Over the course of the last 2 years, we at Play3r.net have amassed a huge stockpile of CPU coolers, reviewing each of them on the same test bench to ensure fair competition. Whilst our list is extremely diverse, including all shapes & sizes, both air and water, one type of cooler has been severely lacking… triple fan, 360mm AIO water coolers.
Today we rectify that, by pitching no less than NINE of them head to head, in a giant cooler shootout. Let the battle commence to find out what are the best 360mm AIO CPU coolers in 2019.
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.
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.
- CPU – Intel Core i7 6700k – (4.2GHz at 1.25v & 4.5GHz at 1.38v)
- Motherboard – Asus ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha
- GPU – MSI GTX 1080 Armor 8G OC
- RAM – Crucial Ballistix Elite 16GB DDR4 3000MHz
- PSU – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
- SSD – Crucial MX300 525GB SSD
- Monitor – MSI Optix MPG27CQ
In addition to keeping our test setup consistent for all CPU cooling tests, we also always use the same thermal paste rather than any that comes supplied or pre-applied. Our thermal paste of choice is NT-H1 from Noctua.
In addition to thermal performance, we also looked at 2 further areas in deciding what overall rating to bestow upon each cooler; product design & aesthetics and value for money in order to consider which are the best 360mm AIO CPU coolers.
OK, that’s the scene set…let’s get on to the products themselves!
bequiet! Silent Loop 360
- Price: £134.50
- Full Product Details: https://www.bequiet.com/en/watercooler/1094
The bequiet! offering is one of only 2 coolers in the whole of today’s line-up that dispenses with any kind of light illumination to enhance its aesthetics. If a light show is an absolute must have for your cooler, then you are likely to overlook the Silent Loop product line, but that shouldn’t detract from what is a product of huge quality.
The low profile block is finished in black brushed aluminium, which gives it an extremely sleek, understated look. With the remainder of the unit completely black, aside from small accents on the bequiet! logos, the Silent Loop relies upon its stealthy looks to impress, as opposed to glitzy RGB.
It’s one potential “marmite” design feature comes in the shape of the coiled spring sleeving to the tubing. I personally don’t mind it too much, but I can imagine it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
The Silent Loop 360 is a top level performer, keeping our 6700k super cool even when overclocked. Installation is pretty easy, and at today’s prices it’s an absolute no brainer if you have no interest in flashy RGB lighting.
Value for Money
At the time of writing, the Silent Loop 360 could be bought for £134.50 in the UK, which is around 10% cheaper than its recommended retail price at it’s launch. This places it in the middle of the range for the coolers we have today. Given that you get a copper radiator, a nickel plated cold plate, and three Pure Wings 2 120mm PWM fans all included, this is fantastic value for money.
Antec Mercury 360 RGB
- Price: £83.99
- Full Product Details: https://www.antec.com/product/cooling/m360-rgb.php
The Mercury 360 RGB from Antec is the cheapest cooler featured here, and to be honest it shows in the design stakes. It’s certainly not terrible, but against its more expensive competitors, you do notice the difference.
The block illuminates along with the RGB fans, but there’s no addressable RGB here, but given the price I wouldn’t expect there to be either. The LEDs can be controlled by the included RGB hub, or via Aura sync if you have a compatible ASUS motherboard. The outer CPU block has a white, soft rubber shroud surrounding, which is a first for me if I’m honest.
The Mercury is clearly the budget option here, and therefore I didn’t expect it to top the charts…and it didn’t. Antec’s offering came at the bottom of all the tests, but it still performs to a good level. Under load and overclocked to 4.5GHz the Mercury topped out at 47 degrees Celsius, which puts it in the top half of our table of all CPU coolers ever tested.
