Ever since closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) arrived on the scene, hardware manufacturers have been scrambling to get a slice of the pie. On paper, CLCs can achieve better performance than even the most expensive air coolers, and more quietly. Because PC technology is always evolving, it’s rare to see a genuinely new and interesting war front appear—if you’re not participating in it, you might get left behind. Silverstone has stepped into the game with its Tundra series of CLCs. Last month, we reviewed its 240mm TD02, and now it’s time for the Silverstone Tundra TD03, which is the 120mm version.
The fan cables are short, but the bundled Y adapter gives them plenty of total length.
At a glance, the TD03 is similar to the Corsair H80i. The 120mm radiator is paired with two 120mm fans that install in a push-pull orientation, where one fan pushes air into the rad on one side, and the other fan pulls it out. You can reverse the direction, but the temperature difference is usually negligible.
The TD03 has a very different look, however. Its tubes are enclosed in white corrugated plastic, the rad’s housing is white, and the water block installed on top of the CPU is housed in brushed aluminum. If we were scoring purely on aesthetics, the Tundra cooler would walk away with a gold medal.
The rad is also nearly twice as thick as usual (with about twice the fin density, as well); combined with the two fans, you need a whopping 3.75 inches of clearance. Unless you have a cavernous super-tower (our test case is a Corsair 900D), the TD03 is not fitting in the top of your case. It will go in the rear, but high-profile RAM on an LGA2011 motherboard may obstruct it. You may have a 120mm fan mount in the bottom of your case, but a radiator’s reservoirs need an inch or two of extra space on each side, so it’s not guaranteed to work. And the tubes might not reach.
On the bright side, installation for Intel CPUs is made easier with two pre-installed aluminum brackets, and a generally minimized number of widgets. The LGA2011 socket needs only four easily distinguishable bolts, and a set of four screws with springs on them. And the Intel bracket is attached with four screws, so it’s an easy swap to AMD. Since aluminum dissipates heat better than the standard plastic housing and is more impact-resistant, it’s a good choice for protecting a copper block, albeit a relatively expensive one. That and the extra materials in the jumbo-size radiator put the TD03 in a different price range than a standard 120mm CLC.
So, the 64-gigabyte question is, does the TD03 have the performance to justify its premium design? Not as much as we’d like, unfortunately. We tried both airflow directions, different amounts of thermal paste, and even laying the case on its side. But in the end, the TD03 came in a half-step behind the competition in its price range. At around $100 on the street, it’s up against the likes of the Corsair H100i and the NZXT Kraken X60, which consistently outperform it, if slightly. Are the TD03’s fins too densely packed for its fans? Are the liquid tubes too narrow? We’ll leave it to the science wizards to figure that out. But until then, we can’t quite recommend this cooler over others in its class.
Best scores bolded. All temperatures in degrees Celsius. 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.