Aerocool’s P7-L240 closed-loop liquid CPU cooler reviewed

Closed-loop liquid coolers have become a pretty standard formula over the past few years. Start with a pump from Asetek (or perhaps CoolIT Systems), put a custom housing on it with a dash of RGB LEDs if you’re feeling spicy, throw your own fans in the box to complete the package, and voila—you’re cooling with liquid. This arrangement has let many a PC component maker get in on the all-in-one liquid-cooling fun, but it does lead to a certain sameness in the pages of liquid-cooling hardware available on Newegg.

The folks at Aerocool are taking a different tack for their first all-in-one liquid cooler. The Project 7 P7-L240 starts with a massive proprietary pump housing that is, as far as I can tell, an in-house design that owes little to the CoolIT or Asetek pumps of the world.

The most telling sign that the P7-L240 isn’t your average CLC is its partially user-serviceable design. Pop the logo plate and metal surround off the top of the pump with a gentle twist, and you’re greeted with a refill port. The transparent pump housing offers easy monitoring of fluid levels in a system, and the fill port could help extend the life of the cooler if that fluid level does eventually drop over time.

Aerocool doesn’t offer any guidance on what the stock coolant is composed of, but we imagine one could use a standard coolant like EK’s CryoFuel clear premixed coolant if needed. A coolant with some form of anti-corrosive additives would be a must for anyone motivated to top up this cooler, since the P7-L240’s combo of an aluminum radiator and a copper cold plate has the potential to cause galvanic corrosion in the loop.

The copper cold plate itself has a beefy square central section that sits pround of the rest of the plate. This central section will fully cover Intel LGA 115x and AMD AM4 CPUs, and it provides plenty of coverage on Intel’s larger Skylake-X and Broadwell-E heat spreaders, too.

Aerocool connects the pump to the 240-mm radiator using a pair of nice-looking sleeved hoses. These coolant-carriers are nice and pliable, although they are a bit short to my eye. Builders looking at the P7-L240 will likely want to consider mounting this system’s radiator to the top of a case as a result.

The radiator end of the P7-L240 is a standard-looking, standard-thickness 240-mm unit at first glance, but Aerocool claims that its radiator has a lower fins-per-inch count than average to allow for better airflow through the unit. This seems like an optimization for Aerocool’s own fans, and if so, the ability to tune fins-per-inch to the fans that will move air over them seems like another advantage of taking cooler development in-house for Aerocool.

The pair of pre-installed Aerocool 120-mm fans on the P7-L240 boast 600-RPM-to-1800-RPM speed ranges, and they can be controlled through PWM fan headers. Aerocool says these spinners turn on hydraulic bearings, and their translucent hubs hide quartets of RGB LEDs.

 

Strapping in

Aerocool includes mounting hardware to put the P7-L240 on most every mainstream socket save AMD’s massive TR4. Intel builders can slap the P7-L240 on LGA 2066, LGA 2011, LGA 115x, LGA 1366, and LGA 775 sockets. AMD builders will find hardware in the box for Sockets FM2 and FM1, Sockets AM4, AM3, and AM3+, and Sockets AM2 and AM2+.

Aerocool’s Intel LGA 115x mounting system

Beyond its broad compatibility, Aerocool’s mounting system is refreshingly fuss-free. Each set of included mounting arms uses captive hardware, so I didn’t end up with nuts and bolts that I didn’t need scattered across my work bench when mounting the P7-L240.

Aerocool’s AMD mounting system on an AM4 backplate

While the LGA 115x mount does require the use of a familiar plastic X-brace as the foundation of the system,  the LGA 2066 mounting arms screw directly into the integrated cooler mounts on Intel high-end desktop boards, and the AMD mounting arms twist right into the included backplate on AMD boards. Builders might have to support the LGA 115x brace or AM4 backplates from behind when setting up the P7-L240, but mating the cooler with the motherboard outside the case solves this potential hassle.

The mounting ears on the pump housing allow the P7-L240 to sit one of two ways on an Intel CPU socket: with the hose fittings pointing toward a motherboard’s PCIe slots or with the fittings oriented toward a mobo’s memory slots. Aerocool suggests the cooler should be mounted with the fittings facing the memory slots, though the large pump and fittings can lead to blocked memory slots on some motherboards. Aerocool has assembled a partial list of some of the boards that might be affected.

The P7-L240 fits without obstructing any memory slots on our Gigabyte X299-Designare EX motherboard, and installing it was a dead-simple process. The one potential wrinkle in the P7-L240’s mounting hardware lies at the pump. Instead of using metal-on-metal mounting ears or threaded mounting inserts in plastic housings like some coolers have, Aerocool uses coarse-threaded screws that bite directly into holes molded into the plastic pump housing itself. Builders who are firing the P7-L240 at one socket and forgetting about it likely won’t need to worry about this, but inveterate hardware-swappers like yours truly might wear out the mounting ears with too many socket switches.

