In this article, we’re checking out the best water cooling kit for your at-home rig. CPUs produce a lot of heat when they’re running, and a good cooling kit can keep the temperature low and keep the computer running more efficiently. We’ll give you the basics of water cooling kits, and show you the best cooling kits on the market.
What Is A Water Cooling Kit?
First thing’s first, if you’re unfamiliar with water cooling kits, let’s cover the basics. As mentioned above, CPUs tend to get quite hot while in use. This is because the CPU converts electrical energy into thermal energy. Cooling systems allow this heat to escape so that the CPU doesn’t overheat.
All types of coolers work on this principle, but some CPUs use water coolers and some use air coolers. In either CPU cooler model, the heat from the CPU’s processor is transferred to a metal lid, called an Integrated Heat Spreader. This helps “collect” heat from the CPU, and transfer the heat to the baseplate of the cooling mechanism (either air or water). The heat is taken, by water or through a pipe, to a cooling fan, which blows the heat away from the computer.
Water coolers are mostly sold in All-in-One (AIO cooler) designs. The coolers contain a baseplate, which is attached to the CPU’s IHS so that the heat can transfer efficiently to the baseplate. The base plate contains a GPU water block, which is filled with coolant. The coolant in the water block heats up, where it is taken, via a tube, into a radiator. The radiator heats up the surrounding air, which is blown out of the CPU by a fan. The cold coolant is taken back into the water block, via a separate tube, where the process can begin again.
Water cooling is an efficient method of cooling a CPU and is generally considered superior to systems that only utilize air. Because of this bump inefficiency, the water cooler can rely less on the fan, so you won’t have loud fan noise like you’ve come to expect from most air cooling performance systems.
The Best Water Cooling Kits
Now that we understand how water coolers work, let’s get to our top picks on the market. Here are some of our picks, but be sure to match them with your personal preferences:
|Top Top||Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix Liquid CPU Cooler||Best Overall||Check Best Price|
|Top Top||Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML240L RGB V2||Best Budget||Check Best Price|
|Top Top||NZXT Kraken X53 240mm||Best Premium||Check Best Price|
|Top Top||DEEPCOOL Captain 240PRO V2||Best Budget Runner Up||Check Best Price|
Best Overall – Corsair iCUE Elite Capellix
The Corsair iCUE is one of the top products on our list, from one of the most trusted names in CPU cooling. It also comes with a premium price tag to match, which will be a factor you’ll have to balance.
It’s a 360mm triple fan radiator for fast, efficient gaming PC cooling. It works quickly, and the triple fan makes sure no fan is working overtime – so that noise levels are kept low. Fan speeds are fully adjustable from 400 to 2400 RPM. The water block is attached to a split-flow copper cold plate which does a great job absorbing heat from the CPU.
It’s also important that this system has wide compatibility, and can be hooked up to a bunch of different gaming PCs. It comes packaged with 3 tool-free mounting brackets which are compatible with all modern AMD and Intel sockets.
It’s also lit with 33 ultra-bright RBG LEDs, which is more or less important depending on whether you’re going for a certain aesthetic with your setup. The LEDs are fully customizable.
A premium cooling option at a premium price tag. The right choice for cooling a more powerful CPU.
Best Budget – Cooler Master Master Liquid
The Master Liquid by Cooler Master is a capable liquid cooler that you can pick up without breaking the bank.
It’s a reliable dual-chamber pump system that offers great functionality for the price. It’s compatible with many popular CPU socket types, but you’re best to make sure that yours is compatible before purchasing (and this goes for any liquid cooler).
Several re-designs give it an edge over Cooler Master’s older models. The first is a radiator re-design which increases the surface area of the radiator fins, for better heat dispersion across the fins. The second is a re-designed fan blade, which improves airflow and reflects the LED lighting more effectively for a cooler aesthetic.
A great liquid cooling device for the price, this dual-fan cooler provides excellent functionality and efficiency considering its low price tag.
Best Premium – NZXT Kraken X53
Here’s a quality liquid cooling system from a trusted name in computer accessories. This liquid cooling system sports two fans, and it’s easy to set up with most major AMD and Intel sockets.
