The Bottom Line
- + Compatibility, performance, and price
- + Pump in radiator
- + Easy-to-use hardware
- + RGB lighting
- + Large diffuser on the head unit
- - Too big for some cases
- - Louder than some others
Should you buy it?AvoidConsiderShortlistBuy
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Most of the time, when someone thinks about MSI, they immediately go to the motherboards, GPUs, laptops, and even their monitors, but the company offers much more than that. Over the years, we have looked at quite a few of their peripherals, but in that same period, they have also made strides to become relevant in CPU cooling. While almost all of the major players are going this route, with someone like MSI, it makes sense that you can buy all of your components from a single maker, which keeps the build's theme slick, all under the control of a single software environment.
In all of the time we have dealt with MSI, we have seen only two of their cooling products before looking at what we have for you today. One of them was a tower cooler, but again, it came well-dressed and was unmistakably an MSI product that would look amazing on any system but looked even better when paired with MSI gear. On the other side of the coin, we looked at one other AIO to date. While we loved its visual appeal and performance, we ran into a small issue with fitment on one of our older APEX motherboards, but that was more due to the layout of that specific motherboard, as MSI stayed within spec. Still, we could not use the cooler after the review in the situation we wanted to.
What we have for you today is delivered with a more compact head unit, which negates the issue we found, and beyond that, the appeal of this newer AIO takes RGB illumination for MSI coolers to an entirely new level. What we have for you now is an in-depth look at the MSI MAG CoreLiquid C360. While it would go swimmingly with the MAG lineup of motherboards, it is also a cooler that will find itself a stunning addition to any build, no matter the chosen components.
The MSI MAG CoreLiquid C360 comes with an aluminum radiator 396mm long, 120mm wide, and 27mm thick, supporting three 120mm fans. The fans are shown to spin in a range of 500 to 2000 RPM, delivering 78.73 CFM of airflow each. The static pressure is also quite good with the 2.39 mmH2O rating, but they also come with a 34.3 dBA sound level, which is much higher than we typically see. Each of the fans uses ball bearings for the blades to spin on and are said to last up to 70,000 hours. Continuing down the chart, we are told that the cables are 500mm for RGB control, and the fan power leads are 350mm in length.
Next comes the tubing, which is said to be 400mm long and sleeved. We do not see that MSI states on the product page that these are evaporation-proof tubes constructed of three layers of netted plastic with a reinforced mesh exterior. We then jump right into the pump specifications, where it lasts 100,000 hours, spins on a ceramic bearing, and uses a 3-pin connection to power it. The last bit concerning the pump is its speed, where we are told that it will run at 4200 RPM all the time. Again, on the product page, it is said that it uses a three-phase motor and is located in the radiator. This placement not only helps to keep noise down, but also extends its life due to being removed from the heat source.
The last thing we see about the components is that the head unit is 70.5mm square and stands 52mm tall, but there is no mention of the large white diffuser on the top or that it is backed with RGB lighting. Compatibility is listed at the bottom, and as one can tell, MSI ensures all of the latest sockets are covered and even includes ThreadRipper sockets and many older ones.
While cost can make or break a product, we do not feel that is the case here. Looking around on the internet for one, we quickly located them in many locations with wide availability. Considering many CPU liquid coolers are asking closer and closer to $200 to obtain those with a full RGB display and the potential to cool just about any CPU on the planet, the price point we see will be pleasing to many bank accounts. Currently, the MSI MAG CoreLiquid C360 is found on Amazon at $141.99, which is more expensive than the ARCTIC Freezer AIOs. Still, many more affordable solutions do not offer the level of lighting, software control, or performance MSI offers in this CPU cooler.
With some of the most brilliant-looking packaging in the game, MSI puts its name and logo at the top, utilizing the center of the front panel to show off the product with all of its RGB goodness. Near the bottom, we see the Mystic Light icon and the MAG CoreLiquid C360 naming.
Lying the box on its back to see the longer side of the package, we see that the design is similar, but this time it is a play on shiny and matte black. As far as information is concerned, the only thing we get on this panel is the name of the product contained inside.
On one of the smaller ends of the box, we get more of the matte black backdrop, which allows the white used for the logo and the cooler's name to pop, making it easy to see and read.
The second of the longer sides of the box tells us that if you require more information, you can visit the address provided, which is repeated in many languages. Below that is MSI company information along with a bunch of iconography below it, while to the right are codes for various things like the manual, while the product sticker is at the right, delivering all vital information like the part number and serial number.
On the second smaller panel around the sides of the packaging, we find the product's specifications. What is contained here is very similar to what we covered on the previous page of this review and should leave potential customers with little to question.
