Best 420mm AIO?
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 420 is a powerful cooler in the market that comes with a 6-year manufacturer’s warranty and offers fantastic thermal performance at almost silence, which is unheard of. Thanks to integrated cable management, we have a single cable to handle, making life easy and simple. The only caveat is the same thing that is giving this cooler the advantage: its size. You can definitely thank the ARCTIC for this beast of a cooler, and it comes recommended by us.
Quality - 9/10
Design - 9/10
Performance - 9.5/10
Features - 9/10
Value - 9/10
- Excellent Thermal Performance
- Integrated Cable Management
- One Cable to rule them all
- Silent Operations
- Convenient AM5 Installation
- MX-5 Thermal Paste
- No printed User Manual
- No Independent PWM control
- Inconvenient Intel Installation
When it comes to PC cooling solutions, ARCTIC is a big gun among the others. Their Liquid Freezer II series of liquid coolers is quite popular among PC users, and so is the MX-4 thermal paste. Although ARCTIC has recently released the MX-6, and they started shipping MX-5 with their coolers without updating the shipping manifesto some time ago. Their Liquid Freezer – II 360 is the most popular liquid cooler in the market, although my personal favorite is the 240mm version. But in this article, we are not talking about either of the two. Instead, we will be taking a look at the big brethren in this line, which is a 420mm version.
The cooler we are testing is an original. There are two variants of the 420mm size coolers:
- The non-RGB 420mm
- The A-RGB 420mm
Then, there are revisions of these coolers printed on the label at the bottom of the packing box. These have to do with platform support. We have the Revision 4, meaning they have provided an AM4 mounting kit included in the cooler along with the MX5 thermal paste. This cooler is compatible with Intel LGA 1200/115x/2066/2011(-3) Square ILM sockets and AMD Am4 sockets.
We have also reviewed the following ARCTIC Liquid Freezer AIOs:
- The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 420 impresses with its robust thermal performance, providing ample headroom to handle even the most demanding tasks with ease.
- With compatibility for both Intel LGA1700 and AMD AM5 sockets, it ensures versatility for a wide range of setups.
- Additionally, the peace of mind is extended with a generous 6-year warranty from ARCTIC, further solidifying its reputation as a reliable AIO cooler choice.
Packing and Unboxing
I have never seen such a packaging style. Although it seems lucrative and eye-catching, its handling is quite the worst. I wish they had kept it simple like other AIOs. It is mentioned that this unit carries a 2-year warranty. As I have mentioned above, many of their stuff still come in the old packaging that does not have updated information. All of their liquid coolers now have a 6-year warrant. Similarly, you will find that thermal paste is mentioned to be MX-4 here, whereas the unit comes with MX-5. There is a diagram of the unit in white color, hinting that it is white in color, which is not true.
ARCTIC has shown quite a few pictures on the back highlighting the salient features of the cooler:
- PWM Controlled Pump
- Maintenance-free water loop
- VRM Cooling Fan
- Integrated Cable Management
- A 38mm radiator
- P14 Fans
- Ready for Extreme Overclocking
There are multi-lingual listed features of the cooler here. The specifications are listed at the bottom. Since ARCTIC does not provide a printed user guide, a scan label will take to the fully illustrated webpage to guide the user about installing this unit.
This unit is a revision 4, meaning it supports the AMD AM4 socket.
Inside the main packing box, there is a cardboard box container that has the main cooler.
There is a large cardboard box for the accessories. We don’t need such a large size box, but it is done for the structural integrity of the internal packing boxes.
What’s in the box?
It is time to see what is provided in the box besides the main cooling unit.
ARCTIC does not provide a printed user manual. There is a scan label. Use it on your mobile phone or go directly to their website for an online manual. The online manual has an illustrative design with animation. I would still prefer a printed user guide, ARCTIC.
