We first learned that Intel would be releasing a stand-alone water cooling kit for Intel Sandy Bridge-E LGA2011 processors at IDF 2011. It was also at this show that we learned that Asetek had won the design contract and would be producing the sealed and easy to use water cooling kits for Intel. This means that both Intel and AMD have released water cooling solutions for their high-end desktop CPUs this year and both companies are using solutions from Asetek, which is huge for them. The Intel Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3930K are both costly processors as they retail for $1049.99 and $599.99, respectively. Neither of these processors come with a retail boxed air cooled HSF assembly. This means that many enthusiasts will be looking for a CPU cooler and water cooling is easier and more affordable than ever.
The new LGA2011 socket is a little more forward on the board than the previous LGA1366 and 1155/56 sockets. The ram slots are also split to be on both sides of the socket. This new layout presents a new challenge for cooler choices. With a large cooler like the Noctua NH-D14, both sets of RAM slots are completely covered, and it is very close to covering the main 24pin connection. This means that RAM with tall heat spreaders that are on most high performance RAM is not an option. This may also be why Intel released the RTS2011LC water kit. With the water cooler there is no RAM height restrictions, and would perform better than a small air cooler that would not block the RAM slots. Releasing it separately from the retail box processor keeps the cost of the CPU down, and also gives the end user the flexibility to choose a cooler of their liking.
The Intel RTS2011LC has the build quality that is, to me, becoming a given with Asetek-made units. The cosmetic changes give the unit a little flash for those that want it. The LED fan is the source of the most flash, and one part I would like to have seen differently. Not the LED aspect of it, but the fan body, it is a non-standard body design. Missing the one ear adds some complication when configuring the cooler for a ‘pull’ or ‘push/pull’ configuration. It could have been avoided with a standard fan body.
For testing I compared the Intel RTS2011LC to the Noctua NH-D14 because it is one of the best air coolers available. Some may say it was an unfair fight, but the coolers are similarly priced in the high end cooler segment. The Noctua was way ahead of the Intel RTS2011LC in all tests. The one advantage the Intel RTS2011LC has over the Noctua is in overall size. The Intel RTS2011LC can fit in a smaller case than the Noctua can; this is due to the flexible tubing used. It allows for tighter bends than corrugated tubes like those used on Corsair Hydro Series coolers. Its configuration also allows for RAM with tall heat spreaders where the Noctua prevents it.
When we asked Intel what the RTS2011LC was going to cost, they told us in the $70-$80 range. Looking on our shopping link we found it for $83.97 plus shipping; a little time on Google and we found it on Amazon for $80.59 plus shipping. Seems a little high to me as the similar Antec Kuhler H20 620 can be found for as little as $59.99 plus shipping. The Intel RTS2011LC’s higher cost may have come from the addition of the backlit logo and the LED fan.
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel RTS2011LC is the flashiest sealed water kit we have seen to date, but with the estimated MSRP of $70-$80 may be pricy for some enthusiasts’ taste with similarly priced high end air cooling available.