There's no shortage of all-in-one (AIO) CPU water coolers, but NZXT has always been among the top-rated in terms of design and performance. Instead of relying on simply air to cool down your CPU, an AIO utilizes a liquid to transfer heat from the processor to a radiator, which has fans attached to it to dissipate.
Compared to traditional air coolers, these are an excellent middle-ground between them and an all-out custom water-cooling loop. The new Kraken Z63 and Z73 take everything to the next level with a new LCD display, plenty of headroom with a 280mm or 360mm radiator, improved pump design, and support for the much-improved CAM software.
$280Bottom line: The latest Asetek pump matched with a new LCD display and large 360mm radiator make this one of the best AIO coolers around.
- Excellent cooling performance
- Intel and AMD support
- OLED display
- Quiet Asetek pump
- Large 360mm radiator
- CAM being CAM
NZXT Kraken Z63 and Z73 tech specs
There's very little to differentiate the Z63 and Z73 aside from the radiator size and amount of fans included. The rest of the specifications are identical.
|NZXT Kraken Z63
|NZXT Kraken Z73
|2x Aer P140
|3x Aer P120
You'll appreciate the new pump and LCD display
NZXT is embracing the RGB craze in system building with the release of the new Z series all-in-one (AIO) CPU coolers. The Z73 is the larger version of the Z63, sporting a 360mm long radiator (compared to 280mm) with three NZXT 120mm static pressure fans instead of just two 140mm blades.
This extended surface area allows for more heat to be transferred from the radiator to the airflow within the PC case, and the extra fan adds to the volume of gas that can be pushed through. While the Z63 may be more than enough for even more demanding processors, the Kraken Z73 is for entering enthusiast territory.
The Kraken Z series, most notably the Z73, is designed for those who are looking to cool anything up to a Threadripper processor, which can throw out plenty of heat when put under stress. Compared to the Kraken X series, NZXT has swapped out the RGB lights on the CPU block for an LCD display. There's also the new 7th-gen Asetek pump unit.
Not only do you now have one of the better-looking AIO coolers on the market — and there are plenty of AIO coolers available on the market right now — but with the addition of an addressable LCD display for a unique touch to the overall PC aesthetics. It's possible to display the temperature of the liquid, other stats, or even an image.
In order to get the most out of the Kraken Z63 and Z73, you need to have NZXT's CAM software installed. This piece of kit has been lambasted in the past from the community for shipping to NZXT PC statistics and other data, being sluggish to use and downright unreliable.
The most recent version has improved dramatically, though we weren't able to get CAM to play ball with either of our Kraken review samples. (The joys of using pre-release builds.) Still, with the software and AIO installed, you can control fan speeds, as well as what's displayed the LCD display. Still, even though I wasn't able to Rick Roll the AIO, performance could still be measured.
Excellent cooling performance
Actual performance varies with AIO coolers since these products allow for almost anyone to get into water-cooling, but they omit one vital component of any custom loop — the reservoir. One way to battle this, especially with smaller 120mm radiator units, is to bump the pump and fan speeds, which can have a negative effect on noise generation.
With the rather large 280mm and 360mm radiator setup for the Z63 nd Z73, NZXT has been able to largely distance itself from such problems. Our testing setup included the following hardware:
- CPU: Overclocked AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
- Motherboard: ASUS X470 Strix Pro Gaming
- RAM: 32GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3,200MHz
- GPU: ZOTAC GTX 1070 AMP! Extreme
- PSU: Corsair VS550
The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is a powerful 12-core CPU with plenty of performance available, Running a stress test with this capable processor installed is quite the challenge for even the largest air cooler to keep within optimal operating temperature ranges. The GTX 1070 is an older card, but the ZOTAC AMP! Extreme is essentially silent at idle, likewise with the Cosair VS550 PSU.
Fan speeds were locked at 50% throughout the tests. With the Z73, the Ryzen 9 3900X runs at a mere 26C (79F) at idle, which is pretty good considering the ambient temperature was recorded at 22C (72F). This reading was measured both prior and after the stress test, allowing the system to run for approximately 30 minutes. Firing up a stress test for the 12-core CPU to chew through saw temperatures hit 50C (122F).
What was more interesting was the lack of noise emanating from the pump and block combo unit and the three fans attached to the 360mm radiator. I had to double-check that the fans were indeed spinning, as was reported by software readings. Playing Stellaris (late game where it really tasks your processor) saw temperatures hover between 42C (108F) and 46C (115F) when stable.
The Z63 is a similar story. Idle with the Ryzen 9 3900X was reported at 27C (81F), which largely falls into the margin of error and, as such, can be considered equal to the Z73. The same tests performed showed the AO with a smaller radiator and less airflow struggle a little to keep 12-core CPU in line with its larger sibling. Temperatures hit 58C (136F), which still isn't high by any means.
|NZXT Kraken Z73
|NZXT Kraken Z63
Firing up Stellaris and running the game for the same duration, temperatures hovered at around 49C (120F). For an AIO, these are promising readings, especially given the sound output and how slow the three fans were able to run for prolonged periods of heavy use — Stellaris ran for approximately 90 minutes while the stress test was run in two bursts of 20 minutes.
What you might dislike about the NZXT Kraken Z63 and Z73
Some don't enjoy using CAM and other software from manufacturers, especially when mixing different product lines, resulting in more than one software booting up and running in the background. While I wasn't able to fully test the cool effects you can create with CAM on the AIO, the performance aspect is more important, and it easily nailed it.
While you could run the Z63 and Z73 without CAM, you shouldn't. You're not only paying a premium for the performance, design, and warranty, but also that sweet new LCD display, which requires the software to configure. CAM is also still Windows-only.
Should you buy the NZXT Kraken Z63 or Z73?
The NZXT Kraken Z73 is an ideal purchase for those with Intel Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 7 processors or above. Should you have plans to kit out your PC with processors that rock ten or more cores, you'll want to have the 360mm radiator at hand for adequate heat dissipation. What's more, is this AIO isn't just great at keeping the CPU cool, it also looks good.
The Z63 is a great choice for a similar processor range, though if you partner it up with power-hungry CPUs, be prepared to see a slight increase in temperature and noise from fan curves. NZXT nailed the design of the Kraken coolers, and this latest family of Z AIOs do nothing but improve the aesthetics of any PC build, thanks to the LCD display. Forget RGB lighting. Addressable displays are where it's at in 2020.
The Z73 is overkill for lower-powered processors, but really if you're all about low noise, a clean install, and reliable software support, this is a worthy upgrade to your aging air cooler. There's very little to dislike, aside from the price, and CAM can still be a slight pain to use. Overall, the Kraken Z73 is among the best AIO coolers you can buy. The same goes for the Z63.
Pricey but well worth it
The NZXT Kraken Z73 is an expensive cooler. There are no two ways about that. But should you want a smart-looking AIO that can handle even overclocked 12-core processors, this is it.
Slightly more affordable
The NZXT Kraken Z63 has everything the larger Z73 sibling has, but comes with a slightly smaller radiator and one less fan, but does slash the price considerably.
Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.