NZXT Kraken X40 & X60 CPU Cooler Introduction

NZXT has been making CPU coolers, computer cases, and other PC enthusiast related products for quite some time now.  On the CPU cooler side of things, they have more recently created their Kraken series sealed liquid CPU coolers.  This cooler is one that allows NZXT to tout as being the world’s first manufacturer to have a 140mm and 280mm radiator on a sealed water cooling system.  These slightly larger radiator sizes, 36% larger to be more precise, are sizes that they’re hoping will give them the edge over other similar popular products that are already doing really well.  A lot of today’s computer cases have 140mm fans, so it should be pretty easy to find room for even the small Kraken x40 kit.

NZXT Kraken x40

NZXT definitely brought these Kraken Series radiators to the market with a competitive and attractive price.  At time of writing this article, you can get your hands on the Kraken x40 (RL-KRX40-01) for $99.99 shipped on Amazon, or $109.99 shipped for the x60 (RL-KRX60-01).  Both of these come with a nice two year warranty, too!

At the heart of both the Kraken x40 and x60 is a slick water block with the pump built-in.  This Asetek Gen4 all copper base uses both micro channels and a split flow design, which will allow it to be the most efficient cold plate on the market by reducing thermal resistance.  When designing the pump portion, NZXT didn’t want it to be obtrusive with its looks, but rather their goal was to keep it simple and sexy; I think they nailed that one!

What’s also great about the Kraken line is their flexibility.  These coolers have an extra long, 16 inch tubing, which will allow the Kraken to be mounted in very large of cases without issue.  All of the wires that are attached to the pump are encased in a black sleeve to make things that much more sleek.

The radiator used with both Kraken liquid coolers is a slim radiator that is painted a flat black throughout.  Also with both is the ability to install fans in a push/pull configuration to get the absolute best out of your new investment.

NZXT Kraken Radiator

Fan wise, the x40 will have a single 140mm fan, while the x60 will have two 140mm fans.  NZXT didn’t want to leave you hanging with junk fans, so they include their award winning FX-140 fans.  These PWM controlled liquid bearing fans feature sleeved cables and an RPM range of 800-2000 RPMs.  Theses beasts can push over 98 CFM at full speed, though while screaming at 37dBA.  This should prove to be some sweet cooling power!

NZXT Kraken Technical Specifications:

For added control of the entire Kraken system, NZXT has developed the Kraken Control software.  In here, you’ll be able to do various things, like monitor your liquid temperature and CPU temperatures, turn on the predefined Silent or Extreme cooling profiles, customize when you want the fans to ramp up and to what speed, or even just change the LED color on the pump.

Let’s move on and take a look at the retail packaging, then take a closer look at both Kraken’s that we have today!

NZXT Kraken x40 & X60 Packaging & Unboxing

NZXT did a great job with the packaging.  I think if you saw this box sitting on a retail shelf, there is plenty of information to sell you on their cooler.  The packaging isn’t over-the-top and gives you just the right amount of detail.  Let’s take a look!

Starting off on the front of the box, you will catch a really nice picture of the radiator and pump/block.  There is also a nice little heads-up about the 2 year warranty on the bottom left corner.

NZXT Kraken Package Front

Swinging over to the right of the box, we can find the compatible CPUs (both Intel and AMD), the mention of the much larger surface area due to the 140mm or 280mm radiator (vs. 120mm or 240mm).  There is even a nice efficiency graph here.  Take note that it doesn’t mention the new Haswell 1150 socket on the packaging, but rest assured; it works.  The hole configuration is the exact same between the 1155 and 1156 sockets.

NZXT Kraken Package Right

Spin to the back side and you can see a couple key points and a description of how and why the Kraken Series was designed.

NZXT Kraken Package Rear

Jumping to the left side is the specifications of the system like you saw on the introduction of this review.

NZXT Kraken Package Left

The top and bottom of the box don’t really show you much.  You’ll catch NZXT’s statement of why the Kraken Series was designed in other languages, while up top is just the product name in large font.

NZXT Kraken Package Top

NZXT Kraken Package Bottom

Let’s crack these beasts open!

