Zalman LQ320 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on February 5, 2013
Let’s test Zalman’s LQ320 sealed liquid cooling system for CPUs, which has a 120 mm radiator cooled by a 120 mm fan. Check it out!
Figure 1 shows the box for the LQ320.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: the radiator-block set, fan, manual, and installation hardware.
This watercooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
The sealed radiator-block system is shown in Figure 3. At the left is the radiator; at the right is the block.
Figures 4 and 5 reveal the radiator of the Zalman LQ320. While this radiator is 2.0” (52 mm) thick, the LQ310’s radiator is 1.1” (28 mm) thick, and the LQ315’s radiator is 1.5” (38 mm) thick.
The block, with the integrated pump, is shown in Figure 6. The manufacturer’s logo at the top is illuminated by a blue LED.
The base of the block, which is made of copper, is revealed in Figure 7. The thermal compound comes pre-applied.
Figure 8 illustrates the 120 mm PWM fan that comes with the LQ320.
In Figure 9, you can see the backplate for use with sockets LGA1155, LGA1156, and LGA1366. There is a similar part for use with processors from AMD. Figure 10 shows the frame with the retention clips and screws in place for socket LGA1155 mounting.
Figure 11 shows the frame mounted on the block.
Put the backplate in place on the solder side of the motherboard, position the block over the CPU, and tighten the screws. Then, place the radiator (with the fan already installed) at an opening compatible with 120 mm fans on the top or rear panel of the case.
We tested the cooler with a Core i5-2500K CPU (quad-core, 3.3 GHz), which is a socket LGA1155 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 4.0 GHz (100 MHz base clock and x40 multiplier), with 1.3 V core voltage (Vcore). This CPU was able to reach 4.8 GHz with its default core voltage, but at this setting, the processor enters thermal throttling when using mainstream coolers, reducing the clock and thus the thermal dissipation. This could interfere with the temperature readings, so we chose to maintain a moderate overclocking.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all cores, we ran Prime 95 25.11 with the “In-place Large FFTs” option. (In this version, the software uses all available threads.)
We compared the tested cooler to other coolers we already tested, and to the stock cooler that comes with the Core i5-2500K CPU. Note that the results cannot be compared to measures taken on a different hardware configuration, so we retested some “old” coolers with this new methodology. This means you can find different values in older reviews than the values you will read on the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that comes with it.
Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings.
During the tests, the panels of the computer case were closed. The front and rear case fans were spinning at minimum speed in order to simulate the “normal” cooler use on a well-ventilated case. We assume that is the common setup used by a cooling enthusiast or overclocker.
The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed near the top opening of the case. This measurement is only for comparison purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which is not the case here.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 2°C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2°C are considered irrelevant.
The table below presents the results of our measurements. We repeated the same test on all coolers listed below. Each measurement was taken with the CPU at full load. In the models with a fan supporting PWM, the motherboard controlled the fan speed according to core load and temperature. On coolers with an integrated fan controller, the fan was set at the full speed.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Temp. Diff.|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||18 °C||50 dBA||2850 rpm||69 ºC||51 °C|
|Corsair A70||23 °C||51 dBA||2000 rpm||66 ºC||43 °C|
|Corsair H100||26 °C||62 dBA||2000 rpm||64 ºC||38 °C|
|EVGA Superclock||26 °C||57 dBA||2550 rpm||67 ºC||41 °C|
|NZXT HAVIK 140||20 °C||46 dBA||1250 rpm||65 ºC||45 °C|
|Thermalright True Spirit 120||26 °C||42 dBA||1500 rpm||82 °C||56 °C|
