Fractal Design Celsius S36 AIO Review
After an initial rapid fire introduction, the all in one cooler has very much settled into a state of slow but steady progression. Many believe we have already hit a plateau of sorts when it comes to how well both water and air are able to cool off our processors. While some like NZXT have begun focusing in on prettying up their product lineups or adding a wide range of features, Fractal Design is taking a bit more understated approach with the Celsius S36 and S24.
With such excellent options like their benchmark-setting Define series, many enthusiasts consider Fractal Design a company that focuses mostly upon case design and not much else. While this is somewhat correct it is a very North American centric point of view. In 2014 Fractal Design made some waves in European PC market with their first All In One CPU cooling solution named the 'Kelvin'. For various reasons, including a lawsuit by Asetek, this AIO series was not offered to North Americans.
The demise of the Kelvin series for the North American market was a shame since it boasted a rather innovative design. For example it offered expandability via standard water cooling G 1/4" fittings, before most other AIO manufacturers -including Asetek- were even debating the possibility of granting owners the ability to customize their AIO water loops.
So with the Kelvin series unavailable in North America and beginning to show its age, it was time for a rethink and that’s exactly what Fractal did. Not only does the new Celsius series incorporate everything that made its predecessor something to be proud of but it also adds in new features, upgraded components and better overall performance. In short these are completely new AIO coolers that are hoping to leapfrog the competition in a big way.
Today we will be taking a closer look at what Fractal Design has done and how they intend to compete against more firmly entrenched manufacturers here in the North American market. After all, NZXT and their second-generation Kraken series, Corsair and their multi-Hydro series, and a whole host of other companies like Cooler Master have been offering North Americans some very impressive AIOs for years now. Mix in 'newcomers' like AlphaCool or even EK-XL, and Fractal Design may indeed be wishing they had hit the ground running in 2014 and not 2017.
In order to impress a rather conservative thinking crowd Fractal has pulled out all the stops. Much like their original AIO, Fractal Design's new Celsius S combines elegance and grace to create a model that is aesthetically pleasing without handicapping performance. A classic combination of either a dual 120mm radiator (Celsius S24) or triple 120mm radiator (the Celsius S36 being reviewed today) with a high performance waterblock is a proven winning combination. So much so that we have little doubts about this massive 360mm AIO's cooling performance. If Fractal Design had stopped there we doubt it would raise many eyebrows as the North American market is filled with similar designs. What seems to be missing however are more versatile 120mm / 140mm options but we’re sure those are coming down the pipeline soon.
To make the Celsius stand out, and much like the Kelvin series before it, they have included those nifty G 1/4 connectors. This allows owners the option of doing things like 'burping' the loop to remove air bubbles, replacing the coolant after a few years to refresh performance, upgrading the cooling performance via an additional radiator - or even adding in a different block if required. We will go over this feature in the coming pages but the Celsius S does indeed offer a level of customizability that is sorely lacking in most other off the shelf units – we are looking at you Corsair and NZXT.
To close the deal with potential owners still unsure if the Celsius S series is right for them Fractal Design has also included one more feature – the asking price. With MSRP's of only $110 (Celsius S24) and $120 (Celsius S36) these coolers are actually some of the most inexpensive customizable All In One cooling solutions on the market. That is indeed one hell of a closing act and sure to nudge many buyers in their direction. But then again, one has to wonder whether or not many users will actually take advantage of this feature.
With all of this being said, it is also important to compare the Celsius S36 we have on hand to its immediate competition and that is actually quite challenging since it falls into a very underserved niche. Even though Fractal has priced it lower than the likes of NZXT’s Kraken X62 and Corsair’s H115i, it boasts three 120mm fans and absolutely tons of cooling potential. That means it compete against only a handful of alternatives like EKWB’s $250 Liquid series and Thermaltake’s Water 3.0 Ultimate. While there may be some questions about compatibility, the S36 should definitely appeal to people who have the space and willingness to experiment with a larger water cooler.
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