Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
For those that read most of our cooling reviews, you may remember Gamer Storm by Deepcool, as we have looked at a few of their coolers, including the Lucifer, Gabriel, and even their VGA cooling solution, the Dracula. In the past, our testing showed that the Gamer Storm offshoot of Deepcool was at the top of its game, and brought forth some serious contenders to your hard earned dollars when it came to air cooling a CPU or GPU.
Recently, Gamer Storm has jumped on the same wagon everyone else has been getting onto lately, and decided to jump into the AIO cooling game. Today, we are here to look at one of three new AIOs added to Gamer Storm's current lineup of CPU cooler offerings. Of course, Gamer Storm has brought a more budget oriented AIO with a single 120mm radiator, and that kit is denoted with an X at the end of its name. The other two kits are another single radiator version, and a dual 120mm radiator cooled system. However, instead of featuring the same plain black fan as the 120X, these kits sport higher quality black and red GF120 fans, which will help these AIOs to color match quite a few motherboard themes.
With a lot of AIOs being built by two major manufacturers, what we see across many of these units is that fan choice is what will make or break an AIO, so there are two ways to win our attention in these systems. One way to grab our attention is to outperform all other AIOs currently out there, no matter the sound levels, as we all know great performance is rare (save for brands like Noctua and a few others).
The second way to get us to pay attention is to develop an AIO that can compete in the mix of all the others, and do it with much less noise than the other systems deliver. At this point, we will assume the Maelstrom 240 that we received for testing falls into one of these groups, and later in this review we will show just how well this new Gamer Storm cooling solution compares to the almost endless list of AIO offerings out there today.
The chart that Deepcool has provided for the Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240 is sort of hit and miss with their information, but we do see good information, even if displayed haphazardly. The chart begins by discussing the "main system" dimensions, which is what is typically referred to as the head unit. The head unit measures 7mm from side to side, but 85.6mm if you include the swivel and ninety degree fittings, and it stands 31.5mm tall on top of the CPUs IHS. They also do not mention here that it features a plastic casing, which displays the Gamer Storm logo, or even that it lights up when powered.
Now we can move on to the all-aluminum radiator that is 274mm in length, 120mm in width, and sticks with the 27mm thickness of most other AIOs on the market. They also make no mention of the twelve inches of tubing used to connect the two, nor do they mention that it uses a corrugated plastic covering to keep it from kinking, or getting damaged from vibration eating into the tube.
Here is where things get a bit tricky to understand. They tell us that they supply two 120mm fans that top out at around 2200 RPMs, but just below, we see some astronomical specs for these fans, and here we assume they added the fans together for these figures, as our results do not reflect that level of airflow coming from each of them alone. The rest of the chart is pretty solid for what information is provided for power draw of the fans and the head unit, but there is one other thing listed here that our testing showed to be drastically different, and that is the rotational speed of the pump in the head unit. While this chart shows the 2800 RPM as the maximum for these coolers, our sample spun up to 6250 RPM as reported by AIDA64.
At the time of writing, we are still slightly ahead of the release of this product. Obviously, availability will get better than the nothing that is currently available, and via emails we were given the MSRP for the Maelstrom 240. We were told to expect these to hit the market very near the $105.99 price point that Gamer Storm has set. Comparing this to other dual radiator AIO release prices, we feel that Gamer Storm has priced it right for what we get on paper. However, there still is the dreaded testing that we put all these coolers through to see just how well they perform, and for now, we will keep our opinion on the pricing to ourselves until much later in the review.
We can see they don't take much pride in boxing the samples they sent out to reviewers, as ours was beat up really bad from the poor packing they put around this to send it our way. Even though it's squished, we can still see the logo and the cut-away rendering of the head unit, and at the bottom we have the product name, four features, and a look at the assembled AIO.
To the right, we find the red continues from the front along the bottom, and there we find four more features, and a QR code for the product we see above it.
The bottom of the box also provides us with more information. To the left we find nine features listed, and to the right, under the naming, we find a condensed specifications chart.
The back of the packaging offers six renderings with dimensions of the radiator and head unit of this Maelstrom 240. Off to the right, we are given the full list of socket support that this cooler offers.
