Are you considering water cooling but aren’t sure where to turn? Maybe you’re an overclocker that’s looking to drop a few degrees and push his OC to the limit. Or heck, maybe it’s as simple as wanting to drop that bulky air cooler. We’re here to help with our review of the new NZXT Kraken X72 360MM all-in-one cooler. It’s big, sporting three Aer P120 fans, but does it have the performance to back up the $199 MSRP? Let’s find out.
- MSRP: $199.99
- Dimensions: Radiator: 394 x 120 x 27mm
- Pump: 80 x 80 x 52.9mm
- Material(s): Aluminum, copper, plastic, ultra-low evaporation rubber, nylon sleeving
- Weight: 1.29 Kg
- CPU & Socket: Intel Socket 1151, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066
- AMD Socket: TR4, AM4, FM2+, FM2, FM1, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2
- RAM Height Clearance: 35mm
- Control Modes: Fan: Silent / Performance / Custom / Manual
- Pump: Silent/Performance/Custom/Manual
- LED Modes: Preset Modes: Fixed, Breathing, Fading, Marquee, Covering Marquee, Pulse, Spectrum Wave, Alternating, Tai Chi, Water Cooler, Loading
- Reactive Modes: Smart and Audio
- Pump Speed: 1,600~2,800 +/- 300RPM
- Fan Model: Aer P120
- Number of Fans: 3
- Fan Speed: 500-2,000 +/- 300 RPM
- Fan Noise Level: 21-36dBA
- Warranty: 6 years
Air or Water Cooling?
If you’re building a new system, you have a choice to make: air or liquid cooling. While both can offer good results with high quality equipment, the trend in showcase systems is toward liquid - and it’s no wonder. Air coolers can be big and bulky, block DRAM slots, and tend to be less impressive out of the gate when a system is first heating up. On the flip side of that, they’re reliable, don’t spring leaks, and drop to normal temps after a load far quicker than any AIO is able.
A liquid cooler, on the other hand, is much sleeker and can offer a big performance increase, especially if your ambient temperature is warmer. Since the CPU is cooled by flowing water, all that mounts on your CPU is a small pump that jettisons water through a radiator placed elsewhere in your case. Since radiator mounts are separate from your motherboard, it looks far cleaner.
You’ll also find that initial temperatures are often quite a bit lower than your average air cooler. That’s because liquid takes longer to heat up, resulting in a longer period of time before it stabilizes at a standard “load temperature.” Air coolers hit this temp almost immediately; however, it’s a two way street: AIOs also take longer to cool back down as the liquid releases that heat. Because of its closed nature, all-in-ones also tend to perform better in situations with higher ambient temperatures.
Why the NZXT Kraken?
Confession time: I actively avoided water cooling for most of my life as a PC builder. The idea of running water near expensive computer parts just made me incredibly nervous. Like many of you, if I were to spring a leak, I couldn’t afford to replace all that hardware and didn’t want to find myself with an expensive paperweight. With the i7-7700K, and now the 8700K, driving higher than average temps and random core spikes of 20-30 degrees higher seemingly at random, I knew I was going to need a solution.
Since the CPU didn’t ship with a cooler (and wouldn’t have been good enough anyways), I invested in the Noctua D14, a massive dual-spire air cooler rocking a 120mm and a 140mm fan. At the time, I payed around $100 for it and it worked (mostly) well. Competitive with many AIOs even - and put that eyebrow back down. It’s true, read some reviews. But, it had one major drawback…
It’s big, ugly, and absolutely dominates the entire upper half of the motherboard, limiting the RAM you can use. With the whole disco inferno vibe I’m working with here, that cooler just had to go.
I researched nearly a dozen liquid coolers and finally settled on the Kraken series. Pouring through reviews, the Kraken X62 always seem to be near the top of the list for cooling performance, so it stood to reason that the larger X72 should be even better. Just as importantly, especially for me coming in skittish at the idea of having water near my system, NZXT has a great reputation for reliability. Short of misuse, you don’t see many reports of Krakens leaking. The warranty also confirms this, coming in at six-years over the standard 3-5.
I knew I wanted to maximize my cooling potential, and a larger radiator lengthens the “warm up” period, so a 360mm radiator was in order. Though such a large radiator isn’t necessary even for overclocking, the larger radiator helps the liquid stay cooler for longer, lengthening that “warming up” period. I also wanted a customizable pump head for that bit of extra flair at the heart of my rig and the X72 offers a fully customizable RGB pump head.
