Performance Results

Going into testing, it's pretty easy to expect how the coolers should ultimately stack up: Corsair's H55 should be last, followed by the H60, the H80, the H80i, the NZXT Kraken X40, the H100i, and then the NZXT Kraken X60 at the top of the list. The X40 and H80i should compete pretty closely; the X40 has a larger surface, but the H80i has a thicker radiator and a second fan. Corsair's also been happy to advertise that these "2013" radiator fans are based on their successful SP120 radiator fans, which makes sense. We found the Silent SP120 to be pretty solid while the Performance model was at the top of its game if noise was a non-issue.

Keep in mind, though, NZXT's stock radiator fan did surprisingly well in our testing too.

So how did these systems turn out?

Cooling Performance

Surprisingly, two early favorites turn out to be major underperformers: the Corsair H100i for some odd reason is consistently worse than the H80i (and I did retest to confirm), while the Kraken X40 needs to run at full bore to produce decent results. Meanwhile, the H55 with its constant fan speed actually manages to best the new H60 (though PWM control may certainly contribute to that).

So where are the big winners? While the H80i is pricy, it does perform notably better than its predecessor, producing better thermals at a lower setting. And the most expensive system of all at least earns its price tag; the NZXT Kraken X60 turns out to be every bit the cooling monster the rep promised it would be, meeting or beating every other cooler at its lowest setting.

Acoustic Performance

As far as noise is concerned, the X60 is once again at the top of the pack. Note that our sound meter doesn't go below 30dB and the X60 is noticeably louder than the X40, but not by much and not enough to really change the way things turn out.

So how do noise profiles change the standings? The X60 excels in both disciplines and is essentially undefeated, but the Corsair H55 makes a good case for itself. Thermal performance isn't fantastic, but it's quieter than the H60 under load while running cooler. Meanwhile the H80i remains basically the best offering in Corsair's lineup, running slightly cooler and quieter than the single-fan Kraken X40.

Testing Methodology Conclusion, Part 1: Corsair
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  • schulmaster - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    The most aberrant result of this review, at least in my opinion, is how the H80 and H100 compare. Presumably similar 120mm Fans, but differing by a significant factor in cooling area, the H100 should not be performing at H80 levels under load, let alone below.
    Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8HsjgtMzEg

    Linus runs a test series, with the variable of 120mm Fan quality removed, using top-of-the -line cooling on all contenders; and the h100 unsurprisingly performs 15+ degrees better than the H80 under OC load. I don't know wherein the testing parameters, on either side, emerged the resulting discrepancy of this magnitude. However, I would diversify the bonds of my research before discounting the H100 as a pragmatic enthusiast cooling solution. Perhaps Linus' using of a real- world-esque environment, ie only average cable management in a closed chassis contributed?
    Reply
  • Foeketijn - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    For all the people who may be too enthusiastic about high end air coolers.
    These things are harder to compare than you might think, in all the reviews I've seen it's all about the temp delta /Noise ratio. Funny thing is, a watercooler throws it's heat right out your case while a lot of warmth of your air cooler is circulated back to cool your heat-generator with preheated air. That's probably why almost every watercooler review has some comment about "why you should go for an similarly priced air cooler" and that being followed up by an actual owner of an watercooler (probably "closed loop" since the few DIY watercooler owners really understand the amount variables in hand) countering with his or her trial and having much better real life results.

    A disadvantage is that the radiator blocks the airflow. So without the different fan in the equation there is less air going through your case. How much this shall impact the performance is strongly dependent on how much heat is being blocked (or how much heat is being produced not including the CPU and how much airflow is left)

    Bottom line, comparing an watercooler (an air cooler with water as an heat transporting medium ; ) ) with an air cooler is almost impossible without testing several case builds and probably a really vague conclusion.

    That being said, this is the right website for such an endeavor! An while I'm at it, I support the comments about missing some feedback about rotor noise and the 30 db floorlevel of the sound-o-meter. Great review tho, when you want to decide which CLWC to buy.
    Reply
  • Khenglish - Friday, December 28, 2012 - link

    What were the fan speeds with the thicker radiators? The 38mm rads will need either push-pull or have high rpm fans to push the air through.

    I would have liked to have seen performance with the IHS removed. Someone who decides to go with a water cooling setup is more likely to remove the IHS. It's well known that IVB has CPU die - IHS connection issues, and the variance between IHS quality among IVB's makes it difficult for people to compare their results to yours. Even with a good IHS, removing it still makes a big difference. The thermal resistance drop makes a big difference, especially when pushing the voltage and clocks. I lost ~5C when I removed the IHS from my 580 (1.25V). An IVB's gains should be even larger.

    Your results are pretty terrible for liquid cooling setups, and it would be nice to know how much of that was due to the IHS, or if these liquid cooling setups just aren't very good.
    Reply
  • riottime - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    i had placed 2 orders for the corsair h55 on newegg when this article appeared. :)

    they just arrived yesterday. i put one on my tuban 1090t amd system (stock speed) and i5 3550 intel system (also stock speed). i got them mainly to reduce the system noise not to overclock my processors with. so far they're doing just that i'm happy to report. :P

    the manual/instruction that comes with it is atrocious. i recommend going on youtube and search for 'corsair h55 install' before you start installing it on your system.
    Reply
  • TekDemon - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    I think you guys might have to check the mounting and test again because the H80i definitely shouldn't be outperforming the H100i assuming the H100i isn't defective. I mean, your own H100 vs H80 review has the H100 clearly winning and they're the same coolers minus the link.

    I honestly would suggest double checking your mounting and testing with a higher heat load since a i7 @ 4.4Ghz and 1.4V hardly really shows the benefits of an H100. I would point out that in your previous review the CPU was clocked at 4.8Ghz. If the H80i still manages to beat the H100i then either Corsair has upgraded the fan setup on the H80i such that the push-pull is managing to beat out the H100's stock 2 fan configuration or there's just something wrong with your H100i.

    I would also point out that the H100i can be upgraded to a 4-fan configuration while the H80i is maxed out in it's stock configuration, I have an internally mounted H100 (non-i) with 4 fans on it and it's probably about as high performing as you can get with an all internal compact setup.
    Reply
  • Reservoir_Dog - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Cannot understand the temp results, i mean, whats, 4.5 under load?
    4.5 deg celcius??
    With the H80i and a 2600K @ 4.2 ghz i get 60 deg celcius with the same test
    So is it too hot then?
    Reply
  • chesbrougha - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    I have an X40 and it is not cutting it with a 3930k. I am thinking that it might be because I can't figure out how to change the profile as there is no mac software (install windows then change back to mac??). Anyone have any ideas?

    I am thinking about changing to the H100i but think I will run into the same issues
    Reply

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