On the inside we found the Maelstrom 240 to be in pretty decent shape. There are some minor scratches, and the recycled liner was broken near the head unit, but the inner packaging definitely saved this product from the scrap heap, considering how bad it was beat up in transit.
Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240 AIO CPU Cooler
Inside of this round, plastic, textured head unit, we find the cold plate and the pump contained under the screwed on cover. We also see the Gamer Storm logo right in the middle, which appears grey, but when the unit is powered, this logo will illuminate with a white LED behind it.
This is also a first on any AIO; they placed a sticker on the side that says "Caution: No warranty if torn". In other words, they don't want you popping the cap, or trying to get inside the head unit for any reason, or you will lose any warranty coverage of the entire product.
As most do, this head unit offers two swivel fittings, but they do not turn as far to the sides as many others do. We also see that the tubing is stretched over the fittings, and has no clamps. The only other thing on the side of the head unit is the three-pin power lead for the pump, which is slightly out of focus to the right.
There was a plastic cap covering the base, but it did nothing to keep the TIM from getting messed with, or debris from getting into the TIM. Also, as we look around the edge of the cold plate, we see they used special safety screws that look like standard Allen heads, but they have a pin in the center to attempt to keep users from tampering with it.
Since we test all coolers on the same TIM, we need to remove the stock goop anyways. What we find is a brushed finish left to make contact to the CPU. There is a bit of deviation as you get nearer to the screws, but the majority of the mating surface is ever so slightly convex.
Moving away from the head unit, we find that there is twelve inches of tubing from fitting to fitting. As for the three-pin lead from the head unit, that is eleven inches in length, and if not powered from the motherboard fan header, that gives you plenty of room to get it to a fan controller or hub.
We see on the 27mm thick aluminium radiator that there are aluminium barbs that have the tubing stretched over them. Also, since we have now seen a copper base, and an aluminium radiator, we have to assume they are using a special coolant for mixed metals and anti-fungal/bacterial properties.
As with many AIOs, Gamer Storm did not change the fin arrangement in their AIO. Here we see the same super tight fin arrangement that we counted to have 20 FPI.
Accessories and Documentation
We found the first bits of hardware inside of the bag, but they were not separated into other bags. We found the AMD brackets for the head unit, and there is a universal backplate to go with this kit. We also get a metal case badge of the Gamer Storm logo.
The rest of the kit was found in two other bags. The one to the left still has the set of four LGA2011 mounting screws in it, but we removed the goodies from the other bag. There we found the LGA115X/1366 brackets, plastic isolation caps that lock the studs into the backplate, and four screws to mount the head unit to the rest of the hardware.
Off to the right, we find fan screws for a single radiator kit since this was an early sample, but they have provided us (and the retail kits) with a full set to use. We also see the studs for the backplate, and four small screws at the bottom to mount the brackets to the head unit.
The user manual provided covers everything you will need to know. Things start off with a checklist of goods, so you can be sure you have everything you need to get this AIO installed and running on your system. Both illustrations and text will guide you through any issues that may arise.
Gamer Storm is going to be releasing these GF120 fans, and there will also be 140mm versions available for purchase, but they are making their debut with this Maelstrom 240, and the 120. However, these fans will not be on the 120X. These are four-pin PWM, and the blades of these fans are completely removable for easy cleaning and maintenance.
Installation and Finished Product
First things first: we need to prep the AIO before we get too far. Here we have added the Intel mounting brackets, and sent the countersunk screws all the way home to make sure things are solid. We also had to polish the base slightly to remove all the nastiness and fingerprints we found; even under the pre-applied TIM.
We also went ahead and mounted the fans to the radiator with the longer set of screws. Another cool feature of these fans is that the frames are rubberized; so direct contact to the radiator will not cause any odd vibrations.
Here we have the backplate ready to install. To do this you need to orient the studs correctly, and then slide on the plastic clips. The plastic clips will not only keep the studs in one place, but they will also isolate the steel plate from the back of the motherboard.
We had no issues with the backplate being too big for our specific motherboard, and now that the backplate is installed, we need to carefully flip over the motherboard, as there are no screws or tape to lock this in place for you.