The mounting hardware includes:
- 2x AMD Mounting Brackets [Offset Bars]
- 4x black spacers
- 4x long screws
- 1x Intel Backplate
- 2x Intel Mounting Brackets
- 4x Thumb Nuts
- 4x Intel LGA-20xx Standoffs
- 4x Intel other sockets Standoffs
- 12x Washers
- 2x Long Screws for the Mounting Brackets
- 12x Radiator Screws
- 12x Fans Screws [Already installed]
Let’s start with a statement from the ARCTIC about this cooler. “At ARCTIC, we are proud of our completely new all-in-one CPU water cooler series. For the Liquid Freezer II Series, we have used our experience in CPU water cooling to develop a completely new compact water cooling pump. The new pump of the Liquid Freezer II Series ensures an ideal ratio of high CPU cooling performance to low noise levels. The CPU AiO water cooler has integrated cable management within fully sleeved tubes for a clean look in your PC’s case. Our powerful P-fans provide a fast heat transfer thanks to their high static pressure and outstanding performance.”
This cooler has a thick radiator standing at 38mm in height. However, ARCTIC has done a fantastic job, as the three P14 140mm PWM fans come pre-installed on the radiator. If you are wondering what about the cables of the fans, as we don’t see them in the picture, see the below picture.
ARCTIC has used cut-to-size power cables on the fans and routed them on the side of the fans. The fans are daisy-chained. I like this approach. One is this approach, and the other is the Fractal Design’s approach to integrating a hub on the radiator assembly, as we saw on the Celcius+ series of liquid coolers.
We have removed the fans and are showing a single cable with three sockets. One of these sockets has 4 pins, whereas the other two have 3 pins. The cable is then passed under the sleeve on one tube towards the block, where it is integrated with the other two cables. Hence, we have an integrated cable management system, which is nice and clean.
Looking at the side of the unit, we are telling you that the overall thickness of the unit is approximately 66 mm, including the heads of the screws. There is an ARCTIC brand logo in the center as well.
We are showing the backside of the radiator. The fin stacking job is satisfactory.
Now that we have removed the fans, we are showing the radiator itself. There are 14 channels for the flow of coolant. The dimension of the radiator is 458x138x38mm (LxwxH). The fin density is at 15 FPI. The fins stack is less dense, but it provides more surface area, and we have more channels for the flow of coolant. The complete assembly is black color coated.
The far end has a rectangular outlook, and there is no branding or sticker label of any sort.
Overall, fin stacking is fine. Though we found a few bent fins, there were no broken fins anywhere.
Looking at the tube connection side, there are chrome color clamps covering the connection of the tube with the barb fittings. Look how close these connections are. We can see a cable going inside the mesh sleeve on the left side of the tube. There is no serial number sticker label of any sort here.
There is a certain gap between the side frame arms and the actual fin stack. Notice the tightened ends below or under each mounting hole. This is there to prevent the screw from going down towards the fin stacking since there is no protective plating over the fin stacking.
The tubes used in this cooler are fiber-reinforced long EPDM rubber tubes. These have a length of 450mm, which is sufficient for any requirement. There is a beautiful and colorful textured sleeve in gray and white colors. The tubes are designed to reduce the coolant evaporation. The tubes have ID/OD measurements of 12.4/6.0mm.
Well, well, well! What have we here? The block on this cooler is something new and a totally different design. This is a deviation from traditional designs. That is for sure. I am not sure how to describe it, but I like the looks of it. It almost looks like some sort of mini spaceship from a space movie. We are looking at this block from the side. There is an ARCTIC branding over the outermost frame. The tubes are integrated right on top of this block, right in the middle. This has altogether settled the clearance issue for the DIMM slots. But this block has more length, and this could be obstructed by some motherboards, so better read the compatibility notes on the ARCTIC website before buying this cooler.
There is a 40mm PWM fan on the front with transparent blades. It is rated for 1000 to 3000 RPM speed. It is PWM controlled, as mentioned above, and the most surprising thing about it is the silent operations. No, believe me, I am very critical when evaluating the product; this little beast runs silent. I remember criticizing ASUS ROG RYUJIN’s VRM fan for making horrible noise at full speed, and then the dependency on their software for its control was a letdown. Anyhow, ARCTIC has done a wonderful job here. Job well done.
Here is what they are saying, “Small fans have a reputation for being particularly loud and not very durable. However, we have developed a quiet and durable diagonal fan, especially for the Liquid Freezer II, and are 100% convinced that this 40 mm fan is just as durable as our other case fans. In the unlikely event that it should fail, our customer service team will send you a replacement free of charge and easily, without a need to replace the entire unit.”