Value for Money
I’ve mentioned that this is the cheapest already…but it’s the cheapest by a huge margin! At the time of writing, the Mercury 360 RGB could be bought for just £83.99 in the UK. For a triple fan 360mm AIO that’s a crazy price, and is less than some companies charge for a single fan 120mm AIO. For people on a strict budget, the Mercury would a great option for someone that thought a 360mm AIO was out of their reach.
Fractal Design Celsius S36
- Price: £114.95
- Full Product Details: https://www.fractal-design.com/home/product/water-cooling/celsius-s36
Next up is the first of 5….yes, FIVE Asetek based coolers. The Fractal Design Celsius S36 is the second cooler here to have no LED illumination whatsoever, hoping to entice the buyer with its pure aesthetic and cooling features. Despite the lack of RGB, the Celsius S36 scores really highly in the design stakes. The simple ability to switch from Auto to PWM modes with a twist of the pump casing is also an interesting touch. Obviously, you would need to reach inside your case to do this, but I wouldn’t expect the average user to be changing this setting all that often anyway.
A further unique feature on the Celsius line is an integrated fan hub, that’s attached directly to the radiator. All 3 fans, as well as the pump can be connected directly to the hub, rather than need to be routed to a header on the motherboard. This is a very clever idea indeed, and given it’s such a simple idea, I’m surprised we haven’t seen this before.
The Celsius S36 performs really strongly, with idle temps never exceeding 1 degree, even on our overclocked settings. Under load at 4.5GHz it delivers a delta score of a shade under 43 degrees, which gives it huge further headroom if you can push your CPU even further.
Value for Money
Available for £114.95 at the time of the review, means that it is the cheapest Asetek based cooler on test here. Whilst the absence of any LEDs may well have brought down the price, the fact that it does include a couple of really interesting unique features, make the S36 cracking value for money.
Corsair H150i PRO RGB
- Price: £130
- Full Product Details: https://www.corsair.com/uk/en/Categories/Products/Liquid-Cooling/Hydro-Series%E2%84%A2-H150i-PRO-RGB-360mm-Liquid-CPU-Cooler/p/CW-9060031-WW
Moving on to another Asetek based cooler, this time from the giant that is Corsair. Long held in high regard in the CPU cooling stakes, the Hydro Series is very much alive & kicking in 2019 in the shape of the H150i Pro RGB.
From the moment you lay eyes on the colourful outer packaging, the H150i oozes quality. Whilst the Asetek radiator in form is no different to any other from the OEM, extra levels of quality have been added, from the embossed Corsair branding, to the thick woven sleeves on the tubing.
One area companies can distinguish their Asetek AIO coolers from the competition is with the fans, and Corsair package the H150i with their ML Series magnetic levitation PWM fans.
The RGB accent lighting on the rock solid pump head is subtle but extremely effective, and is compatible with Corsair’s iCUE software.
I was expecting the test results to be pretty much identical to the first Asetek cooler, the Fractal S36…and it was, within a tenth or two of a degree in all tests. The main difference with the Corsair offering however, is that the proprietary software controlled the ramping up of the fans in response to the temps reported. I did notice that this didn’t seem to be as responsive as the motherboard controlled Fractal, but even so with the results almost identical, there was no issue.
Value for Money
Premium products with top build quality normally come with a premium price, and with an RRP of £162.99 on the Corsair website, the H150i is no exception. However, the model has been out for a while now, and some amazing discounts can be had. At the time of writing, it could be bought for just £130 at Currys PC World in the UK. For the quality, the performance, and aesthetics on offer…and at a bargain price, the H150i is an absolute must buy.
Gamer Storm Castle 360RGB
- Price: £149.99
- Full Product Details: http://www.gamerstorm.com/product/CPULIQUIDCOOLER/2018-10/1286_9932.shtml
Wading into the fight with all RGB blazing, is the Castle 360RGB from Gamer Storm. For those that maybe haven’t come across this name before, Gamer Storm is the gaming brand of Deepcool.
