Conclusion, Part 1: Corsair

With the results at our disposal, we can now evaluate each cooler on its own merits. The charts can tell us how good the coolers are at their jobs and how quiet they are, but it's also about price and value included in the package. This year's H80 boasts a major improvement over last year's in terms of both the fans used, but also the fan control, which is now a much more convenient software solution.

Corsair H55

Corsair's budget offering actually turns out to be one of its strongest. The H55 is as no-frills as it gets, but boasts a solidly performing fixed-speed fan and a respectably low price tag. You can have it for just $59, which is extremely competitive for a closed-loop liquid cooler. While no one would really argue that $59 is "cheaping out" on a processor cooler, this is nonetheless a good choice if you're on a tighter budget.

Corsair H60 (2013 Edition)

Unfortunately, part of the reason the H55 looks so good is because the H60 performs so poorly. The H60 runs $10 more than the H55 for an arguably better PWM-controlled fan and a somewhat lesser quality waterblock. In this corner of the market, there's really no legitimate reason to spend up on the H60 when the H55 performs as well or better for less.

Corsair H80i

The H80i is the other big winner in Corsair's lineup. While it's not an absolute killer in performance or in price, it does beat NZXT's Kraken X40 while being more compatible with different cases due to use of a thicker 120mm radiator and dual fans as opposed to the thinner 140mm radiator and single fan. You also benefit from the Corsair Link interface and software, which allows you to connect either a fan controller or an "i" series Corsair power supply to the waterblock and control them through the software. Corsair Link is much, much more robust than NZXT's solution, and Corsair has been steadily updating it since it appeared at the beginning of the year.

Corsair H100i

Inexplicably, Corsair's flagship dual-length solution is only able to at most achieve parity with the H80i. You can theoretically produce superior cooling performance by adding yet two more fans to the H100i, but you become increasingly at the mercy of your case's clearance, already an issue just by virtue of going with a dual-length radiator like this one. At the time of this writing, NewEgg is selling the H100i for cheaper than the H80i, so they may know something there as well. Either way, the H100i is a very hard sell when the H80i provides both better value and better compatibility.

Performance Results Conclusion, Part 2: NZXT and Recommendations
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  • Death666Angel - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    Maybe different people need different things? The big heatsinks that can compete with these watercoolers usually weigh a lot, restrict access to other components and stress the mounting system. Some also don't fit in all cases because of the width of the case being too shallow (my Scythe Mugen 2 did not fit without the sides of the case bulging out) or they don't fit with certain RAM modules or motherboard coolers.
    Also, is your heatsink/fan really silent or just silent enough for you? How are the temperatures? Some people like having their CPU under 50°C, others are fine with 90°C. With a better heatsink, could you get higher clocks our of it? I know I could go from 3.3GHz (i7 860) to 3.8GHz stable with my watercooling setup (non-AIO).
    Also, no one if forcing you to buy these coolers to replace yours....
    And lastly, do you _know_ that these radiators are more surface than a high end aircooler? Because current day tower coolers that may use 2 140mm fans have a lot of surface and my guess is they are at least equal to these higher end watercoolers.
    Reply
  • HutchinsonJC - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Where is the original h100 on the graphs?

    Why are there so many colors on the graphs? The legend shows a dark blue and a light blue, yet there is red, orange, and green in the charts with no seeming rhyme or reason.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    It is the problem of all these AIO kits. Mixing aluminum radiator with copper block = degraded performance over time (it is just chemistry cold and unsympathetic). And it is impossible to replace radiator without voiding warranty. Also performance for the price is not exactly top notch. One of the reasons why custom (well big word as you can buy pre-prepared kits and mount everything in the box without any customization actually ;) ) loops more expensive. Copper is expensive and performance always cost. Of course there is 100% difference between H100i and cheapest 240 pre-prepared kit from example EK or XSPC. But over time performance and fully modular setup is well worth extra $$$. Simple as that.

    As I see it, AIO have only one advantage over air cooling, and that is you don't need behemoths like Phantex/Noctua/Thermalright dual-tower coolers. All of them are extremely heavy, able to deform the board/cpu socket/ memory banks circuitry (like on s1366 which was fairly common) or break it completely. One of the areas where big is not exactly best.
    Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see some of the better air coolers on the chart. In the few tests that had both, the top end air coolers generally were in the vicinity of the H100. Reply
  • Hood6558 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Very good article, and highly relevant to those of us awaiting availability of the Krakens. Nice to see that they're apparently worth upgrading to, if only for 3 or 4 degrees at load, every little bit helps. Disappointed in the H100i numbers (I'm currently running an H100), how did they lose performance by going with bigger hoses, improved waterblock & pump, and supposedly better fans? Because in all previous reviews, the H100 was champ or at least in top 3. One Point to Corsair for more mature software. Now the big question is, do the NZXT offerings have more clearance issues due to their wider rads - the answer being "of course they do". My H100 in my Carbide 400R just barely clears the VRM heatsink with just 2 fans (I mounted the "pull" fans outside the case) and you have to remove fans to access the CPU fan headers. Of course, that's using the stock centered mounting holes - it's possible to mount the rad offset by lining up some of the holes in the honeycomb with mounting holes - not possible with 140mm rads. I'm pretty sure that in my case, it will hit the heatsinks unless I drill holes and mount as far to the left of center as possible. Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Why not use a Ivy bridge CPU ? At 4.5 GHZ, and 1.3V, they get very hot very quickly. Reply
  • vanwazltoff - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    i would really like to see how these closed loops compare to the incoming cooler master eisberg Reply
  • jonyah - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    I think money is well spent on a closed loop water cooler. The less stress on the MB, great cooling performance (on par with equally priced heatsink/fans) and low noise level is definitely worth it. If you're putting in a $300+ cpu, it makes sense to take care of it. I've had the H60 for 12 months now and it has performed flawlessly. If you compare it's cooling to the stock cooler it came with (complete crap), it's incredible.

    I think the article would be better served to include benchmarks of non-water coolers to show how great these really are. I was running in the 70+C range with the stock cooler while pushing it, and now can't push my chip above mid 40's. That alone will keep my chip lasting a lot longer (though I'm probably going to be upgrading it soon).
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    Stock coolers are garbage, everyone knows that. But a $70 air cooler would outperform the H60. Reply
  • vectorm12 - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for all your hard work Dustin.

    As some have already pointed out there's little difference in performance of these coolers and the traditional Aircoolers. However what I&ve been dying to find out all this time is how much internal temps is reduced by the direct exhaust of these kits?

    If they are efficient enough it should allow a case to support more TDP in the form of GPUs, Raid-controllers and HDDs. I've also always wondered what happens to the airflow around VRMs and DIMMs when the fan at the socket is transplated. Of course different cases will result in different results but it's still something I'd consider worth looking into.

    In a future review I'd very much like to see some values relating to the temps of motherboard,DIMMs, VRMs and so on as well as the effects of transplanting the CPU-fan
    Reply

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