6 Best Custom Water Cooling Kits in 2021 – For Every Budget!

Best Custom Water Cooling Kits

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Today we will be taking a closer look at the 6 best custom water cooling kits that are and will be available on the market in 2021.

Outfitting a gaming rig with a custom-loop water cooling system is the epitome of custom PCs for many. The practice of water cooling has been around for quite some time now, but hooking up your gaming rig with a new custom-loop is always exciting.

Whether it’s your first custom kit or you’ve been in the game for some time, this article will help you choose the right water cooling system for your needs.

Best Custom Water Cooling Kits in 2021 Round Up

The table below will give you a quick look at our selections for the best custom water cooling kits currently available on the market. To read a full review, simply click on ‘review>>’ in respective row.

Product

Image

Rating

1. EK-Quantum Power Kit D-RGB P360
''Best water cooling kit overall''

9.8

2. Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH303i RGB
''Best value option''

9.7

3. EKWB EK-KIT P240
''Best kit for beginners''

9.6

4. Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH305i RGB
''Most popular custom water cooling kit''

9.5

5. Thermaltake Pacific CL360 Max D5
''Best kit for RGB lovers''

9.3

6. Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5
''Honorable mention''

9.1



1. EK-Quantum Power Kit D-RGB P360

Radiator Dimensions: 400 x 130 x 38mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA-1200, 115x, 2011(-3), 2066 / AMD AM4 | Port Thread: G1/4 | Lighting: Digital RGB | Warranty: 2-year limited international warranty

REASONS TO BUY

  • Every single component is high-quality
  • Great cooling performance, even for high-end overclocking
  • Fairly easy to assemble
  • Attractive aesthetics, Bright RGB lighting
  • Versatile

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Expensive

Our Rating:   9.8/10

EKWB’s Quantum Power kit is one of the best kits out there. It offers premium quality, beautiful aesthetics and most importantly, great performance. Though, you’d probably expect that from a product with such a premium price tag.

Featuring a nickel-plated plexiglass CPU water block and a massive copper radiator, The EK-Quantum Power kit is rather impressive. Also, Compatible with Asus AURA, GIGABYTE RGB Fusion, MSI Mystic Light, and ASRock Polychrome Sync, this kit is highly versatile, whereas many other water-cooling kits only work with specific software.

Let’s look at what’s in the kit and briefly go over the highlights.

Included in the EK-Quantum Power Kit:

  • x1 Universal CPU water block: EK-Velocity D-RGB
  • x1 Radiator: EK-CoolStream PE 360
  • x3 Radiator fans: EK-Vardar EVO 120ER D-RGB (500-2200rpm)
  • x1 Water pump-reservoir combo: EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 200 D5 PWM D-RGB
  • 2m Soft Tubing: EK-DuraClear 9,5/15,9mm (3/8” – 5/8”)
  • x6 Compression fittings: EK-Torque STC-10/16 – Black
  • x2 Angled adapters: EK-Torque Angled 90° – Black
  • x1 Coolant concentrate: EK-CryoFuel Clear Concentrate (100mL; for 1L of coolant)
  • x1 Y-cable splitter: EK-Cable Y-Splitter 3-Fan PWM (10cm)
  • x1 AMD mounting bracket and AMD AM4 backplate
  • x1 D-RGB accessories: EK-D-RGB 6-Way Splitter Cable
  • x1 EK-Loop Uni Pump Reservoir Bracket – 120mm
  • x1 EK-RES X3 – Holder 60mm
  • x1 ATX bridging plug
  • x1 EK-Loop Multi Allen Key
  • x1 EK-Loop Soft Tube Cutter
  • x1 Foldable Filling Bottle
  • x1 EK-CryoFuel Dye Pack

EK-Quantum Power Kit D-RGB P360

The EK-Velocity water block contains some of the purest copper on the market and has been plated in nickel with a mirror polish. This gives it substantial thermal conductivity and superior contact with the CPU, respectfully, resulting in heat easily transferred from your CPU into your cooling system.

