Review Index:

Water Cooling Radiator Comparison: Thickness vs Fin Density

Manufacturer: XSPC

Introduction and Technical Specifications


The latest rage in CPU cooling seems to be the self-contained water cooler because of the cooling potential of these coolers without the noise of a comparable air-based cooling system. This is something that cooling enthusiasts have known for years with the custom water cooling solution heat dissipation capacity only rivaled by its varied composition. A typical custom water loop is comprised of a pump, CPU cooling block, and a radiator in its simplest form.

Today, we are looking at the impact of the radiator on the custom water cooling loop, specifically the affects of radiator thickness and fin density on the cooling efficiency of the cooling loop. For this testing, we are comparing a single Swiftech MCR 320-QP Radiator, dual Swiftech MCR 320-QP Radiators in series, and an XSPC RX360 radiator while keeping the pump, CPU cooling block, and coolant used constant between tests.

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RX360 Radiator
Courtesy of XSPC

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MCR 320-QP Radiator
Courtesy of Swiftech

Both radiators used in this comparison are in a 3 x 120mm form factor, supporting up to six total 120mm fans in a push / pull configuration. The Swiftech MCR 320-QP radiator is approximately half the thickness of the XSPC RX360 radiator, but has 150% more surface fin density (measured in fpi (fins per inch)). A thicker radiator can handle more coolant as well as spreading the coolant over a larger surface volume for cooling capacity, while a higher fin density allow for more effective heat dissipation via the cooling fans. However, there are negatives of each. A thicker radiator can inhibit coolant flow speed because of its larger capacity and and surface volume. On the other hand, higher fin density requires a higher CFM rated fan to effectively pass air through the radiator effectively.

Technical Specifications (taken from the XSPC and Swiftech websites)



Swiftech MCR 320-QP


124mm x 63mm x 400mm 128mm x 34mm x 402mm

Body Material

Copper Brass

Fin Material

Copper Copper

Fin Density

8 fpi 12 fpi

Port Size

G1/4 G1/4


Black Matt Satin black

Continue reading our radiator comparison review!


May 31, 2013 | 10:31 AM - Posted by ExpertTrigger

Please do more water cooling articles!! Love this stuff!

May 31, 2013 | 11:05 AM - Posted by Mnemonicman

Good to see some water cooling reviews here. Now to convince EK to send stuff.

FPI does help quite a bit. Have a BlackIce Xtreme 360mm rad with 20fpi cooling an i7 3820 and 7970. Works quite well even though it does sound like a wind tunnel at times. How long was the loop left running and is there any thoughts as to if different fans would affect the cooling performance?

May 31, 2013 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

We *may* have one of more EK-related articles coming out in the future.

As far as the testing, I let the loop run for an hr at a time at load and took the highest core temperature recorded by RealTemp and repeated this three times.  The idle numbers were obtained in the same manner but with the system left idle for at l0 minutes.  Between each run, the thermal paste was removed and reapplied.

As far as fan performance testing, I kept that static during these tests to reduce the number of variables affecting performance.  By using the same fans and loop makeup for all three radiator tests, it is easier to make conclusions concerning the performance of the radiators themselves.

May 31, 2013 | 03:20 PM - Posted by Mnemonicman

Good to know and thanks for the reply.

May 31, 2013 | 11:16 AM - Posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

Morry, watercooling is like an SSD. Buy a trusted brand name part, and relative performance doesn't really matter. The change will be mindblowing no matter what.

May 31, 2013 | 04:11 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I agree, water cooling is mind blowing, but does take a bit of work - especially when using a custom loop and not one of the pre-made cooling systems.  The yearly cleaning is always "fun"...

May 31, 2013 | 11:44 AM - Posted by Buyers

Just as an FYI for anyone that doesn't follow watercooling, Martin at does good scientific hardware testing on fans/pumps/radiators. I believe these two rads were tested as part of his radiator roundup which can be used as a second opinion or verification of results.

May 31, 2013 | 02:24 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Good stuff indeed. Very interesting results. Nice job.

Morry, maybe you could do some fan testing at some point and write as useful article on that.

May 31, 2013 | 04:55 PM - Posted by Bill (not verified)

What surprises me the most about this review is how well the Corsair H110 holds up against much more expensive custom water cooling setups. I know the custom water cooling people hate the all in one kits such as those from Corsair and now I can see why. Much better bang for the buck and a LOT less hassle!

May 31, 2013 | 05:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The thing with watercooling is that its a lot of work to figure out how to build a system. I bet 100 bucks that everybody who runs a watercooled system know how it feels when a radiator or something else doesnt fit a you thought.
Or something is leaking or whatever...