|Zalman CNPS12X||26 °C||43 dBA||1200 rpm||71 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||20 °C||51 dBA||1700 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Titan Fenrir Siberia Edition||22 °C||50 dBA||2400 rpm||65 °C||43 °C|
|SilenX EFZ-120HA5||18 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||70 °C||52 °C|
|Noctua NH-L12||20 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||70 °C||50 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8900 Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||2550 rpm||71 °C||50 °C|
|Gamer Storm Assassin||15 °C||48 dBA||1450 rpm||58 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 400||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||60 °C||45 °C|
|Cooler Master TPC 812||23 °C||51 dBA||2350 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 300||18 °C||43 dBA||1650 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Intel stock cooler||18 °C||41 dBA||2000 rpm||97 °C||79 °C|
|Xigmatek Praeton||19 °C||52 dBA||2900 rpm||83 °C||64 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P SE2||18 °C||42 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Deepcool Frostwin||24 °C||46 dBA||1650 rpm||78 °C||54 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Advanced||13 °C||56 dBA||2000 rpm||62 °C||49 °C|
|Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition||9 °C||48 dBA||2100 rpm||53 °C||44 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||1750 rpm||59 °C||38 °C|
|Noctua NH-U9B SE2||12 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||64 °C||52 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro||15 °C||54 dBA||2000 rpm||52 °C||37 °C|
|Deepcool Fiend Shark||18 °C||45 dBA||1500 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Arctic Freezer i30||13 °C||42 dBA||1350 rpm||63 °C||50 °C|
|Spire TME III||8 °C||46 dBA||1700 rpm||70 °C||62 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Performer||11 °C||54 dBA||2000 rpm||49 °C||38 °C|
|Arctic Alpine 11 PLUS||11 °C||45 dBA||2000 rpm||82 °C||71 °C|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 2||10 °C||41 dBA||1300 rpm||58 °C||48 °C|
|Phanteks PH-TC14CS||16 °C||47 dBA||1300 rpm||58 °C||42 °C|
|Phanteks PH-TC14PE||16 °C||48 dBA||1300 rpm||57 °C||41 °C|
|SilverStone HE01 (Q)||19 °C||44 dBA||1150 rpm||63 °C||44 °C|
|SilverStone HE01 (P)||20 °C||57 dBA||2050 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Extreme (S)||17 °C||44 dBA||1250 rpm||52 °C||35 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Extreme (E)||17 °C||53 dBA||1900 rpm||50 °C||33 °C|
|Deepcool Neptwin||11 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||56 °C||45 °C|
|SilverStone HE02||19 °C||49 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900DF||23 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||68 °C||45 °C|
|Deepcool ICE BLADE PRO V2.0||22 °C||43 dBA||1500 rpm||67 °C||45 °C|
|Phanteks PH-TC90LS||24 °C||47 dBA||2600 rpm||95 °C||71 °C|
|Rosewill AIOLOS||20 °C||40 dBA||1600 rpm||94 °C||74 °C|
|Corsair H60||20 °C||49 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||44 °C|
|Zalman LQ310||27 °C||51 dBA||2050 rpm||65 °C||38 °C|
|Noctua NH-L9i||24 °C||44 dBA||2500 rpm||95 °C||71 °C|
|NZXT Respire T40||20 °C||45 dBA||1850 rpm||76 °C||56 °C|
|NZXT Respire T20||21 °C||45 dBA||1900 rpm||77 °C||56 °C|
|Zalman LQ315||20 °C||52 dBA||1950 rpm||57 °C||37 °C|
|Corsair H80i (Quiet)||19 °C||44 dBA||1100 rpm||61 °C||42 °C|
|Corsair H80i (Maximum)||19 °C||57 dBA||2500 rpm||55 °C||36 °C|
|NZXT Kraken X40 (Silent)||25 °C||44 dBA||1050 rpm||66 °C||41 °C|
|NZXT Kraken X40 (Extreme)||25 °C||53 dBA||1650 rpm||62 °C||37 °C|
|Zalman LQ320||20 °C||52 dBA||2100 rpm||57 °C||37 °C|
In the graph below, you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the cooler.
In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.
The main specifications for the Zalman LQ320 CPU cooler include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
We were a little disappointed with the Zalman LQ320 CPU liquid cooling system. Not that it’s a bad product; actually, the LQ320 is a very well-made cooler, with a high quality of construction and excellent cooling performance. However, in our tests it performed exactly the same as the LQ315, and showed nearly the same cooling performance as the LQ310, which costs almost 40% less.
In short, if you analyze it by itself, the Zalman LQ320 is a great cooler that receives our Silver Award. However, the LQ310 is a better buy, since it is also great and costs less.