“The fan is PWM-controlled and can cool your voltage transformers and the base area almost inaudibly by up to 15°C. This is especially effective in overclocking scenarios, inadequate VRM cooling, or in housings with poor airflow, thus permitting continuously high loads. If sufficient VRM cooling is available, it can be switched off at will.”
There is nothing particular towards the rear of this block. One thing is that the underside of the block can be removed. This is part of the design, and it makes this block compatible with certain motherboards where this block would not be installed otherwise.
There is a copper base on this unit that measures 39x43mm. It is a small size base compared to other AIOs in the market. We can see model information printed in a white color. There is a 4-pin PWM cable coming out from the base of the block. This is the only cable that is available for the connectivity. We can also see two small-length cables interconnected.
This design is somewhat inconvenient. This cable connection provides power to the VRM fan. There is no way to stop this fan the other way around except to disassemble the block and disconnect the cables. ARCTIC uses Micro-Skived fins on the cold plate for effective heat dissipation.
The pump is also a PWM controller. Everything in this cooler is PWM-controlled. According to ARCTIC, this would reduce humming while improving efficiency, which is obvious since the PWM control would make the pump draw the power as per the load’s requirement. This pump is said to draw a maximum of 0.8W at no load, 2.3W at typical load, and 4.3W at full load. Its speed is rated between 800 to 2000 RPM.
P12 and P14 PWM are the most popular and powerful yet silent fans on the market, and we can see these were the obvious choice for the ARCTIC to be used in the Liquid Freezer II series of coolers. There are three P14 PWM fans that come pre-installed on the radiator. There are five blades on each fan. These fans have a black color frame, and they are black in color from head to toe, which is obvious given the very stealth design of this cooler. Each fan has ARCTIC branding on the hub. There are no anti-vibration pads on the mounting corners.
Looking at the backside of the fan, there are 4-arms in a spiral layout. One arm has an inset on which the wires are routed from the hub towards the outer frame. P14 PWM is embossed on the top. DC 12V 0.12A is embossed on the bottom.
Each fan has a 4-pin PWM connector on a small length cable.
These are the screws used to install fans on the radiator.
The specifications of the fans are:
|Type||4-pin PWM Connector|
|Air Pressure||2.4 mmH₂O|
|Bearing Type||Fluid Dynamic Bearing|
The cooler was required on the AMD AM5 platform to tame our new AMD Ryzen 9 7950X CPU installed on GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER. Here are the steps:
- Install the mounting brackets on the block.
- Remove the stock AMD mounting brackets from the motherboard.
- Place black color spacers on the studs of the motherboard near the socket area.
- Put the Mounting plates or brackets in an offset position and secure using 4x screws.
- Apply the thermal paste on the CPU.
- Remove the protective cover from the base of the unit.
- Carefully place the block on the CPU by moving the PWM cable out of the way.
- Align the mounting holes on the brackets with the standoffs on the mounting brackets.
- Use the thumb screws to secure the block on the CPU.
- Connect the PWM cable to the 4-pin PWM fan header.
- Install the radiator in the PC Case or as per the requirement.
- Installation is complete.
There is no clearance issue for the DIMM slots, but certain motherboards may have clearance issues with respect to the M.2 slot heatsink or the top VRM heatsink cover. Better check the compatibility on the ARCTIC website. Also, make sure that your PC Case has clearance for a 420mm size liquid cooler. The dimension of this cooler is 458x138x65mm. There are only a few PC Cases that can handle this size cooler.
We have used the below-mentioned configuration for this testing:
- AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
- ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 420
- GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER
- ASRock Radeon RX 7600 Phantom Gaming 8GB OC
- Kingston Fury Renegade 32GB 6400MHz @ 32 CAS
- XPG S50 Lite 1TB Gen4 NVMe SSD [For OS]
- Be quiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
- Open-air Testing
Here is the settings table:
|Efficiency Curve Adjustment||-30mV|
|XMP/EXPO||Loaded where available|
|Thermal Paste||Alphacool Subzero|
|Thermal Paste Application||5 dots|
|Fan Headers||CPU_FAN and CPU_OPT|
|Fan Control||100% PWM cycle|
|Stress Tool||CINEBENCH R23.2 Multi|
|Test Duration||30 minutes|
|Idle Time||5 Minutes|
The motherboard was updated to the latest BIOS before this testing, along with the chipset software. We did not use ECO Mode from GIGABYTE. These Eco modes are based on thermal limits, and the CPU will operate on the set limit anyway. We have used this cooler during the tuning session of AMD Ryzen 9 7950X. We will show the summary table of our findings, which may be out of the scope of this article, but the stock and tuned thermal differences would still give you an idea about the performance of this cooler.
