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Saturday | October 16, 2021
Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review (Cooler)

Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review (Cooler)

We have long been fans of Fractal Design and their simple, no-nonsense, high quality cases. Today though we have something a little different from them in our Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review… a liquid cooler.

Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review – Packaging and Bundle

fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-box fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-bundle

Fractal Design package the S36 in a large box which gives us a nice clear image of the product on the front. We get some product info on the sides and back before opening to find all of the components individually wrapped. The usual selection of mounts for AMD and Intel systems are provided (AM2/3, Socket 115x, 2011 all included) and then we have a few key items…

fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-bundle2 fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-fan

The first is Fractal Designs thermal paste (non-curing, nano diamond, 5.5 W/m-K, 2.2g/cm3, 7000000mPa-s), with enough provided for multiple installs, then we have a convertor which takes 3 fans and combines to one header… ideal for the 3 bundled fans which are Fractal Design branded with the model number FD-FAN-SSHP-120. These are silent series HP fans, 12cm models, with 1700RPM rating and a noise level of 26.9dBA. (62.38CFM, 2.33mm H2O)

Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review – The Cooler

fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-cooler fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-radiator

Looking at the cooler itself we have a unit which is by no means compact at 395x124x30mm. This is Fractal Design’s cooler for larger cases which can accommodate 3x12cm radiators. Some will do that in the front of the case however for most people this will be a top of the case install. Mounting holes are provided on either side of the radiator so that we can choose our configuration (or install six in total). The radiator material is copper with a steel shell, weighing 0.97kg, and connecting to the CPU block we find two flexible PVC tubes (8mm internal, 11mm external).

fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-block fractal-design-kelvin-s36-review-base

Looking at the CPU block we have some Fractal Design branding on the glossy top surface and a refill hole on the side. Like the radiator our tubes connect via standard G 1/4″ fittings and the bottom plate is copper, reasonably reflective too. This plate features pins in the reverse side to promote good flow/thermal performance and rubber seals ensure the correct passage of liquid.

Specifications wise our pump is a DC Centrifugal design with ceramic bearings. We get an operating voltage of 7-13.5VDC with input current of 0.27A and power draw of 3.2w. Pump speed is rated at 2400RPM with 25dBA noise level and life expectancy is 50,000 hours.

Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review – Installation

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Our install was on the Intel platform and begins with us sliding two retention brackets on to the CPU block. No tools are required at this stage, we just push them into place. Next we install the fans on the radiator, a step that requires the bundled allen key as Fractal Design are using custom screw heads. Once the fans are installed, we screw the radiator into the case.

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Next up its time for thermal paste on the CPU and then we stick our backplate onto the motherboard before screwing the CPU block to it (normal screw head). There is some assembly of the screw/tension required but it is well documented. After connecting the fans to our motherboard, which controls their speed, we are good to go!

Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review – Performance

Test Platform: Z97, i7-4790K at stock and at 1.45v/4.8GHz.

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Fractal Design Kelvin S36 Review – Conclusion

Before we talk about performance, some words on the overall design and quality of the Kelvin S36. First up, build quality. Overall Fractal Design have done well on this front. We noticed no defects in the construction and materials used. The fittings feel solid and there were no areas of flex or cheap plastic on show. In fact the pump with its minimalist design looks rather nice compared to some alternate models.

In terms of design, we had one issue which caused us some annoyance. The use of custom screw heads. Sure, fancy screw heads look marginally better than normal but the fact we are forced to use a special tool to install them is just adding inconvenience. Especially when that tool is slower to use than a screwdriver. In fact for anyone who uses an electric screwdriver its even more frustrating. We just dont get what Fractal Design were thinking on this design element… that said, when the worst thing we can say about a cooler is that its screws are a bit annoying, we know things are looking pretty good. The unit installs easily for example, maybe the CPU block screws could be pre-assembled in some way to make them less fiddly but overall the install takes no more than 10minutes and the dimensions of the product have been kept to a minimum to maximise case compatibility. We also like that the unit can be easily topped up and that Fractal Design specifically note that it uses standard fittings, while also being suitable for upgrades, for example adding a GPU block in.

So that brings us to performance where the unit easily outperforms a performance air cooler, no surpise there though. When compared to other liquid coolers the Kelvin S36 also does well. It runs cooler than Antec’s high end model and also manages to knock a few degrees off our CPU temperature when compared to Cooler Master’s unit too.

Summary: Well designed, good build quality and potential for future upgrades. All good aspects which compliment some high end performance.

Performance Award

About Author

Stuart Davidson


  1. THQ

    How do you think this compares with NZXT Kraken X61? Could you do a comparison? Swiftech is rarely available and has had reliability issues, so it appears at the moment the X61 seems to be the pick of the bunch of AIOs.

    • The Kraken has interesting software features but I think I would be swayed by the potential to easily expand the Kelvin.

      • Tipstaff

        ^^ Same here. The expandable nature of this setup sold me on it, but because of the R4 case I’ll have to opt for the S24 (dual fan version) instead.

  2. jackjackduank

    Thanks for the review, now i know what i need for my future upgrade AIO cooler ๐Ÿ˜‰
    FRACTAL DESIGN KELVIN S36 with expandable feature looks GREAT!

  3. I take it won’t outperform by a huge margin a coirsair h80 on push pull with a pair of NF-F12’s??
    I really would like to put this beast on my air 540, as it would look awesome, but in the end, it doesn’t look like a wise upgrade for me…
    As of now, my 3770k reaches 4.5ghz @1.28v, topping 65ยบC after 1hour prime95 run.

  4. HardwareHeaven


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