ReviewsCoolersGIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Liquid Cooler Review

GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Liquid Cooler Review

GIGABYTE has released their new cooler called the WATERFORCE X 280. It is available in 240mm, 280mm, and 360mm sizes. The main show feature of this AIO is that it features a 60x60mm Full-Color LCD Screen placed on the top of the pump block. In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about this AIO.

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AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Liquid Cooler Review

Summary

The AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 is a powerful cooler with a high price. It boasts a stunning 60x60mm LCD screen with vibrant colors and great software customization. This cooler prioritizes aesthetics and performance over value. If you want an AIO with an impressive display, the WATERFORCE X is a top choice.
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Overall
8.9/10
8.9/10
  • Quality - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Performance - 9/10
    9/10
  • Features - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10
    7.5/10

Pros

  • Beefy Cooling
  • LCD Screen
  • Screen Rotation
  • Screen Customization
  • Digital Lighting
  • Standard Connectors
  • Multiple Sockets Support
  • Software Support
  • Coolant Temperature Monitoring
  • Integrated Cable Management
  • 3-years warranty

Cons

  • Noisy fans
  • Aggressive Fan Curves
  • The custom fan curve is not working in the software
  • More Cables to deal with
  • Price
  • GIGABYTE Platform is needed

In 2018, ASUS launched the ROG RYUJIN and RYUO coolers, marking the start of a new era where major brands began focusing on their ecosystems. The concept was to offer a complete range of products under their respective brands. From an ARGB/RGB standpoint, this made sense because users could control lighting for all major components with just one software. Now, I’m exploring our first GIGABYTE cooler, the WATERFORCE X 280.

Why you can trust Tech4Gamers: Our reviews are based on dedicated hands-on testing by our team of experienced hardware experts. Find out more about how we test.


Key Takeaways

  • The Gigabyte AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 is for users who want excellent cooling without compromising on the visual appearance of their liquid cooler.
  • The Gigabyte AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 is not designed for anyone looking for a near-silent experience.
  • The Gigabyte AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 performs exceptionally, maintaining temperatures of 57.1°C on a Ryzen 7 7700X at an ambient of 20°C.

Specifications

ProductAORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Liquid Cooler Review
Price$214.99
Dimensions 312 x 140 x 27mm
Pump Dimension82 x 82 x 74mm
Radiator MaterialAluminum
Block MaterialCopper
LCD Display60 x 60mm Full Color LCD
CPU Socket
Intel 2066, 2011,1366,115x,1200,1700 and AMD TR4, AM5, AM4, sTRX4
Software
RGB FUSION 2.0 Support and AORUS ENGINE Support
Warranty3 Years

Packaging and Unboxing

Complete unboxing of the AORUS WATERFORCE X 280.

Mounting Hardware

The cable has a right-angled micro-USB on one end, which connects to my motherboard’s micro-USB port. The other end has a 9-pin USB 2.0 connector. I needed a spare USB 2.0 header on my motherboard, or I could use a micro-USB to standard USB adapter and connect it to the back panel of the motherboard (not included). I had to be careful with the USB 2.0 connector because the wires are thin, and there’s a long exposed portion. Any slight pushing or pulling on the wires could disconnect them.

Closer Look

Let’s take a look at the main unit itself before moving on to the software side of the cooler. The AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 is a 280mm size All-In-One cooling solution for enthusiasts and users alike.

Radiator

The radiator’s dimensions are 312x140x27mm. The width is 140mm, where the fans go, and the height is 27mm. When I install 25mm thick fans, the total height becomes 53mm, including the screw heads. I need to consider this when installing the cooler on the top of the case. The radiator has a dense fin stack with 22 fins per inch (FPI).