Given the RGB-ness of my RGB system, adding a little more RGB near my RGB seemed like a good idea. And you know what? I stand by that decision. Here’s how my system looks now:
Much better… though, do note that the testing done here was without the three RGB fans on the rear of the radiator.
Setup and Installation
Setup is fairly straightforward. The X72 ships with a mounting bracket that attaches to the back of your motherboard. I’m using an Intel 1151 socket, but it ships with wide compatibility, including for AMD’s Threadripper. It’s not oversized like some and fit well with the cutout on the back of my Fractal Define R6 case. The pump head connected with thumb screws that should be driver tightened.
Mounting the radiator is equally easy with the most challenging part being fitting it into the proper position in a case already decked out with fans and accessories. I liked that the fans all connect to a single line, saving me from needing to find more fan headers for each and really cut down on wire clutter for easier cable management.
Because the pump head is provides real-time data to NZXT’s CAM software and offers substantial RGB and performance customization, it requires both power and a 9-pin USB connection (hence my needing the USB hub above). Combined with the intake and outake lines, it begins to feel a little cluttered, so it’d be nice to see this consolidated in a future release.
Once everything is setup, CAM gives you plenty of options to monitor the state of your system, customize your RGB from a good number of tailorable presets, adjust your fan and pump curves, and even overclock. I found leaving the system on it’s default cooling settings worked well, but I’m a stickler so wound up making my own custom curves. You can base that on CPU or Liquid temps or even the GPU if you’re using the X72 to cool a graphics card.
Test system: i7-8700k at 3.7GHz (4.7GHz Turbo), ASUS X370 Maximus X Hero Motherboard, ADATA XPG Spectrix D41 DRAM 32GB 3200MHz, GTX-1080Ti (SLI), 1TB Samsung 970 PRO, 1TB WD Black, 12TB HDD Mass Storage, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU, Fractal Define R6 TG case.
Our cooler testing takes a close look at comparative idle temperatures and load temperatures in an environment that, for this review, was a consister 25 degrees celsius. Load temperatures are gathered after running Prime95 for twenty minutes, giving the liquid the chance to warm up. Our temperatures are also normalized to show the temperature increase over ambient to remove that as a factor. For our tests, the X72 was set to performance mode.
Performance Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Looking at the data above, I have to admit to being a little dismayed that my idle temps didn’t radically drop like some users report. At the same time, the D14 is a very good air cooler, so the results aren’t surprising or a negative reflection on the X72. Idle temperatures are also far less important than load temperatures and that’s where the benefit of the NZXT really comes into play.
At full load, I was impressed to see the X72 offer a substantial improvement over the D14, offering a solid and stable 7-degree delta. Compared to other AIOs in this bunch, the X72 offers respectable results, coming in just behind Corsair’s H150i PRO and the smaller Kraken X62, but ahead of all others. Remarkably, even after 20 minutes under a 100% load torture test, the liquid never broke 36-degrees - only 5C higher than it started!
The results compared to the X62 are more concerning and will lead me to extend the testing phase in future reviews. Given its larger size, the X72 should keep those lower temperatures longer and in more situations than the X62, which is something I hope to examine further in the future.
I wasn’t able to test every cooler in an overclock scenario, but comparing the X72 with my prior D14, this actually widened the gap quite a bit further. Pushing my 8700K to 5GHz at 1.29v, the X72 sat a solid 11-degrees Celsius cooler than the D14.
At the moment, I don’t have a decibel meter to provide objective noise levels, but I was impressed at how quiet the X72 is. When first booting up, before all the fans get up to speed, you can hear the initial flow from the pump but is otherwise inaudible with my side panel on. The three Aer P120s are also quieter than my set of Corsair light loop fans, though do become quite loud when pushed to 80% or more. Thankfully, that’s rarely necessary, even in performance mode.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with my switch to the NZXT X72. It feels solid and well built with nice sealing around the fittings and braiding on each tube, so leakage is more of a mental hangup than real concern. The thermals are respectable and the X72 did a good job of keeping them in check, even in a warm upstairs office. With my D14, I thought I’d need to delid to hit a comfortable temp at the golden 5GHz marker. Now, I don’t have to and that’s a big win for someone who really does not want to delid.
And hey, I was right. That RGB pump head really does tie it all together.
- Solid thermal performance, efficiently keeps the liquid cool for effective cooling in higher ambient temperatures and in overclock scenarios
- Substantial upgrade from even a high performance air cooler like the NH-D14
- Runs quiet at all but 80%+ fan speed
- Looks great
- Pump head requires USB and power connections
- Results compared to X62 are very close in a 20 minute torture test
The products discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review