Like other radiators, this one is big, black, and does an excellent job of dissipating heat out of your system. Featuring a double stack of copper fins for maximum surface area, this radiator is a little beefy, even for a 360mm. While you may have some clearance issues in more crowded cases, that extra beefiness only means better performance, so it’s a slight give and take.

EKWB had silence in mind when providing the EK-Vardar EVO 120ER D-RGB fans. These fans are specifically designed for use with high-density fin radiators. They feature a high-static pressure and addressable RGB lighting, meaning they will push air into your radiator efficiently, looking good all the while.

It’s always good to see a quality pump and reservoir combo, and the EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 200 D5 is precisely that. Made out of high-quality acrylic and can be mounted virtually anywhere in your case using the brackets and anti-vibration mounts included. The ARGBs are mounted in the base and light up your cooling solution from below. Additionally, the EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 200 D5 runs almost silent at full speed, never distracting you from work or play.

The EK-DuraClear soft tubing is flexible, and at two meters in length, it’s easy to cut and snake through your machine. Being transparent in color, you will be able to use whatever coolant dye you wish. EKWB even includes a few for you to choose from.

What really stands out about this kit is the quality of every component. From the satin brass fittings to the high-performance pump/res combo – It’s all premium. But with great premium-ability comes great cost. This kit is expensive, but the performance, design and quality is top-notch and worth every penny. If you’re going to outfit your rig with a water cooling kit, the EK-Quantum Power kit is an excellent option.

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RELATED READING: Best PC Cases For Water Cooling

2. Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH303i RGB

Radiator Dimensions: 396 x 120 x 30mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA-115x, 1200 / AMD AM4 | Port Thread: G1/4” BSPP | Lighting: RGB | Warranty: 2 years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Intriguing design
  • Great cooling performance for overclocking
  • Very quiet overall
  • Vibrant and bright RGB lighting
  • Expandability – a graphics card water block is sold separately however

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Proprietary fan and RGB connections (must use included controller)

Our Rating:   9.7/10

The iCUE XH303i RGB custom water cooling kit comes with a beautiful low-profile pump/res combo that’s unusual in ready-to-build kits. Not only does it stand out with its pump and reservoir, but also in its ARGB LEDs in the fans, water block, and reservoir, making the entire system light up your rig and can be customized to fit your style.

Included in the kit:

  • x1 XC7 RGB Universal CPU Water Block
  • x1 XR5 360mm Radiator
  • x1 XD3 Pump/Reservoir Combo
  • x3 SP 120 RGB PRO Fans
  • x6 XT Hardline 10/14mm (2m)
  • x3 Hardline 14mm fittings (BLACK)
  • x1 XL5 CLEAR Coolant (1000mL)
  • x2 90° Rotary Adapters (BLACK)
  • x1 250 ml Filling Bottle
  • x1 XT Hardline Bending Kit
  • x1 CORSAIR iCUE Commander PRO
  • x1 RGB Fan LED Hub

Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH303i RGB

First off, the XC7 water block is excellent. With its angled corners and beveling, it looks much cleaner than many other water blocks you’ve experienced. Alongside its sleek appearance, the XC7 sports 16 addressable RGB LEDs, which work in tandem with the rest of your build using the iCUE software. Attaching to most Intel and AMD sockets, this water block is solid in build, performance, and appearance.

Moving along, the XR5 360mm Radiator is only 30mm thick, meaning it can sneak into tight spaces, which is handy for compact builds. Further, the fins are dense but not overly dense as to restrict airflow, making it disperse heat quickly while allowing the fans to run silently.

It’s good to see a kit with a pump/reservoir combo as out of the ordinary as this one. The XD3 is a low-profile reservoir that can be mounted almost anywhere. The reservoir holds 150mL of coolant while the pump pushes 800L/ph and can also handle an additional GPU water block if you choose to add one.

While not specifically made for radiators, the two included SP 120 RGB PRO fans are considered dual-purpose and can be used as both a case fan and radiator fan. Sporting eight RGB LEDs around the hub, these fans will add that extra flair and help disguise the already covert radiator.

