DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Castle 280EX Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Manufacturer: DEEPCOOL DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Castle 280EX Liquid CPU Cooler Review

The new Gamer Storm Castle 280EX is a 280 mm AiO liquid CPU cooler that uses Deepcool’s patented “Anti-Leak Technology”, and offers a pair of powerful Deepcool TF140 S fans boasting up to 97.03 CFM airflow and 2.00 mmAq static pressure.

The design seems to be tailored for maximum cooling performance rather than low noise output with the included PWM fans rated at about 40 dBA, though actual noise output will depend on your motherboard header (or fan controller) setting as the system does not integrate its own fan controller.

Features (via Deepcool):

  • Anti-Leak Technology
  • Large copper cold plate with 25% more skived fins (Supports TR4)
  • Efficient pump design optimized for performance and noise
  • Swappable custom logo
  • 5V Addressable RGB with motherboard software support
DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Castle 280EX Liquid CPU Cooler Review - Cases and Cooling  1
Product Specifications
  • Part Number: DP-GS-H14AR-CSL280EX
  • Compatibility
    • AMD: TRX40/TR4/AM4/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2/FM2+/FM2/FM1
    • Intel: LGA20XX/LGA1200/1151/1150/1155/LGA1366
  • Radiator
    • Radiator Dimensions: 322×138×27 mm
    • Radiator Material: Aluminum
    • Net Weight: 1600 g
    • Tube length: 380 mm
  • Pump
    • Pump Dimensions: 86×75×71 mm
    • Pump Speed: 2550 RPM±10%
    • Pump Noise: 17.8 dB(A)
    • Pump Connector: 3-pin
    • Pump Rated Voltage: 12 VDC
    • Pump Rated Current: 0.2 A
    • Pump Power Consumption: 2.4 W
  • Fans
    • Model: Deepcool TF140 S
    • Fan Dimensions: 140×140×25 mm
    • Fan Speed: 400~1600 RPM±10%
    • Fan Airflow: 97.03 CFM
    • Fan Air Pressure: 2.00 mmAq
    • Fan Noise: ≤39.8 dB(A)
    • Fan Connector: 4-pin PWM
    • Bearing Type: Hydro Bearing
    • Fan Rated Voltage: 12 VDC
    • Fan Rated Current: 0.3 A
    • Fan Power Consumption: 3.6 W
  • Lighting
    • LED Type: Addressable RGB LED
    • LED Connector: 3-pin(+5V-D-G)
    • LED Rated Voltage: 5 VDC
    • LED Power Consumption: 2.25 W(PUMP)
Pricing

$149.99 USD

Manufacturer Description

“The CASTLE 280EX is equipped with patented Anti-Leak Technology that helps regulate pressure buildup to significantly improve operational safety and prevent leakage.”

Design

Beginning with the radiator, we see similar fin density to recently reviewed Corsair units, with a typical 27 mm thickness from this aluminum design. There is a fill port present, which naturally has a warranty void sticker affixed to it as this is sold as a closed loop. There is also a pressure relief valve visible on one corner of the radiator.

Tubing is wrapped in a woven material, and these are 380 mm (15 inches) long, which seems about average for AiO liquid coolers.

The pump/block assembly is on the large side, and is taller than most designs you’ll encounter. The copper base shows some machine marks and seems quite flat. It should be noted that our pre-release sample did not have any thermal paste pre-applied, but I am told that production units will.

A pair of Deepcool TF140 S hydro bearing 140 mm PWM fans are included, with specs that include speeds ranging from 400~1600 RPM (±10%), airflow up to 97.03 CFM, and air pressure up to 2.00 mmAq. These fans have a unique design, with an small section preceded by an air gap molded into the trailing edge each blade, almost like a car spoiler.

As to RGB integration, this is limited to a ring around the perimeter of the pump/block assembly, and lighting effects are controllable via your choice of either an available motherboard header or by using the included wired controller.

