ARCTIC has sent us their new iteration in the ever-popular Liquid Freezer – II series coolers namely Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB. As the name indicates, we have the same powerful radiator and pump but the change is the inclusion of 2x 140mm P14 PWM ARGB fans. The basic design element and styling are the same as is on the other Liquid Freezer – II coolers. The cooler has a uniquely designed pump housing, a VRM cooling 40mm fan, and a 38mm radiator powered by their popular P fans in 140mm sizing with A-RGB lighting. Another striking feature is the integrated cable management on the unit. The fans are connected to the pump and VRM fan. We have a single 4-pin PWM cable that needs to be connected to the 4-pin PWM header and we are good to go. The same goes for the A-RGB cable. The cables are routed under the texture pattern sleeve on the tube for a neat and clean look. The cooler is compatible with Intel LGA 1200/115x/2066/2011(-3) Square ILM sockets and AM4 sockets in the AMD camp. For the Intel LGA1700 socket, the upgrade kit is also available for purchase separately. The cooler has an MSRP of $113.99.
Packing and Unboxing
The cooler is shipped inside a cardboard box packing box in a colorful theme signifying the A-RGB lighting.
The cooler comes with a whopping 6 years warranty. It has MX5 thermal paste and is compatible with:
- ASUS AURA SYNC
- GIGABYTE RGB FUSION 2.0
- MSI MYSTIC SYNC LIGHT
- ASRock POLYCHROME SYNC
The colorful packing style indicates the A-RGB lighting.
The specifications are printed in a tabular format along with the contents of the box.
As is the case with ARCTIC products, we don’t get the user manual in the box. The user is required to visit their website for animated and detailed guide(s).
There is no Revision data printed which indicates that it is Rev 1.0.
Let’s take a look at what is provided in the box.
Mounting hardware is provided inside a white color box.
AM4 kit includes:
- 2x AMD Mounting Brackets
- 4x black spacers
- 4x long screws
- 1x Intel Backplate
- 2x Intel Mounting Brackets
- 4x Thumb Nuts
- 4x Intel LGA-20xx Standoffs
- 4x Intel other sockets Standoffs
- 8x Washers
- 2x Long Screws for the Mounting Brackets
- 8x Radiator Screws
- 8x Fans Screws
- 8x Pasting washers
- 1x MX5 Thermal Paste [0.8gm]
It is time to take a closer look at the components. Before that here is what ARCTIC is saying about the cooler. “At ARCTIC, we are proud of our completely new all-in-one CPU water cooler series. For the Liquid Freezer II Series, we have used our experience in CPU water cooling to develop a completely new compact water cooling pump. The new pump of the Liquid Freezer II Series ensures an ideal ratio of high CPU cooling performance to low noise levels. The CPU AiO water cooler has integrated cable management within fully sleeved tubes for a clean look in your PC’s case. Our powerful P-fans provide a fast heat transfer thanks to their high static pressure and outstanding performance.”
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II – 280 A-RGB is a 280mm CLC cooling solution. It has a 280mm radiator with 2x P 140mm A-RGB High-Performance fans. The fans are pre-installed on the radiator and we can see why. The cable management is integrated into the unit. The 4-pin PWM cables and 3-pin A-RGB cables on the fans have short lengths to have neat and tidy cable routing on the side of the radiator.
The dimension of the radiator is 317 x 138 x 38mm. The thickness of the radiator is 38mm. The overall thickness would be approximately 65mm with the fans. The radiator has 15 fins per inch (FPI). There is a gap of 105mm between any two fan mounting holes on the radiator. The assembly is in the black color finish with a better build quality. We have taken the pre-installed fans off to show the radiator itself.
The radiator is made of aluminum hence it is lightweight. This is ARCTIC’s own design. The blocks on both ends of the radiator are rectangular. The fin stack is not dense with 15 FPI and taking into account the left and right side channels, it has a total of 12 channels for water flow.
The ARCTIC has done a fairly good job with the fin stacking.
There is no protective plating under each mounting hole to prevent damage to the fins from excessive screwing. Take a note of that and it is suggested to use the bundled long screws only for the installation of the fans. The underside of the mounting hole would serve to restrict the screws’ excessive movement.
