Best 360mm AIO?
Cooler Master has brought forward a feature-rich liquid cooling solution set at the right price with an extensive warranty period. The performance of this cooler is competitive, and this makes this cooler an attractive proposition creating a true value for your bucks.
Build Quality - 9/10
Design - 9/10
Performance - 9/10
Features - 9/10
Value - 9/10
- Comparable Thermal Performance
- Dual Loop RGB Lighting
- Dual Chamber Pump Design
- FLUX 120x25mm Fans
- Extensive AMD sockets support
- Intel LGA1700 socket support
- 2nd Gen RGB Controller
- MasterPlus+ Software
- Easy Installation
- None, as long as it does not leak
In this article, we are taking a look at a premium cooling solution from Cooler Master in their Master Liquid series of liquid coolers. This time it is the ML PL360 FLUX AIO cooler. This cooler features a low-profile dual-chamber pump design. As the name indicates, this cooler has a 360mm radiator. Cooler Master is using redesigned Flux series fans with this cooler. These fans and the pump housing feature digital RGB backlighting. Cooler Master has provided a second-generation ARGB controller with this cooler using the same MasterPlus+ software for customization. This cooler is compatible with Intel LGA 115x/1200/1700/20xx sockets and AMD AM5/4/3+/3/2+/2 and FM2+/2/1 and TR4 sockets. Salient features include:
- Premium Dual Chamber Pump
- Fine-Tuned Performance Ratio
- Superior Heat Exchange
- Low Profile Radiator
- Redesigned Flux Series Fan
- Dual Loop ARGB Pump
Related Read: Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite ML240L Review
|Product Name||Cooler Master MASTERLIQUID PL360 FLUX|
|CPU Socket||LGA1700, LGA1200, LGA2066, LGA2011-v3, LGA2011, LGA1151, LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156, AM5, AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1, TR4|
|Radiator Dimensions||394 x 119.6 x 27.2 mm / 15.5 x 4.7 x 1.07 inch|
|Pump Dimensions||89 x 75 x 40 mm / 3.5 x 2.95 x 1.57 inch|
|Pump MTTF||>210,000 Hours|
|Pump Noise Level||15 dBA (Max)|
|Pump Rated Voltage||12 VDC|
|Pump Power Consumption||6W|
|Fan Dimensions (L x W x H)||120 x 120 x 25 mm / 4.7 x 4.7 x 1 inch|
|Fan Quantity||3 PCS|
|Fan LED Type||Addressable Gen 2 RGB|
|Fan Speed||0-2300 RPM ± 10%|
|Fan Airflow||72.37 CFM (Max)|
|Fan Noise Level||32 dBA (Max)|
|Fan Pressure||2.96 mmH₂O (Max)|
|Fan Bearing Type||Oli Reflow Bearing System (ORBS)|
|Fan Life Expectancy||>160,000 Hours|
|Fan Power Connector||4-Pin (PWM)|
|Fan Rated Voltage||12 VDC|
|Fan Rated Current||0.15A|
|Fan Safety Current||0.3A|
|Cooler Type||Liquid Cooler|
This cooler is shipped inside a cardboard box finished in a Cooler Master’s standard packing theme. There is a picture of this cooler over here showing the digital RGB lighting effects on the fans and the pump top. We can see dual-loop lighting on the pump.
Cooler Master has highlighted three key features:
- Addressable Gen 2 ARGB
- Optimal Efficiency Pump
- Enhanced SickleFlow Fan Blades
Other features are listed in multiple languages.
Cooler Master is using an egged carton in which the accessories and cooler are tucked for safe and sound shipping.
What’s in the Box?
Let’s see what is provided in the accessories department:
Cooler Master has provided a warranty guide and a user guide to provide instructions on how to install this cooler on supported sockets.
Cooler Master has provided the following:
- 2x AMD AM/FM brackets
- 2x AMD TR4 brackets
The AMD AM4 and AM5 brackets are using clip-style handling, whereas the TR4 brackets have spring-loaded screws. Cooler Master has mentioned that this cooler is compatible with AM5, but the mounting pressure might not be sufficient for the package temperature
Cooler Master has provided the following:
- 2x Intel Mounting Brackets for all sockets
- 4x Screws for brackets installation
- 4x thumb screws
- 4x Intel Screws
- 12x Radiator Screws
- 4x Intel LGA20xx Screws
- 12x Fan Screws
Cooler Master is still using large-size or bulkheads over the screws.
