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Cooler Master Nepton 280L Review

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Not quite god, but still Herculean

In the world of CPUs, closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) seem to be standard-issue for enthusiasts these days. They give you higher overclocking headroom than even the most expensive and beefy air coolers, and they can operate more quietly. However, we haven’t seen many with radiators as Large as 280mm - just the NZXT Kraken X60 and the Corsair H110 come to mind - so we were eager to run the Cooler Master Nepton 280L through its paces.

Many hardware vendors have chosen to license their CLC designs from Asetek, whose patents go back quite a way. With the 280L, however, Cooler Master decided to roll its own with a custom pump. It’s definitely larger than usual. The tubes coming out of it are sleeved with a material called FEP, which is similar to Teflon and designed to slow the rate of evaporation inside the loop. That's an important factor for a cooler that’s not designed to be refilled. Cooler Master is also using its own JetFlo fans, designed for high static pressure. This feature is needed to penetrate into the fins of the radiator, and the 140mm version of the JetFlo is making its debut here (the radiator can also fit 120mm fans).

Description: Cooler Master Nepton 280L

Cooler Master Nepton 280L

Pump installation is pretty straightforward. First, we screwed in a small bracket to each side of the cold plate. Then, since our LGA 2011 motherboard has an integrated CPU backplate, we just attached four bundled screws to that, set the cold plate on top the CPU, and added four fasteners to fix the cold plate’s brackets to the four screws in the backplate. The fasteners only take a flat-bladed screwdriver, oddly, but they went in smoothly. The radiator screws also come in two sets of eight, differing only a couple of millimeters in length, so it took a minute to separate each type. It would have been better had they been clearly differentiated.

The pump, plugged into our board's secondary CPU fan header, operated at a steady 6,300rpm, which is unusually high. We checked with Cooler Master, and the company agreed. We used a Zalman Fanmate to manually tune it down to 5,000rpm, at which point the pump noise didn’t stand out. Despite a loss of 1,300rpm, temps only went up about 1 C during our load test, indicating that the additional speed offered minimal improvement anyway. We then plugged the pump into a chassis fan header without the Fanmate, and it leveled off at 4,500rpm.

Description: Cooler Master Nepton 280L’s fan parts

Cooler Master Nepton 280L’s fan parts

Of course, there are caveats. A large percentage of cases will not accommodate a 280mm radiator; either the dimensions are too small or the fan mounts are not sized for it. This is not the radiator's fault, though, so we can’t really deduct points for it. It’s just something that you have to be aware of. Also, the thick FEP tubes are not especially flexible. The radiator screws have unusually open heads, requiring an uncommonly large bit to avoid stripping. Lastly, the pump is too loud without some fiddling.

These are fairly minor issues that all have workarounds, though. Considering the Nepton’s top-tier cooling performance, reasonably low noise levels, and ease of installation, its quirks don’t stick out in the end. Its load temperatures were notably lower than anything else we've tested and may allow you to squeeze another couple-hundred MHz out of an overclock. The Nepton is an indisputable upgrade from Cooler Master’s older Seid series.

Description: Cooler Master Nepton 280L’s underside

Cooler Master Nepton 280L’s underside

Specifications

·         Price: $125

·         Radiator Dimensions: 1.2 x 12.2 x 5.5 inches

·         Weight: 1.45kg

·         Stock Fans: 2x 14cm PWM

·         Socket Support: LGA 775/1150/1155/1156/1366/2011; AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/FM2

·         Additional Fan Support: 2x 12cm or 14cm

Verdict

·         Pros: Excellent thermal performance; smooth installation; rugged design.

·         Cons: Moderately noisy pump; somewhat stiff tubing.

·         Rating: 9/10

 

 

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