Corsair thought of expandability when putting this kit together, and they added an additional two compression fittings, two 90° angle adapters, and extra tubing. So all you need to cool your GPU is the water block. Unfortunately, that’s sold separately.

As with all these kits, the iCUE XH303i does not come with a heat gun. It does, however, come with a bending kit and cutting tools. This is great because you’ll be able to get nice clean curves while bending your tubes and not worry about leaks because you were cutting your tubes with what you had laying around.

In the end, the Corsair iCUE XH303i RGB custom-loop water cooling kit is a great intermediate introduction to hardline water cooling. With this water cooling kit, you will be able to take the performance and apperance of your rig to the next level while not spending a fortune.

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3. EKWB EK-KIT P240

Radiator Dimensions: 280 x 130 x 38mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA-1200, 115x, 2011(-3), 2066 / AMD AM4 | Port Thread: G1/4 | Lighting: None | Warranty: 2-year limited international warranty

REASONS TO BUY

  • High-quality components
  • Perfect for beginners with soft tubing 
  • Excellent fans – silent and high-performing
  • Great cooling performance overall
  • Fair price

REASONS TO AVOID

  • No distilled water included, must be purchased separately
  • Mixed metals
  • Completely lacks RGB lighting

Our Rating:   9.6/10

EKWB has put together a fantastic kit and has taken out the guesswork involved when buying these pieces individually. This kit includes soft tubing, which, in my opinion, doesn’t have the same clean look as hardline but gives your rig an organic look instead.

Additionally, this kit features a 240mm radiator which can fit a wide range of cases, especially mini-ATX cases where a 360mm fan could be hard or even impossible to mount.

The EKWB EK-KIT P240 comes with the following, all still in the original packaging.

  • x1 EK-Supremacy EVO water block
  • x1 EK-CoolStream PE 240 Radiator
  • x2 EK-Vardar F3-120 Radiator Fans
  • x1 EK-XRES 140 Revo D5 PWM Pump/Reservoir combo
  • 2m Tubing: EK-DuraClear 9.5/12.7mm (3/8” – 1/2”)
  • x6 EK-ACF Fitting 10/13mm – G1/4 Nickel Compression fittings
  • x1 EK-CryoFuel Clear Coolant Concentrate
  • x1 EK-Cable Y-Splitter 2-Fan PWM (10cm)
  • x1 ATX bridging plug

EKWB EK-KIT P240

For optimized performance, the EK-Supremacy EVO water block has been through a couple of iterations. The Original EK Supremacy and EK-Supremacy EVO water blocks are both acrylic and have a copper backing, but the EVO has a more intricate internal design.

The machined copper channels of the base are identical to the original, but the mechanism that forces water through the jet plate has been designed to ensure equal water distribution through the plate and therefore the machined channels. This means better water flow through the channels, which act as the heatsink, and results in a more efficient system.

The EK-CoolStream PE 240 Radiator Is a dual-fin, high-density, 240mm radiator. With a low profile build, this radiator will be easy to install in most cases without having to worry about it interfering with any other components. Its high-density aluminum dual-fin design offers excellent cooling capabilities to keep your CPU running cool even under full-load conditions.

Every kit needs fans, and the two included EK-Vardar F3-120 fans are High-static pressure radiator fans with no bells or whistles. They are designed for radiator use with silence over aesthetics. The fans are well built and very quiet on the radiator and overall do an outstanding job.

EKWB included their EK-XRES 140 Revo D5 PWM pump and reservoir combo. The pump is extremely quiet, even at 100% power, and provides a great deal of water flow to ensure your CPU stays nice and cool. Unlike many other pumps included in kits, the EK-XRES 140 Revo D5 has fewer complaints in customer reviews about leaking and premature death. That’s a good indication that this pump/res combo is high-quality and should last you a long time.

Moving along, this kit also includes EK-DuraClear Soft tubing that is two meters in length and 1/2” outer diameter, and 3/8th” outer diameter. Using soft tubing is only a preferential thing. With soft tubing, all you do is cut to length and install. You don’t need to worry about bending at precise angles and all the extra fuss with hardline tubing. The EK-DuraClear is flexible and very transparent as not to obscure the liquid inside.