There is an ARTIC branding on the sides of the radiator housing.
The far block has a rectangular design with sharp-looking edges though they are not sharp. There is no sticker pasted here.
The tubes are installed using straight barbs in aluminum covers to give one clean look on the fittings point.
The ARCTIC is using fiber-reinforced, long EPDM rubber tubes. These tubes run to approximately 450mm in length which is more than enough for any situational requirement. The sleeving is in a bit of gray shade with a white lining. The tubes are designed to reduce coolant evaporation. The tubes have an ID/OD measurements of 12.4/6.0mm.
The above picture shows routing the fans’ cables out of the box. The cables have a shorter length and are well routed to give a clean look. Both fans are daisy-chained.
The front side of the pump housing has a 40mm PWM fan for active VRM cooling. ARCTIC is optimistic about this 40mm fan’s performance. Here is what they are saying, “Small fans have a reputation for being particularly loud and not very durable. However, we have developed a quiet and durable diagonal fan especially for the Liquid Freezer – II, and are 100% convinced that this 40 mm fan is just as durable as our other case fans. In the unlikely event that it should fail, our customer service team will send you a replacement free of charge and easily, without a need to replace the entire unit.”
In continuation of the above statement, “The fan is PWM-controlled and can cool your voltage transformers and the base area almost inaudibly by up to 15°C. This is especially effective in overclocking scenarios, inadequate VRM cooling, or in housings with poor airflow, thus permitting continuously high loads. If sufficient VRM cooling is available, it can be switched off at will.”
In our testing, we have found this fan to be silent even at full speed. Switching off the 40mm fan is not a convenient task as one would need to access the base section of the pump housing to disconnect the small cable powering this fan. This would mean we need to take off the block from the CPU socket to complete this task.
Here are the specifications of the VRM fan:
There is an ARCTIC branding on both sides of the block. The pump is ARCTIC’s own design. Good thing is that the Pump is PWM controlled. This would reduce humming and improve the efficiency as the pump will draw power as per the load. This would also reduce the noise level. The power consumption is a maximum of 0.8 W at no load, 2.3 W under typical load, and a maximum of 4.3 W under full load for the entire cooler. Here are the specifications of the pump:
|Power Consumption||0.5 ~ 2.7W [Pump+VRM Fan]|
This is the rear or backside of the block. Tell me if I am wrong in calling this block mimicking a spaceship! The tubes are installed on the straight barbs and we have the same aluminum clamps covering the tubes.
The base of the block has a copper cold plate measuring 39x43mm. It is relatively a small size base as compared to the other coolers. The model of the cooler is printed in white at the base. There are two cables (4-pin PWM and 3-pin 5v ARGB cable) coming out from the base of the block. There are two cables connected on the top left side. This is powering the VRM fan on the block. Disconnect these cables to power off the VRM fan on the block. There is a protective sheet pasted on the block. Take it off before installing the block. ARCTIC is using Micro-Skived fins on the cold plate for effective heat dissipation.
The 4-pin PWM cable has an approximate length of 242mm. The 5V A-RGB cable almost has the same length. The PWM cable is handling the PWM functions of the P14 ARGB PWM fans, the pump itself, and the 40mm VRM fan. This cable will report the fans’ speed in the BIOS which means there is no monitoring of the pump and VRM fan speed.
ARCTIC has provided two P14 A-RGB PWM fans with the Liquid Freezer II – 280 A-RGB. We have a black color frame of the fans. Each fan has specially designed 5 blades designed and optimized for high performance with low noise operation. There is an ARCTIC branding in the center. There is no anti-vibration pad on any mounting corner. The frame of the fan is quite sturdy. The blades of the fans are translucent. There are 12 A-RGB LEDs in a fan rated at 0.4A/5V.
The cooler is tested on an Intel LGA1200 socket using the MSI MAG Z490 TOMAHAWK motherboard. Installation is as follow:
Place the pasting rubber washers over the mounting holes on the motherboard’s backside and place the backplate.
