Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
When it comes to AIOs, Corsair, Antec, and a select few others including OEM versions, were the only choices available for quite a long time. While many companies previously offered their own water cooling concepts (like Thermaltake did back in the day), we now see that most companies have conformed to a general standard for AIOs. Everyone who has the money to take on the market is opting to release some form of an AIO to get a cut of this huge market that has really been booming for a few manufacturers over the past couple of years.
This is where Enermax has stepped in. At the same time they are releasing coolers like the ETS-N30-HE we just had a look at, Enermax is also offering us up a trio of new AIO coolers. As with many companies, there will be a slim single radiator design, a better single radiator version for more extreme purposes, and there will also be a dual radiator cooled solution as well. That pretty much covers the market with a mainstream line; there is the slim design, something a little better and trimmed out a bit better, then of course there is the version for those with big dreams of a very heavy overclock on your processor.
It seems they have covered the market pretty well, but how do these AIOs stack up against similar solutions? That is precisely why we are here today as we look at the Liqtech 120S. There are two versions of this cooler though, and that is something to keep in mind when looking at them online.
There is a high performance version designated with the ELC-LM120S-HP naming, but we were given the slightly fancier model, the ELC-LM120S-TAA that comes with the less powerful Apollish fan in the box. Even though we received a model that by specifications should prove to almost underperform, we think the results may surprise you, since they did surprise us when we saw just how well the Liqtech 120S and Apollish 120mm fan combination did in our testing.
Following the chart as we cover the specifications, we see both models shown at the top, and for the most part, they are identical. They come with a copper cold plate and the ceramic bearing based pump sitting right on top of it, enclosed in a black plastic design that is different from all other AIOs we have seen. The radiator portion of the loop is made of aluminum, and due to the use of mixed metals, a special coolant is used, which travels back and forth through 310mm of FEP tubing with a protective corrugated cover.
While both coolers offer all of the same mounting capabilities, we see where the difference is found when we get to the fans. The left side shows that the HP model offers a 120mm fan capable of 110 CFM, and a huge static pressure rating of 7.4 mmH2O. The version we are testing offers 105 CFM of air flow, but only 3.7 mmH2O. Both fans are rated at the same noise level, and the only other major difference is that the TAA model offers LED lighting in the fan.
As we look around for these coolers, we find some really affordable price tags on these models. From what we can gather, the high performance, or HP version of this kit starts with pricing right around $75 U.S. dollars and goes up from there depending on location. As for the model we've received, there is a $5 premium for the Apollish Advance fan that comes with this kit. As of right now, the pricing seems very reasonable when compared to other AIOs in this category, and we feel the styling is different enough that it may even make you want to swap out an older AIO. Keep reading and see if the Liqtech 120S is the new AIO for you.
PRICING: You can find the Enermax Liqtech 120S 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.
In order to save on packaging costs, Enermax uses this one package to ship both models of this AIO. On the front we see the HP model to the left and the TAA model to the right. At the far right, above the image of the base, Enermax denotes which model is in the box, and across the bottom are six features to make you ponder if this is the cooler for you.
Both of the shorter sides of the packaging just display the company and product name. Even though the panel is multicolor and sort of fancy with the naming, not going wild with information also keeps costs to a minimum while remaining appealing to the eye on the shelf.
One of these longer panels makes up the bottom of the box, and provides nothing but a solid black panel. Here however, we find that Enermax has repeated twelve times that this is a closed loop CPU cooler, with high efficiency to keep your system cool and quiet.
On the back is where you will be informed about what is inside of the box. Things start out with nine features listed with dimensional drawings under them, and five images of features off to the right. The lower section is then used to deliver the specifications chart for both models.
As with most AIOs, the Liqtech 120S is shipped inside of a recycled cardboard inner box. This compartmentalizes all of the components, and keeps potential damages at bay. After removing the cooler from this inner packaging and doing a visual inspection, we found all of it to be in great shape, with no damages to report -not even to the fins on the radiator.
Enermax Liqtech 120S AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
Fresh out of the box, you can see this is half of a typical AIO, with the plain thin radiator and corrugated plastic on the tubing. However, when getting to the head unit, we see a whole new design in its shape and styling.
Moving closer, we can see the Enermax name and logo in the center are currently white, but are backlit when powered. There is also a set of seven concentric rings, and each of the corners has what is designed to look like a nut.
The typical swivel fittings are found on this side of the head unit, and their bracket is secured to the head unit with a pair of screws. These are able to swing in just about any direction needed to take pressure off of the lines when it is installed.
The side to the left of the fittings is where the power lead comes out of the head unit. This wire ends in a 4-pin connection to plug into the motherboard. We can also see that the side is grooved, and one groove is used for mounting hardware, but we'll talk more on that later.
As we flip the head unit over, we see that a protective sticker comes over the exposed copper of the base. We also see that they use special screws as a way to (almost) guarantee the end-user will not tamper with this.
Under the sticker we find that there was some coolant that got on the block, and rather than cleaning it, they just wiped it, and it was allowed to oxidize on the block. This will take just a bit of polishing to remove, but is something we don't believe should be here in the first place.
Between the head unit and the thing single radiator we have two runs of eleven and a half inches of black tubing that has been covered with plastic. This is done for two reasons; one reason is that it makes the tubing much harder to kink, and the second reason is that it makes it difficult to accidentally puncture the tubing.
