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Thermaltake Water 3.0 120ARGB Sync Edition review: Silent and stylish

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £74
inc VAT

A quiet cooler that’s easy to set up, but cooling performance could be more vigorous


  • Simple cable configuration
  • Delightfully quiet


  • Expensive
  • Cooling performance could be better

While it’s generally better to fit your PC with a 240mm or 280mm watercooler than a 120mm cooler – radiators with a greater surface area allow for more effective cooling – there are plenty of cases where a smaller all-in-one (AIO) will suit. Whether you’ve got a small, Mini-ITX chassis that won’t fit a larger radiator or you just want to save money, a single-fan unit can still prove superior to basic air cooling.

The Thermaltake Water 3.0 120 ARGB Sync Edition is, no question, one of the more expensive 120mm AIOs to choose from – at £74, it’s nearly twice as much as a Coolermaster MasterLiquid Lite 120, and a few pounds more than the high-end NZXT Kraken M22. What those coolers don’t have, however, is fully addressable RGB lighting on both the fan and the pump, including a physical controller for cycling through colours and effects.

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Thermaltake Water 3.0 120ARGB Sync Edition review: Design and cabling

Typically, with RGB watercoolers, the caveat is that they require far more cables dangling around your PC’s interior, and to get them lit up at all demands a certain RGB header on the motherboard – something that older boards, and many cheaper modern models, will lack. The Water 3.0 120 ARGB Sync Edition isn’t entirely exempt; you’ll still need a 5V motherboard header to get the full, addressable RGB functionality, including syncing with other illuminated components via Asus Aura Sync, MSI Mystic Light, Gigabyte RGB Fusion and ASRock Polychrome.

However, this cooler also diverts from annoying RGB norms in two ways. One, its cable configuration is relatively simple: besides an arguably over-long fan cable, it’s a lot easier to manage than the last Thermaltake AIO cooler we tested, the Floe Riing RGB 240 TT Premium Edition. You also don’t need a dedicated motherboard header to get it glowing. As long as you’ve got a spare SATA power connector, you can simply use the included controller to choose from a set of colours and effects, as well as adjust the intensity of those effects.

Besides further reducing the amount of cabling – a modular system means if you don’t want to use the 5V cable, you can leave it in the box – this makes the Water 3.0 120 ARGB Sync Edition ideal for those who want a flashy cooler without the usual complexity.

READ NEXT: Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 240 TT Premium review

Thermaltake Water 3.0 120ARGB Sync Edition review: Performance

It’s all very user-friendly, but we wish cooling performance was better, especially considering the price. It’s not bad, just not significantly better than Intel’s stock air cooler. For example, when the Core i7-4770K was idling, core temperatures were between 30°C and 36°C – just slightly lower than with the stock cooler, which kept between 33°C and 37°C.

Under sustained load, the cores jumped up to 60-65°C, which again is a bit better than a stock cooler but nowhere near the best watercooled performance. The SilverStone Tundra TD02-RGB managed 45-51°C in the same conditions, and while that has twice the radiator size and double the fans, it’s also cheaper at £60. With the Water 3.0 120 ARGB Sync Edition, the Core i7-4770K also saw a relatively high peak of 68°C.

The good news is that overclocking remains viable. With our Intel chip boosted from 3.5GHz to 3.9GHz, idle temperatures rose only mildly to around 33-40°C, while load temperatures rose to 66-70°C. These aren’t terribly impressive results, but they’re not worryingly high, either. The absolute highest core temperature we recorded with the overclocked CPU was 74°C, beating the stock cooler, which let it reach 79°C.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 120ARGB Sync Edition review: Verdict

It’s still better value to pick the Tundra TD02-RGB, but then Thermaltake’s cooler does have one more advantage: it’s incredibly, beautifully quiet. We never even noticed it over our test PC’s 120mm exhaust fan, graphics card or PSU fan, even during the most intensive part of our 4K benchmarks, which we used for load testing.

The Water 3.0 120 ARGB Sync Edition is therefore a luxury. For cooling performance, there are much better alternatives, but few have the same combination of show-off design and whisper-quiet operation. Even if that’s not enough for a full recommendation, it’s enough that it could be good for compact PC builders who’d favour silent running over extreme overclocking.

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