The naming tops the panel on the back of the box, but there are three images to look at. On the left, we see the MAG CoreLiquid C360 in all its powered glory. In the middle is an image showing the high thermal dissipation due to the split pathway, where at the right is an expanded view of the pump, and it also shows where the pump is located.
Under a layer of dense foam, we find all components kept separated inside the compartmentalized inner packaging. To aid in keeping the surfaces scratch-free and to try to keep the dust levels down, each component is wrapped in plastic, and the radiator gets an additional layer of cardboard to help protect the fin array. You will not find instructions in the box, as MSI is trying to eliminate waste, and you will find the code outside the box to obtain a downloaded version of the manual.
MSI MAG CORELIQUID C360 CPU Cooler
In keeping with all of the angles we saw on the packaging, the head unit is topped with a diffuser that mimics those angles. Deep channels are cut into the top for style, and the black and exposed metal portion with the MSI logo is also a nice touch. We also like the octagonal shape around the sides versus their squarer options.
On the right side of the head unit, we find the angles swivel fittings and tubes, cycling the coolant through it. Between them is a single lead, which is used for the lighting.
The cable from the head unit is 500mm long and is a 3-pin A5V ARGB cable with a pair of connectors at the end. The daisy-chain setup allows for the cable to plug into the motherboard while allowing other ARGB connections to use that same port to light up the fans.
The base of the head unit is made of copper and is what removes the heat from the CPU. We did not find any pre-applied paste, so we do not have to worry about dust and debris, nor do we have to worry about possible contact disrupting the application.
The radiator is roughly sixteen inches from the head unit, connected via the evaporation-less tubing covered in a black braided sleeve. We can also see the fill port, which is permanently closed off and not refillable, but more importantly, we can also see a wire emanating from the side of the radiator.
At the end of the radiator nearest the tubing, on the opposite side, we find the pump. As the rendering on the box shows, the outside edges of the radiator bring in the heated coolant, while the center is the cooler bit, allowing the pump to return the cooled coolant to the head unit. The cable attached to it fits in a groove in the side of the radiator so as not to cause fitment issues, and is 500mm long, ensuring it can connect to just about any motherboard fan header.
While inside the chassis, the naming is a bit tougher to see. However, you can make out the play between both matte surfaces under the right light, allowing the MSI name to show.
Stepping back to take it all into view, we can see the radiator is built to support three 120mm fans, and the height of the pump will not conflict with the installation of the fan. However, it does eat up some of the cooling real estate. Picking a random spot to count fins, we found this radiator has a 23 FPI setup, and we all know it takes some serious fans to cool these properly.
The last thing we wanted to show is found on the end of the radiator. Not only can we get perspective on the 27mm thickness of it, but we also see the sticker with the model and serial number, which helps users down the line should an RMA be needed once the box has been binned.
Accessories and Documentation
Starting off the hardware components, we have the LGA1700 backplate with bits of tape on either side to help hold it in place. On either side of the backplate are standoffs which the manual notes as parts L and N, but are both shown to be sued with LGA2066/2011 sockets.
The kit ships with three brackets that slide into a groove on the head unit. On the left is the Intel bracket, and in the middle is the ThreadRipper bracket, whereas the one on the right is used for the rest of the supported AMD sockets.
Here we have the Intel studs that lock into the middle backplate. To secure the head unit to any hardware, you will need the spring-loaded nuts above the AMD latches. We then see plastic washers and spacers used in various applications. To the right of the backplate, we see yet another set of standoffs clearly marked LGA2011 and yet another set marked TR4.
The bag at the top contains the twelve long and short screw sets to mount the fans and the radiator to a chassis with a small tube of thermal paste to the right of it. We then run into the cables, which consist of a 3-way 4-pin PWM fan splitter cable, a Molex to 4-pin adapter to power the fans at full speed, and a noise reducer that lowers the voltage via resistance.
Lastly are the trio of RGB fans that ship in the box. These 120mm fans sport the APA1225M12 part number, and the blades and hubs are white like most RGB diffusers, allowing the hubs lighting to spread across the entire fan. Each fan comes with a 4-pin power cable and a 3-pin 5V ARGB cable with a pigtail to allow in-series connections. These fans also come with rubber pads on the corners of the black frames to ensure vibration is of no concern.
Installation and Finished Product
Since we use an AMD-based system for testing, we use the motherboard hardware in its entirety. Not only do we keep the backplate, but we also leave the plastic brackets at the top in place.
