EVGA CLC Review: Is This CPU Cooler Worth The Money? Find Out

0
206
EVGA CLC Review

EVGA’s CLC 280 combines try-and-true cooler technology with high-speed fans to produce the ultimate-cooling 2x 140mm system. In this article, let us quickly do a EVGA CLC Review.

EVGA CLC Review: For

  • Excellent CPU cooling performance
  • Exceptional voltage-regulator cooling performance (when top-mounted)
  • PWM fans can be controlled by motherboard or onboard controller

Features & Specifications

EVGA has been in the cooling business a while, but it’s been years since we’ve tested any of those products. Perhaps that’s because it took them until earlier this year to finally introduce a CLC. Welcome CLC 280.

Indents at the center of fan frames stand out from other Asetek-manufactured cooling systems, and should help to reduce noise. We’re also hoping that any pressure that bleeds off there will assist motherboard voltage regulator cooling, since its heat sink is next to these fans. Here’s a short list of measured specifications:

EVGA CLC Review: Specifications

A factory-fill aluminum radiator with mount fans is factory seal to the RGB pump/water block unit via 14.5” nylon-sleeved rubber tubing. Mounting hardware includes a factory-installed LGA115x/20xx (2011 through 2066) bracket, a legacy AMD rectangular-pattern bracket, a USB controller cable, screws and washers for radiator installation, AMD standoffs for use with the factory support plate of most legacy AMD motherboards, a set of standoffs for Intel’s LGA 2011/2011-v3/2066, another set of standoffs to match the included LGA 115x/1366 support plate, and a set of thumb nuts to secure the head unit to the standoffs.

Recent samples have arrive with a dual-pattern AMD (AM4 and legacy) bracket plus yet another set of standoffs for AM4 boards that have the protruding threads on the factory support plate. EVGA has also update its installation kit image to show a clip-type cooler for AMD motherboards that don’t have thread support plates beneath the clip brackets.

 

The CPU mating surface has the familiar, smoothly-latch finish and factory-applied thermal paste of EVGA’s ODM. It’s held tight to the CPU using a standardize bracket that can be removed by twisting counter-clockwise, and replace with an alternative part (such as the legacy AMD bracket shown previously).

EVGA CLC Review

Rather than rely on motherboard firmware to set fan speed via PWM, the CLC 280 connects to the motherboard via a classic Mini USB to 9-pin USB 2.0 header cable. Only four of those pins are connected, so those oddball single-port half-headers found on some motherboards may finally have a purpose.

Fortunately, the USB interface breaks out of the head unit to two standard PWM fan headers. A third (3-pin) connector sends the pump tachometer signal to the motherboard’s CPU fan header.

Special standoffs fit the integrated support plate of LGA 2011 through 2066 interfaces, and a different set of standoffs replace the clip bracket of legacy AMD boards, if the support plate behind the board has the standard threads or nuts. LGA 115x users get the luxury of attaching the EVGA-supplied support bracket to the back of their boards, using yet another set of standoffs at the front of the board.

EVGA’s closed-loop liquid cooler, named “Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler,” will begin shipping this month in 280mm and 120mm variants. We’ve fully benchmarked the new EVGA CLC 280mm versus NZXT’s Kraken X62 & Corsair’s H115iV2 280mm coolers, including temperature and noise testing. The EVGA CLC 280, like both of these primary competitors, is built atop Asetek’s Gen5 pump technology and primarily differentiates itself in the usual ways: Fan design and pump plate/LED design. We first discussed the new EVGA CLCs at CES last month (where we also detailed the new ICX coolers), including some early criticism of the software’s functionality, but EVGA made several improvements prior to our receipt of the review product.

The EVGA CLC 280 enters the market at $130 MSRP, partnered with the EVGA CLC 120 at $90 MSRP. For frame of reference, the competing-sized NZXT Kraken X62 is priced at ~$160, with the Corsair H115i priced at ~$120. Note that we also have A/B cowling tests toward the bottom for performance analysis of the unique fan design.

EVGA CLC Review

EVGA CLC Review: EVGA CLC 280mm Tear-Down

We’ve got a full tear-down video going live tomorrow, but some photos from the process are embedded below. The EVGA CLC 280mm cooler uses the expected Gen5 Asetek pump with minimal internal customizations, beyond the usual LED plate and diffuser. Internally, the pump block consists of the impeller, the coldplate and its densely packed microfins, and a foam noise damper between the top of the pump block and the pump plate.

Two PCBs exist internally and are oriented in an outer/inner layout. The outer PCB is for the LED management and controller, the inner PCB is for pump control and is provided by Asetek. This is similar to the Corsair H1XXi series PCBs, but significantly different from the NZXT X42/X52/X62 series. You can view our NZXT tear-down here for a comparison.

EVGA’s cooler comes with the usual Intel and AMD brackets, and will offer free AM4 brackets for those who purchase a unit prior to the Ryzen launch. Nothing is new with regard to mounting – it’s using the same trivial-to-install Asetek cap screws and standoffs as always, which we’ve come to appreciate for their simplicity and strength.

A mini USB cable runs to a USB2.0 header on the board to provide RGB LED control via software. The software wasn’t ready for us to fully dig through prior to this review’s publication, but we’ve worked with the basics and can go through a few features that are noteworthy: EVGA plans to offer user-upgradeable firmware are major, we think, as is their intent to synchronize GPU and cooler LEDs through the software. It’d be interesting if EVGA also explored this for their motherboards.

At CES, we criticized EVGA’s initial plans to rely on liquid temperature for the fan speed adjustment, as we’ve proven that liquid temperature is hugely disparate from actual core temperature. This is particularly true with Kaby Lake, where it is neither unreasonable nor uncommon to see a ~29-33C liquid temperature while pumping a 95C package temperature. For this reason, building fan speed based upon liquid temperature is inadvisable, but EVGA was responsive to criticism and (as we understand it) has updated the software to function with greater sense.

The software offers usual fan speed control options and relies on an internal thermocouple for liquid temperatures, which we show in our tear-down video that goes live tomorrow. As expected, the cooler is an assemblage of plastic and a coldplate comprising the pump housing, with densely packed copper microfins for increased surface area.

Color tuning and profiles are more limited than what you’ll find with NZXT, but also more advanced than what Corsair offers on the H115iV2. EVGA strikes a mix and lands dead center in terms of price-to-customization, with regard to visuals.

EVGA CLC Review: EVGA CLC Packaging

All three of the EVGA closed loop liquid coolers come in identical packaging (not considering their size). The boxes are really simple in their design, just a black sleeve around a cardboard box.

On the top of the black sleeve, there is a brief overview of the specifications on the cooler, as well as some of its key selling points.

When you pull off the black sleeve, the cardboard box underneath is designed essentially the same as the sleeve. It has EVGA’s logo on the front, as well as what size the cooler is.

The top of the cardboard box is pretty much the same, too, in terms of layout. However, rather than listing features, it sticks strictly to the technical specifications of the cooler.

Summary

EVGA flow control software monitors temperatures and adjust fans accordingly. Users are welcome to set their own fan slopes, yet the biggest advantage over motherboard-based fan control might be that the software also allows users to change the color of the EVGA logo. The “K” icon forces full-speed operation.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.