This time last year, Enermax arrived on the liquid-cooling scene with a pair of all-in-one solutions dubbed the ELC120 and ELC240. In our review of the latter, we concluded that the firm had made "a competent entry into the liquid cooling market," but added that "it may need to do more to catch the eyes of an increasingly-niche audience."
Fast forward 12 months, and Enermax is hoping to do exactly that with a range of liquid-cooling solutions dubbed Liqtech. Introduced as part of the company's new 'Ahead Of The Game' gaming line, the Liqtech will initially be available as a 120mm solution, with a bigger 240mm derivative scheduled for release later this year.
Here's Enermax's first offering: the Liqtech 120X. On course to arrive at UK stores later this month carrying an £80 price tag, the all-in-one cooler's ambition is clear - it's designed to provide stern competition to Corsair's similarly-priced Hydro Series H80i.
First impressions are good. Enermax has done away with the timid white packaging from the ELC series, and this time opts for a red-and-black aesthetic that extends to the radiator itself and provides a gamer look-and-feel. The box carries a detailed specification, and, more importantly, keeps the contents securely packaged for delivery.
Truth be told, you need to be an enthusiast or overclocker to consider spending £80 on a cooler alone, but if you are in the market for an all-in-one solution armed with a 120mm radiator, they generally don't come much chunkier than this.
The appearance of the Liqtech 120X suggests that Enermax hasn't gone for a generic Asetek/CoolIT rebrand. We're trying to ascertain who the ODM actually is - Enermax isn't telling - but those of you who see the similarities will know the cooler originates from the same place as SilverStone's Tundra TD03.
And that's not a bad thing. Our review sample is a pre-production unit, but even at this early stage, the cooler feels robust and well-put-together. And from an aesthetic point of view, we quite like that the Liqtech has a rugged look about it - if you didn't like SilverStone's plastic white tubes, Enermax's black rubber might be a better choice. The red trimmings on the radiator are a nice touch, too; these svelte strands are in place to absorb vibration when the fans are attached.
Speaking of which, Enermax has two fans included as part of the bundle, allowing for a push/pull configuration without the need for any additional equipment. The 120mm, four-pin PWM blowers tout high-pressure airflow, making them ideally suited for radiator use, and each fan comes equipped with twister bearings, detachable blades and Enermax's patented Adjustable Peak Speed (APS) control. Implemented as a small notch in the centre of the fan, APS allows the user to choose between three peak-speed modes; each starting at 600rpm and rising to 1,300rpm, 2,000rpm or 2,500rpm.
The ability to toggle speed and find an optimum balance between performance and noise is appreciated, but the positioning of the APS switch is such that a setting needs to be chosen prior to installation - it's a shame the switch wasn't attached to the side of the fan, as we'd have preferred to have been able to switch modes on the fly.
Taking a closer look at the pump and radiator - both of which are joined together via 310mm-long rubber tubes - reaffirms the Liqtech 120X's admirable build quality. The feature set is suited to high-end users who don't want to make the jump to a 240mm rad, and compared to the plastic alternatives that are readily available, Enermax's fit and finish is really rather good.
Enermax's pump is reasonably small and low-profile, at 55mm x 65mm x 37.5mm in size, and promises a motor speed of 2,500rpm. The aluminium waterblock is partnered with a copper contact plate that features patented Shunt Channel Technology (SCT) to supposedly "boost thermal conductivity" and a machined surface that's destined to make tight contact with the CPU.
On the radiator side of things, Enermax is employing a double-thick aluminium unit that measures 153mm x 120mm x 43mm in size. Build quality, once again, is commendable with even fin spacing throughout, and of course the entire package is pre-sealed and filled with a maintenance-free coolant.
The attraction of all-in-one liquid-cooling solutions is that they tend to be accessible to novice users. Holding true to that theory, the Liqtech 120X really is simple to get into place. The radiator is sandwiched between fans, with the outer unit attaching to the rear of the chassis. Eight screws are used to assemble the lot, and though it requires patience to align the chassis, fan and radiator, it's all very straightforward. Once in place, both fans connect to a provided Y-splitter cable, meaning only one four-pin motherboard header is needed to drive the entire assembly.
The pump is similarly easy going. Enermax provides mounting kits for Intel and AMD platforms, and on an LGA1155 socket, installation couldn't get much easier. The process takes very little time and entails attaching a backplate to the rear of the motherboard using the supplied standoffs, fixing the pump using four spring screws, and hooking up the three-pin power cable to an available header.
You do need to apply thermal paste beforehand, but bear in mind Enermax only supplies a small tube, so you won't get a great deal of mileage in terms of subsequent reinstalls. The cooler looks impressive when in situ - though the bulk of the radiator may be off-putting to some - and would-be buyers should note that the Enermax logo on the pump carries a blue backlight that may or may not be in keeping with the rest of your build.
Overall, the Liqtech 120X is well-built, hassle-free and easy to install, and the only real snag we can see thus far is that it's backed by a paltry two-year warranty. Users who prefer to err on the side of caution will note that Corsair's Hydro Series alternatives offer five-years of cover.
Still, the Liqtech 120X is ticking a lot of the right boxes. Let's now find out if performance is up to scratch.