CoolerMaster MasterLiquid 120 Review

MasterLiquid 120 Review


Good evening dear readers some might consider today a bit of a special day as I have had in my hands the CoolerMaster MasterLiquid 120 in for testing. It is one of the few AIO coolers you can buy off the shelf that will fit AMDs new AM4 socket which is properly compatible without needing to separately order and then wait for the AM4 compatible bracket to arrive. This AIO doesn't seem to have any reviews for it either, you'd think CM would be all over throwing some of these AIOs to review sites to trumpet out of the box AM4 compatibility, so what's up with that CM?

Today I don't have restrictions of writing a review for internal use among a bunch of boffins so there won't be any need of passing it to and fro editorial which certainly makes my life easier. I'll also be trying something a bit different today, in some sections I'll be providing a short summary in addition to the final conclusion.


So let's see what we have here;

Socket Compatibility: (AMD) AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1. (Intel) LGA 2011-V3, 2011, 1151, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 775

Fan MTTF: 160,000 hours
Fan CFM @ 100%: 66.7
Fan RPM: 650 - 2000
Fan dBA: 6 ? 30
Fan Static Pressure: 2.34 (higher is better for fans used on radiators)
Pump MTTF: 70,000 hours
Pump dBA: <15
Radiator Dimensions: (H) 6.2 x (W) 4.7 x (D) 1.1 inches

Compatibility is what you would expect, namely almost every socket type that's ever existed in the last decade or so. Fan specs are good, pump specs are not anything out of the ordinary.

Meet the MasterLiquid 120

Picture time ladies and germs!

Let's start with a old fashioned picture of the box. Anyone else remember when this used to be a thing?

Nothing to worry about here, the MasterLiquid 120 is well protected in a robust corrugated box. Good thing too, this box is beat up just enough to make me think it's been chucked around a few times.

Now for a twofer shot, the MasterLiquid isn't looking too bad so far, the overall looks are a bit on the drab side but none the less the AIO still looks fairly smart and tidy. Understated elegance I guess you can call it, time to get up close and personal with the MasterLiquid to see if it's as impressive.

That's a nice looking radiator, fins look more squared rather than snaked, tubing is nice and wide too so there shouldn't be any restrictions there. If I was to nit-pick it would be over that the tubes feel like rubber and not ribbed. Ribbed is better, anti-kink and a somewhat longer life but people do complain ribbed doesn't bend as easy which is likely why CM has chosen rubber. I'd rather have the added insurance of the tubes not springing a random leak the plastic ribbed tubing provides, personally. The MasterLiquid is also supplied with 2 fans, both of which have rubber pads on to prevent vibrations, a nice touch I'm sure some people will appreciate.

After a great start we come to this somewhat anti-climactic end. Let's start by pointing out the holes for the brackets that are only plastic and part of the pump housing, I'm sure none of those are going to easily break are they CM? Touching them with my fingers, they are a bit bendy so not totally brittle but not what you want to be using to attach brackets with especially as said brackets are not very thick and the screws CM provide are short and only screw in to that bendy plastic and thin brackets, no nuts to "double down" for safety. In all honesty 4 short screws with no nuts going through mostly plastic and slightly in to the metal brackets just makes me nervous about how secure that fitting really is, as it should do you. Go and get some M2 sized screws about 1.5cm in length with some nuts along with some M3 sized metal washers to go on the underside as pictured here. You'll thank me if you are fitting this AIO to AMDs AM4 socket.

Now for the plate finish I've seen worse but that machine milling is bad enough to make a dent in temperatures, probably by 2-3c or so. I like to name my components sometimes, so in honour of the machine milling marks on the copper base plate from this day forth, oh MasterLiquid 120, you shall be known as "Milly"!

Summary: All in all first impressions are quite positive the MasterLiquid 120 is for the most part very well made and packaged well. The only downsides are the uninspired plate finish and somewhat weak attachment of the AM4 brackets to the pump housing.


Down to testing already you say? Well yes, with AIO coolers there's not much to dissect here. I'm going to put the MasterLiquid 120 up against AMDs Wraith Spire today it seems like a good candidate to simultaneously assess how good the Wraith Spire is.

