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NZXT Kraken Z63 RGB 280mm AIO CPU Cooler Review

New Color, Same Old Cool

Damien Gula Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Rejoice, all you architects of arctic PC builds - old and new: the Kraken now comes in matte white! 

No, we didn’t take a picture of the wrong box and you read the title right, friends: after years of system builders begging for this option, NZXT has released an aesthetic update into the X and Z families of Kraken all-in-one CPU coolers. Does the new color change how the Kraken performs? Hardly. But that doesn’t make them any less cool. This is our review of the NZXT Kraken Z63 RGB All-in-One Liquid Cooler. 

  • Current MSRP: $279.99 USD (280mm) (Kraken Z53 240mm - $269.99, Z73 360mm - $309.99) 
  • Water Block
    • Dimensions(LxWxH): 80 x 80 x 52 mm
    • Material: Block: Copper, Housing: Plastic
    • Pump: Motor Speed & Power: 800 – 2,800 + 300 RPM, 12V DC, 0.3A
  • Radiator
    • Dimensions: 143 x 315 x 30mm
    • Material: Aluminum
  • Tube
    • Length: 400mm
    • Material: Ultra-low Evaporation Rubber with Nylon Braided Sleeve
  • Cap
    • Display Orientation: Software adjustable 90° increments
    • Display Panel Active Area: 2.36” (60mm) diameter
    • Display Color: 24-bit true color LCD
    • Display Resolution: 320 x 320 px
    • Display Brightness: 650 cd/m²
  • Fans
    • Aer RGB 2 140 x 2
    • Dimension: 140 x 140 x 26mm
    • Speed: 500-1,500 + 300 RPM
    • Air Flow: 30.39 - 91.19 CFM
    • Air Pressure: 0.17 - 1.52mm - H2O
    • Noise: 22-33dBA
    • Bearing: Fluid Dynamic Bearing
    • Power Consumption: 12V DC, 0.32A, 3.84W
    • Connector: 4-pin PWM
  • Compatible Socket & CPU
    • Intel Socket LGA 1151, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066
    • Intel Core i9 / Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron
    • AMD Socket AM4, TR4(bracket not included)
    • AMD Ryzen 7 / Ryzen 5 / Ryzen 3 / Ryzen 9 / Threadripper
  • Life: 60,000 hours / 6 Years
  • Warranty: 6 Years

Overview

It’s hard to argue that NZXT’s Kraken products are among the most iconic all-in-one CPU coolers on the market today. Whether it’s mirrored LEDs of the Infinity Mirror Display or just that sleek NZXT design around the Asetek pump head, there are few that come close to being so immediately recognizable. But, when you have a product like this that is so iconic, where do you go from there?

Last year, NZXT introduced us to the Z-series of Kraken CPU coolers - the latest iteration on the Kraken with an updated pump design… with a customizable LCD display. Whether utilizing for real-time thermal monitoring or to throw a gif of the face Destiny 2’s Drifter makes watching you dunk on four Guardians in a Gambit match, the display is only limited by your imagination. 

Bringing us to the present, NZXT has released a new set of packages for both the Kraken Z-3 and X-3 series. These all-in-one coolers come with NZXT’s AER 2 RGB fans, available in either the new matte white option or the classic matte black. The company will also be making white versions of their AER 2 RGB fans available for purchase separately. Each series has options 240mm, 280mm, and 360mm radiators with prices that start at $169.99 USD and go up to $309.99 USD.

Note: We are likely to see an industry-wide increase on products like the NZXT Kraken as shipping container costs out of China increase - (Reuters)

Installation

In case you haven’t installed an all-in-one cooler before, it can seem daunting, but an option like that Kraken makes it fairly simple on either side of the CPU aisle. 

With AM4, it is as simple as replacing a few screws and the stock bracket with some threaded posts and changing out the mounting ring on the pump head. On the Intel side of things, NZXT included a separate bracket for mounting to your motherboard… and then, it’s pretty similar from there. The biggest difference for Intel installs is just making sure you are using the right height of threaded posts for your CPU socket. After the appropriate hardware is in place and thermal compound applied, the pump head sits directly on top and can be secured with thumbscrews. 

Once the heart of the Kraken was secure, the installation of the radiator and fans were fairly simple. NZXT includes hardware for both direct (PC case to radiator to fans) and indirect (PC case to fans to radiator) mounting. In our testing, we used the indirect mounting method. This allows us to show off the AER 2 RGB fans!

Speaking of these fans, NZXT has a good thing going for it when it comes to the AER 2 RGB. Each fan has in and out ports built into them with removable wiring, allowing for daisy-chaining the RGB elements. This saves on extra cables to manage throughout the case as well as on ports in “smart hubs.” In the case of the Kraken, that is the hub for RGB connection is built into the pump’s breakout cable - which also contains three fan header connections as well. 

