As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, when power limits are removed Intel’s latest i9-12900k can prove quite challenging to cool effectively due to the increased thermal density of Alder Lake. While previous generations such as Rocket lake and Comet lake could consume large amounts of power in certain workloads – they were still easy enough to cool with adequate cooling.
When I first tested DeepCool’s AK620, it passed my tests for the i9-10900k with flying colors – but when it came to 12th generation’s i9, it throttled in some scenarios. Since that struggled, I then tested BeQuiet’s Pure Loop 280mm AIO – and while it did perform better than the AK620 it still struggled to keep the 12900k under TJMax in certain scenarios.
Today we’ll be testing DeepCool’s CASTLE 360 EX A-RGB, hoping that 360mm might just be enough to cool the Alder Lake i9 in all scenarios.
|Cooler||DeepCool Castle 360EX A-RGB|
|Comparison Cooler||BeQuiet Pure Loop 280 (sent by BeQuiet!)|
DeepCool AK620 Air Cooler (sent by DeepCool)
Shadow Rock Slim 2 (sent by BeQuiet!)
|CPU||Intel i9-12900K (sent by Intel)|
|Motherboard||MSI z690 A-Pro (purchased from Amazon)|
|Computer Case||BeQuiet! Silent Base 802 Window (sent by BeQuiet!)|
DeepCool’s CASTLE 360EX A-RGB
The Castle 360EX comes in a medium sized box, with molded cardboard for protection.
Included with the package are
- 360mm radiator w/ pump
- 3x 120mm A-RGB fans
- Instruction Manual
- Mounting adapters for up to current generation AMD AM4 CPUs, and up to 11th generation Intel CPUs
- RGB adapters
- Thermal Paste (Pre-applied)
For owners of past generation Intel and current generation AMD motherboards, DeepCool uses one of the adapters below (illustration from user manual)
I do not like this type of bracket personally, finding it more difficult to setup than it should be.
DeepCool’s separately provided LGA 1700 is much easier to install than the mounting system for previous generation CPUs. All one has to do is take the mounting brackets, screw them in from underneath the pump, and then attach the backplate and screw the bracket’s to the backplate.
While it appears to void the warranty, it does appear that the CASTLE EX360 can be refilled by the user if it is needed years later. The included radiator is long and somewhat slim.
The default configuration is alternating RGB, but I preferred setting the lights to a solid color for a less distracting ambient effect.
|Cooler||DeepCool Castle 360EX A-RGB|
|Product Dimensions (including fans)||402×120×27 mm|
|Pump Dimensions||86 ×75×71 mm|
|Pump Speed||2550 RPM±10%|
|Net Weight||1665 g|
|Noise Level||≤30 dB(A)|
|MSRP||$159.99 (currently $128.99 on Amazon)|
There’s more to a cooler than just it’s heat sink. The fans included have a huge impact on cooling performance and noise levels.
|Fan||3x 120mm A-RGB Fans|
|Max Fan Speed||500~1800 RPM±10%|
|Static Pressure||2.42 mmAq|
|Bearing Type||Hydro Bearing|
|Voltage range||12 V|
What’s different from other coolers
On the top of the CPU pump is DeepCool’s “Infinity mirror”, which has DeepCool’s logo reflected. In my opinion, the reflection gives the cooler a nice flair.
More importantly, the Castle 360EX A-RGB comes with anti-leak technology which can prevent unfortunate leaking accidents. DeepCool’s YouTube video displayed below gives a brief overview of how it works.
For each cooler, I used the thermal paste provided by the manufacturer.
To test the limits of thermal capabilities, I have tested OCCT & Cinebench with 140w & 200w power limits. I’ve also included some gaming results to show cooling results in less intensive workloads.
Since all previously tested coolers had failed to keep the i9-12900k under TJMax while running Cinebench with power limits removed, that was the first thing I tested the CASTLE EX360 A-RGB with. Ultimately, it still failed to pass in this scenario. However, DeepCool’s AIO has performed best out of all coolers thus far cooling an average of 222w during Cinebench, with less than 100mhz of throttling (vs maximum all core turbo speeds)
Based on our initial results without power limits in Cinebench, I had honestly expected DeepCool’s AIO to have a significant lead in TDP constrained scenarios – but I was disappointed to find out that when power limits were enforced the Castle EX360 A-RGB fell behind BeQuiet’s Pure Loop 280mm by 2-4c at 200w and only led by 1c when limited to 140w.
For gaming thermal performance tests, I’ve removed Far Cry V and Thief from my testing because Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed : Odyssey consistently show to be the most thermally demanding gaming scenarios with Alder Lake CPUs.
In Cyberpunk 2077, the Castle EX360 tied for the best performing cooler alongside Be Quiet’s Pure Loop 280, while in Assassin’s Creed : Odyssey it narrowly took the crown – if only by a single degree.
I don’t feel the equipment I currently have is good enough to perform a proper scientific test of the loudness levels of CPU Coolers, but I will say that the Castle EX360 A-RGB was perceptibly louder than Be Quiet’s Pure Loop cooler in some scenarios.
I have mixed thought’s on DeepCool’s EX360 A-RGB. Overall, I’m awarding it our Silver Award because it’s anti-leak technology is something that it’s competitors don’t have and reduces the potential risks involved with liquid cooling. When running tests like Cinbench with power limits removed, it still hits TJMax, however it does so with the least amount of thermal throttling of any cooler tested thus far.
The Good Stuff
- When we’re talking about looks, the Castle 360EX A-RGB is one of the best looking AIO Coolers in my opinion – especially when RGB is set to a solid color. The Infinity Mirror design adds a nice flair to the cooler.
- DeepCool’s Anti-Leak technology can give consumers piece of mind, knowing they don’t have to worry about leaks.
- In the most thermally demanding of workloads with no power limits, the 360EX A-RGB was the best performing cooler I have tested thus far – cooling loads *up to* 242w.
- In gaming, DeepCool’s Castle 360EX A-RGB tied for best thermal performance with BeQuiet’s Pure Loop 280.
- Programmable LED lighting (which can be turned off if you’re not into RGB or reprogrammed if you prefer ambient lighting)
- The Castle EX360 A-RGB isn’t cheap with an MSRP of $159.99
- In some scenarios it fell behind the performance of Be Quiet’s cheaper & quieter Pure Loop 280