In the world of enthusiast system cooling, water is the new black. Even the fanciest, biggest air cooler can’t seem to keep up with a good closed-loop liquid cooler these days. NZXT ups the ante by expanding from the standard 12cm form factor to 14cm. It may not seem like much, but the increased surface area gets impressive results, especially when the Kraken X60 doubles it to 28cm.
In Norwegian mythology, a kraken is a giant sea monster similar to a squid.
This super-size beast won’t fit in most older cases, though. You can check NZXT’s website to see if yours is worthy, but it’s not a comprehensive chart. There are also two different standards for fan spacing right now: 15mm and 20mm. This is the size of the gap between the screw holes of adjacent fans; 15mm puts the fans right against each other, while 20mm leaves a little space. The X60 is a 15mm cooler. You can’t knock NZXT for creating a part that doesn’t fit everywhere—it’s just something to be aware of before you start flinging your money around.
Installation is pretty breezy. You snap a bracket onto the pump, put some screws into the bracket, and then set this arrangement down on the CPU socket. The bracket captures the screws so they don’t fall out during installation. However, the capturing mechanism is difficult to undo if you accidentally insert the nearly identical-looking LGA2011 screws instead of the LGA1150/1155 versions (why vendors can’t color-code the screws we don’t know). LGA1155/1150 and AMD motherboards get a plastic backplate, which is not ideal; the metal bits you insert into the backplate (to secure the screws you’ve attached to the pump) could get twisted out of place and strip the hole, making it difficult to install the screws securely. It would be nice to see a metal backplate, like on the similar Corsair H100i. However, it’s nice that the screws are designed to tighten abruptly, so you’re unlikely to crack the backplate from excessive torque.
As for cabling, it’s pretty straightforward. All wires are integrated into the pump, and the fan connectors, USB cable (to communicate with the fan control software), and SATA cable (to power the pump) are long enough for a variety of case layouts. They’re even sleeved in classy black braiding. The liquid tubing is also long, flexible, and rubberized.
We discovered right away that the extra size of this radiator and its fans gave us a combination of impressive cooling and impressive noise level. Even with our internal testing tool thrashing the CPU harder than Prime95, the X60 never rose above a moderate drone when set to Silent mode—while holding a 4.13GHz i7-3960X overclock to the mid-60s Celsius. Its dual fans hovered around 975rpm during this test. We could force them up to 1,500rpm by engaging Extreme mode, but it was super loud and only lowered temps by 4 C. There’s also a Custom mode where you can chart several points where you want the fan speeds to be at certain temperatures.
Compared to the H100i, it’s a tough call; the X60 gets a slight edge for not needing a firmware update (or needing to search Google for one) and having the control software bundled on a CD. Both items make setting up a new computer much easier. But at the $120 level, a metal backplate isn’t too much to ask for.
Silent mode delivers great temps; smooth installation.
1983 Buick Century
Plastic backplate; case compatibility chart has gaps; difficult
Kraken X60 Quiet / Performance Mode
H100i Quiet / Performance Mode
212 Evo Quiet /Performance Mode
20.9 / 20.7
20.3 / 20.5
20.5 / 20
29.7 / 28.8
30.7 / 29.3
35.5 / 30.5
66 / 61.8
67.1 / 61
70 / 67.3
Load - Ambient
45.1 / 41.1
46.8 / 40.5
49.5 / 47.3
All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed with an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.1GHz, on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, in a Corsair 900D with stock fans set to Standard.