Alphacool Eisbaer 280 - Modular AIO in Review
Alphacool is a well-known brand in the PC water cooling sector. The manufacturer not only offers individual components for custom watercooling loops, but also has a compact water cooling solution AIO "Eisberg" on offer that was released a few years ago. Unfortunately, the loud pump of the aforementioned AIO turned out to be a severe disadvantage, since the main selling point of such a cooling solution is reliability and quiet operation. Alphacool is trying to addresses the issue with the Eisbaer series, which consists of new, compact watercooling sets. However, the manufacturer uses already popular components, making easy expandability the main advantage of this AIO.
Our test sample of the Alphacool Eisbaer 280 AIO is equipped with a 280 millimeter (~11 in) radiator. Additionally, the manufacturer uses 11/8 mm tubes with G1/4" connectors. Thus, the entire cooling solution can be dismantled and later upgraded with additional parts. The cooling solution comes prefilled on delivery. One tube has been fitted with a quick-lock closure for easy expansion. The graphics card can, for example, be integrated into the loop. Users who are planning to take this step will have to account for the possibility of requiring a second radiator, however.
The Alphacool Eisbaer series comes in six different sizes and users will have to make sure to pick one that is compatible with their case. The largest version only fits into generously dimensioned cases, due to its 420 millimeter (~16.5 in) radiator. Alphacool AIOs are compatible with both AMD and Intel processors. Mounting kits for all kinds of CPU sockets are included.
Our AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Test System
An MSI MEG X570 Godlike based AMD platform serves as the test system. The CPU (AMD Ryzen 9 3900X) offers good performance and demands a maximum of 147 watts under load. Due to the 7 nm process, the heat development is confined to small individual spots, which makes good thermal conductivity critically important. The new Zen 2 series Ryzen processors come with the new chiplet design and AMD now separates the CPU cores from the I/O die. More specifically, the CPU dies no longer sit directly below the heatspreader, which may be a disadvantage for existing cooling solutions.
We want to take this opportunity to thank AMD for providing us with the test platform.
We will use the following system to perform the tests and benchmarks in the paragraphs below:
- Corsair Carbide Air 540 ATX Cube
- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
- Nvidia RTX Titan
- MSI MEG X570 Godlike (BIOS 1.20, default settings, XMP 1 for DDR4-3600 CL16)
- Corsair RM 1000X power supply
- G-Skill Trident Z Royal gold DDR4-3600 memory kit 2 x 8 GB, set to DDR4-3600 CL16-16-16-36
- Corsair MP600 2TB M.2 PCIe-4.0 SSD
- Crucial MX500 2TB (for games only)
- Western Digital PC SN720 NVMe SSD 512GB (for games only)
- Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit (version 1903)
Installation in our Test System
There were no issues during the installation in our (AM4 based) test system. The CPU cooler can be installed without tools. It also serves as the reservoir and includes the pump (Alphacool DC-LT Ceramic Ultra Low Noise).
In-Depth Test Results
In our review, we put our test device up against the AMD stock cooler (Wraith Prism) and our previous be quiet (Silent Loop 280) model. Unlike the Wraith Prism, which is an air cooler, the be quiet Silent Loop 280 is a compact water cooling solution. Since the latter also comes with a 280 millimeter (~11 in) radiator, it and the Alphacool model are on even footing. The fans are identical as well. In both cases, be quiet Pure Wings 2 fans were used. During the test, we stressed the processor using Prime95. Here, the Alphacool model has the edge. While at 74 °C (165.2 °F), the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X still gets fairly warm, the AIO is still a clearly superior choice compared to the Wraith Prism, which is only able to reduce the temperature to just above 80 °C (176 °F). Even the previously installed be quiet AIO, which belongs to the same size category, cannot match the good results of the Alphacool Eisbaer. The difference between the two is 4 °C (~7 °F).
The higher temperature also results in slower clock speeds for the processor. During our stress test, we also made note of them. At 4.07 GHz, the Ryzen 9 3900X achieves the highest clock rates when combined with the Alphacool Eisbaer 280. In conjunction with the be quiet Silent Loop 280, only 4.037 GHz were reached. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 9 3900X barely misses the 4 GHz mark when cooled by the Wraith Prism.
Another selling point of AIOs are the noise levels. Both AIOs are significantly less noisy under load when compared to the stock cooler from AMD. However, when opting for an AIO, users should make sure that the case has good airflow in order to keep the temperatures of the voltage regulators on the mainboard in check. In most cases, this is handled by the CPU air cooler.
AMD Ryzen 3000 Special Architecture
As mentioned earlier, the AMD Ryzen 3000 processors have a slightly different architectural design than past AMD CPU generations. Due to this, we rotated the CPU cooler by 90 degrees to determine whether the CPU temperature changes, since the cooling liquid then more directly hits the hotspot of the CPU. However, we were unable to detect a difference in CPU temperature. Thus, the orientation of the cooler and pump relative to the CPU do not matter.
Verdict - Well Thought-Out Watercooling
The Alphacool Eisbaer 280 walks the line between classic AIO and custom watercooling loop, since the modern design allows for easy upgrades. Users with experience in the watercooling department may instead choose individual components. However, those who are just looking for a powerful CPU cooling solution cannot go wrong with Alphacool's Eisbaer series. The compact, prefilled watercooler, which can be quickly installed, outperformed the comparable AIO from be quiet in our tests. In comparison with the Wraith Prism, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X's stock cooler, the AIO was the clear winner.
The Alphacool Eisbaer 280 AIO offers good cooling performance and is well suited to the latest high-end processors.
The cooling unit costs just below 110 Euros (~$121). Thus, it is significantly pricier than high-performance air coolers, which retail for about 70 Euros (~$77). The appeal mainly relates to the compact form factor, since large air coolers often block adjacent RAM or PCI-Express slots.
The modular design of the Eisbaer series is a big advantage of the AIO. It gives users the option to expand their water cooling system at any point in time. That said, users would be well-advised to make sure the fittings and tubes are compatible with the existing components. We regret the manufacturer's decision not to include any extra cooling liquid for refilling the AIO.
The cooler is a good fit for users who decide to opt for an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X. AMD recommends using a 280 millimeter (~11 in) AIO, in order to ensure reliable operation. If there are even less space constraints inside of the case, the Eisbaer 360 or Eisbaer 420 may be worth taking a look at.