As for the radiator, it is the same high FPI aluminium radiator that just about ninety-five percent of the AIOs on the market use; nothing really special to see here.
Accessories and Documentation
At the top are the AMD and Intel mounting brackets that slide into a groove in the head unit, and lock end to end. We also receive an isolated AMD back plate, as well as a plastic Intel back plate that has sliders in the tabs to move through the three socket sizes.
Here we have the LGA 2011 mounting screws, a bag of fan screws with eight long screws in case you want to add an optional fan, as well as four shorter screws to mount the radiator directly to the chassis. The bottom row shows us the supplied TIM, and to the right are the socket and four standoffs that will sit on the motherboard.
The manual, again, is for both models, and is printed on plain paper with black ink. Even while the materials are cost effective, the instructions and images contained inside will get anyone through the installation process, no matter the socket or case type.
Here is what makes this Liqtech 120S the TAA model: it is cooled with the TB Apollish Advance fan. This fan offers a black frame with blue blades that spin on a ceramic bearing, but more importantly to some, this is LED backed, and also offers a three position speed switch on the back of the fan hub.
Installation and Finished Product
Depending on the socket of the Intel motherboard, adjustments to the end studs may need to be made to line up with the motherboard holes. For ours, only one was not set in the LGA115X setting, and was easily moved so we could install the back plate while being mindful of the socket screws.
Once the back plate is on and the studs are poking through the motherboard, it is time to install the thick standoffs onto the motherboard. We would have liked to see some form of a washer included, but these did not do any damage to our system in the installation and removal process.
Next, we grabbed the Intel top brackets and found that the fourth slot down is completely unimpeded, and allows the brackets to slide into it. Once both sides of the bracket are slid in, they will click loudly as they lock into each other.
For our purposes, strapping the radiator to the frame is fine for our needs, but the head unit: wow. When attempting to set the screws from the head unit brackets, be ready for some struggle. This AIO uses some of the highest socket pressure, and even just starting the four screws can be an ordeal in itself.
Our last view of the Liqtech 120S is with it under power. Here we see that the company name and logo on the head unit illuminate with blue LED backlighting. We also see that the TB Apollish fan and multiple LEDs give off a nice effect while matching the LED color to the head unit.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results
Test System Setup
To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article.
Our Liqtech 120S ended up at 50.75 degrees in the stock level of loaded temperatures. Moving out about five places in either direction, we see that this Enermax is capable of keeping up with its competition, and it falls just slightly behind a dual radiator version form a competitor.
We can only assume that the HP model would perform better, but only marginally different at this level.
As we move over to the overclocked settings, we find the Liqtech 120S has moved up a slot on this chart. Within four degrees of the lead, a 71.08 degree average is commendable, and proves to be more efficient than its Silverstone rival, and again, just shy of dual radiator based AIOs
Noise Level Results
We weren't really all that pleased with the noise levels, but we are dealing with a lot of CFM and a high FPI radiator in this design, and this is expected for this cooler. As far as other AIOs are concerned, this Enermax falls in the garage range for noise.
With 12V moving the fan blades at this point, we are now getting more than 100 CFM passing through the tight fin structure, and the noise climbs to a level that gets to be annoying over the length of the testing we did. Thankfully, this fan is PWM capable, and will not need to run at this level very often.
At the end of it all, we are somewhat impressed with what Enermax has delivered. With just about every year comes a new generation of AIO head units, and as they get more and more efficient, it really becomes a battle of fans, and since they all use the same two OEMs for the head units, there isn't a lot of difference to be made there.
Enermax took the time to design a different head unit than the rest of the market has and while unique, it is also a bit plain and dull in our opinion. If not for the LED backlit name and logo, the head unit would be much less impressive in its textured plastic lines and grooves. While most users would opt for the high performance model of this cooler, losing just a bit of CFM and half of the static pressure may be worth it if you like the look of the Apollish fan.
Thermal performance was a fair bit better than expected to be honest, and that is a major check in the plus column for Enermax. The flip side to that level of performance is that there will be the drone of 60 dB screaming at your ear holes. Even if you have a soundproofed chassis, you will be hard pressed to contain the noise this cooler puts out there. Getting the radiator mounted was simple enough, and the fan screws were easy to line up, but when it came to the head unit, we almost thought we did something wrong.
We had to set about three threads on any one screw, and with real force and effort, we had to force the opposite screw into the riser. While it was a major pain in the you-know-what to get it mounted, the higher mounting pressure plays a part in this AIO's efficiency.
While it was a touch complicated to install, there is no denying its ability to hang with the already established names in the AIO market. Enermax is offering a great cooling solution, even if the product comes off a little plain, and with the affordable pricing they have released the HP and TAA versions of the Liqtech 120S at, it is going to be easy for them to jump in and grab their fair market share of this segment of cooling.
While at first we had little hope for this Enermax cooler, we found ourselves almost shocked at where it placed, and just how well it handled its business. While we still would very much appreciate a set of washers to protect the motherboard, even if just for our peace of mind, there really is no reason to knock Enermax or the Liqtech 120S; they have proven themselves capable, and it makes us more eager to try the other two AIOs they sent as well.
PRICING: You can find the ENERMAX Liqtech 120S 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.
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