The EKWB EK-KIT P240 custom water cooling kit is almost perfect. Everything is high quality and easily assembled. The only drawback is EKWB does not provide any distilled water, but they do include a coolant concentrate to mix in with a bottle of distilled water you buy separately and can be purchased almost anywhere. This coolant concentrate provides your water with antimicrobial properties along with better thermal conductivity.

In the end, the EKWB EK-KIT P240 is among some of the best custom cooling kits out there and is well worth the asking price. With its top-shelf components and easy to assemble setup, this kit is perfect for beginners just getting into water cooling.

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4. Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH305i RGB

Radiator Dimensions: 396 x 120 x 30mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA-115x, 1200 / AMD AM4 | Port Thread: G1/4” BSPP | Lighting: RGB | Warranty: 2 years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Great performance, even for high-end overclocking
  • Bright RGB lighting
  • Low profile radiator, less issues with clearance
  • Simple assembly

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Slightly expensive
  • Reports of DOA, leaks, and premature death of the pump

Our Rating:   9.5/10

The Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH305i comes with everything you need to build your own custom-loop. This unit is designed with a 360mm radiator and is compatible with larger cases that use three fans as their exhaust.

Corsair’s XH305i was built in collaboration with multiple other renowned manufactures like Mayhem for the cooling solution and BitsPower for the fittings. This shows you Corsair was serious about assembling the parts and pieces you’ll need for a quality kit.

The XH305i Custom Cooling Kit comes with the following, all individually packaged waiting for you to assemble.

  • 1 x XC7 RGB CPU Water Block
  • 1 x XD5 Pump Reservoir Combo
  • 1 x XR5 360mm Radiator
  • 1 x XL5 Clear Coolant
  • 3 x QL120 RGB Fans
  • 1 x CORSAIR RGB Fan LED Hub
  • 1 x iCUE Commander PRO
  • 2 x Hydro X Series XF Hardline 14mm OD Fitting Four Pack (Black)
  • 1 x Hydro X Series 90° Rotary Adapter Twin Pack
  • 3m Hardline 14mm Tubing
  • 1 x 10mm Silicone Cord 30 cm
  • 1 x Bending Tool
  • 1 x Deburring Tool
  • 1 x Hacksaw
  • 1 x Cutting Guide
  • User information

Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH305i RGB

It is important to note that while this kit includes a bending jig and everything needed to cut the tubing, it does not include a heat gun. A heat gun is necessary to warm the tubing enough so that it will bend.

The Radiator is 30mm thick and made out of copper with medium density fins, making it very efficient at heat dissipation and noise reduction, respectfully. On each side of the radiator are two holes for mounting to your case and an inlet and outlet port for your tubes.

Its hard-line tubes are made out of acrylic, so you will have to use the included bending and cutting jig with the included saw when assembling. Remember to measure twice and cut once, so you aren’t buying more tubing because you cut it too short.

All of the fittings are made out of metal and are simple. You just slide the locking ring over the tube and insert the tube into its destination and tighten it down. If this is your first time, make sure you watch some how-to videos for more details.

Corsair included an RGB CPU water block and three QL120 RGB 120mm fans that require the use of the Commander Pro RGB Controller. All the cables are Corsair’s proprietary connections and must be used with iCUE software. All of that means you will not be able to connect these to your motherboard and use any third-party control software.

Testing resulted in surprising results. Even though the XR5 Radiator is low profile, it performs as well as its beefier competitors when it comes to temperatures but with a lower noise level.

With everything considered, the Corsair Hydro X Series iCUE XH305i will create a beautiful statement in your rig while bringing you some fantastic performance at a reasonable price. It has very high ratings on Amazon, but many users have complained about rusty radiators or DOA (Dead on Arrival). But sometimes that’s just how it goes when building computers. Corsair has a good return and exchange program, so if there are any issues, they will try to make it right.

Additionally, Corsair offers a three-year limited warranty on the block, pump, and radiator, as well as a two-year limited warranty on the coolant, tubing, and fittings.

