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NZXT Kraken G10 Liquid Cooling GPU Mounting Kit Review

Digging into our bag of tricks, we can bring forth some results of the NZXT Kraken G10 bracket and fan system working with an AIO to cool your video card.

@chad_sebring
Published Fri, May 9 2014 12:03 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:00 PM CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: NZXT

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

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Water cooling a video card is nothing new, and we have seen various concepts for full coverage water blocks, universal water blocks, and a couple of years back we even looked at an AIO design from ARCTIC. The thing is though, with most of the AIOs being built all coming from two (and now possibly three) companies, there had to be a way to incorporate AIOs into video card cooling in the way that ARCTIC delivered, but in a way to take advantage of the later generation AIOs as well. Anyone following the forum life in the last few years saw a certain mod on another forum, where the idea of a GPU bracket for the majority of the Asetek AIOs was born, modified, and even went retail from that one simple idea.

Well a year or two ago, NZXT had some builds to complete for CES, and asked that they get a couple of these brackets to go along with some of their Kraken AIOs as they debuted the Switch 810. The rest is history, as we now have this product to take a look at.

This review also should have gone live long ago, but we did run into a slight snag. Even after a few emails back and forth, and explaining that we used the HD7950 for testing, we were sent this new product along with an AIO from NZXT to have a go with. However, the die on our GPU is lower than the bracket around it and that left us with an issue of no contact between the die and the AIO base plate. Then we remembered an air cooler that sent a shim along with it, so we dug through some boxes in the basement, and with slight modifications, we are now able to give it a go.

As the title suggests, we are going to have a look at the Kraken G10 GPU to AIO bracket, and just how well it installs and performs with the Kraken X40 they sent along with it for a baseline of results. Keep in mind, this is a slim, single radiator based AIO, and there is always the option to choose another Asetek made AIO that offers the round head and locking tabs. Stick with us, and we think you will be really impressed with the results we got in our testing of this combo.

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The chart offered by NZXT is very thorough, and offers everything you need to know about the Kraken G10. First of all, it comes in three colors to blend into any build with the option of red, white, or black (as we received). We see that the G10 is 177mm from expansion slot to power plug, it sits 32.5mm off of the card, and is 110.6mm from slot to edge of the card. Also, to help cool the power delivery system of the card, this bracket includes a 93mm fan. This fan is based on a sleeve bearing, uses a 3-pin connector for power, and will spin at 1500 RPM to cool the card, and it won't be ear-splittingly loud while doing so.

As for which cards are compatible, there is a full list of cards, but pay attention to the asterisks denoting things like die height issues, and in our case, the need for a shim that you have to find on your own. There is also a compatibility chart for the coolers that can be used along with the Kraken G10, and it includes more than just the NZXT products. Here it is easy to see that the Kraken AIOs do work, but there are also Corsair, Antec, Thermaltake, and even Zalman options for sources of compatible AIOs to choose from; they are even listed down to the specific models.

Now of course there is the fact that the price of an AIO is needed to be taken into consideration with a product such as this. Remember, you are getting the bracket and fan, along with a few other goodies, but sourcing the AIO is up to you. While most of us have an AIO lying around collecting dust, that isn't such a concern. The Kraken G10 bracket also comes up in only a select few places, and no matter what you are seeing around the internet, keep in mind the MSRP is set at $29.99 U.S. dollars, and can be had directly from the NZXT store for that amount if you do find that others are charging a bit too much for their stock.

If you do happen to have a compatible AIO collecting dust, a $30 investment is a great way to put it back into use. The flipside though, is that if you need to buy the AIO as well, things can get a bit expensive -like pretty easily over $100 with some of those AIO options. From what we can see though, this is a solid design, and a great way to get some extra cooling to the video card without the mass of an air cooler or the heft of a full cover block.

PRICING: You can find the NZXT Kraken G10 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

Canada: The NZXT KRAKEN G10 (BLACK) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada and the NZXT KRAKEN G10 (WHITE) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada, and the NZXT KRAKEN G10 (RED) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada.

Packaging

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With packaging that mimics the Kraken AIO's packaging, the Kraken G10 is displayed in its white form with it being attached to a video card and an AIO, but as it says in the fine print at the bottom, neither of them comes in this package.

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On this smaller end of the box there is a basic video card compatibility list, a cooler compatibility list, and the specs are shown off to the right. It also states this has a two-year warranty, but the only thing that could possibly go bad would be the fan.

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We also found a features list on one of the sides where it discusses the steel bracket that works with quite a few video cards, says it is easy to install, includes zip-ties to keep things looking clean, and states that it offers a 92mm fan for additional card cooling.

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This smaller end shows us all three versions of the Kraken G10 on the left in black, white, and red; to the right, it also shows that we have the RL-KRG10-B1, or the black version.