After applying thermal paste to the CPU and sliding the appropriate bracket into the head unit, we are nearly ready. We first have to grab the AMD latches and a pair of the spring-loaded nuts, using them to mount the head unit to the motherboard securely. With only one thin cable to power the lighting, it is easier to hide and looks cleaner than other options on the market.
Stepping back, even though the top of our "chassis" is higher than many cases, we have no problems mounting the radiator and keeping the tubing bent gently without the risk of kinks. Even if you were to install this into the front of a chassis, the sixteen inches of tubing would get you where you need to go.
When the MAG CoreLiquid C360 is running, the appeal of this cooler shines, no pun intended. The soft glow from the fans and the head unit is terrific, without the bright spots we see from other AIOs. Although we are using an ASUS motherboard, Armoury Crate recognizes the cooler and can control the ARGB, although to get the most from its customizable options, it is best to use Mystic Light from MSI.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII HERO [Wi-Fi] (AMD X570) - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 4000MHz 4X8GB
- Graphics Card: ASUS GeForce RTX 2060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Galax HOF Pro M.2 1TB SSD
- Case: Hydra Bench Standard
- Power Supply: ASUS ROG Thor 850W - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: AMD Ryzen Master, AIDA64 Engineer 6.25.5400, and CPU-z 1.92.0 x64
To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our 2020 CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for more information.
Making a run for the top of the chart is something anyone can appreciate. While many are okay with delivering middle-of-the-road results, as seen by the ninth-place finish, MSI can produce at stock levels; we cannot find much fault with the 56.2°C average temperature.
As we apply the overclock and thus add more heat to the system, the MAG CoreLiquid is up for the task, pushing them into sixth place in this chart. With an average temperature of 61.5°C, we are less than a degree from the best results.
Even though we now find the MAG CoreLiquid C360 in seventh place overall, the main point is to see what they leave on the table. At 60°C, we are only 1.5° cooler than the previous chart, and a ton of noise accompanies this attempt versus the PWM control with an overclock.
Noise Level Results
Up front, there is little to no audible noise from the pump, and no matter which runs we are talking about, ours ran in a range of 3948 to 3957 RPM. However, the fans are not what we call silent, but MSI never makes that claim with this AIO. As the chart shows, our stock run resulted in 35 dB of noise, with then running at 1212 RPM.
We were pleased that adding the overclock into the mix did not make our ears bleed. Although they are louder than many in this chart, at 38 dB with the fans turning at 1308 RPM, it is easy to deal with daily, especially while gaming with a headset on.
We mentioned that obtaining that last little bit of performance from the MAG CoreLiquid C360 came with a steep penalty, and as the results here show, that is easy to see. With the fans now spinning at 1991 RPM, the noise level shot up to 52 dB.
Going through the checklist, we have very little to complain about. While the manual must be obtained separately via download, the installation process is no more complicated than many we see. Thermal performance is excellent, and while not chart-topping, it is running head-to-head with many more expensive offerings. Noise levels are subjective to the user, and while a tad higher under normal operations, it is nothing a case, and a set of headphones cannot help to dampen.
However, if you use the Molex adapter or set the BIOS to run the fans at full speed, you will move into the annoying level of noise, but again, there is no real need to do so for an extra degree and a half worth of performance. In all of these respects, we feel that MSI has done more than a respectable job concerning all the basics you need for a successful CPU cooler.
Visually, we applaud MSI for what they have delivered. Even sitting there without any power, the appeal of the head unit is unlike the vast majority of its competition, and to stand out in today's market is a tricky thing to accomplish. The contrast of the milky white diffuser against the deep black and exposed metal bits is something we love, and we didn't even have an MSI system to install it on.
Carrying that same look to the fans, where the color changes are smooth, and removing any hotspots is another thing that makes us like the aesthetics of the MAG CoreLiquid C360. Even with the connectivity of the ARGB, there is plenty of cable length, and allowing everything to daisy-chain together eliminates the need for a hub or multiple ports on the motherboard.
Pricing may be a bit rich for some people's blood, and we realize there are more affordable options out there, but not many of them can compete on this level. Not only do you get top-tier performance, very close to the top of our charts, but you also do not need to shell out nearly $200 to get a stunning-looking AIO. At $141.99, you will be hard-pressed to find another AIO, no matter who the maker is, that can deliver in all aspects that matter most to users.
While the noise levels may be a bit much for some, it can be subdued in typical environments, and only if you decide to run the fans at full speed will it become an issue. Of course, there is a small amount of room for improvement, but for a company not well known for its CPU coolers, we feel MSI did a great job and is on the right path with its offerings.