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Monday, 29 May 2017


Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280 Review

Cooler Master, a name that is almost synonymous to cooling solutions for PC hardware today. The brand has a lineup of some of the best air coolers like the budget friendly Hyper 212X to the extravagant V8 GTS. Lately they were missing the needed spark in the AIO market which they plan to introduce in form of their latest AIO cooler series of MasterLiquid Pro CPU liquid coolers.
Thanks to Cooler Master India today we have with us the Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280 cooler for review.

Being the biggest cooler of its series with a 280mm radiator the Masterliquid Pro 280 is equipped with a new FlowOp technology, two 140mm MasterFan Pro fans, an entirely new radiator and pump design along with some minor tweaks to make it a revolutionary new cooler, hopefully.
Backed up by a massive five years warranty its priced in at $100 or Rs 10,000 in India making it one of the more humbly priced 280mm AIO units out there but is it worth your money? Let's find that out.

What's in the Box?

Cooler Master has changed the packing game entirely with the new MasterLiquid Pro. The color scheme of the box is now black with hues of white and blue going in hand with their entire lineup of  'Maker Theme' products. Its a thick and compact cardboard box with a sleek vertical packing style rather than the horizontal one that we accustomed to. Products name and FlowOp technology are clearly mentioned for you to read along with a rendered image of the cooler in the backdrop.

At the back the box is simple and has a description of the technology used in the MasterLiquid Pro and how it differentiates it from the rest of the AIOs in the market. A neat block diagram of the pump and radiator are also printed at the bottom right with dimensional measures.

Open it and you'll find the entire unit resting securely in a hard cardboard frame which is fragmented to contain and protect each part individually.
Now we have with us the MasterLiquid Pro 280 AIO unit, two 140mm MasterFan Pro fans and a box that contains all the needed extras.

In the box, you’ll find a large rubber gasket, Y-split fan cables, pump power cable, Intel and AMD brackets, a universal back plate, user manual and installation guide along with a nice package with all the appropriate screws and fittings. There’s also a small tube of thermal paste, so you are good to go for a couple of remounts.
What lacks is a AM4 bracket for the latest AMD Ryzen CPUs which you can luckily get pretty soon from Cooler Master themselves once they start the roll out procedures for the same.

Before I move forward I would like to take a moment here to talk a bit more about the way Cooler Master has packed the various fittings for this cooler. The fittings are meticulously laid out in a case that give them a look of a mini tool box rather than the simple plastic bags that we are used to from other brands, not only does it look really neat but its also in coherence with Cooler Master's Make it Your motto. A very small and often unnoticeable packing trick but makes a huge difference to those who value details.

Let's take a Closer Look

Starting with the pump itself, this is a sleek but tall 55.9mm two chambered design from Cooler Master and is a part of their FlowOp technology. What it basically does is that it separates the hot coolant at the bottom half from the pump and other vital components at the upper half to ensure a better cooling and longer life span, sounds interesting to me!
Also the top of the pump is illuminated by a blue LED which is quite bright and looks catchy seated inside a system. Sadly you can't turn it off or change the color which might be an issue for a few but won't be any problem for people like me who value subtle illumination.

The 311mm x 138mm x 27mm radiator is oddly boxy with square fins that make it look even more boxy so its literally an aluminum block! The build quality on this thing is as solid as it gets with nothing to complaint about. I love the fact that not only can you mount two 140mm fans or maybe four if you are planning a push pull configuration but also two 120mm fans or four for that matter are also possible due to the mounting holes present for the same aswell. I'm not sure how this feature would benefit many but it should come handy if any of the motherboard or chassis projections are conflicting with the 140mm fans so a smaller 120mm can be used to save the day.

With a 360mm long and 8mm thick FEB tubing this is a one of a kind unit over here since mostly we see rubber tubes on other coolers. Best part is that they are braided with a mesh like material which also is there on all the fan and pump wires rather than a fabric material which tends to get dirty or wear off with time. Of course there is that CM signature coolant draining/replacing hose present on the rad for future repairs or DIY.

The fans over here are a pair of Cooler Master MasterFan Pro 140 Air Pressure edition with an RPM range of 650-2,800rpm. These are rated at 46.2-82.2cfm with 20-36dBA. Not only these fans are fairly decent in terms of performance but also have braided cable and rubber mounts to minimize the noise levels to the maximum.
On board is a tiny three-position switch on the hub that caps the maximum speed allowing to change between the three modes namely as Silent, Quiet and Performance. It all sounds good but the issue is that this switch is inaccessible if you install it in the prescribed position where it pushes air through the radiator. So to control the speed one has to rely upon the PWM controls of the motherboard or a dedicated fan controller in some cases.