Anti-Leak Tech Explained

“The technology helps the system achieve an automated pressure balance, which will significantly improve operation safety of AIO liquid cooling systems. With this technology, Deepcool is setting a new standard for liquid cooling systems.

“Inside the radiator, an elastic pressure-relief bag will be added with one side exposed to the air and the other side dipped in the coolant. When the internal pressure exceeds atmospheric pressures, the bag will be squeezed and thereby increases the system’s internal volume. As a result, the increased pressure is released and the risk of leakage is avoided.”

This design implements a pressure relief bladder (the elastic pressure-relief bag mentioned above) located at one end of the radiator, which doesn’t really increase the overall footprint beyond what we have seen from other 280 mm offerings, with a total radiator length of 322 mm. Deepcool says that they are the first to integrate anti-leak into a liquid cooler like this, and they offer a video explaining the technology on their website (or use this direct MP4 link).

From the “About Anti-leak Tech Inside” page:

“The pressure-relief bag is made of premium EPDM material produced by DuPont (E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company).The material possesses properties such as elasticity, anti-corrosion, resistance to ageing and resistance to the impact of high/low loading.

The hose is made of the mix of IIR material and premium rubber that [was] imported from Japan and the U.S., which significantly enhanced its contracting elasticity and air tightness.The refined-fiber cladding layer at the hose surface vastly improves both its pressure resistance capability and aesthetic looks.

To achieve optimal heat dissipation, anti-freezing and anti-corrosion, DEEPCOOL utilizes premium coolant and controls the level of it at 0.01g precision.”

Installation Process

The supplied hardware kit is quite comprehensive, with the needed mounting hardware for a wide range of platforms accompanied by a packet of cables and adapters.

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These additional accessories include a PWM Y-cable for sharing a single CPU fan header, a couple of RGB header adapters for motherboard lighting control on different makes, and a separate handheld RGB control device for manual lighting adjustment without a motherboard header.

Installation varies quite considerably based on your chosen CPU platform, as the included mounting hardware is better suited to an easy install with AM4 or HEDT, and not so much Intel desktop or pre-Ryzen AMD systems. With our Z490 test bed it took only a few moments to realize that installation was not going to be a smooth experience.

For this LGA1200 install, the rear bracket (which is nearly identical to the one that ships with the Hyper 212 EVO air cooler) has four bolts that fit through the corresponding holes around the CPU socket, which is normal. But that’s actually it for the rear bracket install.

DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Castle 280EX Liquid CPU Cooler Review - Cases and Cooling  3

There is nothing to hold the bracket or these bolts in place when you are mounting the pump/block assembly on the CPU with an Intel desktop install!

As designed, if the Intel motherboard is already attached to the case, cooler installation requires manually holding this backplate against the back of the board, while simultaneously positioning and fastening the pump/block assembly. Again, nothing secures the backplate – other than the pump/block itself.

The only way that Intel desktop installation makes sense to me is to set the board down on this backplate, and then mount the cooler. But as this is a 280 mm AiO design that isn’t the simple process that mounting an air cooler would be.

Still, if you have two good hands and a large motherboard cutout behind the CPU, it’s possible to mount it to an installed board, but you really want three hands to do this.

No Install Issues For AMD Ryzen or AMD/Intel HEDT

In fairness, my install complaints are only valid for Intel desktop systems and AMD desktops before AM4. If you have a Ryzen processor, for example, this process is much better. The same goes for high-end desktop/workstation systems, with a trouble-free installation method for AMD Threadripper and Intel HEDT processors thanks to the direct attachment to the socket (no backplate).

To illustrate the different installation hardware scenarios, here I have reproduced the manual. Note, for example, the lack of any method to secure the rear bracket with Intel 115x or AMD AM3 boards.

As to the rest of the installation process, the fans attach as expected, and an additional set of short machine screws is included for mounting the radiator to your case. At this point the only thing left to do is connect the two fans and the pump to available fan headers, and then choose how the RGB lighting will be connected (board header or standalone controller).

