(This evaluation has been updated a few hours after it was originally published to include the newly released EVGA Pump Block Software).
The EVGA Closed Loop CPU Liquid Cooler (CLC) at 280mm has arrived at $129.99. This new liquid cooler that we received for testing from EVGA promises excellent cooling performance, low noise, complete software controls, and even RGB lighting. We are testing EVGA’s new 280mm CPU liquid cooler versus the Cooler Master Seidon 240mm, and against the Corsair H60 120mm liquid cooler to see how far we can overclock our i7-6700K.
EVGA suggests that their new cooling block offers an improved flowrate and better heat transfer for improved cooling over the stock Asetek 5 cooler that it is based on. EVGA gives the end user the opportunity for further customization by linking up the EVGA CLC cooler with select EVGA graphics cards, and matching the colors directly from software. One button is used to control all RGB color profiles with the option to save a custom profile to firmware.
These new fans are dual-purpose and they are built for superior cooling and lower noise. The curved housing is custom-designed by EVGA to reduce noise, and their unique blade design offers improved cooling performance. The Teflon Nano Bearings ensure a long lifespan as the EVGA CLC 280 cooler is warrantied for 5 years.
The upcoming EVGA Flow Control software will give full control over the EVGA CLC Liquid Cooler including the fanspeed, RGB lighting, pump control, and profiles. These settings save to firmware which means it only needs to be set once. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Flow Control software is not yet available, but we are promised by EVGA that it will be released “soon”. UPDATE: The Pump Block software can now be downloaded from EVGA’s download center and the version for Windows 10 64-bit may be downloaded from here.
We received the EVGA CLC 280 from EVGA for evaluation ten days ago. Previously we had issues with reaching speeds over 4.5GHz with our Core i7-6700K using our Corsair H60 (120mm) CPU cooler, and we had barely achieved a very hot 4.7GHz using our Cooler Master Seidon 240M (240mm) liquid cooler. Since we are testing faster and faster graphics cards including the Pascal TITAN X, we’d like to increase the speed of our CPU for benching and this is the report of our adventure in overclocking. As the IPC of Skylake and Kaby Lake are the same, we would like to surpass the i7-7700K clocks which turbo to 4.5GHz and we are currently at 4.4GHz with our i7-6700K.
We purchased a Corsair H60 CPU cooler earlier this year when our Thermaltake Water2.0 240mm cooler failed. We paid $50 after mail-in-rebate for it and were able to lock all 4 cores of our Skylake i7-6700K to 4.4GHz for our day-to-day uses including for benchmarking. Unfortunately, 4.5GHz proved too hot under full load at 120mm as this cooler is mid-range for a watercooler. And our Seidon 240M was being used to cool our Devil’s Canyon i7-4970K also at 4.4GHz.
EVGA offers an easy entry into the world of watercooling with the CLC 280 Liquid CPU Cooler, which is a complete package to offer everything that you need to cool your overclocked CPU, including thermal interface material. The CLC 280 Liquid CPU Cooler ships with an EVGA multi-socket mounting system that has a relatively easy and very straightforward installation. They are also adapted for 115x and 1366 platforms as well as for AMD socket AM2/AM3 and FM1/FM2 platforms. EVGA will also supply a bracket for the upcoming AMD Ryzen CPUs.
As important as saving money on hardware is, this editor believes that the choice of a CPU cooler is critical to any PC build. The cooler should never be cheap. Too much depends on it if you value keeping your CPU cool, or especially if you plan to overclock. It is highly recommended that you instead look for sales and use rebates to save money.
This review is not just about “value”. If you want to cool a stock Intel i7, a value CPU cooler such as a Corsair H60 will suffice until you begin to push the core speeds beyond 4.4GHz or so. Unless you are supplying a relatively high voltage to most CPUs, a budget cooler will work nicely.
Intel’s newest Skylake and Kaby Lake Core i7 CPUs mark a new advance in processing power, but they require a higher quality cooler with a larger radiator than 120mm if you want to overclock them without excessive fan noise. Our review sample of the Intel Core i7-6700K requires excellent cooling once you approach 4.5-4.6GHz as its stock clocks are only 4.0GHz and 4.2GHz with Turbo on for two cores.
The FX series of faster AMD 8-core CPUs almost always require watercooling or a high-end air cooler and a very beefy power supply unit (PSU) if you are really serious about a significant Piledriver overclock. AMD also uses Asetek-built liquid coolers for their top of the line FX series just as EVGA does with its CLC 280. Heat is drawn away from the CPU by the watercooler’s heatsink and is transferred by a liquid that is pumped through flexible tubes up into the array of hi-grade aluminum fins for dissipation in a radiator. In the case of the EVGA CLC 280, two large 140mm fans spin, blowing cooling air through the radiator to cool the CPU-heated liquid which is cycled for as long as the PC is on.
We notice that many of the current compact all-in-one CPU watercoolers such as the EVGA 280 CLC are based on the Asetek 5 unit. In contrast, Cooler Master uses a custom design for their Seidon 240M. The only issue one might have with using a 280mm unit over a 240mm unit is its length – it needs full tower case to install the longer radiator. In fact, we were unable to fit the EVGA CLC 280 cooler into our smaller Thermaltake Overseer tower and had to use the larger Thermaltake Chaser MK 1 full tower instead. Even so, because of our choice of a mini-ITX ASRock motherboard, the CLC 280 was a very tight fit.
The main question that we want to answer, is the EVGA 280 CLC able to beat the watercooling of our current Seidon 240M which allows us to clock our Core i7-6700K to 4.7GHz with the fans speeds set to ‘performance’ or high? And after spending a week with the EVGA 280 CLC water cooler, we can give you some answers regarding 240mm vs. 280mm radiators, especially regarding convenience, safety, and ease of installation.
Before we compare our three watercoolers, let’s unbox and install the EVGA 280 CLC. We will test all 3 liquid coolers using OCCT 4.1.2 as an extreme test to load all the cores of our CPU to 100%. This thermal torture test produces far more extreme temperatures than you will ever find in gaming and it is a great test of thermal stability.