The point is if you dont want to have a lot of work, stay with air cooling and if you want it quiet you better buy the more expensive stuff like EK. Just to make sure it will work.

May 31, 2013 | 06:18 PM - Posted by Mnemonicman

That's what power tools are for. Yes it can be a lot of work, but if done well can be amazing.

May 31, 2013 | 11:54 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

EK makes some fine stuff, but there are many other decent vendors of watercooling peripherals out there also - Swiftech, Bitspower, XSPC, Aquacool, Heatkiller, even Koolance - to name a few...

June 1, 2013 | 05:36 AM - Posted by Paul Keeble (not verified)

The different FPI configurations of radiators affect how well they respond to air flow. Higher FPI allows for better heat dissipation at lower fan speeds. Low FPI allows more airflow such that at higher fan speeds they outperform the high FPI radiators.

The trade off point between the two approaches is typically around 1600rpm depending on the exact model of the fan and its static pressure and other characteristics. Since the Coolermaster fans used are 2000 rpm (very high for a watercooling loop by the way) then it heavily favours the lower FPI configuration. In order to test radiators correctly and show this difference you need to vary the fan speed and fans used. Investing in some Gentle Typhoon AR15's for example would be a good idea as these produce near enough the best performance you can get from a fan on a radiator at a lower noise level than the competition.

If you want to learn how to test watercooling equipment well I highly recommend going through the reviews on the forums and martins labs. They have quite advanced methods which isolate the various components and will give you an idea how to do these types of reviews better.

I would liken this as a review of a graphics card with a single average FPS figure in todays market. Its lacking in necessary detail and fatally flawed as an approach.

June 4, 2013 | 05:34 AM - Posted by Justin 150 (not verified)

The thing about watercooling is that there is little point in only cooling the CPU unless you are a mad overclocker.

Watercooling though allows you to cool both CPU & GPU for minimal extra noise (and a fair bit extra cost!). You end up with a high performance ultra low noise machine

June 6, 2013 | 04:03 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

I originally got into watercooling many years ago before all the mass produced components and all-in-ones were popular as a way to boost my CPU clocks.  I overclock not only because I like the challenge of it, but I can't afford the $500 - $1000 for the top of the line Intel chip (kids are expensive).  Watercooling does reduce noise, but I and probably many others, do it to push there budget procs as far as they'll go.

GPU waterblocks are more of an add-in in my opinion - they are a bit pricey and are only usable on a single card.  If your lucky (and get inventive with the hold-downs) you can use the same CPU block across many proc families...

July 11, 2013 | 04:25 PM - Posted by Michael (not verified)

Tell me if I'm missing something here, but if your temperature difference is 3 degrees between using one radiator and two of the same radiators, you're not testing this properly. Maybe it has to do with the fact that you sandwiched it, using hot air on the second rad instead of introducing fresh air on both rads. That set-up will never happen in an actual build.

April 27, 2014 | 03:03 AM - Posted by Buyerchoice (not verified)

Seems to me this test is flawed because copper has a thermal conductivity of 400 - k - W/(m.K) while brass is only
109 - k - W/(m.K)

So while both the XSPC RX360 and the Swiftech MCR 320-QP have copper fins the XSPC RX360 has Copper Body material and the Swiftech MCR 320-QP has Brass body material. I assume the body includes the water passages between the fins, therefore heat transfer to the copper fins is greatly reduced by the brass. Also the brass water passage ways would not be as hot, so less cooling effect as more of the heat stays in the water itself.

November 23, 2014 | 10:38 PM - Posted by andy (not verified)

you guys never answered this lets say u have a liquid cooler pump and reservoir but no radiator will their be a huge difference if u add a radiator to the pump?? if so by how many degress by more then 5 degress?? or wuld adding a radiator only affect the temp by a few degress?? what u think??

June 10, 2016 | 01:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The radiator of liquid cooling is a key component. If you have a functional loop without a radiator, the heated liquid has no place to cool down, and as such will heat up the loop and the components you are trying to cool down. However, if you meant with or without a fan, that can be an interesting question. Though I believe that having a minimum of one fan to move air through the fins, and thus transporting the heat out of the loop and into the room is definitely a must.

June 22, 2015 | 01:34 AM - Posted by Jean Genibrel (not verified)

I was doing some research on cooling for race cars. I find it interesting that computer are so cooling needy. As they say in racing "power is heat and heat is power". If I may suggest that you tried unpainted radiators. The paint acts as an insulator a lot more than the color black dissipates heat. This way you may be able to use a smaller cooler (less $).

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