Introduction & Closer Look
Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen a number of CPU coolers from Cooler Master, in both air and liquid guises. Today we have another, but this time it’s the daddy of the range… the MasterLiquid Pro 280.
The performance of both the MasterAir and MasterLiquid products that have gone before it have been nothing short of spectacular. Therefore, the big question during today’s testing, is can the Pro 280 push those boundaries a stage further? Let’s find out, shall we?
The Master Liquid Pro 280 has support for all the major Intel and AMD sockets out of the box, with the exception of AM4. You can request an additional bracket however for AM4 compatibility if required. They sockets supported are as follows:
This Pro iteration follows the same design cues of the previously reviewed MasterLiquid range, but with a few important little upgrades in its arsenal.
Firstly, the included fans have been upgraded to the Pro version… in this instance, the MasterFan Pro 140 air pressure variant. This fan has already proven its beastly performance when fitted to the MasterAir coolers, so it’s nice to see them included. For those not familiar with this fan, it includes a tiny switch on the rear, to toggle it’s performance between Performance, Quiet or Silent, which basically limits the maximum RPM that can be achieved for each mode.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade however, is in the pump/head unit. Here we have a larger variant of Cooler Master’s dual chamber technology, which includes Cooler Master’s FlowOp technology, along with a precision water block, which boasts a massive 657% bigger surface area for heat dissipation.
Flipping the pump head over, the design of the visible element has also been changed over the standard MasterLiquid product range, with the inclusion of a windowed top chamber, featuring an etched Cooler Master logo.
What hasn’t changed on the Pro version is the FEP tubing, with its woven sleeves. This is a good thing as the performance we have seen from these previously has been really good. Not only do they look nice when fitted, but they offer a good balance of strong rigid structure, with enough flexibility to bend & route them within your case.
Finally, whilst the radiator itself looks identical at first glance, a closer look shows a much squarer design to the fin layout, to allow a greater airflow through the unit.
|Product Name||MasterLiquid Pro 280|
|Radiator||Dimension (L x W x H)||311 x 138 x 27 mm (12.24 x 5.43 x 1.06″)|
|Fan||Dimension||140 x 140 x 25 mm (5.5 x 5.5 x 1″)|
|Fan Speed||650 ~ 2200RPM (PWM) ± 10%|
|Air Flow||64.21 CFM (Max)|
|Air Pressure||3.15 mmH2O (Max)|
|Noise Level||6 ~ 30 dBA (Max)|
|L-10 Life||70,000 Hours|
|Rated Voltage||12 VDC|
|Pump||Noise Level||< 12 dBA (Max)|
|L-10 Life||50,000 Hours|
|Rated Voltage||12 VDC|
Since our previous cooling reviews prior to November 2016, we have decided to update the method accordingly for better and consistent results. It isn’t ideal running Prime95 for a prolonged period of time and if you get called away to do something, it could be left running for much longer than needed. Our new methodology involves running a very stressful multi-threaded performance benchmark called ROG RealBench.
It should also be noted that the reason we omit acoustic/noise testing is due to an inaccuracy within the readings and method. To provide truly accurate readings, you need a lab setting with the same ambient noise on an hour by hour, day by day and week by week basis. As ambient noise can increase at different times of the day, we believe that it’s pointless providing noise testing if we can’t measure consistent and accurate data due to our office being a busy setting.
- CPU – Intel Core i7 6700k – (4.2GHz at 1.25v & 4.5GHz at 1.38v)
- Motherboard – Asus ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha
- GPU – ZOTAC GTX 1060 AMP! Edition
- RAM – Crucial Ballistix Elite 16GB DDR4 3000MHz
- PSU – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
- SSD – Crucial MX300 525GB SSD
- Case – Cooler Master Test Bench V2
- Monitor – Philips P-Line 241P6 4K Ultra HD
Idle Testing Methodology
To test each cooler at idle, the minimum temperature is taken after leaving the PC with only start-up programs on Windows 10 being allowed to run for 5 minutes. After this, the minimum temperature with the core temperature being offset against the room temperature; thus achieving delta.
Load Testing Methodology
To load test, we run RealBench while selecting the heavy multitasking benchmark only. We run this a maximum of 3 times concurrently and the maximum temperature recorded is taken. This temperature is deducted from the current room temperature and our final delta temperature is provided.
For those of you that have read the previous reviews of Cooler Master’s line-up of CPU cooling products, you will know that we are a huge fan of their performance. They have stormed to the top of the respective charts through their supreme performance in both air and liquid variants.
This MasterLiquid Pro version didn’t disappoint either; although save for a tenth or two of a degree here & there, it showed no performance difference to the previously reviewed MasterLiquid 240.
This is by no means a slight on this Pro version, it just further enhances the insane performance to cost ratio of the standard MasterLiquid product.
Superb cooling performance has the MasterLiquid Pro 280 trading blows at the very top of each one of our charts. Fitting the water block couldn’t be simpler, and a number of other companies could take a leaf out of Cooler Master’s book here, as some CPU coolers are just unnecessarily fiddly to fit.
As mentioned before, the tubing design and it’s associated sleeving is a firm favourite, so it’s nice that Cooler Master saw fit not to change it on this Pro version.
The pump & water block is the biggest change in design over the standard MasterLiquid range, and I like the clear view into the unit itself. My only criticism here is that the only colour LED you can buy is blue… which is great if you have a blue theme in your build, but you’re a bit stuck if it isn’t!
Prices for the 280 Pro range from a shade over £90, all the way up to £110 at the time of the review. For the cooling performance offered that’s still good value. This would warrant the top possible mark usually, but unfortunately it’s beaten by its smaller sibling (the MasterLiquid 240), for sheer value for money. They achieve almost identical performance, but the 240 comes in at just £70.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the MasterLiquid Pro 280 deserves our Gold Award. It looks good, it isn’t overly expensive compared to its rivals, and it performs superbly well. It’s biggest problem is that it is outshone by its stablemate, the MasterLiquid 240. If nothing else, this just re-emphasises just how deserving the 240 was of our Platinum award last month.
If you want the uprated design of the Pro version, and the blue LED fits your rig perfectly, then I have no hesitation in recommending this. If it’s just raw performance you want, save yourself a few quid, and go for the standard 240. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Massive thanks to Cooler Master for sending the MasterLiquid Pro 280 in for review.
- Superb cooling performance
- Build quality excellent
- MasterFans included as standard
- Excellent design makes it easy to fit
- Blue LED only
- Doesn't perform any better than the cheaper MasterLiquid 240