|Antec Kühler H2O 920 Liquid Cooler|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 12 April 2011|
Page 7 of 8
Liquid Cooler Final Thoughts
After Corsair's H50 hit the market, its success led to many other companies offering their own variations on the theme, if by "variations" you mean "label". Even Corsair's own H70, with its double-thickness radiator, is simply a version of Asetek's LC570 OEM cooler.
Antec's Kühler H2O systems are (so far) unique: they're not listed as OEM products by Asetek and Asetek posts no specifications on them, instead merely providing a link to Antec's product page. And as is depressingly standard in this market segment, technical information like pump flow rate are missing, so while I think the thicker hoses mean more water flow, I don't know if that's the case.
But what I do know are the performance figures I got in my testing, which place the Kühler 920 ahead of every other cooler I've tested. It solidly outperforms the similar Corsair Hydro Series H70, just as its little brother Kühler 620 outperforms the Corsair H50. Given that the radiators appear to be identical and the fans similar, the difference must lie with the pump and perhaps higher-flow tubing,
But its stellar performance comes with a commensurate cost: noise. With its twin fans running at full speed, the Kühler 920 emits a piercing shriek of sound. The ChillControl software shows the maximum sound as 56dBa, which is presumably inferred rather than actually measured. But it's still very loud, however you look at it. But remember that this is a worse-case scenario: it took the coolant several minutes to reach 40 degrees during my stress test, so unless you're running a heavily overclocked processor flat out for extended periods, you won't run into this situation. And you can ameliorate this sonic assault by using ChillControl's "Custom" setting and choosing reasonable temperatures for the fan speed ramp-up.
In previous reviews I've noted how rapidly the CPU cooler market was advancing, with new designs and new performance benchmarks appearing so frequently that it was hard to keep up. We seem to be approaching an asymptote, though: the size of air and water coolers is reaching the constraints imposed by standard computer cases, and performance is leveling off. Since any retail CPU is shipped with a perfectly good CPU cooler in the box, you might think that the only reason to purchase an aftermarket cooler is performance. While this is certainly the primary consideration, there are others, such as acoustics (how loud the cooler is) and aesthetics (for windowed cases). Also, bear in mind that not every cooler works in every situation: top-performing coolers tend to be both large and expensive, and are overkill for all but the hottest, most overclocked systems. There's room in the market for many different types of coolers, and the best solution for you is probably not the best solution for me.
The Kühler 920's performance will cost you: at an MSRP of $119.95, it's the most expensive single cooler I know of. While it is the best performing cooler I've ever tested, the Thermalright Silver Arrow and Cooler Master V6 GT come within two degrees of its performance (with stock fans) and cost $30 to $60 less, so the economic case for the Kühler H2O 920 difficult to make: it's simply not a very good value for the money. But the high end of computing hardware is filled with lust-worthy items that aren't good values, like the Intel Core i7 9xx series hexacore processors, or the NVIDIA GTX580 video cards, or even a $400 Lian Li aluminum case.
The market is full of people who are willing to pay top dollar for top performance. So if you simply must have the very best performance possible short of a bespoke water cooling system, the Antec Kühler H2O 920 is your baby.