Of the all-in-one coolers I have installed over the years, I can’t argue with the simplicity of the NZXT Kraken, thanks to Asetek’s mounting design. This is especially true when working with AM4 sockets! 

Performance Testing

Since we have seen the 360mm Kraken Z73 as well as the X63 in action, the logical choice for our review was the 280mm Z63. We did have a unique opportunity during our testing when deciding where to integrate the Kraken. Since we have utilized Corsair’s iCUE 4000X PC case for other AiO reviews, we wanted to keep the conditions as close as we could, but we also had our hand on an NZXT H510 Elite PC case. Our official data was collected in the iCUE 4000X, but we will talk anecdotally about the H510 Elite.

Our test bench for this review is as follows: 

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 
  • Cooler: NZXT Kraken Z63
  • RAM: 32GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4-4000
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte X570S AERO-G
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
  • Storage: 1TB WD_Black SN750, 1TB Kingston KC2500, 2 TB Seagate FireCuda
  • PSU: Corsair RMx850
  • Case: Corsair 4000X

In order for us to get a good picture of how a cooler will operate in the everyday, we look closely at comparative temperature while idle as well as under heavy computational load. The testing environment is a controlled  (as best as possible) 22 degrees Celsius with coolers set to their highest performance option. We collect load temperatures from the CPU after a twenty minute test via Prime95. This gives the fluid within the AiO a chance to warm up as we record any trends that we might see along the way. The temperatures charted believe show the temperature increase over ambient.

Here is how the Kraken Z63 looks compared to other AiOs on the market: 

(It is important to note that the testing benches used to collect the comparative data were different. However, the conditions of the testing were meticulous replicated as best as possible)

Let’s look beyond a singular number for a moment. Thermal temperatures peaked at around the five minute mark of the test, coincidentally, for around five minutes, holding at roughly 62C over ambient temperatures. After being under load for about twelve minutes into the test, temperatures dipped to around 42C over ambient temperatures as the Kraken stabilized. In the final three minutes, it rose to 60 C over ambient near the end of our twenty minute test. After a short time, the Kraken sat comfortably at around 18C over ambient temperatures. 

All of these numbers are with the stock, out-of-the-box thermal paste. While we found it to be adequate during our tests, we did swap it for some Arctic MX-4 thermal compound to see if we could get better contact with the Kraken Z63. What we found was that the temperatures under load were around the same, but we noticed a ~2C drop as the Kraken stabilized under heavy load and a ~3C drop during idle.

As we mentioned before, we did want to test out the Kraken Z63 in NZXT’s own environment. As it turned out, I happened to be collecting some parts to throw together an Intel Core i5 10600K-based system. And what we saw was a remarkably similar story. The Kraken Z63 held the CPU at just under 60C while under load and kept the CPU at around 40C (18C over ambient) immediately following. 

In other words, regardless of platform, the Kraken kept its cools. While not as frosty as some of its competition while idling, it handled high temperatures at bay while under load with consistency, not allowing any spikes. 

Final Thoughts

The NZXT Kraken Z63 RGB is a spiffy, albeit spendy, option for CPU cooling. Built on the track record its predecessors have found success on, this is the same old breed of CPU coolers we saw last year. The difference is that it has a fresh coat of paint and some pretty, new lighted fans. 

That isn’t a criticism; the Kraken Z-3 series is one of the most beautiful CPU coolers we have seen to date. The active thermal monitoring on the pump’s LCD is a nice feature and the AER 2 fans provide multi-zone RGB with limited cabling. You are going to pay enthusiast prices for these features, but here are a few things to consider.

The Kraken Z-3 series may not be for every builder. While the CPU cooler is both aesthetically stunning and does its job very well, the same is true for the X-3 Series. So, you have to ask yourself if you really need animated gifs on your CPU? Probably not. Is the thermal stability of your machine an ever-present anxiety for you that requires active monitoring? Probably not. 

But, it is pretty cool.

NZXT’s addition of matte white options for both AiO coolers and their AER 2 allows for new, creative building options when considering system cooling. And, to me, products like these are exciting, especially when considering how PC builders will utilize them in creative and interesting builds yet to come!

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
 
9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Customization features for both LCD and performance control are amazing
  • Stable thermal performance even under aggressive load
  • Breakout cable provides easily manageable connectivity
  • The LCD is stunning!
Cons
  • Pump headers and breakout cabling may get in the way of RAM sticks
  • Highly cost prohibitive


Pastor_Dame

Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.