One interesting design choice worth pointing out is the Gamer Storm logo, which can be rotated to match the orientation of your installed cooler. Simply unscrew the cap on the pump/block assembly and re-position the logo at any time.

Cooler Peformance

While it is beyond the scope of this review to properly validate the featured anti-leak construction claims, we can at least cover the design, cooling effectiveness, and noise output with this new product. To this end I compared the Castle 280EX to the 280 mm AiO system used for recent Intel 10th Gen desktop benchmarking, a Corsair H115i Platinum. Results with that cooler using both its “balanced” and “extreme” cooling presets on fans/pump will be compared to the Castle 280EX, which was run with the ASRock Z490 Taichi’s “standard” motherboard fan profile for fans/pump.

One important note here, as I chose to test with the default “auto” settings for CPU power limits. This is to say, I ran the CPU without any power limits. It was consistently in the ~200W range under load, which is not unexpected with these 125W TDP chips when the official PL1, PL2, and Tau are not set. This creates not only a more realistic load for our Core i9-10900K (how many people override default motherboard “auto” settings to manually enforce power limits?), but also stresses the cooler far more than a strict 125W load would.

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An impressive showing here, as the Castle 280EX performed slightly better than the H115i Platinum in this test. These TF140 S fans move a lot of air, but they are very noticeable under load. But was this Castle 280EX louder than the Corsair’s “extreme” mode?

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At its “extreme” preset the Corsair H115i Platinum produced 47.4 dBA with the SPL meter positioned 12 inches away from the cooler on our open test bench system – an admittedly unrealistic scenario. The Captain 280EX produced 49.6 dBA at load under the same conditions. 2.2 dBA might not seem like a big difference, but it is noticeable – at least on the open test bench.

Certainly there is room to play with noise output here, as a custom fan profile could be configured, reducing the maximum fan speed. The question would be such a configuration’s impact on cooling performance, and while it would be interesting to re-test at various fan speeds to find out, I will refrain from such experiments at this time.

Final Thoughts

The Gamer Storm Castle 280EX performs well and seems to be quite well made. I can’t validate the anti-leak claims without further testing, but it is obvious that quite a bit of attention has been paid to its design.

As shipped, the cooling performance is impressive, though the included fans do produce quite a bit of noise under full load when pushing a significant amount of air through the radiator. It’s not blower GPU cooler loud, however, since this is just air noise with no “whine”. The pump is also very quiet.

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DEEPCOOL Gamer Storm Castle 280EX: $149.99, Amazon

Noise was not my complaint here, anyhow. It was the mounting process – specifically with an Intel desktop CPU. With no standoffs or captive sleeves to secure the backplate in place, mounting the pump/block assembly can be a pretty frustrating experience with a CPU like our tested Core i9-10900K.

But this complaint is specific to Intel desktop CPU installation, and AMD Ryzen processors enjoy a better mounting hardware design with conventional standoffs that screw down into the AMD bottom bracket, making installation simple.

Bottom line, the Castle 280EX is a very effective cooler with some higher load noise levels unless custom fan profiles are implemented. There is a potentially frustrating one-time installation process if you happen to use an Intel desktop CPU, but it performs admirably, looks nice, and promises leak-free performance – though, again, we could not validate that claim ourselves. Current $149.99 pricing does seem a bit high relative to other offerings (and the Castle 360EX is the same price).

Review Disclosures

This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.

How Product Was Obtained

The cooler is on loan from Deepcool for the purpose of this review.

What Happens To Product After Review

The cooler remains the property of Deepcool but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.

Company Involvement

Deepcool provided the product sample and technical brief to PC Perspective but had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.

PC Perspective Compensation

Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Deepcool for this review.

Advertising Disclosure

Deepcool has not purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.

Affiliate Links

This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases made through those links.

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About The Author

Sebastian Peak

Editor-in-Chief at PC Perspective. Writer of computer stuff, vintage PC nerd, and full-time dad. Still in search of the perfect smartphone. In his nonexistent spare time Sebastian's hobbies include hi-fi audio, guitars, and road bikes. Currently investigating time travel.

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