If you already have all kinds of Corsair products and want to fully deck out your rig in Corsair and don’t mind the price tag, this water cooling kit is perfect for you.

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5. Thermaltake Pacific CL360 Max D5

Radiator Dimensions: 403 x 129 x 64mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA 2066/2011/1366/1156/1155/1151/1150/775, AMD AM4/FM2/FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2 | Port Thread: G1/4 | Lighting: RGB | Warranty: 2 years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Every component features RGB lighting
  • Quiet and high-performing fans
  • Top-of-the-line cooling performance
  • Thick radiator for efficient cooling
  • Very quiet overall

REASONS TO AVOID

  • No bending kit
  • You could run into clearance issues with a 64mm thick radiator
  • Reports of a bad pump/reservoir

Our Rating:   9.3/10

Thermaltake is known for its high-quality cooling components and has been in the business for over 20 years. With such high respect in the industry, you know this kit will be assembled with some of the best Thermaltake has to offer.

The Pacific CL360 Max Kit comes with almost everything you will need to custom-build your own water cooling system. You will need to buy a heat gun and a bending kit; Thermaltake sells one; they just don’t include it.

However, The Pacific CL360 Max is a decent option overall. It performs well and is fully decked out in RGB and is compatible with Thermaltake’s RGB PLUS software, Razer Chroma, and Amazon Alexa.

This custom water cooling kit includes:

  • x1 Pacific W5 CPU Water Block
  • x1 Pacific PR22-D5 Plus Pump/Reservoir Combo
  • x1 Pacific CL360 Plus Radiator
  • x8 Pacific C-Pro G1/4 PETG 16mm OD Compression fittings (Black)
  • x2 Pacific G1/4 90° Adapter (Black)
  • x3 Riing Duo 12 RGB Radiator Fan
  • x1 Thermaltake T1000 Coolant Pure (Clear)
  • x8 V-Tubler PETG 16mm OD 500mm Tubing
  • x1 Silicone Insert 900mm Tt Premium Edition
  • Intel and AMD Universal Backplate and Mounting Kit
  • x1 24pin ATX Bridge Tool
  • x1 Thermaltake Thermal Grease
  • x1 Refill Bottle

Thermaltake Pacific CL360 Max D5

One of the nice things about this kit is that they actually give you a copper radiator to go with your copper CPU water block. That means no galvanic corrosion and better thermal performance than aluminum thanks to copper’s thermal conductivity, which is twice that of aluminum.

What’s more, Thermaltake obviously took galvanic corrosion into consideration, which surprisingly a lot of companies will mix metals as long as they are close on the galvanic chart. This doesn’t mean that the metals won’t galvanize. It just means it happens much slower than if the metals were farther apart on that chart. For longevity, this is poor practice.

The included RGB Pacific W5 CPU water block is constructed of high-temperature-resistant plastic with a copper heatsink that attaches to your CPU. Thermaltake also includes a tube of thermal paste for attaching the block to your CPU.

Without this, your block and CPU will not have enough surface area in contact to efficiently transfer heat into your water loop. This will cause your rig to overheat and shut down. So make sure to use it, and don’t forget to take off any protective sticker/plastic on the heatsink.

You’d be surprised how many times we’ve seen people complain about high temps, only to discover they forgot to remove the plastic backing on their heatsinks.

Any water cooling kit would be useless without a reservoir or a pump. The Pacific PR22-D5 Plus is a combination of the two. This is typical of pre-assembled kits like the Pacific CL360 Max because not only does it make assembling easier, it reduces the chance of leaks due to fewer tubes and connections than that of a system with a separate pump and reservoir.

This unit holds 300ml of coolant and is equipped with an RGB cap to go along with all the other RGB included in the kit and with whatever you may already have installed in your PC. Important note: If you look at reviews of this kit on Amazon and other eCommerce sites, there are many complaints of the pump dying after a short time. Due to this, make sure to keep any receipts, and warranty information should the need arise.