We all know that on stock, these CPUs will hit 95ᵒC, and the same was the case with this SKU. It was drawing 234W on the package with 1.4V Vcore. While the power draw was high and the temp was on the limit, the performance was good as we got a 37345 score in the CINEBENCH R23.2 Multi CPU. This is not a bad score. My target was to take it to 38xxx while reducing the temperature and power draw. We have used PBO Advanced to our advantage. The tuning is not a shortcut and needs time and patience. Our CPU can handle -20mV on the efficiency curve on all cores. It could not do -30mV, which is ideal. Still, we can see the drop in voltage from this adjustment. Though this adjustment has no effect on the power or thermals, our score went to 38325.
Next, we introduced another variable in our equation, which is the thermal control limit, and set it to 85ᵒC. Now, no matter what, the temperature would not cross over the 85ᵒC under load. This gave us the best score of 38656. We then introduced another variable in the equation. This time, it is PPT or socket power (not the package power), and it started playing with different configurations and values. The ultimate aim is to reduce the power draw and the temperature while upping the score. For me, the best of both worlds came from these settings:
- Efficiency curve adjustment by -20
- Thermal Control Limit 85ᵒC
- PPT of 185W (Entered as 185000)
This gives us a score of 38101, and the temperature was 77ᵒC at an ambient of 25.4ᵒC.
We are not measuring the noise output due to repair and maintenance work going on, but this cooler is dead silent.
Should You Buy It?
Buy It If:
You Need A Bang For The Buck High-Performance AIO: In my testing, the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 420 liquid cooler performed flawlessly and did an excellent job at keeping the mighty Ryzen 9 7950X at normal temperatures. Plus, its impressively low pricing makes it the best bang for the buck 420mm AIO.
Don’t Buy It If:
You Need RGB: Given the low price tag, the Liquid Freezer II 420 does not have RGB or any other bells and whistles. So, if you want those features, then consider the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 420 A-RGB.
I recently came across the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 420 liquid cooler, and I must say, I’m quite impressed with its specifications. This cooler boasts a substantial 420mm radiator, measuring 458x138x38mm. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to ensure compatibility with your PC case due to its size. The radiator is constructed from aluminum material and comes equipped with 3 P14 PWM fans already installed, offering a fin density of 15 FPI. Additionally, there are 14 channels for coolant flow.
In terms of compatibility, this cooler supports Intel LGA115x/1200/2066/2011(-3) square ILM sockets and AMD AM4 and AM5 sockets, with LGA1700 compatibility contingent on the cooler’s revision. The EPDM rubber tubes are both flexible and fiber-reinforced, featuring a textured sleeve available in gray and white colors.
One notable feature of this cooler is its integrated cable management system, which facilitates efficient cable routing. It also boasts a single control for the P14 PWM fans, VRM fans, and pump. However, it’s worth mentioning that this setup might somewhat limit control options for power users.
Despite the limited control options, I was pleased to learn that all components of this cooler operate quietly, even at full speed. The pump, in particular, stands out as it’s an in-house design by ARCTIC and is described as highly efficient, thanks to its PWM control. The article also provides power consumption ratings for various load conditions.
What’s also appealing about the ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 420 is its pricing, coming in at USD 144, and it’s backed by a generous 6-year warranty. This makes it an enticing choice for gamers looking for high-performance cooling without having to endure excessive noise despite its larger size.
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Sajjad Hussain is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tech4Gamers.com. Apart from the Tech and Gaming scene, Sajjad is a Seasonal banker who has delivered multi-million dollar projects as an IT Project Manager and works as a freelancer to provide professional services to corporate giants and emerging startups in the IT space.
- Majored in Computer Science
- 13+ years of Experience as a PC Hardware Reviewer.
- 8+ years of Experience as an IT Project Manager in the Corporate Sector.
- Certified in Google IT Support Specialization.
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Sajjad is a passionate and knowledgeable individual with many skills and experience in the tech industry and the gaming community. He is committed to providing honest, in-depth product reviews and analysis and building and maintaining a strong gaming community.