Building your own computer can be a relatively easy and satisfying experience, but having to choose the components of your new rig can be time consuming when it comes to all the research looking into compatibility of specific components. Thankfully, when it comes to cooling your new Processor you’ve generally only got three options; either go for the age-old default of air cooling, build your own custom water loop, or purchase a pre-filled all-in-one liquid cooler, with pretty much any of these options generally having compatibility for all recent Processor sockets.
While in the past most Intel and AMD Processors included a stock air cooler, allowing you to upgrade your cooling solution later, most mid to high tier processors no longer include a bundled cooler. We recently picked up an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X Processor, and decided to try out a budget 120mm All-In-One (AIO) Liquid Cooler to see if you really needed extremely high end cooling to take advantage of the latest generation of Ryzen Processors.
We reached out to Cooler Master, and got hold of a MasterLiquid ML120 V2 RGB – a Liquid Cooler featuring a 2.72cm thick 120mm Aluminum radiator, built in pump rated up to 70 000 hours, and a 120mm RGB SickleFlow Fan with up to 62 CFM. While installing the AIO on an Intel board requires an included custom backplate, installation on AMD is as simple as lining it up, latching it on and screwing it down. The pump and fan headers are standard 4-Pin with the RGB fan also having a standard 4-Pin RGB connector allowing you to customize it with your motherboard’s software.
For comparison we tested out an AMD Wraith Prism Air Cooler, a budget option which until recently was bundled with some second and third generation Ryzen Processors. To test these two coolers our system is made up of the above mentioned Ryzen 5 5600X Processor, 16GB Aorus DDR4 3600MHz RAM, B550 Aorus Elite Motherboard, 1TB Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 NVMe, Cooler Master V750 PSU and Cooler Master Silencio S600 Chassis, with tempered side panel removed to allow for greater airflow. The ambient room temperature was set to 23°C for all testing. While Ryzen Processors are capable of overclocking, we rather tested out the 65W TDP Ryzen 5 5600X at Stock with it’s base clock of 3.7GHz and boost clock of 4.6GHz, for further testing we also included results of processor running in AMD’s ECO mode, which limits the processor to only 45W to ensure lower power draw and as a result lower clock speeds and temperatures.
When testing out Cinebench R23 on both coolers we noticed that the AMD Wraith Prism Cooler outperformed the ML120L V2 RGB at both Stock and ECO, with temperatures deviating as much as 12°C between coolers. The sustained frequency of the processor was similar with the ML120L V2 RGB usually being around 100MHz lower than the Wraith Prism Cooler. While this gap may seem quite significant, the actual performance of the Processor was not massively different with the Wraith Prism only being 1.5% faster at Stock and 2.6% faster when running in ECO mode; a difference we would likely never notice in real world productivity.
Running Cinebench R23’s Single Threaded Benchmark, we saw both coolers have near identical thermals in the high 60s at stock and high 50s in ECO mode. Looking at the core frequency we see them all zig-zagging between their base clock of 3.7GHz and 4.6GHz boost, resulting in a maximum deviation of less than 1% on all runs. Due to the Ryzen 5 5600X running cool enough in all scenarios there’s enough thermal headroom for the CPU to run at it’s full capacity regardless of cooler choice.
Now while one could argue that the Cooler Master ML120 V2 RGB All-In-One Liquid Cooler doesn’t perform as well as a budget air cooler, there’s more to the story than standard cooling capacity of a cooler. For starters while having an air cooler in your chassis, you risk the chance of increasing the ambient temperature inside of your chassis, which could lead to higher thermals and lower performance on your GPU. Secondly in the event of building a small-form-factor ITX gaming rig, most of them have clearance issues which means that something like a 120mm AIO is your only starting option. While this next point isn’t necessarily as important, when using a water cooler, you’re able to change the fans to any of your choosing, and as such can match the rest of your build’s aesthetics without having to tinker around in different RGB software looking for a scheme to match your possibly different branded air cooler.
To conclude, we feel that the MasterLiquid ML120 V2 RGB is exactly what it’s marketed to be, while it might be more expensive than a standard Air Cooler, it comes in at less than half the price of higher-tier 240mm AIO’s making it really budget friendly. Not only is it sleek and in our opinion able to match almost any build, it’s able to cool the latest generation of mid-range Ryzen processors with enough headroom to sustain decent boost clocks and barely give any performance loss when compared to better thermal solutions. While some might still be scared of the idea of having water inside their gaming rig, we recommend you give it a try. With the ML120 V2 RGB only being around R1200 at Wootware here in South Africa it’s a great option for those looking to add water to their rigs at a budget friendly price point.
Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGB CPU Liquid Cooler
A budget friendly choice for adding water to your gaming rig.