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Around the back of the packaging, NZXT covers five features with small icons, and offers another view of the included bracket along the top. Across the bottom, we see the kit installed in a Phantom with in-house results from GTX 780 testing of the stock solution versus this Kraken G10 and an X40 strapped to it.

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Opening the box, we find a section off to the left where the hardware made its voyage separated from the fan to the right. Under the hardware and the fan is another layer of that same dense foam, with the metal Kraken G10 bracket riding it out at the bottom; it all arrived in excellent condition for testing.

NZXT Kraken G10 Liquid Cooled GPU Mounting Kit

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As we start to remove the gear from the box, we have the main component of the Kraken G10 system, and that is the steel bracket. This angle is representative of the view seen when it is installed.

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Flipping it over, we can now see the AIO tabbed bracket to the left that locks into the head unit. Just outside that ring are four sets of three holes to allow another bracket to sandwich that card. The right side of this bracket offers a pair of tie points, and room for the included 92mm fan.

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As we take a closer look at the tabs on the bracket, we find they are exactly what was found on the older hardware before the locking ring system that Thermaltake was first to introduce. However, this bracket reintroduces all the fumbling around that the new brackets rid AIOs of.

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Sticking with the black and white theme, and a fan that will look good with any of the three versions, is this DF0922512SELN 92mm fan with a black frame, and white blade to actively cool the power delivery end of the video card; however, you will need to provide heat sinks for those chips.

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Here we have the top bracket that locks the card and the larger bracket together. As with the AIO bracket offered, this bracket also has the NZXT name painted on it.

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Flipping over the top bracket, we see the corners are marked "A," "B," and "C," to denote various mounting, and the instructions show which letter corresponds to which card is being cooled. There is also a section of foam applied in the middle to keep the bracket from shorting out on the top of the video card.

Accessories and Documentation

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Part of the accessories includes foam spacers to help with the installation process, and fan screws to mount the 92mm fan to the bracket. Then, along the bottom row we have the studs that lock into the holes in the top bracket, rubber and plastic washer assemblies for spacing the top bracket, and the thumbscrews to lock it all together.

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There is also a manual that generalizes the basic installation on all video cards. You will need to pay attention to the demands of your card when getting into specific details like what needs heat sinks, and what can do with just a fan on them for cooling. They also include a few tie straps to tidy things up on the Kraken G10, as well as the tubing and wiring from the AIO.

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Since we needed an AIO to go along with the G10, NZXT has sent us the Kraken X40 for our testing. This is a 140mm single radiator AIO, and is the same unit they did their testing with. All we need to do now is get the card, and get this system mounted up for some testing.

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Oh, one last thing. When NZXT mentions that some cards will need a shim, this is the sort of thing they have in mind. Due to the design of the HD7950, this must be installed to make contact with the die to the cold plate on the AIO. Not too sure how easy these are to find; we just happened to have one lying around.

Installation and Finished Product

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First of all, we need a test subject, or the "lab rat" if you will. For our testing (since it is still a relevant card with a current rebadged still selling) we are using the HIS IceQ Turbo version of the HD7950.

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Following the basic instructions, we went forward and got the main bracket all set up to continue on with the installation. We have added the fan and also put on the spacers, but we soon found out that they just got in our way, and we quickly removed them for our specific installation.

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After finding out we needed to be using the "A" notches in the top bracket, we slid the studs through and added the washer assemblies. The real issue is that nothing locks this solidly, and even once the card is set on top of this, aligning it with the main bracket is not so easy to do.

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Excuse the experimental thermal paste left on the die, but we had to make sure we were getting everything right with the shim in place before we locked everything down. At this point, we have the washers and the foam pad isolating the card, and it's time to start fiddling with the AIO.

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After what seemed like thirty minutes or so of removing rubber washers to give enough threads for the thumbscrews to grab on to, contorting one hand to keep the AIO in line with the bracket while applying enough pressure to get the thumbscrews on, and tying back wiring and hoses, this is what we are left with; for something billed as easy to install, we didn't have such a smooth time with it.

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Flipping the card over, it is easy to see that the AIO is cooling only the GPU, but there is room (roughly a half an inch) for heat sinks on the memory, as well as under the fan to the right of the bracket. We were lucky enough that the stock heat sink stays on the card, and the fan can blow on that to cool our power delivery system.

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We also found it rough to get all of the wiring from the X40 and the hoses running down along between the edge of the bracket and the fan. There is an option to use an 80mm fan on this bracket, and it will help add a bit of room here to clean things up easily.

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For the purposes of our testing, this is how things will be oriented. The card is hanging from the top, and with no 140mm mounting in this chassis, we have set the radiator on the table. There won't be much difference in the results, but we will also rotate the chassis like we do for CPU coolers to see if there are issues that arise.