This radiator is aluminum and has a rectangular black finish on both ends. It features 12 coolant flow channels and stickers on one end. Unlike most AIOs, it has dual mounts, allowing for either 240mm or 120mm fan installation, depending on clearance.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 be quiet! Silent Wings 4 PRO 120mm fan
be quiet! Silent Wings 4 PRO 120mm fan (Image By Tech4Gamers)

We did a quick mount test, and be quiet! Silent Wings 4 PRO 120mm fans can be installed on the radiator. However, using 120mm fans may not give adequate cooling, and the user is better off using the 140mm fans on the radiator.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Closer look at the Radiator Fins
Closer Look At The Radiator Fins (Image By Tech4Gamers)

The radiator, like most AIOs, has protective plating under the mounting holes to prevent fin damage from longer screws. It’s advised to use the provided long screws for fan mounting.

The soft tubing is attached with barbed fittings, featuring black covers for reinforcement and aesthetics. A serial number sticker is on one end. There’s a drain port, but it’s reserved for factory use to maintain vacuum pressure. AORUS offers integrated cable management, routing fans and ARGB cables neatly from the pump to the left side of the radiator, hidden by a cable sleeve for a clean appearance.

The radiator has two 4-pin PWM sockets for fan control via software. The soft nylon tubing is around 380mm long with an increased diameter from 5.1mmØ to 7.8mmØ for 37% better coolant flow and efficient heat dissipation. The flexible tubing doesn’t kink and is covered by a mesh sleeve for a clean appearance.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 3-pin, 5V, standard ARGB male connector
3-pin, 5V, standard ARGB male connector (Image By Tech4Gamers)

There is a single 3-pin, 5V, standard ARGB male connector on the ARGB cable coming out of the radiator. Connect it to either of the fan’s 3-pin, 5V female connectors when setting up the AIO.

Pump/Block

Now, we turn our heads to this cooler’s main selling feature: the pump block with an integrated LCD screen.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Pump/Block
Pump/Block (Image By Tech4Gamers)

The block has a circular design, measuring 82x82x74mm. The standout feature is the 60x60mm full-color LCS screen on top, which I can customize to display CPU stats, temperature, images, videos, and text. While the pump is OEM, the LCD and its customization are all AORUS design.

On the side of the main housing, we have a triple-chamber design. The top portion can rotate up to 330°, the middle section handles cable connectivity and the pump, and the bottom is dedicated to the pump and block. There’s a micro-USB port for software support and a micro-SD card slot on the front for video display and firmware upgrades. AORUS didn’t include a micro-SD card, but it would have been a good addition given the price.

The micro-SD card serves two essential purposes: to display videos on the LCD screen (requires storing videos on the card) and to upgrade the unit’s firmware.

The top housing features an engraved “AORUS WATERFORCE X” for a premium look. The backside has soft tubes in a 90° orientation, allowing for easy rotation. Two cables run through the right-side tube, with an additional cable emerging from the pump housing.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Other side of pump
The Other Side Of the Pump (Image By Tech4Gamers)

The other side of the unit does not have any connectivity options. It should be mentioned that the stenciling and styling are well synchronized all around the housing of the unit.

The unit is powered by a SATA connector. The block’s diameter is 64mm, suitable for most consumer-grade CPUs but not fully covering the IHS of TR4 and sTRX4 sockets. Installation requires removing a protective cover on the base.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Ceramic Axis
Ceramic Axis (Image By Tech4Gamers)

The pump uses a ceramic axis, which has a longer life span (approximately 376,715hrs) compared to the traditional metal axis. It has anti-corrosion properties. We could not get the pump’s power statistics.

Fans

The AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 includes two 140mm ARGB fans with 7 translucent blades, featuring 4 stripes on each blade. The airflow is optimized by a triangular fan edge and 3D stripe curve for improved performance. The backside shows a 4-arm assembly with wire routing on one arm. The sturdy black frame has black anti-vibration pads on the mounting corners.

AORUS claims extensive testing for their 140mm fans designed to pair with the 280mm radiator. They promise top-notch heat dissipation and minimal noise, even at max speed. However, I found these fans to be powerful but quite loud.

The fans feature arrow markers on the frame for airflow direction, and AORUS branding is visible. They have a circular frame with openings on the mounting corners. A black flat cable with a 4-pin PWM header powers each fan. There are standard 3-pin, 5V ARGB male/female connectors on the fans and the radiator. Daisy-chaining them is recommended for RGB control via RGB Fusion.