Popping the top you will see everything is placed into a cardboard tray…

NZXT Kraken Box Open

… and pulling the tray out, we see that NZXT sectioned everything off nicely to prevent damage to this delicate system.  Even the fans and radiator came with their own cardboard sleeve, which I was happy to see!  This means that the radiator shouldn’t have any bent fins which can impact cooling performance; albeit by a very small amount.

NZXT Kraken Package Insert

Slipping off that cardboard sleeve from the radiator and looking at it and the block, we can see that everything is a sleek flat black.  I could not find specific information in regards to what liquid is inside, but fear not, being a sealed system, you do not need to worry about adding liquid, algae build-up, or any of the headaches that can come with custom setups that some people may build.

NZXT Kraken x40 and x60 Water Coolers

Looking closer at the block and pump, you can’t help but notice the pre-applied thermal paste.  This is protected by a plastic cover from the factory.  There are also a number of wires coming out of the block, which include the fan header, USB connection, and the 3-pin power connector.  The barbs that come out of the pump will rotate, making your installation that much easier and cleaner!

NZXT Kraken Water Block

Popping the cover off of the block and looking closely, we can see that the block is not a mirror finish like some extreme enthusiasts like to see.

NZXT Kraken Water Block Close-up

The opposite side from the copper plate is the pump, and up here is NZXT in a decent sized font.  This side of the block will light up and change colors with the Kraken Control software.

NZXT Kraken Pump Top

Both kits come with all the hardware that you need to install the radiator and the maximum number of fans.  I think that’s fantastic that they took the time to think about your possible want to expand, and give you the extra screws for doing a push/pull config.

NZXT Kraken Hardware

Here’s a look at the brackets that will be used.  In total, both Intel and AMD systems will use 3 of the 5 pieces here, with the round retention clip being used with both.

Looking closer at the Intel back plate, you’ll notice the spot that you have to insert the threaded metal inserts for the various sockets.

NZXT Kraken Hardware

Finally we’re left with a quick shot of the FX-1

NZXT Kraken Hardware

40 fans.  Again, the Kraken x40 will include a single 140mm fan, while the x60 will include two.

NZXT Kraken Fans

Let’s take a quick look and see how easy these Kraken liquid CPU coolers are to install in a Fractal Design XL R2 with a GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H 1150 socket motherboard!

Installing The x40 and x60 Kraken CPU Coolers

Both of these Kraken liquid CPU coolers will be installed on an Intel Core-i7 4770k with a GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H motherboard, and I will show you how easy it is to install.  I am also going to be using a Fractal Design Define XL R2 case, which should work perfectly for both of these kits.

We start off by laying our system on its side.  To prep your system for install, make sure that your CPU is clean of any old thermal paste and other debris.  Make sure you use rubbing alcohol with the highest purity that you can find, and also ensure that you’re using a lint-free cloth.

The very first thing you need to do, is prep the backplate by putting the metal inserts into place.  These again will have the appropriate numbers on them for what socket you’re using, so you know where you have to put the insert.  You can also prep this by putting a double sided pad on, but for me, I would rather not do that.

NZXT Kraken Mounting Bracket

Should you be using a socket 2011 board, you will not need to worry about the backplate as there are a special set of screws to mount directly into the board’s CPU socket studs.

Here's a snapshot of the bracket from the interior, which shows the studs poking through the mounting holes.

NZXT Kraken Mounting Bracket Studs

The mounting screws are held in place with two plastic inserts that go on the retention ring.  This particular prep work is tedious, but it isn’t difficult by any means.  Follow the directions for your CPU socket type.

NZXT Kraken Mounting Screw Clips

Before doing any mounting, I would highly recommend putting the retention ring and clip in place, along with the mounting screws.  This will save you some of the annoyance that you might get when trying to do this inside your system with the radiator mounted.  Here's what it looks like when it's finished.

NZXT Kraken Retention Ring Installed

Here is one more shot:

NZXT Kraken Retention Ring Installed

Following the NZXT instructions that were included with both Kraken coolers for radiator mounting, the picture for mounting these coolers in your case is a pull configuration.  This entails you to set the fans in place and then mount the radiator under them.  Basically what you can do here is, put a fan where you will be mounting your cooler and stick a screw through the top two holes.  This will hold the fan(s) in place while you grab the radiator to mount.  Finding the screw holes is plenty easy, since the radiator and fans are the same size.  Essentially it’s a bit more of a hassle getting the pull fans installed than it would be to start off with a push only setup.

