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Cooler Master's MasterLiquid Maker 92 CPU cooler reviewed

Liquid cooling in a tower-cooler footprint

For builders looking to cool a hot-clocked CPU like Intel's Core i7-6700K, tower-style coolers and closed-loop liquid coolers come with tradeoffs. Go with the tower-style air cooler, and you might need a 170-mm tall monster with multiple 140-mm fans to keep your system cool and quiet. Choose a liquid cooler, and you have to find a place for a huge radiator stack to exhaust its waste heat or hope that your case's airflow is otherwise good enough to move that hot air out. Liquid coolers often leave CPU voltage-regulation circuitry at the mercy of fans around the CPU socket, too, and their pump noise can be an annoyance to those with sensitive ears.

Those tradeoffs are hard enough to make in a roomy ATX mid-tower, but builders of high-end systems in compact microATX or Mini-ITX cases might have an especially hard time finding a powerful enough cooler to make their dreams a reality. Often, it's not even possible to fit a big enough air cooler for high-performance builds inside cases like the Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 or the Graphite Series 380T—it's liquid or nothing.

Cooler Master is trying to help those small-form-factor builders out by bringing the best of air and liquid coolers together in one heatsink: the MasterLiquid Maker 92. The concept behind this $100 cooler is so unusual that it doesn't really have its own category yet, so let me explain. The Maker 92 sandwiches a self-contained pump and radiator between a pair of push-pull 95-mm fans. That cooling stack rests atop a bracket that allows the sandwich to rest in a vertical position, like a tower cooler, or in a horizontal one, like a blow-down air cooler. Where the base and heatpipes of a traditional tower-style cooler might go, Cooler Master snaked a pair of coolant hoses down to a low-profile water block with a hefty copper cold plate.

This entire self-contained apparatus sits right on top of the CPU socket, just like a tower-style cooler would. It's compact, as well. In its horizontal position, the Maker 92 is just 4.7" (118.8 mm) tall, and its relatively compact footprint shouldn't cause clearance issues with tall memory heatsinks or motherboards with a PCIe x16 slot close to the CPU socket. Flip the cooling stack upright, and the Maker 92 measures in at 6.6" tall (167.5 mm), about the same as the iconic Hyper 212 Evo or the MasterAir Pro 4 we just reviewed.

Cooler Master's unique design requires some tradeoffs of its own. The MasterAir Maker 92 only works with Intel LGA 115x and LGA 2011 sockets—builders with AMD CPUs are left entirely out in the cold. On the off chance you still own an Intel LGA 775 or LGA 1366 motherboard, you also won't find mounting hardware in the Maker 92's box. If you've been building from our recent System Guides, those constraints shouldn't be cause for concern, but they do mean the Maker 92's appeal may not be as wide as it could have been.

Builders likely won't be able to swap out the Maker 92's fans, either—their unique 95-mm dimensions aside, these fans are designed specifically to let the Maker 92 do its swivelly thing. If I had to pick a pair of fans to be stuck with, however, the Maker 92's could share far worse lineage than Cooler Master's own Silencio 120 FPs. These fans use five broadly-swept blades in a design that's optimized for static pressure—important for moving air through densely-packed radiator fins.

The MasterLiquid Maker 92 draws power from a combination SATA-and-PWM cable that can be gently split in two for more routing freedom. That's handy, since most builders probably won't want to route a dedicated chain of SATA power connectors into the main chambers of their cases just to power the Maker 92.

One interesting thing about the Maker 92 is that its fans can shut off entirely when the CPU underneath is at idle. By default, the internal circuitry of the Maker 92 cuts off the fans when the PWM duty cycle from the motherboard falls below 50%. That means the only sound from the cooler at idle will be its pump—a potentially appealing characteristic in noise-sensitive environments. Folks who would prefer airflow at idle will need to set the PWM duty cycle on their CPU fan headers to a level above 50%.