The unit as a whole is a very polished product, with good build materials and quality all around. The CPU block features a double window, covering the Gamer Storm logo accompanied by a very attractive LED array, that provides real depth. The downside to this is that the block stands quite tall when installed, but it’s not too large to distract from the overall effect.
Bundled with the main unit are 3 addressable RGB fans, to provide a really excellent glow, thanks to their translucent fins. If you don’t possess an addressable RGB enabled motherboard, do not fear…an in-line controller is also included to ensure you don’t put those LEDs to waste.
With the exception of the Antec Mercury, the Castle was beaten by every other cooler when we pushed the CPU to max. Having said that, margin of defeat was nowhere near as big as with the Antec and was just 3 degrees away from the top performing cooler. With a delta overclocked temperate reading of 44.3 degrees, the Castle performed well.
Value for Money
At the time of review, the Castle 360RGB could be bought for £149.99 in the UK, which makes it the 3rd most expensive on our list. The biggest problem is that it was only for sale at Amazon, I couldn’t find it available anywhere else in this country. This lack of supply will no doubt keep the price up at around it’s full RRP. This is a real shame, because it is a fantastic looking unit, but given the lack of consumer price competition, you will have to pay full price if you really want this particular cooler in your system.
NZXT Kraken X72
- Price: £160
- Full Product Details: https://www.nzxt.com/products/kraken-x72
The third Asetek based cooler in our shoot-out comes in the form of the X72 from NZXT’s unmistakable Kraken series of AIO coolers. Build quality and materials are guaranteed to be top notch thanks to the Asetek base, with NZXT themselves throwing a whopping 6 year warranty for the buyer.
NZXT have long been regarded as the industry leaders when it comes to lighting aesthetics, and their coolers are no different. The infinity mirror that sits atop the CPU block is unrivalled when it comes to the sheer wow factor. This feature hasn’t changed for a few years yet, and I imagine its because even NZXT themselves can’t come up a replacement for such a simple design which looks so good.
The included fans are the Aer P120’s, which are super quiet, even when running at full speed. With the fan curves once again being controlled by proprietary software (this time its NZXT’s CAM system) we once again witnessed a similar delay in fan ramp up as we did with the Corsair AIO. Nevertheless, performance was good, unsurprisingly being almost identical to the H150i.
For the purposes of this article, we installed the coolers exactly as described in the instructions, so if software is advertised as controlling the cooler, that’s what we did. I just feel that there is so much more headroom with regards cooling performance to be had, by either setting a more aggressive fan curve in their respective software, or even using your onboard motherboard fan headers to control your curves.
Value for Money
The NZXT Kraken coolers remain hugely popular due to their unique look, which means prices remain close to their recommended retail price. At the time of writing the X72 could be had for around £150 in the UK, which is a shade under a 20% discount on the RRP. Asetek quality is assured, so whether the additional cash is warranted over something like the Corsair or Fractal will purely come down to the users rig design. For me personally I would pay it, because I absolutely love the look of the infinity mirror when it’s installed.
ASUS ROG Ryujin 360
- Price: £225
- Full product Details: https://www.asus.com/Cooling/ROG-RYUJIN-360/
You want another Asetek based cooler? OK, you got it. ASUS deliver with the Republic of Gamers Ryujin 360.
Being an Asetek based cooler, the radiator, cold plate and mounting bracket are all standard fayre, so quality is guaranteed. To up the game further, ASUS bundles Noctua Industrial PPC PWN fans…thankfully in all black too.
Elsewhere, this cooler has been designed to within an inch of it’s life, and it certainly stands out from the crowd! In attempt to distinguish the Ryujin from all other coolers, ASUS have introduced some interesting features. To begin with, the CPU block features a 1.77” OLED screen, capable of displaying custom messages & animations, or real time stats such as CPU temperature. The screen sits beneath a removable cover that attaches magnetically. This makes the final appearance quite large…in fact its HUGE! Sitting within the CPU block is an additional fan, designed to bring additional cooling to the VRM and M.2 areas of the motherboard…more on that below.