Cooler Master had provided 2x plastic-made backplates for Intel LGA1700 and other sockets.
There is a 3-way PWM splitter cable and a tube of thermal paste as well in the box. Thermal paste is MasterGel Pro.
There is a second-generation ARGB controller and related accessories, which we will cover later in this article.
“Cooler Master’s Flux Series is the materialization of revolutionary cooling performance. With enhancements from the pump to the radiator and fans, the Flux Series delivers precisely tuned performance for superior heat dissipation and cooling capabilities.” A simple statement from Cooler Master sums it all up in a better way. Let’s start.
This unit has an aluminum-made radiator. The complete assembly is in the black color coating. The dimension of this radiator is 394×119.6×27.2mm. This is a slim design in length and width though 27.2mm is almost a standard height. This radiator has almost the same dimension as we saw on the ML360R RGB cooler.
Installing 25mm thick fans would give a total of 55mm height to this unit, including the bulkheads of the screws. This radiator has an FPI count of 20 with a total of 12 channels for the coolant flow. Cooler Master has done a nice job in fin stacking as we did not find any bend or broken fin.
The far end has a rectangular design with no round edges. We can see a label over here showing the part number of this unit.
The finish on the housing seems a bit sandblasted. We can see the text “Designed by Cooler Master” on both sides of the main frame.
There is no plating under the mounting holes side of the main frame. This plating protects the fins from damage due to excessive torquing of screws. We can see a certain gap between the actual fin stack and the main housing implying that the fin stack itself may have a thickness of 21 or 22mm approximately.
Clamps are hiding the connection between the tubes and fittings. There is what seems to be a cover on another port here. It has a warranty void sticker pasted over it. Probably this port is reserved for factory use only as opening it at home may lose the vacuum pressure of this unit.
Cooler Master uses rubber tubes on this cooler which run to approximately 400mm in length from end to end. These tubes have a nice nylon mesh sleeve over them for aesthetic purposes.
Cooler Master uses a new dual-chamber design on the pump housing, making it even more low-profile than the predecessors without comprising efficient coolant flow. The main theme behind the dual-chamber is to isolate the flow of heated coolant from the normal coolant. The dimension of this unit is 89x75x40mm. We can see that this unit has more length and width compared to the ML360R RGB, but it has less height of 40mm compared to 52.7mm. This increase in length and width could impact the clearance for the first DIMM slot.
There is a brushed aluminum pump top that has an RGB backlit Cooler Master logo in the center. We can see a thick frosted diffuser running on all sides, forming a loop for lighting effects. This makes it a dual loop or dual zone RGB backlit design. We can also see that the fittings are quite extended towards the exterior compared to the standard design of AIOs.
The above picture shows the RGB lighting effects on the pump housing.
The above picture shows a side view of the pump housing. Two main cutouts are giving more exposure to the diffuser for some brilliant lighting effects. There is a cut-to-size inset towards the bottom side of the housing. This is where the mounting bracket is inserted into the housing.
Two cables are coming out of the front side of the block. In my opinion, they should still be implemented towards the rear of this housing.
One cable powers the pump’s motor and has a 4-pin PWM connector, whereas the other cable powers the RGB LEDs, and has a standard 3-pin, 5V RGB connector. It is good to see that Cooler Master is sticking with standard connectors instead of using proprietary connectors.
The tubes and fittings are installed at a 90° angle. The tubing can be rotated on the left or right side as required.
The pump on this unit has an MTTF of 210,000 hours. It is rated for 12VDC drawing 6W (not sure if that includes the digital RGB LEDs). Its maximum noise level is 15 dB(A). A high-speed motor is used in this cooler that uses a ceramic bearing impeller forces balanced water flow to and from the radiator for ultimate efficiency of heat exchange.
There is a protective cover on the copper base. Don’t forget to peel it off before installing the unit. The base measures roughly 46x40mm. Cooler Master has mentioned that they have used precision-engineered ultra-thin spaded fins to maximize microchannels for better heat spot coverage. The enlarged copper base surface area with optimized base thickness further accelerates heat transfer.
