Small Water Versus Big Air, Part 3: Cooling Questions Answered

Our quest to find an advantage—any advantage—in today’s maintenance-free compact liquid coolers began with CoolIT’s Domino A.L.C. sealed liquid system and the low-cost Cogage True Spirit 120mm tower. Unfortunately, the liquid cooler only performed as well as the air cooler when its custom-wired fan was forced to operate at its maximum speed of 2,800 RPM, versus the air cooler’s maximum fan speed of 1,600 RPM. The enormous increase in cost and noise for sub-par cooling performance put the Domino A.L.C. at an equally big disadvantage compared to the simpler sink and fan.

Our quest continued with Corsair’s H50 sealed-liquid system and Rosewill’s FORT120 air-cooling tower, where the air cooler’s fast 2,400 RPM fan gave it a cooling advantage comparable to its resulting acoustic disadvantage. Readers complained that the tradeoff between cooling and noise could only be addressed by using the same fan on both coolers, while Corsair pointed out that we weren't using the configuration the way it was designed, blowing cooler air through the radiator. In contrast, air coolers must typically use warm case air to cool the processor, which is a disadvantage not properly reflected on an open bench. End users typically don’t run open systems, and the H50 was designed to use the case advantageously.

This leaves us with a few additional configurations to test. How much better will the Corsair H50 and the Cogage True Spirit function with Rosewill’s FORT120 more powerful fan? How much worse will the Cogage True Spirit and Rosewill FORT120 perform in a closed system? Today we test each configuration inside a traditional oversized mid-tower case, using two different fan configurations for each unit.

Get ready. All of your questions are about to be answered.

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  • Stupido
    According to me, this review would have been more complete if two case were tested - the one used and one with top panel ventilation.