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AIOs with Screens – Corsair vs Thermaltake Tested

We continue to be largely amazed by just how many additional features manufacturers can squeeze onto an AIO liquid cooler. In a world where RGB fans and pump covers are commonplace, the latest trend seems to be LCD screens on the pump-block unit. Let’s take a look at two 360mm LCD-equipped AIOs – one from Corsair and one from Thermaltake.

Video Timestamps

00:00 Start
00:15 Introduction
01:17 Corsair H150i Elite LCD 360mm
03:41 Corsair Installation
04:02 Thermaltake Toughliquid Ultra 360 360mm
07:02 A quick comparison
07:24 Thermaltake warranty – disappointing
07:53 Thermaltake Installation
09:39 Testing setup and configuration
10:58 Test results
13:13 Results from coolers locked at 40dBa
13:44 PBO Temps and clocks
14:39 Motherboard VRM Temps
15:17 Lukes closing thoughts

Corsair H150i Elite LCD

Starting out with the Corsair H150i Elite LCD, this is a roughly £250 360mm liquid cooler with a 2.1” user-adjustable screen. As is typical for Corsair, you get a 5-year warranty.

Three 120mm ML RGB Elite series fans drive airflow through the unit. These PWM-controlled fans operate at up to 2000 RPM according to our testing, and their speed range of 450-2000 RPM – as well as Zero-RPM compatibility – is fantastic for creating low-noise operation when preferred. Lighting for the fans is handled by an array of LEDs that shine brightly through the translucent blades and look very eye-catching.

Controlling the fans is the bundled Corsair iCUE COMMANDER CORE unit. This can control up to six individual fans in terms of speed and RGB lighting. The fan spots are very conveniently numbered. And the cable connections for this unit are vast, but not intrusive or biased to the front side like we see from some competing coolers. Instead, Corsair uses a single – large – cable on the front side to connect with the pump unit.

Corsair uses a conventional 27mm-thick aluminium radiator. This is backed by 380mm-long low-permeation rubber tubes that are sleeved black and have very good flexibility. The 56mm x 56mm copper coldplate supports all modern sockets including LGA 1700 and Threadripper. Within this chunky unit is housed the speed-adjustable pump that we saw topping out around 2700-2800 RPM.

The 2.1” IPS screen clips onto the underlying pump unit for a seamless integration. Resolution is 480×480 natively with a 30Hz refresh rate, and brightness is rated up to 600 nits, which is very solid indeed. Corsair rounds the glossy display with an LED ring that is also controllable.

In fact, the entire cooler features absolutely superb control through iCUE. The image or GIF on the 2.1” screen can be adjusted and messed with, the RGB lighting border can be controlled, and synchronisation with the LEDs on the fans is superb. There is also ample speed control and the ability to set several profiles. iCUE is simply fantastic, even if it is quite resource heavy

Installation is incredibly easy on AM4, and it is quick. You install a few posts onto the default AMD backplate and then screw the block into place. Cable management is also fine given Corsair’s smart approach for biasing cables towards the chassis rear side – where they are hidden. And then iCUE can take care of the rest of the job.

Thermaltake Toughliquid Ultra 360

Thermaltake’s Toughliquid Ultra 360 is a 360mm AIO liquid cooler with a 2.1” display that retails for £265 but is currently on offer for around £240 at Scan. Warranty for the unit is two years according to Scan, and I cannot find any other major UK retailers with stock. Two years is incredibly disappointing for a £240+ AIO liquid cooler, especially when the Corsair competitor offers five years warranty.

Three of Thermaltake’s TOUGHFAN 12 Turbo fans handle airflow. These 120mm blowers are rated at 500-2500 RPM, which is a very good speed range, and they are controlled by a standard 4-pin PWM connection to a motherboard header. So, noise-adjustment abilities should be good, especially when coupled with the rubber anti-vibration mounting pads.

Interestingly, though for the 2021 market, the fans do not feature RGB LED lighting. This feels like an odd design choice when an LCD display on the pump unit is usually an upgrade that comes after RGB lighting on the other components of the AIO.

Thermaltake uses the standard 27mm-thick aluminium radiator. The 400mm rubber tubes are sleeved black to improve their appearance and reduce the likelihood of evaporation. Though they do seem less flexible than some of the other 360mm AIOs we have used recently – notably the Corsair unit and a 360 AIO from Sapphire. Thankfully, entry point into the pump-block unit is adjustable for some enhanced flexibility.

Just like Corsair, Thermaltake also uses a well-size copper coldplate that will suffice for even large heatspreader applications. Though the official specifications do not highlight support for the biggest of them all – Threadripper.

A once again very chunky casing houses the 3200 RPM pump. A 3-pin cable fan cable is used to provide power to the pump, and this indicates that it is a DC unit with limited speed control abilities (versus PWM).

The 2.1” TFT-LCD screen features a resolution of 480×480, just like the Corsair competitor. Thermaltake’s connection approach is via a Micro-USB cable that splits out into an internal USB 2.0 header. That’s absolutely fine as Thermaltake also does a good job of minimising the quantity of messy cables around the front.

The LCD screen can be manually rotated to align with the orientation inside one’s chassis. This is a basic but perfectly functional approach.

Controlled through the TT Plus RGB 2.0 software, a reasonable amount of useful information can be displayed on the screen. There’s liquid temperature or frequency for example. And if you’d prefer, that can be switched out for a JPG or GIF for true customisation.

I would say that Corsair’s iCUE ecosystem is undeniably sleeker. But Thermaltake’s does a good job at handling the duties that people actually want.

Installation on AM4 is one of the most frustrating processes I have experienced for any CPU cooler – air heatsinks included. In fact, I do not know why Thermaltake needed to make the process so long-winded and complicated.

A custom backplate with a rubber damper is balanced in position, without any form of sufficient retention. A user then needs to position four plastic spacers on the posts from the unsecure backplate and just hope that it doesn’t fall off. Then the block is positioned on those spacers before being screwed down.

A wrong move in one position, or a little too much force in another direction, and the backplate comes crashing off. And it crashes off whilst taking the screws or plastic spacers with it… or throwing them into other components such as our graphics card shroud!

Put simply, the process requires more than two hands to become straightforward. I have long thought that be quiet! has the most frustrating installation method with many of its air coolers. But I think Thermaltake has just taken this (non) victory with the Toughliquid Ultra 360.

I simply do not know why Thermaltake needed to make the approach so needlessly difficult. But at least the cooler looks good in the end.

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