NZXT Kraken Fans Set

Once that’s installed, you can now screw the block into place.  This is made super easy by the thumb screws and I found that I did not need to use any tools to tighten this more.  The screws will stop in place with your fingers alone.  If you have a cramped board, the screws do have a Phillips screw head.

NZXT Kraken Mounting Screw

Hooking up to the connections is made plenty easy.  NZXT included a nice and long USB cable that I was able to route the wire behind my motherboard tray and come out by a USB header.  With this USB cable in place, we are now interfaced with the Kraken Control software.

The 3-pin power cable can be hooked up to any 4-pin fan header, while the fans themselves hook up to the respective attached cable.  For additional power when you hook up four fans, the Kraken x60 has a SATA power connector.  Here is the x60 all hooked up!

NZXT Kraken x60 Installed

Finally, firing up my system, we can see the various colors that the NZXT logo can light up to.  You can simply change the color on-the-fly with the Kraken Control software, or it can change colors if the temperature gets too high.  This is very cool eye candy!  Below are a few that you can choose from in the full pallet of colors.

NZXT Kraken Pump LED Colors

That wraps up the installation of the Kraken Series coolers, so let’s take a quick look at the Kraken Control software and see how it works with the Haswell platform.


Kraken Control Software Overview

To take full advantage of the Kraken liquid coolers, NZXT has available the Kraken Control software.  In here, you can do various things such as monitor temperatures, change the profile from Silent to Extreme, set up your own custom fan speed profiles, or even change the LED color on the pump.  Let’s take a brief look at how this software works.

The software features a series of tabs on the bottom edge, so starting with the very first one we have the dashboard.  This is where you can monitor the liquid temperature, CPU temperature, or even just see how fast the fan(s) and pump are running. 

NZXT Kraken Control Dashboard

I need to note, that the CPU temperature does not appear to be available for Haswell CPUs at this time.  You will need to rely on other software to tell you this.

On the top right is where you can quickly change from the Silent, Extreme, or Custom profiles.  This will be present on all tabs.

The Graph tab will give you a timeline of fan speed and temperature.

NZXT Kraken Control Graphs

Moving onto the Fan Settings tab, this is where you can see what the levels at which the fan will ramp up based on temperature.  You can even set your own custom profile, which is awesome!

NZXT Kraken Control Fan Settings

Light Settings is the next tab, and this is where you can add a little “bling” to your system.  Here you can change the static color of the NZXT logo on the pump, or even tell it to change a certain color when the temperature reaches a certain number.

NZXT Kraken Control Light Settings

Finally on the General Settings tab you can enable auto start, logging, and alerts for fan speed or liquid temperature.

NZXT Kraken Control General Settings

That’s that!  The Kraken Control software is a pretty nice addition to this kit.  Let’s move on and check out the system being used today.

The Test System

Before we take a look at the performance numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used.  All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

 NZXT Kraken x60 Installed

Intel Z87/LGA1150 Platform

The Intel Z87 platform that we used to test these memory modules was running the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H motherboard with BIOS version F7 that came out on 08/05/2013.  The processor used, the Intel Core i7 4770k, will be using the stock frequency of 3.5GHz with turbo boost enabled, which can boost it up to 3.9GHz.  Low power state is enabled, which clocks the CPU at 900MHz.


NZXT Kraken x40 and x60 Benchmarking

In the benchmarks that I will be running, I used an Intel 4770k clocked at 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost and the low power state enabled.  Turbo Boost allows the 4770k to hit up to 3.9GHz.  To record temperatures, I used Core Temp, logged the temperatures while each program was active, and averaged all 4 cores.

Benchmark wise, I will be using several synthetic and real-world benchmarks to perform normal, heavy, and extreme load.  The benchmarks that I’m going to use today include:  Prime95, x264, 3DMark 2013 (Firestrike test only), Metro Last Light, and Sleeping Dogs.  Prime 95 will peg all four cores and eight threads to 100%, which will help us to understand exactly how hot this CPU can get with each cooler.