The last thing we need to do to get the head unit mounted to our motherboard is to apply some paste, screw the thumbscrews in until they stop, and plug in the three-pin lead to power it.
When the Maelstrom 240 is powered, the head unit will light up with the glow of a single white LED. On our sample, some of the scratches we mentioned are more visible now that the unit is illuminated.
Taking a step back from our test system, we can see there is plenty of room to get this mounted in the top of any accommodating chassis. We had enough room to strap the radiator outside of the chassis to offer the most unobstructed air flow through this radiator.
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.
For all testing, we allow the pump to spin at full speed, and that is a speed of 6250 RPM as denoted by AIDA64, which is way more than the specified 2800 RPM from the chart. At this point, we did limit the fans to 7.5V, and we saw those spinning at 1530 RPM for this test.
After the duration of our testing, we took our readings for the stock CPU speed, and here we find the Maelstrom 240 to be pretty average with a temperature of 51.5 degrees. This is not the best AIO on our charts, but we are hoping for better results once the fans are set free to maximum RPM.
Even for this testing, after many reboots, we found the pump was still reporting 6200 RPM. However, this time the fans were allowed to receive 12V for power, and they were turning at 2171 RPM for the overclocked testing.
This is where things got a bit disappointing. We can verify all of the parts are working by feel or sight; of course, we can see the fans spinning, and hear the increase of noise. However, for some reason, when it is all said and done, we find that the 74.75 degree average across our testing leaves the Maelstrom 240 at the bottom of the list for all AIOs we have tested in this chart. It is even being beaten by some $50 air cooling solutions as well.
Noise Level Results
With only 7.5V coursing through these fan's veins, the noise level is pretty respectable for an AIO. We got a reading of 36dB during our stock testing.
Once we applied full power to these fans, we were also given a healthy dose of noise to go with it. We found the fans jumped right on into the stock cooler realm with our results reading 64dB on our meter.
The average user is never going to notice anything wrong with this unit; it is simple to assemble, does a decent job at stock CPU testing, and even with the PWM in control of the fan speeds, the noise levels aren't going to bother you much either. Also, when generally speaking about its price, it is on par with other AIOs that compete with it. So, if you plan to buy this cooler for a system that you never plan to overclock, it is a solid choice, but maybe you should still continue reading.
Outside of the lack of availability of Deepcool and Gamer Storm products inside of the U.S., which has been getting better since we started with them, you will still find this cooler hard to obtain. This will be true even when stock does hit shelves; there may only be one or two places like Amazon or eBay where you will be able locate one. If you are able to obtain one, we don't feel you will be all that impressed with its results if you do plan on overclocking the processor a bit. While we realize that we could have had a defective unit, or it may have been damaged along with the packaging, we found our results to be on par with what other reviews are showing. To us, this means that we have a solid unit; it is just sub-par out of the gate.
We did like the mounting hardware, but even here there are some faults. If you don't align the studs correctly, the plastic clips will break when you are sliding them on. We also found that when screwing down the thumbscrews, the stud from the backplate will rise through the middle, and pop the screwdriver out of the head long before they are even tight, forcing you to use pliers to finish the job. Even then, we found the mounting pressure to be on the weaker side of what we have seen in other AIOs.
While we get that Deepcool and Gamer Storm are cutting their teeth with these AIOs, we also realize this isn't their own design, and AIOs have proven to be much more efficient from other companies. Looking back to the specifications of this cooler, even with all of that air flow, the serious impeller speed of our unit, and the fact that the red and black theme matched so well with our D-Frame, we really cannot recommend this cooler in the grand scheme of AIOs. If this were a couple of years ago, and there was much more power delivered to the head unit, then maybe we could; however, the fact is that we are on the third generation of AIOs, and even creeping into the fourth generation, so our standards are much higher.
In our opinion, buying the Maelstrom 240 would be taking a big step backwards since so many others are offering solutions that can cool up to five degrees cooler, and some can even do better with much less noise. The Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240 just does not fall into any good categories, as it is too pricey for its performance, its loud, and only beats out seven other coolers on the charts, and one of them is the Intel stock cooler.
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