Fractal Design Celsius S36 AIO Review

Author: AkG
Date: May 10, 2017
Product Name: Celsius S36
Part Number: FD-WCU-CELSIUS-S36-BK
Warranty: 5 Years
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A Closer Look at the Celsius S36

We usually don’t spend much time on the box which a CPU cooling solution comes in, but we do feel that it is necessary in this case since the box Fractal Design's Celsius S36 comes in is bloody massive.

As with many others the exterior 'box' is not much more than a cardboard sleeve and the AIO itself is housed internally in a – very – large cardboard container.

The accessories themselves should also be recognizable to any owner of a Corsair or NZXT or many other AIO models. The only minor points worth mentioning is that this AIO comes with AMD Ryzen AM4 compatible mounting hardware right out of the box and not just Intel LGA115x, Intel LGA2011, and older AMD AM3 hardware.

Sadly, while Fractal Design did go the extra mile for AMD users they did overlook two accessories that should have been included. Firstly they did not include a rubber gasket to reduce fan vibration noise. This is not that concerning as few go that extra mile. What is frustrating is they also excluded mounting hardware for six fan configurations. Instead you will only find enough washers and screws to mount the three included fans. This is a puzzling move, but one that will become crystal clear in a moment.

Before getting to that answer, the reason for some similarities is that Fractal Design has taken a very safe, patent-friednly path when designing the Celsius. Instead of having 'another' ODM design and build the Celsius S36 themselves, Fractal Design has reached out to Asetek to build, but not design, the cooler for them. This however does come with a few issues we need to discuss. Some are positive while other less so.

With Asetek backing the Celsius series, Fractal is able to use components that are known to knowledgeable customers as good quality parts with an installation path that should create few surprises. This is certainly a good thing as AIO owners are a conservative bunch. We don't like buying a new cooling device from a new company based on marketing and faith alone. This should alleviate many questions potential owners will have.

The downside to this is that Asetek-based units are a dime a dozen so there's very little that makes the Celsius all that unique. Quite literally the marketplace is filled with AIO models that use Asetek's latest waterblock, latest radiator and tubing. Even the fan controller software some units come with is very similar. Basically, Fractal had a huge hurdle to overcome in order to make their new cooler unique.

To do this Fractal Design made many design decisions and were obviously active players in the process. So much so that we would classify Asetek as the Original Equipment Manufacturer and not the Original Design Manufacturer. That one word makes all the difference as this is not an Asetek design per se. Fractal Design may have used Asetek 'off the shelf' components but their unique way of solving problems does shine through clear as day.

Let's start with the radiator, as it is home to many of these key differences. While this is a standard Asetek 30mm by '360mm' by 120mm radiator capable of attaching six high performance 120mm fans there are a few additions that make it unique. The most obvious change is the use of standard G 1/4-inch connectors. With those you can easily add in another radiator, waterblock (for cooling a GPU), reservoir, and even a secondary pump. Yes these two little tweaks allow this AIO to be the foundation of a future full custom water loop if you so choose. Compared to EK-XLC's Predator series or AlphaCool's Eisbär series the Fractal Design Celsius S36 is a not a bargain it’s a bloody steal of a deal.

This however is not the only major difference between the Celsius S series and typical Asetek models, rather it is just the beginning. In addition to this massive change Fractal Design also included an actual hardware fan controller that does not require software to be controlled. Instead this new model can be controlled all via the waterblock itself!

In order to do this Fractal Design has used the tight braid covering the tubing for more than just aesthetics. Instead it hides from view, and protects, the controller/power cable that snakes up from the waterblock to the little 4-way fan header that is located between the water inlet and output ports. If you look closely at the leftmost header you will see where this 4-wire cable exits the inlet tubing and connects to this little board.

This ingenious design allows for a lot of possibilities and adaptability as the 4-way splitter is just that. As long as you don’t go crazy you could swap this 4-way splitter out for a 7 way to control the additional 3 fans you could attach to it. Alternatively, you can have one of the headers connected to a secondary 2 or 4-way splitter to control the fans on a secondary radiator. All very easily. The downside is by locating it between the radiator's inlet and outlet headers you will have to be extra careful when you do decide to upgrade the Celsius S36, lest you get coolant on this board and short it out.

This is why Fractal Design – distastefully – uses 'warranty void' stickers on the two headers. Its almost as if they created a customizable loop model and then didn't want anyone to upgrade it. I'm certainly not a fan of this but it is understandable.

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