Time for the fun part - Installation

Over here I'm using the Gigabyte Z270X Designare motherboard which is an Intel platform so will be showing you what all you need for the Intel installation process but in case you are using AMD platforms then you just need to replace the pump brackets as other would remain the same.
Also the stand offs are only required for LGA 2011-3 sockets others don't need them at all.

Mounting the universal backplate is fairly easy and I suggest you put the screws and holding clips in the bracket before you put it on the motherboard to avoid any difficulties. Make sure read the manual properly before proceeding.
Put the rubber gasket on top of the radiator and then screw in the fans with the Cooler Master logo facing the radiator to put it in a push configuration.

Mount the mounting brackets on the pump and then screw it down with the thumb screws on top of the processor obviously after applying some thermal paste on the CPU.
The installation process is not the easiest one I've come across so far but it isn't that difficult or clumsy aswel like I've come across on some other brands. I did feel that instead of making the backplate so complex to prepare before mounting Cooler Master could've opted for something like the mechanism that Corsair has on their AIO's backplate. People new to AIO cooling would take some time to mount it properly but fortunately the manual is fairly detailed and easy to understand. One more thing that I found was that its difficult to get that loose rubber gasket in place while matching the correct holes but it would be worth the effort if it does damp down the vibrations.

Let's put it to Test!

For testing the performance of the  Cooler Master MasterLiquid 280 Pro we'll be using the following test bench.

CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z270X Designare
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 8GB DDR4 3000Mhz
Cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280
Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 1050 Ti G1 Gaming 4GB OC
Storage: ADATA XPG SX950 240GB SSD
Power Supply: Cooler Master MasterWatt Lite 700
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Firstly, the CPU is kept at stock speeds with boost enabled and temperatures are measured both at idle and at full load. Then we overclock our Intel i7 7700K to 4.8Ghz at 1.35v which by now everyone knows is a frequency where this chip tends to get real hot at, the same process as that for the stock speed testing is repeated. Temperature is measured using HW monitor with an average being taken of the temperatures recorded on all four cores. MSI Kombuster utility is what I prefer to stress test the CPU at all eight threads, I run it for a good 15 minutes before recording the temperatures since by then the temperatures reach a saturation point.
Secondly, the pump is plugged directly into the CPU Fan header while the fans on the other fan headers of the motherboard. Fan profile was kept at default from the BIOS itself to rule out any discrepancy whatsoever.
The readings would be shown in delta temperature that is after subtracting the ambient temperature of the room while noise levels are recorded from a distance of three feet from the cooler which is a reasonable and practical distance for such tests.

Temperature wise we can see that the Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280 does a decent job for a 280mm AIO cooler both at stock and overclocked frequencies. Considering my ambient temperature is high and the fan profiles are set to default I'm sure if you set the fan speeds to full or to performance in a cooler environment the results would be even better.

The cooler is a bit noisy I'd say when the system is under full load but at idle state the units is barely audible. The noise produced by the MasterLiquid Pro 280 is almost identical to that of the Corsair H100i GTX even though the unit is bigger in size this is mainly because of the large amount of rubberized damping material used on the fans and the gasket on the radiator so I'm happy to see that the extra effort with the gasket paid off.

My Verdict

I've not been a fan of Cooler Master AIO coolers for one reason or the other but that was till I got my hands on the MasterLiquid Pro 280! Cooler Master has almost made everything perfect about this cooler with only a few minor cons which are easily outweighed by the pros that it has to offer.
The radiator, pump and tubing is all solid in build and look elegant from every possible corner with no unnecessary RGB nonsense! Cooling performance at silent mode is really good for a cooler of this category, nothing revolutionary though, with leaving enough room for users to turn the knob up to maximum speed to cool their systems down further on. I loved the rubber gasket as it indeed reduces vibrations even though it poses a little issue during installations but its worth it for what it offers in return. The blue LED is subtle and bright enough to impart a sense of style to the cooler but I would've loved to be able to see the coolant flowing through the transparent glass, something that I would advice Cooler Master to try introducing in future.
All in all the Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280 is a step in the right direction and would appeal to enthusiasts and gamers alike with enough elegance to woo in some modders aswell who want something different from the usual and boring AIOs.
I give it a 8/10 earning our Gold Award!

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