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This last image is not really to point anything out, but more of a view of how the Kraken G10 kit will look inside of the typical ATX chassis. It is a simple, clean looking, and capable system, but let's get on to the testing and let the charts do the talking.

Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results

Test System Setup

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I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Corsair, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with.

To test our video card coolers, we use the test system and software seen in the chart above. After the system has been booted and has idled out to its lowest temperature, we open up GPU-Z and after a few minutes we take a reading of the lowest temperature shown for the idle results. This is for both stock and aftermarket coolers. To provide the load for our testing, we have chosen Unigine Heaven as our heat source. We run the test at default settings, only changing the resolution to 1080p. After running in benchmark mode for twenty minutes, we again go to GPU-Z for results. To make sure we are getting the correct readings, not only do we log the results, but we also set the sensors to keep the maximum values shown, so when the software is closed, we can verify with the logs on the maximum temperatures for the various runs and thermal applications for each cooler.

Thermal Results

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The idle temperatures are the best we have seen, even against the full cover water blocks, but there is less to cool with the Kraken G10, as it only cools the GPU die with liquid, so it's not really a surprise either. At this point, it appears all the time and energy taken to get this kit assembled for testing might be worth it.

For points of reference, the 92mm fan was spinning at 1500 RPM, and the pump on the X40 was running full speed for all testing, but we did limit the fan to 7.5V of power, and had it spinning at only 1100 RPM at this point.

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When the load is applied, the full coverage water block still takes the top of the charts, but there is much more cost involved with that test setup than the Kraken X40 plus the Kraken G10 kit, and being only two degrees behind the best on the chart is quite the accomplishment.

Once the overclock is added in, this kit really shines, and it only increases a single degree. We do have the pump still spinning at full speed, and the G10 fan is still cranking at 1500 RPM, but this time the X40 fan was allowed to spool up to full speed at 1900 RPM.

Two other things to cover are the noise, and reports of the cards heating up under the fan. First of all, the noise level of the Kraken G20 is a steady 33dB from the fan. However, the X40 runs at 37dB at idle and roared up to 52dB when powered with 12V. So if noise is an issue, choose wisely as to which AIO is going to work for your needs. Secondly, on the reports of cards getting hot, without heat sinks on the power delivery system, it is obviously going to heat. We got lucky on two points. Our card is very efficient, and even with an IR thermometer we saw two degrees difference between the stock cooler and our Kraken G10 kit. Just be sure you know what sort of heat you have to deal with, plan accordingly, and issues like that will be kept at bay.

Final Thoughts

First of all, the design is very straight forward, and should be easy to use in most instances. We just found that for our specific test card, even after acquiring a shim for the cooler, we still had to do some modifications and a lot of fussing around to get things to work out properly. They do address that these issues may arise, and while that helps, a shim and some instructions on how to successfully modify things to fit right the first time would be a huge help.

The reality of it all is that even with the work involved, and the limited cost to get an AIO plus this Kraken G10 kit, the performance speaks for itself, and is very impressive. Even with our card barely challenging the system for better cooling, it also shows how much room these single radiator solutions could handle before needing to move to a dual radiator solution for the more demanding top-tier cards on the market.

While NZXT is not the first to pioneer this concept (and they certainly won't be the last to try their hands at AIO cooling of a video card), they do make a very easy system that works with a lot of AIOs. Like we addressed earlier, people who adapted to AIOs in the beginning are sure to have a generation one or two cooler sitting around with a round head unit and lock tabs on it. This will certainly keep the costs down to adapt to much better GPU cooling than what the stock solution will offer.

The thing is, you can grab a $100 AIO, and still be cheaper and easier to install than a loop and a water block, but you can always catch some AIO on sale for less than $50 as well. That brings this into the realm of what aftermarket air coolers cost, and we get much better results with the Kraken G10 at a cost of only $29.99.

While there are some horror stories out there (and thermal images to prove the unfortunate parties know what they are talking about), just because the box shows compatibility, it does not mean that the Kraken G10 kit is capable of cooling it as delivered. Addressing things like heat sinks on the memory and phases on the card are still a must, and they are not provided in the kit. Also, if you happen to have a die lower than the bracket that surrounds it you will need to locate a shim like we used, but this is why reviewers are here: to show potential users the larger picture.

The Kraken G10 is a great idea, and it's a product that we can see a lot of users wanting to try out; just keep in mind that this is a kit, and compatibility of the cold plate touching the GPU die, and keeping the rest of the card under control are two different things. The way we see it, NZXT expects this product to be for more experienced users who look ahead when planning things out, and it not necessarily a kit the novice should pick up and hope for the best with.

PRICING: You can find the NZXT Kraken G10 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

Canada: The NZXT KRAKEN G10 (BLACK) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada and the NZXT KRAKEN G10 (WHITE) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada, and the NZXT KRAKEN G10 (RED) retails for CDN$45.00 at Amazon Canada.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

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