Cooler Master has provided customized sickleflow fans with this cooler named Flux Fans (as per my understanding as there are no Flux series fans listed on their website). Each fan has 7 blades that are connected to a ring. The complete ring rotates along with the blades (interconnecting blades). According to Cooler Master, the strengthened structure provides better stability for steady high-speed operation. Angled inner fan frame rim boosts air intake, with the frame gap generating increased air pressure for improved cooling.
Inter-connecting air balance fan blades increased sturdiness and stability, operating steadily at high speed. The angled inner rim of the fan frame increases the intake of air. At the same time gap between the frame and the blades creates greater air pressure. The center has a large diameter hub as it houses digital RGB LEDs, which the Cooler Master name Generation 2 RGB.
Each mounting corner has a cut-to-size anti-vibration pad which is black.
The frame design is the same as we have been seeing in the MasterFan series so far.
There are 4-arms on the backside with one arm having an adjacent inset arm catching the wires coming from the hub and going towards the frame. These fans are rated for 0 to 2300 RPM taking 0.3A at 12VDC. These fans are made in China.
Each fan has two cables coming out of the frame. One cable powers the fans’ motor and has a 4-pin PWM connector, whereas the other cable powers the digital RGB LEDs and has a standard 3-pin, 5V RGB connector.
Here are the salient specifications of these fans:
|LED Type||Addressable 2nd Generation RGB|
|Speed (RPM)||0 ~ 2300 ±10%|
|Airflow (Max)||72.37 CFM|
|Pressure (Max)||2.96 mmH2O|
|Bearing||Oil Reflow Bearing System|
|Life Expectancy||160,000 hours|
|Noise Level||32 dB(A)|
|Power Connector||4-Pin PWM|
This cooler was tested on the Intel platform using Intel i7 13700k over GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS ELITE AX. Some key steps are:
- Place the LGA1700 backplate behind the motherboard in the socket area.
- Install Intel screws on the sockets of the backplate.
- Install Intel Brackets on the pump housing.
- Peel off the sticker from the base of the unit.
- Install fans on the radiator.
- You may install the radiator first in the PC Case or as required.
- Apply the thermal paste over the CPU IHS.
- Place the block over the CPU by aligning the mounting holes on the brackets with the threaded portion of the Intel screws.
- Use thumb nuts and complete the installation of the block on the socket.
- Connect the cables as per requirement, and you are good to go.
This cooler has a dimension of 394 x 119.6 x 27.2mm without fans. With fans, this size is 394 x 119.6 x 55mm. We did not observe any clearance issue with this cooler. You would need to check that your PC Case has clearance for this size radiator. The tube side may hinder the first DIMM slot.
When we tested the ML360R RGB, our contention with the RGB controller was that it had too many cables to deal with, that not makes the installation quite trivial but the troubleshooting as well. Cooler Master has provided an Addressable Second Generation RGB Controller with this cooler, and one thing we immediately noticed is that we have a few cables to deal with this controller. So, job is done well, Cooler Master.
The controller is made of a plastic material. It has a Cooler Master logo in the center on the front side.
There are two ports on one side of this controller. One is a micro USB port, and the other is a 2-pin power input header.
Cooler Master has provided a SATA cable with the controller. One end of this cable is a 2-pin connector that is connected to the controller, and the other end has a SATA connector. There is a USB cable as well. One end of this cable has a micro USB connector, and the other end has a 9-pin USB 2.0 connector. This would mean one USB 2.0 9-pin header would be needed on the motherboard.
The opposite end of the controller has three ports labeled 1, 2, and 3. These are 3-pin RGB ports to which standard RGB and Addressable Second Generation RGB connectors can be attached.
Cooler Master has provided covers that are placed over the cables interconnecting connectors to ensure that the connection does not break.
Cooler Master has provided another important cable with this cooler. It is a 5-Way RGB splitter cable. 5 cables are having standard 3-pin, 5V RGB connectors (male). The other end of this cable has a single cable with a standard 3-pin, 5V RGB female connector. The fans and the pump housing have standard 5V, 3-pin female connectors; hence we see the same type of connectors on this splitter cable.