Place the pasting rubber washers on the mounting holes around the socket area on the front side of the motherboard. Install the Intel standoffs.
Install the Intel mounting brackets on the block using 2x screws. We have shown the picture from our content of Liquid Freezer – II 420.
Apply the thermal paste on the CPU. Peel off the protective cover from the base of the block. Place the block on the CPU by aligning the pre-mounted screws to the holes on the mounting brackets. The VRM fan is preferred to be on the top near the VRM areas for effective cooling.
Use the thumb nuts to secure the block on the socket.
Connect the 4-pin PWM cable coming out of the block to the 4-pin PWM fan header preferably the CPU fan header on the motherboard. Connect the 3-pin 5V A-RGB connector to the header on the motherboard.
There is no clearance issue with respect to the DIMM slots and first PCIe slot. Make sure your chassis has clearance for 280mm radiator with 65mm clearance for the thickness of the unit.
PS: On a personal note, I don’t prefer to paste anything on the motherboard area. Maybe ARCTIC would consider changing the pasting washers with something else!
We have tested the lighting using MSI MYSTIC LIGHT SYNC on MAG Z490 TOMAHAWK motherboard. One point we noticed is that both fans’ lighting mode is out of sync by default. But both were synced as soon as the app was launched and responded seamlessly to the change in the lighting mode. Here are a few pictures:
Following configuration has been used: –
- Intel i7 10700k
- MSI MAG Z490 TOMAHAWK
- T-Force NightHawk RGB 16GB @ 3200MHz
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 FE
- addlink S70 256GB NVMe SSD
- bequiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
- Thermaltake Core P6 TG Snow Edition in open-frame layout
Here is the settings table for testing:
|Clock (MHz)||3800 All Cores|
|Clock (MHz)||4700 All Cores|
|Clock (MHz)||5000 All Cores|
|Thermal Paste||Noctua NT-H1|
|Thermal Paste Application||Dot Method in the center.|
|Test Run Time||30 minutes|
|Idling Time||10 minutes|
|Fan Speed||100% PWM Duty Cycle and Auto PWM|
|Pump Speed||Connected to the AIO Pump header to run at 100% speed|
|Header||CPU_Fan header for the fans and Pump_Header for the pump|
|Software||AIDA64 6.3 Extreme [FPU]|
We are using Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste for cooler testing. Using the same thermal paste for all coolers would ensure standardization. Delta temperatures are reported on the graphs. The testing is done on an open-air bench system. Once inside the chassis, the temperatures are expected to rise and would largely depend upon the optimal airflow inside the chassis.
Not every run of the stress test may yield the same result. This could well be due to many factors like mounting pressure, thermal paste application, varying ambient temperature. Not to mention the silicon differences even among the same category of the chips. Hence, it is pertinent to mention the testing methodology along with the specifics.
We have recently updated the BIOS of the motherboard and certain parameters are changed. We have to truncate the previous results to ensure consistency and transparency in the test results. We will gradually test those coolers again to have them feature in the graphs.
Let’s take a look at the results.
3.8GHz All Cores
The result is self-explanatory.
4.7GHz All Cores
The result is self-explanatory.
5.0GHz All Cores
The result is self-explanatory.
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II – 280 A-RGB has performed excellently on our test bench.
Here are some of the observations from the testing:
- The P14 A-RGB PWM fans, the pump, and the VRM fan are being controlled using a single PWM cable.
- That single PWM cable is reporting the speed of the fans by default.
- There is no way we can monitor the speed of the VRM fan and the pump.
- At 100% PWM duty cycle the maximum reported speed of the fan was 1856.
- On Auto PWM settings, the pump’s speed will also be regulated by the PWM controller depending upon the load.
- There is no way we can have the pump run at full speed while the fans operate at Auto PWM setting depending upon the load.
We are not measuring the noise output of the coolers at the moment due to high environmental noise at present. But my take is that the Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB has a bit louder noise output as compared to the Liquid Freezer – II 420.
The Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB is our third cooler on the test bench in this series after testing the 240mm and 420mm variants. The 240mm variant got our high praise as it won our 240mm AIO round-up content this year. The 280mm retains the same footprint that is the hallmark of the Liquid Series coolers from the ARCTIC. We have the same 38mm thick radiator but in 280mm size with 15 FPI count. The cooler is compatible with Intel LGA115x/1200/2066 and 2011(-3) square ILM sockets and AMD AM4 sockets. An upgrade kit is available for purchase from ARCTIC for the Intel LGA1700 socket.
The Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB has an aluminum radiator measuring 317 x 138 x 38mm. The thickness of the radiator is 38mm. The overall thickness would be 65mm after installing the fans. The radiator has 15 FPI. This makes sense with the overall thickness of the fin stack and ARTIC has wisely chosen the P14 A-RGB PWM fans for this radiator to achieve optimal cooling performance out of the box. The radiator housing has a black color finish which is a fingerprint magnet. We have 450mm length tubes on this cooler which is plentiful for any requirement. The ARCTIC is using fiber-reinforced, EPDM rubber tubes which are flexible without kinking and reduce the coolant evaporation. The barb fittings have aluminum covers on the radiator and the block which look good in person.
The cooler features an integrated cable management system. The P14 A-RGB PWM fans are pre-installed on the radiator and daisy-chained. Their 4-pin PWM and 3-pin 5V A-RGB cables have shorter lengths and cables are already routed in a clean manner. The cables are routed under the sleeve of the tube to the block. The pump and the VRM fans are also PWM controlled. These all are connected inside the block’s housing and we have a single 4-pin PWM cable to control all the fans and the pump using a single fan header. The same goes for the A-RGB cables.
While this is a good choice, it has two caveats: we get to monitor only one component in the loop. Out of the 2x P14 A-RGB PWM fans, VRM fan and the pump, the unit reports the fans’ speed only in the UEFI BIOS. There is no monitoring of the pump and VRM fan. The second issue is that setting the control on Auto PWM will make all three active components run on the Auto PWM settings. There is no way we can make the pump run at full speed while fans on Auto PWM. The only way to do this is to disconnect the fans from the integration and connect them directly to the motherboard for which PWM extension cables would be needed.
The power consumption of the pump unit is a maximum of 0.8 W at no load, 2.3 W under typical load, and a maximum of 4.3 W under full load for the entire cooler. The pump is rated for up to 2000 RPM speed. ARCTIC has installed a 40mm fan for VRM active cooling. The fan is rated for a maximum of 3000 RPM speed. The Pump and the VRM fan are rated for 0.5~2.7W power.
ARCTIC has provided 2x P14 A-RGB PWM fans with the cooler. These fans feature frosted blades with an inner circular ring which light up for some vivid lighting effect. These are rated for a maximum of 1900 RPM at 12VDC. Their airflow rating is 68.9 CFM, air pressure of 2.0 mmH₂O, and noise level of 0.3 sonne. They are using Fluid Dynamic Bearings. Please note that the fans on the 420mm version have higher airflow and static pressure ratings.
As is the case with the Liquid Freezer – II series coolers, we are dealing with 21 pieces to install the mounting hardware. I am ok with it but personally speaking, I don’t like pasting any mounting hardware on the PCB of the motherboard. We have 8x pasting washers provided with this cooler and we need to paste all 8 of them. We pointed this out in the round-up content as well. Hopefully, ARCTIC would come up with a better solution in the coming time.
ARCTIC is using standard 3-pin 5V A-RGB connectors making their fans compatible with a wide variety of sources. We noticed that both fans were out-of-sync by default. But they were found responding seamlessly to the change in lighting mode using the MSI Mystic Sync app.
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB has an MSRP of $113.99 at the time of the review. ARCTIC is offering 6 years warranty. The cooler comes with their new MX5 thermal paste and dedicated AM4 mounting kit. This is our third cooler in the Liquid Freezer – II series and ARCTIC has scored a hat-trick when it comes to thermal performance. The Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB offers fantastic performance with some vivid lighting ambiance. The ARCTIC has once again delivered a solid punch with the 280mm variant and did that in style.
We are thankful to ARCTIC for the opportunity to test the Liquid Freezer – II 280 A-RGB and looking forward to testing the 360mm variant in the coming time.