Id-Cooling believes its inch-thick 120mm closed-loop cooler can handle a mildly overclocked six-core LGA 2011-v3 processor. But should it? We take a closer look!
Most manufacturers aren’t gutsy enough to send a compact cooler for our big system test, since radiator size looms large in cooling capacity. Compact systems that lack the space for “Big Air” CPU cooling towers are probably the best market for small liquid units, but Id-Cooling’s submission could have one advantage: Any unit that can handle the thermal load of the overclocked Core i7-5930K in our CPU cooler testing beast should be more than adequate to cool your quad-core compact desktop.
The Icekimo 120 is a compact 119x154mm, although its 26mm radiator thickness is fairly common. You’ll also need around 70mm or more of space above the CPU, since there aren’t any angle fittings on its non-reinforced rubber tubing. The Icekimo includes factory installed square-ILM brackets to fit Intel’s recent desktop LGAs, a pair of AMD brackets that replace a motherboard’s clip brackets (assuming they have the standard four-hole mounts), a semi-universal support plate for non-LGA 2011x motherboards, a set of fan and radiator screws, threaded standoffs and studs that fit the support plate, a separate set of studs to fit LGA 2011x integrated support plates, insulating fiber washers for the non-2011x standoffs, a set of nuts to secure the pump to the standoffs, and a small tube of Id-Cooling’s thermal paste.
Designed to mate with a CPU’s heat spreader, the Icekimo’s pump base is finely machined and extra flat. The factory installed Intel brackets are not drilled for the ancient LGA 775 standard, though the support plate for the back of the motherboard (oddly) is.
The Icekimo’s pump lead has a three-pin connector, while the fan has four leads and supports a motherboard’s PWM-based speed control.
While LGA 2011x users can screw the appropriate standoffs directly into the motherboard’s support plate, everyone else will need to hold the kit’s multi-format support plate on the back of their motherboard, push the threaded pins through the board’s cooler mounting holes, add a fiber washer over the exposed end of each stud, and then screw the other set of (hollow) standoffs all the way to the bottom, until the support plate is firmly secured. Both methods result in a similar number of exposed threads onto which the nuts will be added.
After applying thermal compound to the CPU, the pump slides over the Icekimo mounting kit’s exposed standoff threads and is secured with nuts. In order to maximize airflow over our motherboard’s voltage regulator heat sinks, I left the case’s 140mm fan on the rear panel and added the Icekimo cooling system to its top-panel mount. The case retains positive pressure due to its two intake fans and the lack of rear-panel exhaust on the test machine’s graphics card.
Since I haven’t tested any 120mm liquid coolers on this machine, I’m comparing it instead to three tower-style 120mm CPU coolers. The air-cooled advantage, in this case, is that the sinks are thicker and feed exhaust directly into the case’s exhaust fan. The disadvantage of tower-style coolers is that most 120mm models require greater than 6” (152mm) of internal clearance. Because Id-Cooling opted to face off against coolers of this size, we retain the hardware configuration from previous big cooler reviews.
The Icekimo appears to struggle to keep our overclocked Core i7-5930K cool at half fan speed, but the motherboard itself has been configured to allow a 115°C throttle point. We’ve seen it reach that on 92mm coolers, and the Icekimo is able to fit into even less space than those failed offerings.
The Icekimo’s 3-pin pump isn’t adjustable on this motherboard, but our noise level chart will show that its fan makes most of the noise.
With the fan at half speed and the pump at full blast, the Icekimo’s noise is barely perceptible. The 30.8 decibel reading at full fan speed sounds like a muffled roar, but still isn’t terrible compared to most other 120mm coolers. I suggest putting it on the back of the case, facing away from you, and using the motherboard’s automatic fan control to bring noise back down to barely perceptible levels under normal loads.
Air coolers have no pumps to make extra noise, but only the NH-U12S was substantially quieter than the Icekimo 120. In this comparison, its lower acoustic efficiency is primarily affected by its higher temperatures.
The most important thing to keep in mind when comparing the performance value of the Icekimo to its air-cooled counterparts is that the compact liquid cooler is able to fit far smaller cases. Most slim cases have room to add a 1” thick radiator to a 120mm fan mount, and those buyers will find that the slim air coolers that also fit their cases don’t even have the capacity to cool our test system’s overclocked Haswell-E CPU.
When you buy a liquid cooler, you pay for the pump. Adding that to the fact that the Id-Cooling Icekimo isn’t big enough to keep up with the thicker 120mm tower-style air coolers, and you’re left with something that looks like poor value. But once again, it’s important to remember that the reason we don’t test slim air coolers in our big system is that they can’t keep our big CPU below its thermal threshold.
What this means, overall, is that Id-Cooling succeeded in proving that its little Icekimo liquid cooler is powerful enough for a big overclocked CPU, but that the only people who will find it to be a better option than big air are those who can’t fit a big-air cooler. Had the firm included a set of narrow-ILM notches in its similarly-spaced AMD mounting brackets, it could have been a perfect mate for my X99E-ITX/ac and one of my old HTPC cases.
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