threads on all components, and the use of 8/11mm tubing. The radiator itself is 30mm thick which about average for an AIO, so when combined with the three white bladed Silent Series fans will take up 55mm of space in either the front or roof of your case.
Assembling the S36 is a doddle, helped of course by clear and concise multi format instructions. In use the S36 is in all honesty and by quite a margin the quietest AIO we've ever heard. This thing is seriously silent, so much so that when we switched it on we were convinced the pump wasn't running and turned it off in what has to be said was a bit of a frantic stab at the power button. Having checked and re checked that there was power to the pump, remembering that we always use a dedicated 12V supply for all fans and pumps we again powered the system up. Now convinced that the pump was running we were still not able to hear discernible noise, or for that matter feel vibration from it. The same has to be said for the fans, which although audible were hardly intrusive.
As an AIO the Kelvin S36 is a bit of a star, but what of the modular capabilities? The idea of course is that you can add in additional water cooling components at a later date which will negate the need for you to ditch the AIO and buy a whole new loop. We think the concept is sound, although there will of course be those who having got wet with an AIO will feel the natural urge to dig deep into their pockets and design and build their very own custom loop. The Kelvin series does, we think, offer some middle ground between the full custom loop and the AIO, a solution for those not quite ready to go the whole hog or perhaps for those who in this age of austerity simply can't afford to shelve a perfectly good AIO when the time comes to upgrade. The potential weak point here though is the pump. Fractal state that it has a flow rate of 72L/H at a pressure of 1.0m H20. On the face of it these figures might seem just fine, but it's worth bearing in mind that compared to the least powerful Laing unit the Fractal has only a 5th of the pressure and pretty much just 1/10th of the flow rate. Still, as long as you don't go totally tonto, adding in both additional radiators and multi card graphics water blocks it should cope just fine.
If there are faults to be found with the S36 they are few and far between, and then not necessarily faults with the unit itself more than the size of the radiator limiting case compatibility over near equal performing 240mm and 280mm units, but that said, if you've got a case that will take a 360mm rad the world isn't exactly awash with choice.
A great deal will depend on price, but with the S36 expected to come in around £110 we think that if you're in the market for an AIO and your case will take a 360mm rad you'd be nuts not to buy it. With straight tens the S36 takes our gold award and as an extra scoops the Silence award that recognises the chaps at Fractal Design achieving what AIO manufacturers should have done years ago.