Every PC modder and enthusiast eventually wants to give custom water cooling a shot. If you happen to be one of those people, we legitimately can’t blame you. Water cooling is an interesting hobby, and it’s apparent that the community is much larger than some might think. However, like most PC modding niches, it’s also an expensive hobby.
A lot of information is available, but so is a lot of misinformation. It is incredibly important to know your stuff before you begin. You need to know what components are crucial and what role they play. A water cooling pump is one of these. As the name suggests, this device controls the speed, flow, and volume of water throughout your loop.
A pump can either make or break your system in the long run. We usually don’t recommend skimping out on this, but we’ll go through some decent budget options as well. With all that said, here are five of the best pumps for custom PC water cooling in 2021.
EKWB is the top brand when it comes to enthusiast water cooling components. There’s a good reason for that too. They happen to excel in terms of quality, and their products have a longer life overall. Their EK-XTOP Revo D5 Pump is no different.
As the name itself implies, this pump uses the popular D5 model. The D5 pump is tried and true, and many professionals swear by it. If you’ve lurked in online water cooling communities, you know that D5 and DDC are two of the most popular pump styles. Suffice to say, this is a high-performance pump that comes with black sleeved cables.
It has a maximum flow of 1500L/h, which happens to be more than enough for most enthusiast-grade rigs. The maximum pressure head is rated at 3.9m. It uses a 4-pin PWM cable for the signal. The fan connector has a length of 60 centimeters. If you want to hook up the RGB, you’ll need to find a 4-pin 12V RGB header on your motherboard.
The lighting isn’t all that bright, but it does look good if your case already has a lot of RGB. Performance, as expected, is phenomenal. We’ve come to admire that EKWB always focuses on performance first. Hence, this pump is no different. It pumps a lot of water and is also very quiet. It might be a bit pricey, but this is hands down, the best pump out there.
Having the pump and reservoir set up separately is a common theme among water cooling enthusiasts. However, it creates a bit of hassle and requires some patience. Well, Corsair has a good solution for that. The Hydro X Series XD3 pump is the most versatile option on this list. It’s also one of the better-looking ones. If you need something flexible, this is the one.
First off, we need to address the elephant in the room. Yes, this is a reservoir/pump combo, but hear us out. The reservoir part is actually so small, that it sits snugly on top of the pump. This is why we said that this pump is so versatile. It’s the perfect solution for ITX cases. Corsair just made water cooling in a small case much easier.
This product uses a high-performance Xylem DDC PWM pump. As we mentioned before, DDC pumps are one of the best out there, right alongside D5 pumps. The integrated reservoir can hold up to 180ml of liquid. As for power, this pump can push water at up to 1000L/h. Not bad for such a small device.
To the surprise of no one, this Corsair product has some unique RGB lighting. It’s always good to see water cooling components get some love in the design department. The 16 addressable RGB LEDs at the top give this thing a unique look. Combine that with the black exterior, and this pump ends up looking very pleasing to the eye.
A common complaint among Corsair components is that they need to be controlled by proprietary RGB controllers. The same remains true here, which is a sore disappointment.
EKWB finds another spot on this list, this time with a DDC pump. This particular EK-XTOP is a pump-top style device. This means that the reservoir can sit right on top of it. As you can probably guess, this makes the pump compatible with a wide range of reservoirs.
Clever design and understated looks make this an excellent option. The entire footprint is quite small and doesn’t take up a lot of space. It’s also quite silent, with a rated noise level of 25dB. However, don’t let that fool you. This is a high-performance DDC water cooling pump.
The maximum flow rate is rated at 1000L/h. Apart from that, the max head pressure is about 5.2m. It uses a 4-Pin PWM fan connector and a 4-pin Molex connector for power. The dimensions are about 63 x 68 x 55 mm. Apart from that, the core unit uses acetal for most of the construction.
The PWM controls allow automatic speed regulation, depending on the CPU temperature. This means that both thermals and noise stay in their ideal ranges. Furthermore, it has a 5 year lifetime. While it may not have any exciting RGB lighting, this is by far the best DDC pump available today. Just know that it is a bit pricey, but we can’t complain since the performance easily lives up to it.
The YaeCCC DC 12V CPU Cooling Water Pump has one of the most obtuse product names of all time. However, let’s not dwell on that fact too much for now. While this pump isn’t going to outperform the high-end DDC or D5 pumps, it’s a great entry-level option. If the overall value is what you’re looking for, this pump makes a strong first impression.
This pump is small and weighs in at about 280g. As for the materials, it uses a combination of both plastic and metal here and there. The top part has a clear transparent coating, while the bottom has a glossy black painted finish. The actual pump model is known as an XHC8. It consumes about 10W of power along with a rated voltage of DC 12V.
As for performance, it is good enough for entry-level and mid-range systems. However, if you’re thinking of cooling a Core i9 or Ryzen 9 processor, I would look elsewhere. The pump does have good efficiency and a low noise rating. It is also quite affordable.
However, there are a few problems here and there. The pump isn’t as powerful as the more expensive options. If this didn’t have the low price-tag, it wouldn’t be on this list. The lack of automatic speed control is also a major omission.
Next up, we have an excellent budget option. If you’re looking to get started in water cooling, the Mavel Star pump is an interesting option. This submersible mini water pump is extremely versatile. It’s the type of pump you’d see in a small aquarium or a fountain, rather than a PC. However, it works surprisingly well for entry-level PCs.
When it comes to performance this pump can move about 240L of water per hour. It works well with 5/16 ID vinyl tubing. The pump is rated at a DC voltage of 12V. It consumes about 4.2W of power at 0.35amps. It can be powered by a battery pack or a 12V DC power adapter.
As for the design, well, it’s not the most fascinating pump out there now is it? Well, most of these cooling components are inspired by industry machines, and that technology trickles down to our use. However, that doesn’t mean we can really excuse the design for this thing.
Overall, this is a decent replaceable pump if your main one stopped working for some reason. However, we can’t easily recommend it for people who need a lot of power.