Triple Radiator Performance Comparison
Swiftech MCR320, ThermoChill PA120.3, XSPC RX360
With testing a few different triple radiators, I felt it would be best to capture the performance data of them all and compare that data in one spot. Since my test methodology and process allows for the comparison of data between products, I might as well bring all of that information into one easy to view page. Even though this page might be all you feel needs to be shown for a comparison, the individual pages go into much greater detail about the individual products themselves and the experience I had with the product through testing. I have linked all of the individual reviews for you on this page as well as the navigation pane to the left. Be sure to scroll all the way to the end of the page for a my conclusion on all of the radiators as well as a spreadsheet tool that calculates the Water Out temperature for you. Enjoy!
Included in this round-up are the three triple radiators I have tested thus far, I am sure there will be more triples added to the charts as time goes on. For now, we have the Swiftech MCR320-QP, ThermoChill PA120.3 and XSPC RX360. Here are links to the individual reviews and test reports, also available via the menu on the left side of the page.
Pressure and Flow Results
When building your loop there should be a list of things that come to mind, flow and pressure should be near the top of that list. Pressure drop is the measurement of inlet pressure minus outlet pressure, or the pressure lost of flow through the radiator.
- Pressure: Dwyer Series 490-3 Digital Hydronic Manometer - Accuracy 0.5% of Scale, Range 0-50.00 PSI, Resolution 0.01 PSI
- Flow Rate: King Instruments 7520 0-5GPM, 10" Scale - Accuracy 2% of scale. Flow Rate controlled by a brass gate valve with 1/2" NPT 5/8" Barbs
- Water: Outlet from the wash basin tap in my mud room
Here are the combined pressure drop numbers for our round-up. I have included kPa and mH2O using Liters per Hour for our European metric system friends. After all there is such a large number of readers who use metric over imperial units, they should have data in their common format too.
Pressure Drop Data Tables
PSI Drop per GPM of flow
kPa drop per LPH of flow
mH2O Drop per LPH of flow
From the charts, you can see the PA120.3 series is still the lowest pressure drop radiator available, with the RX360 coming in extremely close. The MCR320 although having higher pressure drop than the PA120.3 and RX360 is still low compared to cpu or other blocks. Don't let the curve fool you into reading it wrong, pressure drop on radiators is lower than any other device in your loop.
Thermal Testing Methodology/Specification
For explanation of my Thermal Testing methods, equipment specifications and other factors involved in radiator thermal testing please see the "Thermal Testing Methodology / Specification" in any one of the triple radiator reviews linked at the top of this page.
One section I do want to reiterate here is calculating heat load for your loop and the tools I use when estimating the heat capacity of a proposed loop.
For information on calculating heat load for your loop here are two resources I have used in the past. Another method I have used in the past is to Google search TDP for a specific component, that should also help in estimating the heat load that will be in the loop for a specific component. The primary one for me is linked below, they take a lot of the google searching out of the equation and break everything down to just the numbers you need.
- Extreme OuterVision PSU Calculator: Note the calculation starts with 38w, remember to remove that in your estimate
Please remember, calculating the power consumption and using that as heat load is not exact and is only an estimate. This estimate will be higher than actual heat load applied as you do transfer some heat to the air circulating in your case around the components. How much difference I cannot begin to speculate, but I just want to state that it is only an estimate and not an exact specification.
Thermal Performance Test Results
Before moving into the eye-candy charts, I want to show all of the finalized thermal test data that will be used for our Applied C/W tables and charts. I feel that as a tester it is crucial that I maintain an open book for test methods, data and results. One thing I truly enjoy with the Liquid Cooling community is the sheer number of you out there who double check my calculations, you guys always keep me on my toes and help me with presenting the information as well as implement additional tests for data you are interested in. On to the data tables shall we...
After that, many of you have glossed over eyes. However, there are those out there who want to see the numbers and verify the calculations and data. It is the numbers in those charts that derive all of the information for the remainder of the comparison. Without going through all of the trouble to populate that chart with data and calculations we would not have the fancy charts later in this comparison. I have a feeling that I have now reached the agitation point of most readers, and they've already scrolled down to the heat dissipation charts anyhow. Moving on.