The Pacific CL360 Plus radiator is copper and has a high fin density, making it ideal for cooling your rig. Besides that, it’s equipped with an RGB strip to face out of your case when mounted. In my opinion, it’s a bit overkill, but hey, RGB!

To go with that 360mm radiator, Thermaltake includes three 120mm Riing Duo RGB fans. The Riing Duos are high-static pressure radiator fans designed specifically for water cooling and have two 18 LED rings that make them very vibrant. Better yet, each LED is addressable and can be tweaked to match whatever theme you have.

Finally, this kit comes with eight 500mm PETG tubes with an outer diameter of 16mm. These have to be bent to your precise measurements, and it’s strange Thermaltake didn’t include the bending kit, so don’t forget to get one while you’re at it.

Overall, the Thermaltake Pacific CL360 Max D5 Hard Line Kit is a decent option. With vibrant RGB LEDs throughout and an overall great cooling capability, this kit will make you want to stare at your beautiful machine all day. Just be cautious of the pump. There are many reports of it leaking and/or dying prematurely.

Ultimately for the price, this is a decent water cooling kit. However, if you don’t want to take a risk of the pump leaking or dying prematurely, you will be better off purchasing one of the Corsair’s or EKWB’s kits.

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6. Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5

Radiator Dimensions: 273 x 120.7 x 39.9 mm | CPU Socket Compatibility: Intel LGA 2066/2011/1366/1156/1155/1151/1150/775, AMD AM4/FM2/FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2 | Port Thread: G1/4 | Lighting: RGB | Warranty: 2 years

REASONS TO BUY

  • Budget friendly
  • Great fans overall (only part of the kit that has RGB lighting)
  • Great cooling performance even for overclocking

REASONS TO AVOID

  • No bending kit included with the product
  • No cutting tool included with the product
  • Mixed metals

Our Rating:   9.1/10

Thermaltake is at it again. With their Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5 Hard Tube Water Cooling Kit, you can enjoy the cooling power of a custom-loop without all the planning and research it takes to buy everything separately. Using high-quality materials and vibrant RGB LED fans, this kit will lower your temps and heighten the envy of your friends when they see your battle station.

The Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5 custom water cooling kit includes:

  • x1 Pacific W3 CPU Water Block
  • x1 Pacific PR15-D5 Pump/Reservoir Combo
  • x1 Pacific R 240mm Radiator
  • x2 Riing 12 RGB High Static Pressure LED Radiator Fan
  • x4 V-Tubler 500mm PETG Hardline Tubing
  • x1 C1000 Pure Clear Coolant
  • x6 Pacific C-Pro G ¼ Brass Compression fittings
  • x2 Pacific G ¼ 90 Degree Adapter
  • x1 12mm ID Silicone Insert
  • x1 24-pin ATX PSU Jumper Tool
  • x1 Thermal Grease

Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5

Though it comes with everything physically necessary for a custom-loop, it does not include a heat gun (which most don’t anyway) or a bending kit. Again Thermaltake? Really? We know you sell one. Why don’t you include it with your kits?

You supply the silicone insert for bending but no jig.  That’s just bad practice if you ask me. So if you’re inexperienced in bending stiff tubing and want nice clean 90° angles, then buy a bending kit.

Starting off with the water block, the Pacific W3 is simple yet elegant. It has no RGB but is made out of clear acrylic, so you’ll be able to see the coolant flowing through it. With a machined copper base that’s been polished to a mirror finish, you can expect optimal performance and contact with your CPU.

Combined water reservoirs and pumps are common with kits like these. The Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5 kit comes with the Pacific PR15-D5 Pump and reservoir combo that boasts a maximum of 1135L/hr meaning it’s capable of operating with multiple components and radiators at the same time. Though this pump seems very capable, many people have had reported leaks and early death of the pump. So make sure to hold on to your receipt just in case.

Radiators are the key to dispersing heat out of your system. This kit comes with the Pacific R 240mm radiator made out of aluminum. Typically you don’t want to mix metals in your water cooling loop due to galvanic corrosion over time.