 

Playing nice with all of the lights

Like any PC component worth its salt these days, the P7-L240 comes with RGB LED illumination in its translucent pump housing and fan hubs. RGB LEDs can result in a mess of hard-to-sync lighting and hubs controlled by a handful of Windows utilities, but Aerocool sidesteps that morass by equipping the P7-L240 with standard RGB strip headers that can plug right into most any enthusiast motherboard these days.

The pump itself has male and female RGB LED connectors that allow builders to daisy-chain the pair of similarly-equipped Aerocool fans with the header from the pump head. Once I had constructed this daisy chain and plugged it into the nearest RGB LED header on my Gigabyte X299 motherboard, I had no problems keeping the system in perfect sync with the rest of the RGB LEDs on that board.

Even with this daisy chaining, the P7-L240 can’t avoid the squirrel’s nest of wiring that tends to come with RGB LED-illuminated hardware. Each fan has a speed-control and lighting-control wire of its own, and that cabling has the potential to create a mess behind a motherboard tray. If you care deeply about clean cable management, you’ll want to keep your zip ties handy with this liquid-cooling system.

Aerocool sells its own P7-H1 lighting hub for basic RGB LED control of its fans and peripherals, but that hub isn’t included with the P7-L240. Most motherboards sold these days have the RGB LED headers necessary to get this system up and runnning, so the omission of this hub isn’t a big deal to me. Folks with older systems or extremely stripped motherboards will want to note that without some form of external control, the P7-L240 will not self-illuminate. That’s likely not a big deal for those considering high-end liquid-cooling hardware to begin with, but it is worth being aware of.

Our testing methods

We used the following configuration for our test system:

Processor Intel Core i9-7980XE
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
Memory 32 GB (4x8GB) G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3600
Graphics card MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming Z
Storage Samsung 960 Pro 512 GB
Power supply Seasonic Prime Platinum 1000 W
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to Intel, G.Skill, MSI, Corsair, and AMD, among other vendors, for helping us outfit our test rigs with some of the best hardware available. Our thanks to Aerocool, as well, for providing the P7-L240 itself for review.

Ambient temperature in our testing environment was maintained at 72° F (22.2° C) over the course of our tests.

Although this is a heatsink review, running our usual Prime95 Small FFTs load on a CPU with AVX-512 support and lots of cores will overwhelm most any cooler. For testing overclocked stability of Intel’s many-core CPUs with exceptionally wide AVX units, I’ve instead taken to running the Classroom benchmark available as part of Blender’s standard benchmark scenes. Blender still fires up CPUs’ AVX units plenty hard, as we’ll see.

We’ll be putting the P7-L240 up against one of Corsair’s latest and greatest: the 280-mm H115i Pro. This cooler took home a TR Editor’s Choice award earlier this year, so it should prove potent competition for Aerocool’s effort. Let’s see how this duo fared.

 

Stock-clocked cooling performance

To test the stock-clocked performance of these heatsinks, I normalized fan speeds to 1000 RPM across all of our coolers and ran the Blender Classroom benchmark three times in close succession while noting the maximum CPU package temperature reached over the course of that test.

Both of these coolers are more than capable of keeping the Core i9-7980XE happy at its stock speeds. Let’s see if overclocking the chip puts some light between them.

Overclocked cooling performance

To gauge these coolers’ overclocked performance, I pushed our Core i9-7980XE to 4.4 GHz across all 18 of its cores at an indicated 1.144V Vcore. These settings produce a frightening amount of power consumption and heat, and they’ll overwhelm any cooler that’s not worth its salt.

Under this torturous load, Aerocool’s P7-L240 takes a small but significant lead over the H115i Pro. Although both of these coolers allow the Core i9-7980XE to come within spitting distance of its 105° C throttling limit, the P7-L240 manages to keep the chip a bit more in check, even with a smaller radiator to move liquid through. To be fair, the H115i Pro is a low-noise cooler, and its sonic signature is particularly excellent. Let’s see just how much noise the P7-L240 has to make to keep the i9-7980XE ticking away at full tilt.

Noise levels

To determine how much of a racket our competitors make, I used the Faber Acoustical SoundMeter app running on an iPhone 6S Plus. I positioned the phone 18″ from the coolers under test. The ambient noise level in my testing environment with no other sound sources operating was 28.5 dBA, according to SoundMeter.

At their minimum fan speeds, each of these coolers are barely audible. Despite its slightly higher dBA level, the Aerocool’s pump only emits a mild ticking sound, and you need to be quite close to the pump to hear it operating at all. In fact, the P7-L240’s pump is the quietest I’ve heard from an all-in-one liquid cooler, period. The Corsair pump emits a much more prominent whine at idle in its Performance mode by comparison, and our sound pressure level measurements alone can’t account for that sound. Aerocool’s fans are basically inaudible at idle, although they do emit the barest hint of a low-pitched hum that those with sensitive ears might find noticeable. Corsair’s ML140 fans are similarly silent. 

