Three High-End Liquid-Cooling Cases Compared

Dominating the performance PC market, liquid-component cooling lets enthusiasts put a large radiator in a better-optimized location compared to standard heat sinks, but without the complication, noise, or decreased reliability of “extreme cooling” alternatives.

On the other hand, bulky external components and severe case modifications have typically limited the best liquid-cooling configurations to the world of “case mod freaks,” rather than true performance fanatics. Koolance has produced a few high-end liquid-cooling cases for as long as most of us can remember. And a majority of alternative designs have either been bulky or under-powered.

One of the few liquid-cooled case makers to stand the test of time, Koolance became an easy choice when we were searching for a suitable reference point to compare a fresh entry in the liquid-cooling market. That competing product is Zalman’s new LQ1000 integrated liquid-cooling chassis, which we first photographed for our CES 2008 coverage.

Both companies target high-end buyers with materials and workmanship unrivaled by mid-priced brands, so we limited today’s comparison to first-rate, desktop-sized assemblies.

A third manufacturer’s inability to deliver its newest product in time for our deadline would have left us with a two-way comparison, except that we already had another “alternative solution” on-hand. Our March and June System Builder Marathon high-end configurations had carefully selected cooling components with a specially selected case. We were always curious about how our parts choices would compete against custom-designed units and this is our opportunity to find out.

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  • mitchelln
    I don't really see the point of reviewing these serious water cooling solutions if you don't test the additional coolers the companies offer. For example, why not test the Koolance rig with the chipset and graphics card coolers attached? This would have substantially lowered the chipset temperatures. The Koolance case was not designed to air cool internal components like an air cooled case. Koolance systems are for people who want to easily water cool as many components of their system as possible.

    Also, you kept mentioning the Koolance's noise at maximum fan levels. In the 7 years I have owned a Koolance system (with CPU, Chipset, SLI Video card and RAM water blocks fitted), I have never seen my Koolance ramp up the fans beyond the low levels.
  • EasterEEL1
    I purchased the Zalman LQ1000 in early September after reading the positive by review. Like Tomshardware I also had problems with the motherboard mounting holes and had to bend, twist and force the PCI Express cards into place as well as my PCI Audigy Sound Card. Really poor for a premium priced £400 case. Given that this looks like a general problem it is disappointing did not mention this and neither does the more recent review.

    Also I contacted Zalman through their web form with the following questions:

    1) Looking into the case from the side, the hose coming out of the left side of the pump (factory preassembled), does not have a tube clamp on it. Is this a problem i.e. should this have a tube clamp fitted?
    2) The other end of the same hose connected to the nipple near the radiator (factory default) does not have a clamp attached. Should there be one and therefore is it missing?
    3) The CPU waterblock comes with Tube Clamp Size A (13.8mmx9.5mm) and Tube Clamp Size B (11.5mm 8mm). Which size tube clamps should I use?
    4) The LQ1000-Z Machine manual advises not to use thermal paste with the CPU block. The CPU block comes with thermal paste sachet. Why would I not use thermal paste?

    I posed these questions twice during September and have not received a response from Zalman either time. Again not good for a premium priced bit of kit. This lack of customer service would stop me purchasing Zalman again.

    Apart from the mounting hole problems the case is superb and quite easy to set-up. It is very quiet and keeps my Q6600 CPU (o/c to 3.2Ghz) at 22C idle or 40C load (hottest core). Although my graphics card is air cooled it gains from the overall low ambient temp in the case. The left panel with the radiator and large fan does let a fair amount of dust in. The case is very heavy, even though it is aluminium.
  • EasterEEL1
    Update, Zalman support in the UK is via So even though I didn't purchase through them they have arranged with Zalman for a new motherboard tray to be sent to me with correctly positioned mounting holes.

    So my faith in Zalman customer service has been restored. Zalman never responded to my web form questions which is disappointing though.