By – John Williamson

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Liquid CPU cooling has become more accessible in recent years due to a closed-loop design requiring zero maintenance and straightforward installation. Asetek and CoolIT have dominated the market through Corsair’s Hydro series but there are other alternatives from NZXT, Raijintek, Fractal Design, Deepcool and more! The best performing AIO units have come from Swiftech which feature a copper and brass radiator, expandable pump and static pressure optimized fans. However, the maximum radiator size was scaled back from 392mm on the H320 to 290mm using the revised H-240X. As a result, triple radiator pre-configured coolers are quite rare and Deepcool has incorporated this mammoth size in their latest Captain range. Previously, cases struggled to accommodate 280mm CLCs, so 360mm radiators appeared to cater towards high-end customers who probably had enough expertise to build a custom loop. Nevertheless, the increased radiator mass aids cooling proficiency and let’s see how it compares to other liquid cooling apparatus.

In terms of packaging, the Captain 360 is superb and features a durable outer box which provides ample protection against any mishandling during transit. The interior is covered by a polystyrene sheet which unveils a moulded cardboard carton when removed. This carton houses the pump, radiator, 3 120mm PWM fans, user guide, fan hub and mounting hardware. The backplate is extremely sturdy and constructed from aluminium instead of rubber or plastic often seen on other liquid cooling units. However, the standoffs aren’t compatible with LGA 775 CPUs but I can’t see this being a major issue given the outdated performance of that particular socket.

Typically, the installation process using larger radiators can be slightly awkward but Deepcool have managed to keep it relatively simple. The following guide applies to Intel LGA 1150, 1155, 1156 and 1366 sockets and I would suggest referring to the included instructions. I was fairly impressed with the documentation which clearly labels individual parts and adopts a number scheme to differentiate between various screw threads. Firstly, feed 4 mounting screws through the backplate holes and push the rubber clip-on mounts to secure. Ensure the screwhead is completely flat or the mounting point could become misaligned. This is well engineered mechanism which stays in position and feels easy to work with. It’s not perfect though and some adhesive tape would strengthen the contact point. The next step involves feeding the backplate through the motherboard holes and placing 4 rubber pads over the standoffs. These work to stabilize the mount on the motherboard side and create a flush finish. Next, gently screw in the mounting bars onto the pump and use a very light screwdriver.

This appears perplexing at first and something that should be pre-installed. However, the unique pump design means AMD mounting brackets are significantly different. Now, you can either attach the radiator fans with long threaded screws or affix the pump. To install the pump, place the mounting bars over 4 standoffs and use thumbscrews. Try not to overtighten the fitting as you don’t want to apply too much pressure on the CPU. Finally, fit the radiator with 12 screws and connect the appropriate fan cables. You can use the bundled fan hub to neatly route each cable without leaving trailing wires. I would recommend this and suggest you stick the hub in the roof.

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The problem with most closed loop coolers is the complete lack of imagination when it comes to aesthetic design. This is due to the outsourcing of production to AseTek and CoolIT which usually opt for a rather safe black colour scheme. The Captain 360 is unquestionably a striking product and adopts a stunning red and black theme. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of gaming focussed motherboards such as the Z97 Asus ROG Maximus VII Hero. The pump pulsates with a circular red LED and you can even see the liquid coolant flowing through a transparent pipe. Despite this, there has been some oversights which sully the cosmetic potential of this product. For example, the CPU power cable is grey and this doesn’t match any of the matte black, sleeved fan cables. Possibly, the reasoning behind this was to signify which lead was for CPU power. If this was the case, a red cable would have been a more suitable option.

Deepcool also utilized corrugated, FEP tubes which look dated and feel quite cheap based on the thin diameter. Changing the tubing material and using thick, rubber instead would enhance the unit’s sense of being a luxury product. While corrugated tubes are more flexible they have no place in higher end CLCs. Corsair, in their latest GT range have made huge strides forward due to fabric wrapped tubes which look sensational. As a result, the best response would be a product revision with thick, transparent rubber tubing which clearly shows the red coolant.

The Captain 360’s radiator is constructed reasonably well without any imperfection in the fins and measures 395mmx105mmx32mm. These figures show that the radiator is surprisingly thick compared to the competition which should vastly enhance cooling proficiency. While the radiator is one of the best I’ve seen on CLCs, it is made from aluminium and not copper. This means that the heat dissipation is limited by the aluminium build and struggles to compete against smaller radiators with a copper design. Nevertheless, this isn’t unexpected given the price point and copper radiators contain a hefty price premium. On another note, the radiator has a fill port for bleeding the water and refilling. In theory this contravenes the closed loop description but tampering with port instantly invalidates the 3 year warranty. As this is a major risk, most consumers shouldn’t touch the port and I’m confused why it exists in the first place.

