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Overclocking
A quiet system is just one reason to choose a liquid cooler over a huge tower-style cooler—overclocking prowess is another. We turned up the clocks and voltage on our Core i7-6700K to see just how well the MasterLiquid Pros handle the extra heat.

Our particular i7-6700K runs well at 4.6 GHz and 1.312V, as reported by the ASRock Z170 Extreme7+ motherboard in our test rig. At those settings, the MasterLiquid Pro 240 held the chip to 90° C with an artificially punishing Prime95 Small FFTs load running at full tilt. At that temperature, the MasterLiquid Pro 240 produced 43 dBA, and its noise profile sounded about the same as the MasterAir Pro 4's. That's not surprising, given that both coolers use the same 120-mm fans. Since the MasterAir Pro 4 produced temperature and noise results that are near-identical to the Pro 240's, this liquid cooler's appeal for overclockers may be that it can fit into smaller cases where the Pro 4 tower can't go.

Both the Pro 4 and Pro 240 probably have a bit more thermal headroom in them, since we tested each cooler with its "silent" performance profile. However, any increases in fan speed—and reductions in temperatures—will come with proportional increases in noise levels, and these coolers are already quite audible with an overclocked CPU underneath.

The MasterLiquid Pro 280 also held our overclocked i7-6700K to 90° C, but it did so while producing just 37 dBA in its silent mode. For a genuinely quiet overclocked system, the Pro 280 seems like an ideal pick. Recall that the Pro 280 only produced 34.5 dBA with a stock-clocked CPU underneath, so it's not working much harder to keep the i7-6700K in check. What's more, the higher-speed "quiet" or "performance" profiles for the MasterFan 140 AP spinners could offer enough airflow through the Pro 280 to keep even an overclocked Haswell-E or Broadwell-E CPU cool.

Conclusions
Cooler Master's MasterLiquid Pro coolers improve on the company's already-impressive Nepton series of heatsinks. They're just as easy to mount as their predecessors, and even with their fans in their "silent" mode, these all-in-ones are more than up to the task of cooling Intel's demanding Core i7-6700K CPU. If I had one complaint about these coolers, I wish the MasterFan 120 AB spinners on the MasterAir Pro 240 were slightly less tonal-sounding under load—but that's really all I can come up with.

Compared to the performance of the $45 MasterAir Pro 4, the more expensive MasterLiquid Pro heatsinks kept our stock-clocked CPU cooler under load—and did so more quietly—in exchange for a slight (but barely noticeable) increase in noise levels at idle. The $130 MasterLiquid Pro 280 runs slightly quieter under a stock-clocked load than its 240-mm counterpart, so the only question builders will need to answer (assuming they have a 280-mm radiator mount in their cases) is whether that extra solace is worth $15 to $25 or so over the price tag of the smaller Pro 240.

Turn up the clocks on that Core i7-6700K, however, and some meaningful differences emerge between these two coolers. The cooling performance of these units is about the same with our test CPU overclocked to the hilt, but the MasterLiquid Pro 280 stays a whopping seven dBA quieter than the Pro 240 under that same load. For an overclocked PC that stays polite, the Pro 280 should be near the top of any builder's list. The MasterLiquid Pro 240 isn't actually any better for overclocking our test chip than the MasterAir Pro 4, but its remote radiator means it can go places the big tower cooler can't.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280
November 2016

All told, we think there's a lot to love in the MasterLiquid Pro heatsinks, and we think builders will feel the same way. We're happy to send the $120 MasterLiquid Pro 240 home with a TR Recommended award for its stock-clock cooling prowess and its decent overclocking chops. For those who want similar overclocking headroom and even lower noise levels, the $130 MasterLiquid Pro 280 excels—and it gets a coveted Editor's Choice award to show for it.

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