You can daisy-chain the fans and pump and connect a single cable to the controller or fans and pump separately to the controller. After booting in the operating system, download and install MasterPlus+ software from the Cooler Master website and start customizing the lighting effects. You can read more about Addressable Gen 2 RGB Controller on the Cooler Master website by clicking here.
Since this cooler uses standard RGB connectors, the users can connect the daisy-chained setup to the supported motherboard or use the Cooler Master’s RGB Controller. We have used the GIGABYTE RGB FUSION 2.0 app to control the lighting and found it works like a charm. Below are some pictures.
We have used the below-mentioned configuration for this testing:
- Intel i7-13700K
- GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS ELITE AX
- T-Force Delta RGB DDR5 32GB 6000 MT/s CAS 30
- GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 3060 VISION OC [For Display]
- Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB NVMe SSD
- be quiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
- Thermaltake Core P6 TG Snow Edition converted into an open-frame layout
Here is the settings table for testing:
|P-Cores Clock (MHz)||Auto [5300 All Cores]|
|E-Cores Clock (MHz)||Auto [4200 All Cores]|
|Voltage (V)||Auto [Ranged between 1.27 to 1.30V]|
|Thermal Paste||[CORSAIR XTM70]|
|Thermal Paste Application||Pre-Applied Thermal Paste|
|Test Run Time||30 minutes|
|Idle Time||10 minutes|
|Fan Speed||100% PWM Duty Cycle|
|Pump Speed||Full speed|
|Header||CPU_Fan Header, USB 2.0 Header|
|Stress Software||CINEBENCH R23.2|
Before we move on to the results, let me write a few lines on the new platforms from both camps. We have seen AMD AM5 and Intel Alder Lake S CPUs taking more power, and this time both sides have aimed at reaching the maximum clocks regardless of the thermal limit. They run into thermal limits immediately depending on the cooling solution and the clocks being used.
This has made testing of CPU coolers challenging because viewers/readers are not used to a new nomenclature which is what clocks are sustained under a given load using a particular cooler. That is if the cooler is capable of providing enough cooling head to sustain the high frequencies. Traditionally we are used to going the other way around, that is, which cooler is better in terms of thermal capacity. Despite this, we are using temperatures as a base for measuring this unit.
The ambient temperature was in the range of 30°C to 31°C. Since the variation in the ambient temperature is within 1°C, we are reporting absolute temperatures in the graph. The testing is done on an open-air bench system. Once inside the chassis, the temperatures are expected to rise and would largely depend upon the optimal airflow inside the chassis.
Disclaimer: Every silicon is different; hence no two same SKUs are likely to take the same voltage to yield the same performance at the same thermals per se, but the margin would be close. Not every stress test run may yield the same result, which could be due to various reasons like thermal paste application, ambient temperature variation, the mounting pressure of the cooler, etc. This is very why we have listed our variables and their settings. Variables not mentioned are on the Auto setting. We are testing the cooler on all Auto and stock settings.
Let’s take a look at the results.
This test was done using Intel’s default settings with power limits imposed. The CPU was drawing roughly 225W power, so this is a 220W domain result.
The maximum temperature under heavy workload was 88°C. There is no other cooler in the graph due to different thermal pastes used for testing since we have used supplied thermal paste. Usually, we use Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste. This cooler’s performance is nice, maintaining 88°C under synthetic multi-core heavy load.
As per our sound meter, these fans were making 53 dB(A) sound output at an ambient sound level of 33dB(A).
It has been some time since we tested any product from Cooler Master, but this time, we have taken a spin at their premium cooling solution from the FLUX series. We have tested the MASTERLIQUID PL360 FLUX liquid cooler from Cooler Master. This cooler is available in 240mm and 360mm sizes. We have tested the 360mm version as indicated in the name. This unit uses a dual-chamber pump design with a low-profile radiator. The dimension of the radiator is almost similar to the ML360R RGB, which we tested some time ago.