There are a number of AIOs currently being sold and I would recommend changing the fans on most due to the audible noise at full fan speed. The Captain 360 includes 3 120mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing fans operating at 600-2200 RPM and a maximum airflow rate of 273.36CFM. These perform at a top static pressure of 3.71mm H2O and fan noise ranges between 17.6~39.3dB(A). Interestingly, the fans contain 9 high angled blades and grooves to optimize airflow and reduce air resistance. The blades can also be popped out and easily cleaned without having to access awkward positions and using compressed air. Other impressive features include exceptional braided fan cables and a stunning colour theme.

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When it comes to raw performance, the Captain 360 is capable but I expected better from a such a large radiator powered by a 3 phase induction motor. The testing procedure involves numerous runs of OCCT in a closed full-size ATX case to give a more accurate indication of real world results. Benchmarks are performed on a i7 4770K, 16GB 2400MHz Avexir Sabranco RAM, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980 4GB, Z97 MSI Gaming 7 motherboard, Superflower Leadex Gold 1000W PSU and a 480GB Seagate SSD. To maintain consistency, 4 Noctua NF-F12 case fans were used and a delta temperature of 21C was monitored. Any increases in ambient temperature were adjusted to reflect the cooler’s actual performance. Using stock clocks and voltages, the Captain 360 attained an average idle temperature of 28C, with a maximum of 31C and minimum of 26C. Under heavy load, this figure increased to an average of 58C, maximum rate at 61C and minimum of 56C.

So how does this compare to other coolers? Idle temperatures aren’t that important and the gap between most modern coolers is minimal. However, under extreme stress, the Captain 360 only just outperforms the Noctua NH-D15 by 1 degree and shockingly ran at a higher temperature than the Corsair H110. Furthermore, Swiftech’s triple radiator cooler was 7C cooler and Corsair’s H110I GT managed better temperatures by 4C.

The overclocked results illustrate the Captain 360’s disappointing performance under high voltage. In overclocking benchmarks, a 1.28v setting is applied and increased up to 1.3v until thermal throttling occurs. I attempted to reach 4.6GHz using this configuration but the temperature exceeded 88C and I had to reevaluate the testing. As a result, the core clock was downscaled to 4.4GHz at 1.275v and managed to be stable under a 24 hour stress test. The temperatures were a little concerning and I was fairly bemused by the final results. Idle temperatures hit an average of 31C, maximum of 32C and minimum rate at 29C. With OCCT running, the average temperature recorded was 76C, alongside a maximum of 79C and minimum of 74C. Once again, this just beat the Noctua NH-D15 but only by 0.5C this time. Similarly, the Captain 360 fell behind the Corsair H110i GT by 5C and Swiftech H320 by 8C.

I believed a possible cause of the passable temperatures was down to the included fans. As a result, 3 Noctua NF-F12s were attached to the radiator and the testing runs were repeated. Strangely enough, the final temperatures only reduced by a maximum of 4C, average of 3C and minimum of 2C. This illustrates that the included fans are of a very high quality and possibly the best I’ve seen bundled with a closed-loop cooler. Saying that, at full speed they become very loud and similar to the H100i noise levels. If you decided to use a range between 600-1500 rpm, then the fans are whisper quiet and have a good noise to performance ratio.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Deepcool Captain 360 sets a solid foundation to be considered as one of the leading liquid coolers available today. Unfortunately, the overclocked temperatures do not coincide with a triple radiator and I’m surprised to see the unit being outclassed by 280mm units. Nevertheless, there are a lot of positives to take from this particular product including the unique styling, superb stock fans and exemplary mounting hardware. If Deepcool considered a change with the FEP tubing, then it could become the best looking AIO ever produced. While there is a lot of potential for the Captain 360, it doesn’t provide enough performance to warrant the price tag.

Deepcool Captain 360 Liquid CPU Cooler Summary:

  • Time Used – 17 Days
  • Software Used – OCCT, HWMonitor, CoreTemp, CPU-Z, Prime95
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • System Specs – Intel I7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte GTX 980 4GB
  • Warranty – 3 Years
  • Availability – Newegg, Amazon
  • Compatibility – Intel LGA2011-V3/LGA2011/LGA1366/LGA1156/LGA1155/LGA1150, AMD FM2+/FM2/FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2

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