Again, while copper and aluminum are close on the galvanic scale, it’s a shame that Thermaltake would give you a copper water block and an aluminum radiator. This isn’t going to cause problems right away, but it may become an issue after years of use. You may want to thoroughly clean this kit often to help mitigate corrosion and any resulting sediment build-up.

The two Riing 12 RGB High Static Pressure LED Radiator Fans included in this kit are very well built and come with a fan controller to switch light modes. These fans offer a high-static pressure which means they are great for radiators. While they have a limited range of RGB options, they are bright and would look excellent in a case with a white interior, if you ask me.

You also get four V-Tublar PETG tubing. PETG is more durable than acrylic and easier to bend, but more prone to discoloration and just isn’t as crystal clear as acrylic. While that’s mainly a personal preference, I felt the need to point that out. You will have to use your own hacksaw and other cutting tools, but there are complete kits for bending out there should you wish to look for them.

For being one of the more affordable kits on this list, the Thermaltake Pacific M240 D5 kit is a decent start for the newbie hardline water cooling enthusiast. Just don’t forget to buy a bending kit and heat gun to get this kit to look precisely how you want it.

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What Is Water Cooling And Is It Dangerous?

Using water to cool your PC may sound like a dangerous idea, but when done right, it can achieve a much lower temperature resulting in less heat stress on components like your CPU, GPU, RAM, and more. Basically, anything in your computer that generates heat can be water-cooled.

The problem is that computer components will be easily destroyed by water if there is a leak. I would not recommend a custom water cooling kit to anyone new to PC building.

If you’re going to take the water cooling route, make sure you have done your research and fully understand the installation process and the ramifications associated with water cooling.

If that sounds like too much work, they make a plethora of AIO (All-In-One) water coolers that do a great job. They’re just not customizable. With a custom-loop water cooling kit, you can bend your own tubes to artistically modify the look of your rig.

I absolutely love the look of a custom loop and had one for years. But ultimately, the maintenance of changing the water and replacing worn-out parts became a hassle, especially after the third pump went out.

If any piece of the loop fails from wear or becomes clogged due to negligence, your computer will not function long. Having to disassemble a loop can be just as frustrating as putting it together, trust me. But man, do they look fantastic!

A water cooler works like this: Typically you have a reservoir full of water with a pump attached to the bottom. The pump will push water through the tubing to a water block. That block is attached to your components, where you would normally have a heatsink and fan combo doing the cooling.

The block has an intricate pattern of tunnels and surfaces that wick the heat away from the source, and the water carries the heat to a radiator. Radiators are a labyrinth of narrow passages made of aluminum, copper, or other non-corrosive metals that absorb and release heat.

As the water passes through the radiator, the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, takes over. Heat wants to dissipate as quickly as possible and return to a low-temperature state. So the heat gets absorbed into the metal radiator, which is cooled by mounted high static pressure fans. The fans blow the heat out of your chassis and into the surrounding environment.

Water cooling is not dangerous, but you need to be able to set it up correctly. One leak can destroy your PC. There are many tips and tricks on how you can stress test your custom loop, and you need to understand that process before just turning on your PC and watching thousands of dollars be ruined in seconds by your beautiful new water cooling kit.

Typically these kits come with a bypass to run the pump and only the pump. That way, you can leak test the loop before you turn everything else on. Having critical components removed or simply not powered will save you heartache and money for if or when it leaks. So again, do your research on HOW to assemble a water cooling kit and how to MAINTAIN it before just diving in. Here is a video that should help you:

Maintaining a Custom Loop Water Cooler

First of all, never use tap water. Tap water contains metals, salts, minerals, bacteria, and chemicals from the city water department if you have a city water connection. All of this can harm your loop. Only use high-quality distilled water or specially marketed cooling solutions in your rig.

If you do not heed this warning, you WILL get salt or mineral build-up clogging your system, corrosion from the metals amalgamating in your heatsinks, and/or algae or bacterial growth in your system. Even if you use distilled water, you need to use an antimicrobial and algae agent sold specifically for water cooling units.

Also, before you hook everything up, make sure to thoroughly rinse out and dry your radiator. This is to wash out any potential foreign debris like metal shavings or anything else that may cause damage to your system.