To testing then, I had to switch what I would normally use as IBT does not work properly with Zen which is unfortunate. Due to this I switched to using BOINC, it is a grueling test for any CPU both capable of heating the chip up in a matter of only a couple minutes and doubling as a excellent test of stability. If you aren't BOINC stable, it's no good. The tests today won't use both of the fans supplied from CM as we know what happens when you set fans up in push-pull, you lose about 4c off load temps and that's all she wrote, as it were. Instead to try and make this review more informative for the third round of tests I'll substitute the supplied 120mm fan for a stalwart veteran of the fan world, the Arctic Cooling F12.

All results have been recorded with CPUID which is why the results are recorded "dead-on" unlike when I can use my DT8380.

Let's start with the Wraith, somebody at AMD is clearly proud of this little thing and they have good right to be, the AMD solution does a fine job of keeping the CPU cool under normal conditions, it does struggle once voltage and core speed are bumped up though but for something you are getting boxed with the CPU it just blows anything intel offer as their stock solution out of the water, in to the stratosphere, then the Wraith gives another kick to intel stock coolers for good measure. Intel stock solutions were last seen passing Neptune on their way out of the Sol system in embarrassment.

Now for the star of the show "Milly", with her fan set to 100% she manages to knock off 2c from idle temps and 7c from 3.8GHz load temps. An impressive improvement on what is already a pretty solid stock solution from AMD.

The Arctic F12 shows a small but welcome improvement over the CM supplied option, the F12 is also much less obtrusive even when the supplied CM fan is set to the same RPM as the F12. Arctic don't advertise the static pressure of their F12s so I can't tell you what it is, but it's clearly better than the 2.34 static pressure CM advertise for the fans that are supplied with the MasterLiquid 120.

Lastly let's see how the MasterLiquid does with the bracket mounting on the pump housing addressed which will allow me to apply a tighter mount of the block without that nagging feeling in the back of my mind something is going to buckle under the added stress, as well as lapping the copper plate to a good, but not flawless, finish and sticking with the Arctic F12.

Idle temps we see there is minimal improvement but I don't think we could really expect much of a difference here and I'd say the result is well within margin of error, the 3.8GHz test though shows a nice and healthy further 3c drop in temps suggesting to see the most benefit of this work you need to be running in excess of 1.32v. Some of those milling marks on the copper plate were quite cavernous on close inspection so I'm not surprised to see the temp drop but it's always a pleasant surprise to see how well refinements pan out to be.

Summary: The MasterLiquid is fairly good out of the box, with a few small refinements it's very good for a AIO of it's size and price.


The CM MasterLiquid 120 is a very good example of what a well made 120mm AIO CPU cooler should be, it can be found for as little as 61 pounds, installation is a doddle and this AIO makes for one excellent companion for a AMD Zen CPU. While the looks of the MasterLiquid 120 are not anything that's going to turn heads it is smart and tidy. The "Cooler Master" logo that glows white does look a bit tacky though, should have stuck with blue CM.

This AIO is going to appeal to a lot of different people, some who want to free up space to make working in their case easier or simply to help create unobstructed airflow, or maybe someone who is looking for something that for the most part is very quiet, although the CM supplied fans are quite loud when set to 100% it is more of a audible "swoosh" which depending on the setup you have, might be quite intrusive. Setting the fan(s) to between 70-80% resulted in a much more acceptable noise level though.

There's little to gripe about with the MasterLiquid 120 but the weak way the AM4 brackets attach to the pump housing is cause to make anyone a little nervous. Should the thread go on a screw, the plastic housing become too worn, or the screw holes of the brackets themselves become too worn you are screwed (eheheheh.. see what I did there?). It only takes one of these points to become worn and you suddenly have a problem with mounting. Slightly longer screws with some metal washers and nuts to keep things secure and reinforced is all that's needed here to remedy the problem. The copper plate finish also isn't the best, but neither of these gripes is anything that can't be fixed with some short DIY work that will also improve performance that bit more. A stronger pump in the future CM to help that coolant flow more freely and a thicker radiator wouldn't go amiss, you have more or less maxed out the performance of what current 120mm AIO designs can do with the MasterLiquid 120.

It is fair to say the MasterLiquid has set out to focus on performing admirably at a price most people can stomach. For the most part it accomplishes just that.

Build Quality: 25 / 30
Performance: 25 / 30
Ease of Installation: 27 / 30
Aesthetics : 7 / 10

Final Score: 84%