These are the salient specifications of the fans:

Dimension 140x140x25mm
Speed 800~2250±10% RPM
Air Flow 25.09 ~ 89.18 CFM
Air Pressure 0.37 ~ 4.62 mmAq
Noise 8.06 ~ 44.4 dB(A)
Fan Connector 4-pin PWM
Bearing Sleeve (Graphene Nano Lubricant)
Fan Voltage 12VDC
Life Expectancy 73,500 hours

Software

The AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 boasts a vibrant 60x60mm LCD screen, but it requires software support. It has integrated cable management and connects via a micro-USB cable, bypassing the need for fan or motherboard headers.

To get software support, I had to download GIGABYTE CONTROL CENTER from their website. If enabled in the motherboard’s UEFI/BIOS, it prompts the download in Windows. Once installed, I used the software update support in GCC to detect and download related software/modules for GIGABYTE components.

For this cooler, you need:

  • GIGABYTE CONTROL CENTER
  • RGB FUSION 2.0

If you are going the old way and don’t want to use the GIGABYTE CONTROL CENTER, then you would need AORUS ENGINE in addition to the RGB FUSION 2.0. Cutting it short, the GCC will sort this all out automatically.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Gigabyte Control Center Main Interface
Gigabyte Control Center Main Interface (Image By Tech4Gamers)

As shown in the above picture, when the GCC is launched after successful installation, you will see all the enabled components in the main interface. Take note that AIO is now visible separately with two options:

  • FAN Control
  • RGB FUSION

Click on any to go to that menu.

RGB FUSION

RGB Fusion gives you control over the RGB lighting on the cooler.

FAN CONTROL

There is a Customized option for the pump and the fans. 

LCD Panel

The LCD Panel in the software.

Installation

We have tested the cooler on the AM5 platform using the GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER Motherboard and AMD Ryzen 7 7700X CPU. The installation is simple and convenient. We need 9 components to set up the mounting hardware for the block.

Installation procedure on the AM5 platform:

  1. The first picture shows the AMD AM4/5 mounting bracket (ring) installed on the block.
  2. Connect the micro-USB cable to the pump block and the 9-pin USB 2.0 header of the motherboard. The second picture shows the micro-USB cable connected to the block.
  3. The user would need 4x pasting washers and 4x standoff/screws. Remove the stock mounting brackets and keep them saved in your motherboard box.
  4. Place the pasting washers around the backplate’s standoffs. I have pasted them on the base of the screws as I don’t like pasting anything on the motherboard.
  5. The fans are installed on the radiator.
  6. The unit is ready for testing.

Please refer to the user manual for detailed installation instructions. We did not observe anything particular to report here other than a bit short length of the tube, which might be an issue for certain orientations of the block.

Clearance

This AIO has a thicker tube. You might get a clearance issue for the first DIMM slot on the motherboard. Other than that, there is no clearance issue. Just make sure that your case supports a 280mm size radiator mount.

ARGB Light Show

Apparently, this cooler is compatible with the RGB Fusion 2.0, given the very design. We have used the RGB FUSION to test the ARGB lighting. Here are a few pictures:

Testing

The following test bench is used: –

ProcessorAMD Ryzen 7 7700X
MotherboardGIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER
RAMXPG Lancer RGB 2x16GB @ 6000MHz
SSD (For OS)Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB NVMe SSD
Graphics CardMSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G
PSUbe quiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
Case Thermaltake Core P6 TG Snow Edition in an open-frame layout
AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Testing rig
Testing rig (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Here is the settings table for testing:

All Cores Clock (MHz) 5200 All Cores
VCore (V) 1.260V
Thermal Paste Noctua NT-H1
Test Run Time 30 minutes CINEBENCH R23
Idling Time 10 minutes
Fan Speed Pre-Defined Modes, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100% PWM Duty Cycle.
Software CINEBENCH R23

Results

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Thermal Performance using all 4 pre-defined fan control modes
Thermal performance using all 4 pre-defined fan control modes (Image By Tech4Gamers)

We recently tested the DeepCool LT 520 cooler on this platform. That is a 240mm size AIO. The above graphs show the result of using all 4 pre-defined fan control modes. Since AORUS has defined aggressive fan curves on these profiles with a cut-off temperature to reach a full speed of 65°C. On the AMD AM5 platform, the CPU is designed to run at 95°C.