The next thing you need to keep in mind is the joints of your custom loop. All connections will need to be checked, and any grommets or rubber washer seals will need to be replaced regularly.  Furthermore, your water blocks will need to be inspected and disassembled to clean any built-up residues.

Failure to do this will eventually lead to inefficient cooling or leaks, which will ruin your computer. At that point, you just spent hundreds of dollars to kill potentially thousands of dollars worth of hardware. Be smart about this, and you’ll have a great-looking PC for years to come.

Lastly, you need to make sure you have good high static pressure fans for your radiator. Any old case fan will not do the job. High static fans are designed to blow harder than an airflow fan. This is because they need to push air through the high-density fins that cool the water.

Without good fans, the radiator will not be able to cool the water fast enough, and you’ll be pushing hot water to hot components creating a snowball effect.

It’s inevitable that a fan will eventually stop working and needs to be replaced. So when that happens, remember “High static pressure” when shopping for a new one. Yeah, these all come with proper fans. But in my experience, included fans get the job done but are not as high of a quality as I would like.

Custom Loop Vs. AIO, Which is Better?

An AIO comes with everything ready to go right out of the box. No assembly required. You can just attach it to your CPU or GPU; depending on what kind you get, power it up and go.

With a custom loop, you have to mount your radiator and reservoir and pump, bend and/or cut your tubes, mount your cooling blocks, attach your tubes and fill the reservoir. Next, you have to slowly pulse the pump to fill your tubes and water blocks, all while not letting your reservoir run out of coolant.

Once this is done, you need to leak test and burp your reservoir for days to get out all the air bubbles. The bubbles are bad for the pump’s impeller and decrease the efficiency of the entire system as water absorbs heat much better than air.

Now, all of that sounds a bit much for what an AIO can do, right? Yes, but an AIO doesn’t look anywhere near as good as a clean custom loop and never will. Custom water cooling is all about aesthetics these days.

An AIO can be used almost anywhere a custom loop can, and they do a fantastic job. So it all comes down to whether or not you want that fully custom PC look or just want the temperatures possible with water cooling. Either way, you’re going to get better performance if you do it right and will still look cool.

The price difference between custom-loops and AIOs is vast. A custom-loop kit is typically hundreds of US dollars, whereas an AIO is usually around $100USD. So If you’re on a budget but want water cooling, a custom-loop water cooling kit isn’t for you. There are plenty of affordable AIOs from reputable manufacturers should you wish to take that route.

So, is Custom Water Cooling Worth it in 2021?

That’s hard to say. With air coolers and AIO units these days becoming more and more advanced, custom-loops are becoming less desirable. Back in the day, custom loop kits weren’t a thing, and modders would create all kinds of crazy setups using whatever was available. It eventually caught on, and companies started making kits for people who wanted them.

There’s a lot of work and patience needed when installing a custom loop. In contrast, it takes very little time and effort for an AIO or air cooler. Computers can be a labor of love. I enjoy tinkering with my battle station just like any other enthusiast. But while my custom-loop was beautiful, it was a headache to keep up with. I eventually switched back to air cooling my components, but I miss the aesthetics of it all.

In the end, I don’t think, in 2021, that a custom loop is worth all the aggravation. Some of you may disagree, but with how well AIOs work these days, there’s really no other reason to have a custom-loop other than it looks absolutely fantastic, and you can customize the tubes to fit whatever design you like.

That is the main allure these kits have on people. You see them on Instagram and other social media platforms all the time. A beautiful PC, lit with RGB lighting with veins of liquid coursing through them, giving them that sci-fi look we all love.

We want to own a piece of hardware like that and think it’s straightforward: hook it up and go, but it’s not. It’s a long process of steps to be taken, and if anything messes up, you’re screwed. For the risks that custom loops come with, they’re just not worth it anymore.

About Richard Gamin 125 Articles
My name's Richard and over the years, I have personally built many PCs for myself and my friends. I love gaming, programming, graphics designing and basically anything that has to do with computers and technology. If you ever need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you out.

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