ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280 A-RGB Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware, Installation

Despite having reviewed many coolers from ARCTIC, this is actually our first liquid cooler from the company for review. The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280 A-RGB uses a 280mm radiator, like some other liquid cooler models we have reviewed in the past, such as the Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML280 Mirror and SilverStone IceGem 280. The radiator has a matte black finish that does not draw too much attention to itself, since that is what the RGB LED lighting on the fans is for. The ARCTIC logo is located on the sides of the radiator. The radiator is rectangular in shape with measurements of 317mm in length, 138mm in width, and 38mm in height. The radiator is almost symmetrical with the exception of the two sleeved braided pump cables being fed out to the water block. There are two cables fed out from the water block: One of them being the pump cable and the other being the ARGB cable. The radiator is made out of aluminum, which has a thermal conductivity of 237 W/mK. Aluminum is a good choice for radiator and heatsink material due to its relatively light weight, even if it has a lower thermal conductivity than other metals such as copper.

The CPU water block also utilizes a clean matte black finish with some silver mixed in. The ARCTIC logo is located on both sides of the water block. This water block takes on an interesting shape, looking sort of like a race car. The braided tubes that are responsible for transferring liquid between the water block and radiator protrude from the top of the water block, which is different from other liquid coolers that usually have the tubes coming out from the side. The VRM fan can also be seen next to the cables, which will be discussed in more detail later.

The radiator fins are arranged in a typical wave pattern. The wave pattern comes from the fins being placed in a way such that they come into contact with the liquid flowing through the radiator. When the fins come into contact with the liquid, the heat is transferred from the liquid to the fins, which are cooled by the fans that attach to the radiator. There are two sleeved braided tubes at the top that connect directly to the CPU water block to transfer coolant. These tubes are flexible and easy to bend. However, the tubes do not have a hinged connection as they extend directly out from the top of the water block. This could limit the flexibility of mounting options when choosing the mounting position of your radiator around your chassis. The tubes are 450mm in length, which is longer when compared to other liquid coolers like the Thermaltake TOUGHLIQUID Ultra 240. Thus, you should not have any issues with the radiator reaching the water block when mounting both components.

The photo above shows a closer look at the contact base of the CPU water block. The water block measures 78mm in length, 53mm in width, and 98mm in height. The contact base is flat, which should help in exerting a reasonable amount of contact with your processor. The finish is very smooth with no bumps or uneven surfaces being visible. There is no pre-applied thermal paste as ARCTIC has provided their own MX-5 for users to apply to the processor separately.

The water block is rated at a maximum wattage of 2.7W with the power being supplied by the 12V 4-pin pump header on your motherboard. The power supplied from the 12V 4-pin pump header is for both the pump and the VRM fan. The pump runs at a maximum 2000 RPM, which is fairly standard. The VRM fan is an additional piece of cooling added to the AIO cooler, essentially being a mini fan that is directly connected to the water block. This VRM fan has a maximum 3000 RPM, which is also PWM controlled. This VRM fan should ideally help with cooling your system better by bringing additional airflow to nearby components on your motherboard.

The contact base is made out of copper, which has a high thermal conductivity at 401 W/mK. Copper is heavier than aluminum, but we do not need to worry as much about the weight of the pump as it is smaller in size compared to the radiator. A nickel-plated contact base would have been nice to have as nickel and nickel-base alloys can withstand corrosive environments and high temperatures, which proves to be an advantage for devices made for dissipating heat. Overall, the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280 A-RGB is solidly built. This is no surprise from ARCTIC at this point, given the strong build quality of past coolers manufactured by this company.

The radiator fans used for the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280 A-RGB are the ARCTIC P14 PWM A-RGB. These fans have 4-pin PWM and 3-pin ARGB headers. These fans also use fluid dynamic bearings. The blades are angled at approximately 48 degrees from the center impeller. These modified P14 PWM A-RGB fans run at a maximum speed of 1900 RPM, which produces a static air pressure of 2.0 mmH20, 68.9 CFM airflow, and maximum noise output of 0.3 Sone, which translates to roughly 10.64 dB. Just like with the Freezer A35 A-RGB, this sound output seems too good to be true, so we will be sure to scrutinize this during the tests. These are strong numbers that should be more than capable of cooling the radiator. Although not stated by ARCTIC, twelve addressable RGB LEDs can be seen on the central hub of the fans when in operation. The inner rim of the fan utilizes the same translucent plastic that the fan blades are made out of, making it so the RGB LED lighting will stand out more. Each blade is attached to the circular translucent plastic inside the rim of the fan. The fan blades themselves also have a frosted look. I like the choice of radiator fans here and gives me high hopes for the performance of this cooler.

The installation process was mostly simple. The installation tools are divided into separate bags for Intel and AMD, which is great for organization. A QR code can be found on the retail box that leads users to an online guide that goes over the installation process for both Intel and AMD users. This is similar to what we saw with the ARCTIC Freezer A35 A-RGB. The online installation guide is a great document that provides clear step-by-step instructions along with detailed pictures.

The installation process begins with attaching the required backplate onto the back of your motherboard. Intel users can use the provided backplate, while AMD users are required to use the original backplate that came with their motherboard. Afterward, you must attach your respective screws to the required backplate through your motherboard.

The radiator is simple enough to install and will likely not require any manual for users. The ARCTIC cooling fans already come installed on the radiator and you are not required to remove them at any point during the installation process. Eight smaller screws and washers are included for mounting the radiator directly. Once the radiator and the respective fans are installed, it is just a matter of routing the different cables in an efficient manner.

With that said, I was unable to mount the radiator on the top and side of my case, the Corsair 5000D. After taking measurements of the size of the radiator and fans together, I found out it would not be able to fit on the top of another case I reviewed, the SilverStone SETA Q1. This is not an issue with the case, but rather a limitation with the cooler, because the 5000D is already a large case. While I was able to settle with mounting it at the front, I would have preferred if ARCTIC had opted for a thinner radiator. Having a 38mm thick radiator may increase surface area to help with cooling performance, but it does come at a cost of more limited case compatibility. We have also proven here at APH Networks that 27mm thick radiators do a perfectly fine job at helping keep processors cool.

Placing the water block over the top of the processor was as simple as the rest of the installation. This can be done after applying an appropriate amount of the MX-5 thermal paste on the processor. As mentioned earlier, ARCTIC’s MX-4 thermal paste was included instead with this package for some reason, likely due to a packaging error. I will use the MX-4 thermal paste anyways for testing, as it has been proven to be a reliable thermal compound for cooling and the difference should not be more than a degree. Now is also a good time to note the water block can only be installed in one orientation, that being with the VRM fan at the top. This should not be too much of an issue because the water tubes are placed directly on top of the water block.

You, of course, must also install the mounting brackets on the water block first, which is different between Intel and AMD processors. Once you place the water block with the attached mounting bracket on top of the processor, you just need to screw in the double-threaded screws. Once that is done, you can proceed with connecting the rest of the cables to the appropriate headers on your motherboard.

Out of the box, the cooler had its cables daisy chained to one another. ARCTIC has stated that this is to make it so users will only have to plug in two cables total into their motherboard to keep the installation clean. I ended up removing the fans and unplugging the cables when trying to fit the cooler on the top and side of my case. As a result, I proceeded to just connecting everything as a regular cooler. With that said, I do respect ARCTIC's efforts to make for a cleaner set up with this AIO cooler. The installation process was very simple other than having to readjust my setup due to the radiator not fitting at the top or sides.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware, Installation
3. Test Results
4. Conclusion