What is the Best Closed Loop Cooler?
A CPU cooler has to balance several things. Builders naturally look at cooling performance as a main requirement. However, noise levels are also important. After that, a lot of builders want a cooler to look nice. On top of that, being able to perform some level of maintenance can be helpful too. Raijintek has been innovating their CPU coolers for a while now, with the latest addition being the Orcus 280 RBW. My impression is that this cooler is the best balance of all categories in the CLC market. We have to review it to see if I’m right, after a word from the company.
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The package has a great design on the outside sleeve. It’s colorful, and it does a great job of advertising the product. The inside box is solid black, and I was surprised that Raijintek managed to squeeze a 280mm unit in there. Even though the box was compact, the foam inside does a great job protecting the block and radiator from damaging each other.
That said, there’s a tiny problem with the size of the box. The radiator is much closer to getting a dented fin from an external impact than in a larger packaging. Generally speaking, online stores ship products like this in another box anyways. Comparatively though, other CLCs tend to have a little more box. Is this a complaint? Actually no, since we’ll later see a good reason on keeping packaging as minimalist as possible.
Install Process and Minor Mod
Even though the Orcus 280 uses a different bracket, the install is similar to other CLCs. The cooler uses it’s own back plate to attach the front bracketing system. After that, you screw the block down to the bracket to secure it to the CPU. One minor thing that would be helpful is if Raijintek attached the screws to the block with a clip or something similar. If you have your case on it’s back though, lining the screws with the bracket holes is no problem. Installing the radiator is simple as well, and I don’t see the hose pump hindering the process at all.
That said, I don’t like the back bracket Raijintek includes. It’s very open in the center. While the width makes sense for an Intel socket, it’s a bit too wide for an AM4 socket. Normally this isn’t a problem, but some newer motherboards, like my Aorus X470 Gaming 7, have an additional back plate behind the VRMs for added protection and durability. The cooler back plate doesn’t fit on my board. Instead of loosening or try to remove the plate, I found a way to use AMDs back plate.
Using the AM4 Back Plate
All I had to do was run to the hardware store and buy some screws that were long enough to reach through. The mounting nuts that go beneath the front bracket are just wide enough that the screws can nearly slide right through. The nuts almost give the perfect spacing needed for the front bracket, however they are raised off the board slightly by the raised nubs sticking through from the back plate. The nubs are too large to use the plastic spacers that normally install with the bracket. It can make the pump a bit tighter than the factory install, so be careful not to crank down on the screws when you get to that final step.
Raijintek Orcus 280 RBW Closer Look
Once you fully install the unit, you can sit back and enjoy how the Orcus 280 looks. Like 240mm unit before, the block doesn’t have a pump built on top of it. The circular object you see is actually a flow meter. I’ve seen comments that somewhat appropriately described it as the cooler’s fidget spinner. The side of the block has a large plug, which can make refilling the cooler pretty easy. The huge benefit here is that even though you can’t add a component to the loop, you can maintenance the fluid pretty easily and add to the units longevity.
The pump is the only piece that has a braided cable. I would have liked the same treatment on the fan cables at the least, but all wires are solid black in color so it isn’t a real concern. Don’t forget that the wire coming off the block is only for the addressable RGB lighting. The radiator looks almost identical to other aluminum ones, with the notable exception of a tiny plug on the end. The spot is a bit small for using as a fill port, but it’s and excellent spot to bleed air out of the unit and top off the fluid.
Lighting Control and RGB Patterns
The Orcus 280 is controlled by an addressable RGB header on the motherboard. You can plug directly into the header, but many boards have two addressable ones tops. Instead, you can run a cable from the single header that’s included with Raijintek’s control box. Move the switch to the motherboard side, and you’re all set. However, if your board doesn’t have the capability or you don’t want to use it, the control box can give you a variety of lighting effects controlled by an included remote.
Raijintek doesn’t give you a ton, but you have some good options to choose from. There’s several dual tone patterns programed in, and the spectrum color scheme has a few different patterns you can select. The lighting is pretty vibrant and seemed to fit excellently with the other components in my build. Oddly enough, I ended up with a solid color to match my lighting scheme, but I love the addressable options regardless. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking as I move on to the testing.
Testing Methods and Results
Let’s begin with the system and testing method.
- AMD Ryzen 1800X CPU
- Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Motherboard
- 2x Sapphire R9 290X Graphics Cards
- Crucial MX500 SSD
- Cooler Master H500P Case
- NZXT E850 PSU
My favorite stress test program is OCCT. I use the small data set to really turn up the heat on my 1800X. Afterwards, I let the the system heat up for 10 minutes to help the cooler warm up a bit. Then using HWInfo, I monitor the temperatures for 20 minutes. I pull the average number once the time is up, and that’s my cooling result. During that time, I use a phone app to monitor 30 seconds of the noise level from a hands breadth away, and use the average number the app shows for the result. If there isn’t a software based profile, then 100% fan speed is used.
I stated in the intro that I thought the Orcus 280 was the perfect balance of multiple assessment categories. This is a big part of the proof in my opinion. Even though I had another cooler that barely edged out the cooling performance, the noise levels are vastly different. The LIQTech uses much higher, louder fans to get performance. The Orcus 280 brings great CPU temps at a very reasonable sound level. Considering the 100% fan speed used, Raijintek gives us a very nice range to set our own fan curves in.
We need to look at the price of the unit now. At $140 on Newegg, the price would see high at first. Further inspection reveals that when you compare to similar coolers that also have addressable RGB, the Orcus 280 is one of the lowest priced units in the market. That’s already a great deal. However, I’ve frequently seen Raijintek put the unit on sale for about $110! That’s an absolute steal when that happens!!!
Let’s add it all up. The Orcus has very close to the best in CLC cooling. The differences in cooling at this level are negligible. Other coolers cost a lot more, or they add far more fan noise than this reviewer believes is worth having to get the better performance. Some coolers have amazing addressable RGB lighting, but Raijintek is right up there with them. The install process is very functional, even if it isn’t the best, and the value is beyond compare. For these reasons, we happily give the Raijintek Orcus 280 RBW our highest award!
Also, we’d like to give a huge thank you to Raijintek for giving us the opportunity to review this unit. On a side note, stay tuned next year as we prepare to introduce our first ever, CPU cooler tier list. No details yet, but the plans are well under way.