Ambient temperature during all testing was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just for grins, and strictly with the x40, I wanted to see if adding another fan for a push/pull configuration could beat the x60.  Read on to find out what I discovered!


NZXT Temperature Testing - Idle


NZXT Temperature Testing - Prime95


NZXT Temperature Testing - x264

3D Mark 2013

NZXT Temperature Testing - 3DMark 2013

Metro Last Light

NZXT Temperature Testing - Metro Last Light

Sleeping Dogs

NZXT Temperature Testing - Sleeping Dogs

Overall Results:  As you can see, the Kraken x60 was the king of the hill on the Extreme fan setting.  I have to be honest, the noise made from these fans is quite obnoxious at full blast, so unless you’re doing gaming with headphones and have a good noise canceling microphone for voice chat, you probably won’t like this setting.  If your PC is a good distance away from your head, you just might not care.

What was very interesting is how well the x40 did in a push/pull configuration.  It actually beat the x60 in several tests, but I did have to put it into the Extreme fan setting just to beat out the Silent fan setting on the x60.  Is it worth the noise increase?  I’ll say, probably not!  But that all changes if your system can’t handle a 280mm radiator, in which you’d have to ask yourself the same question.  Maybe you could invest into a different high flow fan that won’t be as loud, or you could just utilize the custom setting in the Kraken Control software and make sure they don’t ramp up all the way.

The x40 is even a great improvement over the horrid stock Intel cooler while on its silent setting.

This wraps up the testing portion, so I am going to conclude this review up next.


Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Knowing that Haswell is already a hot processor and the stock Intel cooler is just horrible, did we get what we expected out of these NZXT Kraken sealed CPU water cooling kits?  You bet!  These both performed very well, even when the fans were whisper quiet.

NZXT Kraken x40

In the looks department, I think NZXT hit their goals right on the head:  Keep it simple; keep it sexy.  The entire kit is a flat black, which will match anyone’s configurations.  The sexy part comes in with the LED light system on the pump.  Some of you may have a case with no window, but for those who do, the LED system adds a little extra coolness factor to your system.

NZXT Kraken Pump LED Colors

Both of the Kraken kits were pretty easy to work with.  The only tedious part that I noticed was connecting the plastic inserts onto the retention ring and then snapping everything into place.  I kind of wished this were already done for me, but it isn’t like it was difficult or time consuming.

Installation was a breeze, but I’m not sure why NZXT’s instructions recommend mounting a pull configuration over a push, since a push would be easier to work with.  Never fear, you can always install it how you want, or if you want, both radiators allow for a push/pull configuration if you wish to invest into more fans.

Speaking of push/pull configurations, I was quite impressed with how well the x40 performed with a push/pull config.  But then you have to ask yourself, is it worth it to invest into another fan?  Well, I guess you’ll probably only be asking yourself this if your case can’t handle a 280mm radiator.  My simple answer is:  NO.  If you have the room, buy the x60!  Why?  It’s currently a whole ten bucks more than the x40 and is well worth it!  There is even more potential waiting for you!

NZXT Kraken x60 Installed

The current pricing of the x40 is $99.99 shipped on Amazon, while the x60 is $109.99 shipped.  Both kits have a 2 year warranty should something go wrong with it.

NZXT’s Kraken Control software was a snap to learn and use.  You can set up your own custom fan ramp-up configuration based on temperature, which is a handy little tool.  Unfortunately with Haswell, I was unable to monitor my CPU temperature from the software, so I had to utilize other means.

NZXT Kraken Control Fan Settings

So, if you have the room in your case to support a 280mm radiator, I would strongly recommend sticking with the x60 over the x40.  The x40 still did quite well and if you’re in the market for a 140mm radiator, because your case doesn't support anything larger, this one did pretty well and just blows away the performance of the stock Intel cooler.LR Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line:  The NZXT Kraken x40 is a great cooler if you only have 140mm of space to work with, and investing into another fan for it might be worth your while.  If you have the room for a 280mm radiator, the x60 is absolutely the way you can go due to its superior cooling performance and potential, should you decide to do a push/pull configuration.