Well it’s that time of year again. The days are shorter, darker, and for many of us the ground has already turned white…again. And so as the year comes to a close we start to take stock of what the previous year has brought us. We remember the good times that were had and maybe the bad. Perhaps it’s an attempt to add value to the time lost, to reassure ourselves that we did indeed use our time well.
Certainly one of the most interesting aspects of this time of year is the inevitable posting of lists! All the listing and ordering of events, items, and achievements must bring the writer a sense of closure and completeness, but really who cares we just love reading these lists!
Not wanting to leave you feeling short handed, ThinkComputers is excited to bring you our own twist on the yearly list. It was just a few years ago that the all in one liquid cooling solution really hit the market, but in that short time the AIO has now become a must have for the serious computer enthusiast. This past year ThinkComputers has reviewed many of them for you, some good, some not so great.
Bringing the year to a close, we would like to present to you 2014’s best AIO coolers as reviewed by ThinkComputers.
As it turns out there are exactly 3 AIO’s that earned a 10/10 score in 2014. While all three are exceptional coolers, there can only be one champion.
Taking a strong 3rd place we have the Cooler Master Nepton 280L! (Review)
The Nepton 280L was one of our strongest performers at the time of the review. In fact overall it still boasts the lowest idle temps in our group. What knocked it down to 3rd place was it’s performance when things started to really heat up. Once we moved away from idle, the 280L just couldn’t keep up with our #1 and #2 coolers. This is not to say it’s not an excellent choice. This cooler earned it’s 10/10 score by having excellent cooling (with further headroom for overclocking) as well as a quality construction and an exceedingly simple installation.
Moving up one place to 2nd, we are surprised to find a 140mm cooler with 33% less surface area than the Nepton 280L, the NZXT Kraken X41! (Review)
I have to say when we began to compile our list for the top coolers of 2014 I didn’t expect the X41 to rise so far towards the top. Of course having reviewed and used the cooler for some time I knew that it was a beast of a 140mm cooler. Still you just don’t expect it to take down a 280mm cooler. It just goes to show that it’s not the size of your rad, it’s how you use it! To earn it’s 2nd place spot the NZXT packs some seriously drool worthy features. These include a variable speed pump, hue adjustable leds in the pump top, performance that makes you question the cost of a custom watercooling loop, and CAM software. On it’s own the X41 is a great cooler, but the CAM software makes it so much more fun by providing loads of performance data and adjustability. Finally an easy installation and great finishes round out our 2nd place runner up for 2014.
While our second place finisher was a surprise, our champion was no surprise at all. Taking the performance crown by what equates to mile is the Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate! (Review)
When we first set eyes on the 3.0 Ultimate, it was obvious that this was going to be a monster of a cooler. As the first 360mm rad AIO that we have tested, we had obvious high expectations. Thankfully this Tt colossus did not let us down. Under load the 3.0 Ultimate beats our #3 cooler by greater than 12°F! I suppose we should be less impressed as this is right where a 360 rad cooler should be performing, but it’s just truly impressive to have cooling this strong while having a completely painless installation process. And aside from flat out cooling performance, it is also extremely quiet while running and the price is spot on for what you get. The only gripe we found was slightly too long fan screws. When friends ask what cooler they should get for their next build, this is the one I recommend.