NZXT Kraken X31 All-In-One CPU Liquid Cooler

NZXT is also moving some of its AIO cooler strategy into the realm of making it smaller and more efficient. The Kraken X31 ticks that checkbox plus a few others, such as software control, variable pump speed, 16 inch tubing leads, and a six year warranty. (Place your own "Release the Kraken," joke here.)

Introduction

It’s been a while since we looked at anything from NZXT. We reached out to NZXT to see if they had any new cooling products to review. The new NZXT Kraken X31 AIO CPU cooler was something we had not covered. NZXT is most widely known around these parts for the cases and coolers. But that’s not all it makes. Toss in power supplies, some PC accessories and lighting and you round out the catalog of NZXT’s offering.

We previously looked at the X61 and X41 hybrid water coolers which covers the 280mm and 140mm cooling crowd respectively. Now it’s time for users of the 120mm variety to get some love. The X31 brings all the features of the X41 to you in a smaller package. Features such as variable pump speed, full software control, and RBG LED lighting can now be had in a smaller form factor. Oh and I almost forgot to mention the awesome six year warranty NZXT offers on the X31 and the rest of its coolers. So let’s see if any compromises are to be had by going small or if it’s true that size does matter.

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System Setup

Today's review takes place on our fourth generation [H]ard platform. The test bed consists of the ASUS Z87-Deluxe motherboard, eight gigabytes of Corsair 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM and the Intel Core i7-4770K.

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Test Methods

CPU

The biggest change you will notice is the removal of hardware testing. In recent years, Intel has shifted its methods of testing to software based and so we find it acceptable to do the same.

GPU

Once again we have an integrated GPU in our processor which alleviates the need for a discrete one. With the removal of a discrete GPU comes the advantage of not having an additional variable to account for.

The iGPU will not create any anomalies in our testing as long as we practice consistent testing methods.

Case

Corsair was kind enough to provide us with its Carbide series chassis. It provides excellent airflow and interior space and is a good reflection on current case design.

Thermal Paste

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the thermal interface material (TIM) of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do its job. There is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones.

Temperatures

Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.

Idle

Idle temperatures will be recorded after a twenty minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Load

Load temperatures will be recorded after a twenty minute period for air cooled systems, and thirty minutes for liquid cooled systems, at 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using AIDA64 Extreme Edition v3.00.2500. This places an even greater load on the CPU than before and includes some benefits. Because the load is so extreme we see the temperature vary wildly from 72C to 86C in some instances. To get an accurate reading we will utilize AIDA64’s ability to average the temperature over time. Given twenty/thirty minutes at 100% load we arrive at a temperature that accurately represents our heatsink’s performance.

Sound

Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.