With all of this crammed into the block, it’s not surprising that when installed, it dominates the motherboard. As the pictures below show, once the cover is on, it pretty much covers the whole board from VRM heatsinks all the way to the RAM.
The Noctua fans are some of, if not THE best fans on the market, so there’s no issue there…but it’s not that straight forward from here on in. I was expecting near identical performance to our other Asetek coolers, but it was always a degree or 2 off. Notwithstanding the fact that again using the included software to control fan curves seemed to delay the response to CPU temps, there was still something a little off. The CPU temp reported on the OLED screen also seemed to be lower from what our test setup was showing.
To be honest, I thought I was going mad until I watched a video when Tom over at OC3D TV was also seeing this. It turns out that the temperature of the CPU is actually being taken from a probe behind the socket on the motherboard itself. This explain why the temperature was always being reported as low, and adding to the delay in the fans spinning up, and the temps spiking whilst it waited for the true performance of the cooler to kick in.
Despite all of this, the Ryujin still performed really well. With a more aggressive fan curve, I would say there is much more headroom in performance to be had.
Finally, just a quick note on the additional fan within the block designed to keep the VRM’s cool…its loud…and when I say loud, I mean LOUD! Perhaps it was because the Noctua fans were so quiet, but with a top speed of 4000 RPM, it would drive me crazy having that running all the time. Luckily you can switch it off, and I imagine most people will.
Value for Money
So…lots of features (good and bad), solid build quality, and the best fans on show today…but boy do you pay for it! At the time of writing, the Ryujin 360 costs a whopping £225 in the UK, which is the most expensive cooler on view today by a substantial distance. At that kind of money, especially given it’s shortcomings, I think it will only appeal to die hard ROG supporters.
Raijintek Orcus 360
- Price: £119.99
- Full Product Details: https://www.raijintek.com/en/products_detail.php?ProductID=75
Our penultimate cooler is the Orcus 360 from Raijintek, and it’s not an Asetek design! The Orcus has been designed in Germany and is packed with features that make it completely unique in this article. The pump itself is not mounted within the CPU block, but is situated part way down the tubing, a couple of inches short of the radiator. Despite this, the block itself is still a fairly standard size. This is mainly due to the fact that it houses a flow meter behind a window, with the whole thing illuminated by LEDs when in operation. The benefit of the window is two fold; not only can you see the flow meter spinning, but it also allows you to monitor the coolant level. This is because the Orcus is designed to be topped up if required, and actually comes supplied with an additional 100ml of coolant should the need arise to refill it.
The lighting extends to the fans also, with the Orcus boasting addressable RGB LEDs, which can be controlled via the included remote control and hub. In operation the unit as a whole looks very impressive, although I would like to have seen the CPU block be clad in something a little more attractive that the black plastic which feels a little cheap.
For the first 3 tests the Raijintek performed admirably, and almost kept pace with the range of Asetek coolers we had previously tested. When it came to the fully loading the CPU when overclocked however, the Orcus really excelled, and nudged ahead of every other cooler bar the offerings from bequiet! and Thermaltake.
Value for Money
The packaging of the Raijintek cooler really does make it look a premium product. Add to that the fact that included in the box is addressable RGB fans, a remote-control unit and hub, a built-in flow meter and a spare bottle of coolant, and you would expect a premium price. Therefore, I was surprised that at the time of writing the Orcus 360 can be bought for a shade under £120 in the UK. This is incredible value for money, and I would highly recommend it.
Thermaltake Water 3.0 ARGB Sync
- Price: £156.98
- Full Product Details: https://www.thermaltake.com/Cooler/Liquid_Cooler_/All_in_One/C_00003334/Water_3_0_360_ARGB_Sync/fulldesign.htm
Last, but certainly not least is our ninth product on show, and the fifth Asetek based cooler. Thermaltake sent us their brand new Water 3.0 360 ARGB Sync, which quite a mouthful!