Applied C/W Data
From all of the individual tests performed on the MCR320, PA120.3 and RX360 we have a data set that we can use as a comparison, this is C/W. From the small probably glanced over data table from the full reviews, here are the contenders C/W Calculated data tables that will be used for the charts/graphs that compare all of the radiators together. As a reminder, the results you see in the data tables are the applied C/W results with a given Delta (Water Out-Air In) to find how much wattage each the radiator dissipate. For each data table the calculations include Deltas of 15º, 10º, 5º and 2º. Once again, here is my classifications for those deltas.
- 15º Delta: Low Performance, an overloaded but capable loop.
- 10º Delta: Average Performance, very capable of good temps and representative of an average system.
- 5º Delta: High Performance, for those of you looking to achieve the best possible temps.
- 2º Delta: Ultra Performance. extreme setups only, this would be an ultimate setup where you limit to dedicated block loops.
Applied C/W to Watts Dissipated
The section you've all been looking for, which radiator can dissipate the most watts at a give fan speed. I added a trendline for those of you who prefer and fan speed different than one of the six speeds I tested at. But please remember, the trendline is a estimated prediction and not true representation. Just look at the discrepancy among the plotted data points and how the trendlines are close, but not through some of the plotted points.
Looking at the Average Performance 10C Delta chart, all three radiators are within 18 watts of each other until 1800RPM with the D12SH12's. While many are looking at which is king at each fan speed, keep in mind that 18 watts is the heat dump of a D5 with EK top at 1.5GPM. 18 watts was the average wattage measured during the testing of each radiator. Not to take away from the leader at those fan speeds, but I just want to add some perspective for you.
Here are the plotted results for a 5º Delta or High Performance. You can see the heat (watts) dissipation gets smaller, we are cutting the Water Out-Air In delta in half, but the XSPC still leads in low speed fans and the ThermoChill starts to outpace the XSPC and MCR by greater margins above 1800RPM. To put these numbers into perspective, any of the three radiators tested would perform at a "High" Delta rating on a CPU only loop between 1000RPM and 1400RPM.
Finally, the plotted results for a 2º Delta or Ultra Performance. This chart is purely to show what wattages and fan speeds you need to get really close to ambient water temps. Probably not going to happen for 95% of the Liquid Cooling users out there, regardless of the radiator used. Unless you're running very high speed fans, the watts dissipated just doesn't equate to a CPU loop or GPU loop. With that said, a any one of these triples with low rpm fans would make a great chipset loop radiator. Yes, I am one of those crazies who runs a dedicated chipset and mosfet loop off a triple radiator.
With all of the performance numbers for heat dissipation and pressure drop being bounced around here, what about the performance we can all relate to quickly and easily...our bank accounts. The MCR320 remains the biggest bang for the buck, while the ThermoChill is still the highest priced (except for in the UK), with the RX360 in between. Keep in mind the RX360 price is the Market Price and may not be the actual price at Jab-Tech once the next shipment comes in, I would speculate that the price will be less. (Prices taken on 03/04/09)
- ThermoChill PA120.3
- XSPC RX360
Tools and Utilities
While I was slaving away in Excel I decided to make a Water Temperature Estimator with data from the radiators here in the comparison. Martin had the idea originally and started it back on his site for each radiator he tested. I just decided to follow the lead, but combine all of the fan speed C/W's into one workbook. When playing around with the Estimator, be sure to notice the difference in Water temps as you change from one radiator to another. You'll be surprised at how small the difference really is. During use, if you find any problems with the sheet or think of additional items you would like to see...drop me an email through the website or a PM.
skinnee labs Water Temp Estimator v1
Overall, all three radiators do their job and do it extremely well. The ThermoChill while losing its crown at low speed fans still provides a tremendous amount of cooling across all fan speeds, but has some issues with radiator flux and requires a lot of prep before being put in the loop and that neoprene gasket makes me want to break things. The Swiftech MCR320 brings a very low price and a whole lot of cooling performance, that combination is tough to beat. If you find yourself overspending on other portions of your build, rest assured the MCR320 is money well spent. To me, the XSPC RX360 seems to bring the right combination of performance, low speed fan optimization and price into a great package.
To put it another way, you'll be happy with any one of the three and don't let anyone tell you otherwise or talk you out of buying the one you have a preference for. Purchase the radiator that suits your needs for your build, whether it is fan spacing, thickness or looks. All three get my recommendation!
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the show!