At 1000 RPM, these coolers are similarly well-matched. Aerocool’s fans develop a mild low-pitched hum at this speed, though they’re still quite well-behaved. Corsair’s ML140s, on the other hand, just sound like air moving. Crank both coolers up to full speed, however, and there’s no contest. The H115i Pro develops a mild high-mid tone at its maximum speed, but its character remains mostly that of moving air. The P7-L240, on the other hand, develops a complex sound signature that has strong out-of-phase (“wub-wub”) characteristics on top of its fans’ low-pitched tonal nature and the sound of blowing air. The P7-L240 isn’t unpleasantly loud at these speeds, but its complex aural character makes it difficult to ignore the noise that it makes when running all-out. That excellent cooling performance comes at a price.

 

Conclusions

In a world dominated by Asetek-derived closed-loop liquid coolers, Aerocool’s P7-L240 is a refreshing and potent alternative. This heatsink’s custom pump design may be the quietest I’ve ever heard from a closed-loop liquid cooler, even running at full speed. The massive user-serviceable reservoir on this unit is a nice change of pace from the permanently-sealed designs from most other manufacturers, too.

Most impressively, the P7-L240 can hold Intel’s notoriously-difficult-to-cool Core i9-7980XE in check, even with a 4.4 GHz overclock ticking away beneath its cold plate. For an all-in-one heatsink with a standard-thickness 240-mm radiator, that’s no small feat. CPUs with lower core counts or soldered heat spreaders should prove no challenge for the P7-L240, and its mounting hardware is ready to go with most every CPU save AMD’s Ryzen Threadrippers.

The one thing I’d wish for from the P7-L240 is a more refined pair of fans. Next to Corsair’s ML-series spinners, Aerocool’s included units sound decidedly average while pushing air through the P7-L240’s radiator. They don’t spoil this cooler’s fine performance by any means, but they’re nothing to write home about on the noise, vibration, and harshness front.

Aerocool P7-L240

April 2018

On the plus side, Aerocool made a smart move by allowing the RGB LEDs on the P7-L240’s fans and pump head to be controlled by the four-pin RGB headers that dot many a motherboard these days. Builders can choose to install one of the company’s own RGB LED fan hubs alongside this cooler if they want, but it’s far simpler to control the P7-L240’s LEDs through the lighting control software that most every motherboard manufacturer provides these days.

At about $109 on Newegg right now, the P7-L240 is an excellent value for a fully-RGB-LED-illuminated liquid cooler, and it backs up its looks with top-notch performance. This heatsink deserves serious consideration from anybody who wants a powerful 240-mm liquid cooler for even those most demanding CPUs, and given its great value and cooling performance, I’m happy to call it a TR Editor’s Choice.

Comments closed
    • Freon
    • 2 years ago

    Are there any concerns about the overclocking tests given they’re near 100C? I thought Intel CPUs would start to throttle very hard at 100C or so, depending on the exact model. Seems it might affect testing results.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 2 years ago

      I accounted for this in the piece, but the i9-7980XE has a throttling threshold of 105° C for the CPU package.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    I get that copper radiators are too expensive for the fiercely-competitive AIO market, but the alternative is to use are brass/aluminium waterblocks and not have to deal with the weird coolants and losing battle against corrosion.

    How much worse would they be – a degree or two?

      • adamlongwalker
      • 2 years ago

      Very smart and I Fully agree with your comment. As a person that does prepress and post production work (in the past and present) you run into things that you thought you should not run into. Like the status quo of the market.

      I have a few IP’s that goes against the grain in certain markets so I know the BS that you can run into.

      Brass/ Bronze/ and Aluminium alloys should be looked into in developing future water based CPU Coolers.

    • Anovoca
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<] This heatsink's custom pump design may be the quietest I've ever heard from a closed-loop liquid cooler, even running at full speed. [/quote<] This statement and the noise test results just prove what I had found out first hand in a previous build: Areocool fans are costly yet subpar if not outright garbage. I would really love it, Jeff, if you would be willing to re-run the decibel testing using a neutral fan for both coolers. I know if I ever bought this I would probably replace the fans with Fractal, noctua, or NZXT fans. I am really interested to put your quiet pump statement to the test, and see if, fans being neutral, it can defeat the Corsair hands down in a rematch.

      • Shobai
      • 2 years ago

      Surely you could disconnect the fans for a short period to test pump noise, rather than introduce another variable.

        • Anovoca
        • 2 years ago

        That wouldnt be conducive to a real world scenario

    • Misel
    • 2 years ago

    Shouldn’t it be called “Aquacool”?

    • Neutronbeam
    • 2 years ago

    Cool review Jeff!

      • LauRoman
      • 2 years ago

      I see what you did there…

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