The block has more length and width compared to the ML360R RGB, but the height of the block/pump housing is quite less. This cooler is compatible with Intel Sockets LGA: 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 1700, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 and AMD Socket: AM4, AM5, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1, and TR4. All necessary mounting hardware is included in the box so you would not have to worry about anything. Salient features of this unit are:
- Dual Chamber Pump
- Low Profile Radiator
- Redesigned Flux Series Fan
- Dual Loop ARGB Pump
The radiator of this cooler is made of aluminum and has a dimension of 394×119.6×27.2mm. So far, this is the only AIO in our testing that has a lower length (394mm). Other AIOs have 397mm or so in length. The complete assembly is black color coated. The total height of this unit with the 120x25mm fans would be 55mm, including the bulkheads of the fan screws.
In my opinion, Cooler Master should switch to a flathead design. This radiator has a 20 FPI count making it a dense fin stack. There are 12 channels for coolant flow, and there is a standard gap of 105mm between two opposing end mounting holes. Cooler Master uses a rubber tube on this cooler. These tubes have a nylon mesh sleeve for aesthetics. These run to approximately 400mm.
The pump housing has a dimension of 89x75x40mm. Here 40mm is the height of the pump housing. The block is circular and features dual-loop digital RGB backlighting. The top plate is brushed aluminum and has a backlit Cooler Master brand logo. There is a thick diffuser running across the housing, with more exposure provided from the sides for some vivid lighting effects. It seems like the Cooler Master logo is fixed, so take care of the orientation of the cooler during installation.
Cooler Master uses a dual-chamber design for efficient coolant flow. Cooler. Cooler Master has mentioned that they have used precision-engineered ultra-thin spaded fins to maximize microchannels for better heat spot coverage. The enlarged copper base surface area with optimized base thickness further accelerates heat transfer. The pump is rated for a 6W power draw using 12VDC producing a maximum noise of 15 dB(A) and uses a ceramic bearing with a life expectancy of 210,000 hours. I am hoping that Cooler Master would have fixed the O-ring issue that plagued the ML series earlier coolers.
Cooler Master has provided three customized Flux series 120mm fans equipped with addressable Second Gen RGB lighting. These fans have interconnected blades. According to Cooler Master, the strengthened structure provides better stability for steady high-speed operation. Angled inner fan frame rim boosts air intake, with the frame gap generating increased air pressure for improved cooling. Inter-connecting air balance fan blades increased sturdiness and stability, operating steadily at high speed. The angled inner rim of the fan frame increases the intake of air. At the same time gap between the frame and the blades creates greater air pressure.
Each fan has a dimension of 120x120x25mm. It has a speed range of 0 to 2300 ±10% RPM indicating that these fans feature an Auto-stop function for which a supported motherboard would be needed. The maximum airflow rating is 72.37 CFM with a maximum of 2.96mmH2O static pressure. The noise level is rated at 32 dB(A) maximum. These fans are using the Oil Reflow Bearing System, having a life expectancy of 160,000 hours.
Cooler Master has provided an Addressable RGB 2nd Gen controller with this unit. When we tested the ML360R RGB, our concern was the use of so many cables to put that controller to work. Cooler Master has listened and simplified the cable management and how the controller would work. It is simple and easier than ever before, and no more hustle of the controller not being visible or located in the operating system.
We have a SATA cable to power the controller and a micro USB cable to hook this boy with the motherboard. Yes, you would need a USB 2.0 (9-pin) header on the motherboard, for that matter. 3x digital RGB ports are using a standard 5V, 3-pin interface. That is all. Yes, you can’t control the fans’ speed using this controller and are still required to connect the fans to the PWM fan header(s) on the motherboard. You would need to download MasterPlus+ software from their website and start customizing the lighting effects.
The basic installation of this cooler is convenient. Since we have tested the cooler on the Intel LGA1700 socket, you would only need 11 items to install the block on the CPU. The fans and pump housing have standard RGB female connectors only. Cooler Master has provided an RGB splitter cable that has standard RGB male connectors. Using standard connectors would mean that this cooler can be used with a controller over the support motherboards. We have tested the RGB lighting using GIGABYTE RGB FUSION 2.0 app and found the lighting working flawlessly.
Cooler Master PL360 FLUX has an MSRP of USD 169 at the time of this writing, and Cooler Master is offering a 5-year warranty on this cooler. The price and feature set are quite reasonable, and the performance of this cooler is comparable with any 360mm AIO, particularly on the new platforms where it is hard to test these coolers the old fashion way. We like the digital RGB lighting effects on this cooler as well.
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