Pros: Light weight waterblock, Low profile, Decent cooling performance
Cons: High price, Badly written installation manual, Software is flawed
Antec 920 Kuehler, closed loop watercooler
Coolermaster 212+, Aircooler (for comparison)
Xigmatek SD1283, Aircooler (for comparison)
2x Antec stock fans (the ones supplied with the 920 unit)
2x Corsair SP120 (High Performance)
1x Coolermaster R4 Blademaster
System specs: i7-3770k @ 4.5GHz, GA-Z77X-UD3H, 2x4GB Samsung Miracle RAM, GPU Sapphire 7950 Dual-X, PSU CP-850, Case Antec 182
All tests were run under the same conditions using the same equipment: Room temp ~66.5, i7-3770k @ 4.5GHz, vcore 1.275v.
General notes regarding setup and airflow:
The PSU and the hard drives sit in their own compartment at the bottom isolated from the rest of the case. The case has two 120mm intake fans both located at the front of the case. 2 x 120mm exhaust (top and rear). The 920 Kuhler was mounted in the place of the rear exhaust fan, exhausting air out of the case as recommended by Antec. I ran multiple tests with different sets of fans, 2x stock Antec fans and 2x Corsair SP120 HP in a push/ pull config. When using the aircoolers, both were mounted with a single Coolermaster R4 Blademaster in push config. I did not run any tests non-overclocked as people who are willing to spend $100 USD + on a cooler are most likely overclockers themselves.
Test Configurations and Results:
Antec 920 Kuhler: ...........p95 max CPU temp 89c (2x fans controlled using Chill Control*) (both the stock Antecs and the SP120's)
Antetec 920 Kuhler/ ........p95 max CPU temo 84 (2x fans controlled by motherboard**) (only the SP120's were used in this test)
Coolermaster 212+: ......p95 max CPU temp 93c (1X Coolermaster R4 fan controlled by motherboard)
Xigmatek DK SD1283: .....p95 max CPU temp 94c (1X Coolermaster R4 fan controlled by motherboard)
*in this test I let Antec Chill Control control the fan speed ("Custom Setting"); I did two tests each using two different custom settings in Chill Control,1. Fan Ramp Start Temp 30/ Full Speed Fan Temp 35 and 2. Fan Ramp Start Temp 40/ Full Speed Fan Temp 50 (which is the default setting). The temperature hit 89c using either setting. Setting the Fan Ramp Start Temp to anything lower than 30, resulted in loud fan noise during idle.
**in this test I let the motherboard control the fan speed; Hooking up the fans to the motherboard requires a Y-cable splitter which needs to be purchased separately. Since there had been no temp difference in any of the other tests with either the stock Antec or the SP120's, I performed this last test using only the SP120's
Using Chill Control to control the fans allowing it to ramp the fans up and down depending on the liquid temp, resulted in a max temp of 89.
Using Chill control "Extreme" preset, resulted in a max temp of 84. With both the SP120's and the stock Antec's this resulted in very high noise levels even when idle though, I doubt anyone will be willing to put up with.
Using my motherboard to control the fan speed resulted in less noise when idle and load temps were 84.
A word on Chill Control:
The Antec Chill Control software has 3 settings, Extreme, Silent and Custom. Extreme keeps the fans running at full speed at all times, Silent keeps the fan noise at non-audible noise levels, and Custom allows the user to control the fans to ramp up or down depending on the temperature of the water contained inside the unit.
The software does not monitor CPU temperature but monitors the temperature of the water inside the unit. This causes a delay for the fans to speed up to provide more cooling for the CPU. From the time the CPU temperature rises, for the water inside the 920 to be warmed and then finally for the Antec Chill Control software to react and ramp up the fan speed. In a nutshell, if a CPU exhibits temperature spikes that last only for a very short duration (like several seconds), the software will not be able to compensate in time as the liquid will not be heated up fast enough for Chill Control to ramp up the fans potentially even causing damage to the CPU.
The 920 is a good product in it's own category. It does what it is supposed to do and it does so adequately, and it does it even better after a bit of tweaking. Namely, not using Chill Control and exchanging the loud stock Antec Fans. However, for the same price tag of $80- $90, better performing coolers can be had for the same price like the Noctua NH-D14. The big drawback of the 920 is that Chill Control operates off the liquid temperature, in my tests this results in higher temperatures. If you decide to purchase this unit, I highly recommend getting a Y-Cable splitter and allowing your motherboard to control the fans rather than letting Chill Control do the job. You will get much better results this way with both temperatures and noise levels.
The 920 performs adequately and slightly better than the two aircoolers I used for comparison but comes at a much higher price tag. The higher price accounts for the parts involved in the 920, ie pump, radiator, fans, etc and as such is a much more complex system than a traditional aircooled heatsink. When comparing the 920 directly to the Coolermaster 212+ and the Xigmatek DK SD1283, the 920 cooled better by up to 5c- 9c than a $30 USD cooler, depending on configuration and settings.