The product was built with a focus on aesthetics. The NZXT logo can be reoriented to face upward no matter which way you install the device. The RGB channel can be easily integrated with your other accessories to keep your entire aesthetic in sync.
But it’s no slouch in performance either. The Aer P radiator fans have a chamfered intake + fluid-dynamic bearing for quieter operation, more durability, and better performance. The rubber tubing also has a nylon-mesh sleeve for added durability.
High-performance liquid cooling kit with a special emphasis on aesthetic appeal.
Best Budget Alternative – DeepCool Captain
The DeepCool Captain is a solid AIO liquid cooler that is available at a more-than-fair price. For the price, we think it’s one of the best options available, and offers solid performance overall.
It packs decent power into its design. It’s a two-fan system, with a fan speed of 500-1800 PWM, and a noise level below 30dB. The stainless-steel pipe adds to the efficiency of the water block, and keeps it securely in place.
Installation is easy with the included spring screws, and it’s compatible with many major types of Intel and AMD CPU sockets (although you’ll need to be sure to check compatibility before you buy).
It’s a flashy device too, with a customizable RGB lighting system built into both the fans and the water block. There are 5 pre-programmed effects with several lighting modes to choose from. You can install SYNC control with motherboards for even more control.
This is a solid AIO liquid cooler for the price, offering reliable efficiency and functionality.
Water Cooling Kit Buyer’s Guide
With so many water cooling kits on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice. Before we wrap up this article, we’ll give you a buyer’s guide for making the ultimate choice among the options above. Remember to match these factors with your preferences to choose the water cooling setup best for you.
First, you’ll want to be sure that your cooling kit is compatible with your CPU socket. Many options on our list are highly compatible and include installation options for many common AMD or Intel sockets. Of course, this factor is a deal-breaker. If the device isn’t compatible, then it won’t be the right choice for you.
Amount of Fans/Fan Power
The radiator fans on your device play an essential role in the kit’s functionality. The fans are the components that blow the heat away from the device once it is transferred away from the CPU (via the water cooling system). The more powerful the fans, the more efficiently they can blow heat from the device, and the more efficiently your CPU can run. If you have a particularly demanding rig, you might want a cooling kit with more fans. You can find single-fan kits, up to triple-fan designs, and more.
Also, look at specific metrics that measure the power of the fans themselves. The fans’ speed will be measured by RPM, and its airflow will be measured by CFM. The higher these figures, the more powerful the fans.
A powerful fan is great for functionality, but a more powerful fan often comes with a corresponding increase in fan noise. One of the primary benefits of a water cooling kit is they tend to be quieter than an air cooling kit on average. You’ll want to pay attention to the fan’s noise range, which is usually given in decibels (dBA). The more decibels, the louder the fans. A quality water cooling kit will generate maximum power with minimum noise.
As with many considerations in computer accessories these days, aesthetics are key to your decision. Popular water cooling kits have been designed with this in mind. Many have aesthetic touches and customization options to increase the flashiness of your rig. For example, many offer detailed RGB lighting schemes, with many different lighting/customization options. Often, these RGB options will be both for the radiator fans and the water block. Some options on our list have options for re-orienting the logo no matter how the device is installed.
Of course, these aesthetic touches are purely subjective preferences. If you’re unsure of your preferences, we’d recommend a device with plenty of customization options, so that you can tweak the settings until you find your preferred look.
Price vs. Quality
Price is an obvious consideration in anything you buy. However, the better factor to consider is price vs. quality. If you cheap out on a product that doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, then you’re bound to not be happy with your purchase overall. Therefore, we recommend you settle on a price range you are comfortable with, and survey products available within that price range. This way, you can narrow down your choices, while still choosing an option that makes you happy. Consider the factors directly above to make your decision.
Thanks for reading our comprehensive guide to water coolers. These powerful devices provide a noticeable upgrade to your CPU’s cooling capabilities. Use our guide to pick the best water cooling kit for your home set-up.