It certainly has been a little while since we looked at the state of the All In One CPU cooling solution industry. That is mainly because this corner of the market has become mature with innovation few and far between. Put another way, when one OEM (Asetek) make the vast… vast majority of AIOs for everyone and their dog (and is known to sue anyone who dares break free from their stranglehold) it is hard to find any innovation. With that said there still is innovation occurring. Smaller companies like Alpatek (aka “Apalcool”) are finding ways to avoid being sued by the ‘IBM’ of the industry and are trying to bring some semblance of innovation and excitement to market that has started to stagnate in recent years. One company who has seen the merits of breaking free of Asetek is MSI. Yes, unlike the vast majority of the competition the recently released MSI MAG Coreliquid is indeed Apalcool and not Asetek based. Coming in either 240 or 360mm form-factors this new series is highly intriguing. So much so we requested their $135(USD) 360mm “MSI MAG CoreLiquid 360R” variant to see what makes it tick.
Typically, when enthusiasts here the words Apalcool and AIO in the same sentence they immediately think of NZXT and their “M” series. A series consisting of a grand total of a single 120mm AIO CPU cooling solution – the M22 – and is as well known for using this lesser-known OEM/ODM as it is for the “M standing for mediocrity” jokes. The use of the same OEM with same generation desing however, is about where the similarities end. MSI has worked with Alpatek to modify the underlying technology to better fit their vision of what an AIO should and should not be. This includes form-factors that range from 240 to 360 (with more to be added at a latter date); user-friendly improvements to the waterblock, a veritable ton of addressable RGB LEDs; including basically Every. Single. Mounting. Bracket. Known. To. Man; as well as long lived (dual ball bearing) high static pressure fans that also come with integrated RGB LEDs.
That is indeed a laundry list of improvements but Apalcool is not as well known as Asetek. Worse still the best known AIO using it is not an impressive cooling solution to say the least. As such when potential buyers learn of the OEM/ODM MSI opted for one of three questions will typically spring to mind. Those are “Is it good at its job or is it just a pretty face?”, “Why should I go with it over a tried-and-true Asetek based model?”, and “Is this change a good change, or is it change just for the sake of change?”. This is unfortunate, but these days plenty of pretty much dumpster fire models try and hide their poor design by adding bling or highlighting the fact that they use an usual OEM/ODM. They do so because making an actually good unit is costly whereas adding LEDs is cheap… and changing manufactures is cheaper still. By the end of this review we hope to answer these types of questions, so that you can make your own decision on whether or not the MSI MAG Coreliquid series is right for you and your needs.