The difference is coming from manual overclocking, which actually reduces the temperature of the CPU. Regardless, since the CPU was operating above 70°C, we are seeing a similar result from all profiles. Indeed the cooler performed quite well at 100% speed, but it was noisy.

Next, we determined the speed range of the pre-defined modes, and based on that speed range, the corresponding PWM duty cycles were determined. We then connected the fans directly to the motherboard and repeated the tests.

AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 Final thermal performance results
Final thermal performance results (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Now, we are getting a true picture of the thermal performance capability of this unit. The cooler has maintained a good lead over the DeepCool LT 520 up till the 60% PWM cycle. At 40% PWM cycle, the LT 520 beats the WATERFORCE X 280 but keep in mind that the fans on this AIO were operating at 40% of their rated speed.

We are using the delta temperature as the temperature varies throughout the day. The overall thermal performance of the AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 is superb but at an elevated noise level.

Noise

The fans are quite loud. We measured 55 dB(A) at an ambient of 32 dB(A). Here is the break up:

Mode Sound Output dB(A) Load
Turbo 55 For all loads
High-Performance 52 Idle or Low Load. 55 on heavy load
Balanced 48 Idle or Low Load. 55 on heavy load
Quiet 41 Idle or Low Load. 55 on heavy load

Should You Buy It

After extensive testing of the GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE 280 X, we were able to evaluate its positives and negatives.

Buy It If:

You want a capable 280mm AIO Cooler: Throughout our testing, the GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 showcased impressive cooling potential.

You want a 280mm cooler with an LCD screen: The GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 features a stunning 60x60mm LCD Screen with accurate and vibrant colors with good customization reach through the software.

You prefer easy installation: In my experience, the GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 was very easy to install.

Don’t Buy It If:

You are on a limited budget: Anyone working with a smaller budget will not be pleased by the cooler’s higher overall price-tag.

You want a silent experience: In our testing, we noticed the cooler’s higher noise output, which might not be suitable for anyone who wants a silent experience.

Conclusion

We have tested the premium cooling solution from GIGABYTE by taking a spin of AORUS WATERFORCE X AIO. This is a feature-rich cooling solution from GIGABYTE, which not only packs a solid performance but also offers brilliant features. The cooler includes a liquid temperature sensor, and you can display text, images, gifs, and videos on the LCD screen with a micro-SD card. 

AORUS sets aggressive fan curves, but on hot-running CPUs, performance remains similar due to temperature limits. I tested it on a Ryzen 7 7700X, which runs hot by default.

We have determined the speed range for each of the pre-defined main modes and then determined their PWM duty cycle range in the UEFI/BIOS.

Pre-Defined Mode PWM Cycle
Turbo 100%
High-Performance 80%
Balanced 60%
Quiet 40%

The AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 delivers exceptional thermal performance, but it comes with a price tag of USD 214.99, justified by its LCD screen and customization options. While GIGABYTE offers a 3-year warranty, I believe 5 years would have been more fitting for the price range. Including a 4GB to 8GB micro-SD card would have been a nice touch.

It’s important to note that this cooler is best suited for GIGABYTE platforms. Compatibility is limited, and GIGABYTE specifies the use of RGB FUSION 2 and AORUS ENGINE for this cooler.

Awards Received By GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280

The GIGABYTE AORUS WATERFORCE X 280 won the following Tech4Gamer Awards:

  1. Best RGB 280mm AIO CPU Cooler

Recent Updates


  • November 7, 2023: Few text changes to improve readability. No products were changed.

 
 
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