With the release of 12th Gen CPUs from Intel, many people are in the market for a cooler to tame the beast and also get the most performance out of it. In this video, kindly sponsored by ASUS, we will be checking out their line-up of liquid all-in-one coolers to see which one may be the most suitable for your build.
For this particular build we will be using Intel i9 12900K CPU, running on ASUS Maximus Hero Z690 motherboard. For the case we went with ASUS TUF Gaming GT501. It is pretty big, but we needed something that can support all of our coolers. Speaking of which - we have a budget option Cooler Master 212 ARGB air cooler as a baseline, two 240mm coolers - TUF Gaming liquid cooler and the second generation of ROG Strix cooler, and last but certainly not least - the top of the line ROG Ryujin version 2.
Prior to choosing a cooler, there are a few things to consider, starting with required space. For example, tower coolers like this require a reasonably large amount of height clearance above the CPU and are normally not suitable for smaller cases, while liquid all-in-one coolers need space for the radiator as well as managing the tubes.
Another consideration is cooler mounting options - you want to make sure the cooler you are ordering has the right support brackets for your CPU. In our case here we had to pick up some additional brackets for Intel’s latest LGA 1700 socket as it is not compatible with the original version of the Cooler Master air cooler. With ASUS all newer stock in the market will be bundled with the new bracket so you should be covered.
One other parameter you should look at is cooling capacity. Larger coolers with more mass as well as faster spinning fans provide more cooling - you need to check what is the maximum heat output your CPU has and ideally get cooler with more cooling capacity to ensure quiet and cool operation. In our example I can already tell ahead of time that Cooler Master 212 is not enough for our power hungry 12900k, but we will have to see by how much when we check out the results later on.
Let’s now dive a little deeper into the coolers from ASUS, starting with similarities. All three of these units use Asetek pumps, have pre-applied thermal paste and feature 6 years of warranty. The more budget version (TUF Gaming 240mm liquid cooler) is using two ARGB fans which can reach 2000 RPM.
The next tier up is Strix 240mm liquid cooler version 2 and it is using considerably faster fans that can reach up to 2500 RPM, this in turn provides more cooling at the cost of acoustics. Both TUF and Strix units include FAN and ARGB splitter cables to help with cable management, as well as ensure that you have enough headers to connect to.
TUF gaming LED splitter comes with 3 headers and it actually requires all 3, while STRIX cable splits into four headers and needs only two - this provides extra for your other components if needed which is a nice little touch.
Lastly we have Ryujin cooler, our particular version comes in 360mm size and features three Noctua industrial PPC fans with maximum speed of 2000 RPM. There is also a variant with ASUS ARGB fans if you are interested. The big difference from other coolers is in the huge contraption above the pump, it includes the 3.5 inch LCD display where you are able to have your own custom animations or system stats such as temperature, fan speed, frequency or even have integration with Aida64 Extreme.
Also below the screen there is a small fan that blows air towards the VRM and M.2 heatsinks to provide extra cooling which is always useful. In the package you also have an AIO Fan controller which supports up to 4 fans and 4 ARGB headers, it comes in a 2.5inch form factor with some extra 3m tape should you wish to stick it somewhere rather than screw it in.
This cooler certainly screams premium and has a price to match. There are not that many all-in-one coolers to be as unique as this. What do you think? Is it too much or on the contrary - adds a lot of character to the build?
Let’s now jump into some performance metrics - as I mentioned earlier, we are using a top of the line chip from Intel, the 12900K. For these tests we left it at stock settings with multicore enhancement turned off. This particular case does not come with any built-in fans so we installed 3 Arctic fans at the back and top for exhaust, and used the front position for the AIO coolers. Ideally you want to ensure the radiator is the highest part of the loop with tubes running down thus leaving space at the top of the radiator for any trapped air in the future - this will improve longevity of the system, but it may not always be possible due to specific case configurations.
All testing is done at a distance of 50cm in a room with an ambient temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. For fan control, we set both Arctic fans to 50% speed which was below our room noise floor of 32dBa, then we noise normalised the rest of the fans to hit 40 dBa target to keep things consistent. This is where we can see the first bit of results. To hit our target, the FAN speed on the TUF gaming cooler was set to 80%, Strix at 56% and Ryujin at 66%. So there clearly is still some headroom if needed.
We ran Barcelona Pavilion Blender benchmark which certainly got the CPU working at its full speed, and found rather interesting results - If we look closer, we can see that the CPU was able to push harder while using Strix and Ryujin coolers.
This is clearly visible in the wattage graph - while all three coolers start off strong, after a little while the TUF gaming cooler starts to thermal throttle and CPU reduces its speed to allow for the cooling deficiency. Others follow but much slower and never drop as much.
The reason we look at power consumption rather than temperature is pretty simple, they all fairly quickly hit 100 degrees and that's where CPU starts naturally reducing its speed to stay within thermal limits.
I did mention the Cooler Master budget unit is not enough for this CPU - even at full speed it was not able to handle this load and almost immediately thermal throttled, which in turn is wasting performance on this high end CPU. This cooler would be more suitable for lower end CPUs like Intel i3 or i5 series.
With noise normalised results out of the way, we can now check out results of these liquid all-in-one coolers with the stock settings, where fans go up to 100% speed while under heavy load. In the same test we can see that both TUF and Strix coolers reach that 100 degree mark, however the Ryujin actually manages to maintain temperatures in the high 90s.
To double check any possible thermal throttling we can look at the wattage graph where we see it is locked at 240watts during the whole duration of the test.
I also appreciate that many of you may not be using your PC for heavy productivity tasks, rather do some gaming. This is where the next benchmark comes in handy. This is a Firestrike benchmark by 3dMark. It simulates 1080p gaming and in our set-up it was running at around 100 FPS. In the thermal graph it is actually pretty hard to see which one of these three coolers does better. This is because in gaming you always have a change of scenery and performance keeps fluctuating.
Once we look at the CPU power consumption this shows us a slightly better picture. Here when using TUF gaming cooler - the system was pulling less power thus it was not pushing as hard to get those extra frame rates, while the other two coolers were clearly cooling the chip better to allow for more thermal headroom so CPU can use its boost more effectively.
It is clear that having larger surface area, more overall mass and extra fan makes a difference on longer renders as well as gaming, which brings us to the conclusion. For those of you who are on a budget, the TUF Gaming cooler is a good starting point and will deliver adequate results.
Going up to Strix class would improve that performance and also have some headroom providing you are ok with the extra noise during the peak operation. If you are doing a lot of longer CPU centric tasks then getting the 360mm version will be very advantageous.
This leaves the Ryujin cooler - this is ultimately a show piece which also delivers great results while staying reasonably quiet due to the included Noctua PPC fans. I personally really like the inclusion of the LCD screen while keeping the RGB to the minimum. For those who are planning to do some overclocking, the fan near the pump helps with cooling the VRM. Generally ASUS seems to have a dynamic line-up for most people.
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