I’ve already said it four times previously, so for the fifth and last time, quality is guaranteed given it’s Asetek roots…from the large aluminium radiator, woven sleeved tubing, and high performance waterblock. As with all the other Asetek coolers today, its down to Thermaltake to differentiate their product from the others, and they too have gone down the addressable RGB route to do so. The block features a large Tt logo, which is illuminated from beneath with LEDs. The light show doesn’t stop there however, and complementing the block are three Pure 12 ARGB Sync radiator fans. These fans are available to purchase separately, and at a price of around £50, it’s good to see you get the same versions included within the box.
The Water 3.0 360 ARGB is certified to sync with ASUS Aura, Gigabyte RGB Fusion, MSI Mystic Light and ASRock Polychrome software. If your motherboard doesn’t support any of these, or doesn’t have an addressable RGB header fear not, also included is a standalone controller.
The only thing I have to call out is the length of the cables…when everything is installed there are LOTS of cables to be managed. If you have a small case, this could be an issue. Then again, if your case is that small, you’re unlikely to be fitting a 360 rad in it!
Unlike most of the other Asetek coolers here, the Thermaltake dispenses with relying upon proprietary software to control temperature monitoring, and instead relies upon the PWM motherboard fan headers…and the results back up a little of what I was saying earlier. Fan ramp up was much more sensitive and responsive, meaning there was less temperature spikes when our test suite kicked in. This resulted in the Water 3.0 ARGB topping every single chart of our tests. At idle it was matched by the bequiet! and NZXT coolers, but when the CPU was under full load, it was out on its own. When overclocked to 4.5GHz, the Thermaltake returned a delta reading of just 41.2 degrees; a clear 1.5 degrees cooler than the second placed cooler, and a massive 5.8 degrees cooler than the cooler at the bottom of our list. In today’s tests, the Water 3.0 ARGB is the King of Cooling.
Value for Money
Given that this ARGB version of the Water 3.0 is newly released to the market, prices at the time of writing were all around the RRP set by Thermaltake, with the cheapest being £156.98 at Scan Computers. This is commonplace on newly released items, and if you are willing to wait, I expect some retailers will offer discounts once its been on the market for a while. Even at full RRP, it certainly isn’t overpriced, and sits comfortably in the mid-range price wise of all coolers on display today.
The Best 360mm AIO CPU Coolers: Complete Results
Whilst I have mentioned lots of the results in the individual overview of each cooler, below you can find graphs comparing all the test results as outlined in our test methodology outlined at the beginning of the article.
The Best 360mm AIO CPU Coolers: Conclusions
If you have made it this far, having read everything above, you will have no doubt come to some conclusions of your own around which is your favourite, or which warrants consideration when purchasing a 360mm AIO cooler. For those who couldn’t be bothered, here are my closing thoughts, recommendations and awards for the stand-out 360mm AIO CPU coolers:
Platinum & Performance Award
- Hands down the best performer is the Thermaltake Water 3.0 ARGB, and quite rightly gets our top award along with the performance award
Editor’s Choice Award
- My personal favourite is the NZXT Kraken X72, as I just love the effect the infinity mirror gives it. Therefore I’m giving it my personal Editor’s Choice Award
- At the price it can bought right now, the Corsair H150i PRO RGB is an excellent purchase, and a really good all-round option.
- A special mention for the innovation shown by Raijintek, by including a flow meter, separate pump, and remote controlled addressable RGB.
Finally, I just wanted to say that whatever your budget, any one of the coolers featured today did a great job of cooling our overclocked 6700k, and you won’t be disappointed with whichever cooler you choose. Whether you are loyal to a particular brand, want the best performer, or the least or most expensive AIO money can buy, there is a cooler for every taste.
A huge thanks to every single company that sent us their products in for review. This article wouldn’t have been possible without them.